Earlier this summer, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission released a guidance document that will help companies operating nuclear power plants through the â€œlife extensionâ€? regulatory process. Called Draft Regulatory Guide G-360, Life Extension Of Nuclear Power Plants, this document is a blueprint for Ontario's aging fleet of nuclear plants. It spells out what companies need to do, how, and when in order to rebuild a nuclear power plant that has past its prime.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper filed our official comment on the Regulatory Guide last week. We offered a few suggestions to make the Guide more complete and to help out citizens who hope to comment on proposed life extension projects in their communities.
While researching and drafting our comments on the Guide, Waterkeeper took the opportunity to reflect on the future of nuclear power in Ontario. It is likely that we will see a proposal for life extension on Lake Ontario sometime in the near future, and we are eager to make sure that any such proposal is studied, refined, and adjudicated based on fair, transparent, factual, and independent analysis.
Unfortunately, the CNSC's Draft Guide provided us with a stark reminder why federal rules alone will never protect Ontario's communities. Quite simply, federal rules (like licences for power plants) are so narrow in scope and the roles of regulators (like the CNSC) are so limited that no one at the federal government has the mandate, the experience, or the incentive to stand up for Ontarians.
When the Government of Ontario announced its dream to build more nuclear power plants on the Great Lakes, it promised citizens a full environmental assessment. Even though it passed a regulation exempting its power plan from provincial assessment, the government has continued to assure Ontarians that a full federal environmental assessment will take place.
Many people believe that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act process is a substitute for the provincial environmental assessment process. It is not. In this case, the CEAA process is restricted to the interests and mandate of the CNSC: that is, the regulation of nuclear-related materials. As the CSNC has stressed many times, the licences it issues do not regulate non-nuclear industrial emissions, such as metals, bacteria, hydrocarbons, and so on. Nor do these licences reflect planning or land-use policies.
The federal government is supposed to protect its stake in nuclear power and prevent the release of a limited number of contaminants from a limited number of sources. The Draft Guide makes this quite clear. Meanwhile, the provinces are supposed to protect their citizens and their natural resources. How Ontario's energy plan will do that is not clear at all.
More information: Read our comment online