On November 9, 2016, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper presented at the hearing for Cameco's conversion facility in Port Hope. Pippa Feinstein and Wilf Ruland represented Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and made oral presentations to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. This is what Pippa Feinstein's presented.
Good morning, President Binder and Commission Members,
Thank you for the opportunity to address you all today. For the record, my name is Pippa Feinstein and I am representing Lake Ontario Waterkeeper which has been granted intervener status in the current Nuclear Substance Processing Facility Operating Licence renewal proceeding. I am joined by Mr. Wilf Ruland, who was retained by Waterkeeper to provide expert analysis concerning the impacts of Cameco’s Port Hope Conversion Facility (PHCF) on local groundwater and surface water.
Founded in 2001, Waterkeeper is a non-political registered charity focusing on environmental research and justice issues in the public interest. Waterkeeper is participating in the current hearing process to ensure the Commission considers the public’s need for a swimmable, drinkable, and fishable Lake Ontario when assessing Cameco’s application.
Waterkeeper has been actively involved in all the licensing decisions for Cameco’s Vision in Motion (VIM) project since it was initially proposed in 2008. Mr. Ruland has also been able to assist our efforts in the past by preparing expert analysis of the VIM project then and now. We hope to share our accumulated knowledge of the facility and its historical and ecological context with the Commission in order to ensure that the ultimate decision in this matter is based on a fulsome evidentiary record, and that it is made in the public interest.
After thoroughly examining all the pertinent information we were able to obtain on the PHCF, and after reviewing the application and CNSC staff’s submissions, it has become apparent that there were several major information gaps that must either lead the Commission to deny the requested licence, or else grant an interim licence for no longer than a year, over which time more information can be gathered and submitted for public review.
These information gaps concern four issues:
First, more information must be provided with regards to Cameco’s recent self-assessment of the impact of the facility’s cooling water intakes on local aquatic biota and whether it would require a permit from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
CNSC staff are still in the process of assessing Cameco’s study, and have failed to present their findings to the Commission at this hearing. When Waterkeeper requested a copy of the self-assessment study from Cameco, our request was denied. When Waterkeeper followed up with CNSC staff about their review of the study, we were told the study and their review had nothing to do with this current hearing. This is inconsistent with the MOU between the CNSC and DFO which requires the Commission to fully assess all licensees’ impact on fish and fish habitat when carrying out its regulatory functions.*
Second, more information must be provided about Cameco’s wastewater treatment plans.
According to our review, no VIM-specific wastewater treatment plan has been developed. Nor has any wastewater treatment plan been developed for managing contaminated water in the Port Hope Harbour during excavation work as part of the PHAI and VIM. Without any information about either plan, the Commission cannot determine whether the PHCF is making adequate provision for the environment (a necessary part of the legal test that must be established in order for a licence to be granted pursuant to s. 24(4) of the NSCA).
Third, Cameco must provide more complete information regarding the management of all contaminants of primary concern at the PHCF.
To date, it is still unclear which contaminants are being monitored at the PHCF and whether the facility is taking steps to ensure emissions of each COPC adhere to provincial and federal environmental laws and emissions standards.
Fourth, Cameco has refused to release its Public Information Program (PIP) on the grounds that it is an internal policy document and that there is a blanket prohibition on releasing any internal policies to the public.**
This is troubling as the purpose of the PIP is to ensure public accountability – failing to share it with the public goes against its own purposes. This has also prevented Waterkeeper from being able to provide a comprehensive review of the PIP.
Even with all of this missing information, Waterkeeper has been able to review some other aspects of Cameco’s current application and supporting documents. And some of our findings are deeply concerning.
For instance, the proposed CNSC release limit for uranium in Cameco’s sanitary sewers is 1825 kg/year, which is over 90 times higher than the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards for uranium (20 ug/L) and 365 times higher than the PWQO for uranium (5 ug/L). It appears as though this limit was reached by calculating the maximum amount that could be discharged to the water until a 1 mSv public dose would be reached for Port Hope inhabitants.
However, this fails to take into consideration the impact of such a release on local fish and fish habitat, or compliance with the Fisheries Act. Mr. Ruland has explained that this level of uranium emissions would turn the Port Hope Harbour into a “killing zone for aquatic life,” which would be a significant Fisheries Act violation.
Waterkeeper has made a series of recommendations to improve Cameco’s monitoring plans for its stormwater sewer discharges and its pump and treat system. Waterkeeper has also made a series of recommendations for how disaggregated monitoring results should be shared regularly with the public, and ways in which the PHCF’s Public Disclosure Protocol can be strengthened by making release and spill event reporting more easily accessible and informative. I will refer you to the detailed list of recommendations at the end of our written submissions, as there is insufficient time to discuss them as part of this presentation.
The PHCF is located in the heart of the community’s harbour, embedded in this densely populated town. Many homes, business, and important aquatic communities and habitats lie within its 1 km exclusion zone. As a result, Waterkeeper stresses it is especially important for the CNSC to ensure that Cameco’s VIM and its continuing conversion operations are thoroughly scrutinized to ensure both are undertaken in a precautionary, responsible, and effective way. Fully transparent, accountable, and ongoing communication with the public about the progress of its VIM and continuing conversion operations is crucial.
These are the ingredients necessary for the facility’s social licence to continue to operate in the community. They are also just as important for Cameco to establish before the CNSC in order for the facility to receive a legal licence from the Commission to continue to operate its facility.
* It is also important to note that Cameco has not provided information concerning any plans to continue to monitor the impacts of its once-through cooling water intake after its DFO self-assessment is complete and approved by CNSC staff. During the assessment, there was an incident in which the intake screen was impaired, and this resulted in higher levels of impingement and entrainment, including that of a species of concern. No measures have been discussed in the evidence before the Commission that addresses how similar events will be prevented or remedied in the future
** This has frustrated Waterkeeper’s ability to provide a comprehensive review of the facility’s public information-sharing strategies, and we should note that Waterkeeper has never before been denied access to a PIP from any other CNSC-regulated facility we have had the opportunity to review.