Lake Ontario Waterkeeper requests to intervene with oral presentation regarding Cameco relicensing hearing
For graphs and tables, please see entire submission. It is available for download here.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper (LOW) is a registered charity and environmental justice organization working to win back our rights to safely swim, drink, and fish in Lake Ontario. We submit this request to intervene with an oral presentation on November 28, 2006, pursuant to s.18 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Rules of Procedure.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has expertise in the areas of compliance, law, and regulation relating to the Cameco Corporation Port Hope facility (Cameco) that will be helpful to the Commission in coming to a decision about renewal of Cameco's licence.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has worked with members of the Port Hope community since 2001. LOW has participated in environmental assessments for low-level waste remediation in 2002. In 2005 we participated in Cameco's SEU proposal environmental assessment and hearing and in the mid-term review of Cameco's licence.
LOW respectfully requests that the CNSC
1. Rule that Cameco's licence expire unless Cameco brings itself into full compliance with its licence conditions before the expiry date.
And if compliance is demonstrated,
2. Accept the licence conditions proposed by CNSC staff, with a renewal term of 2 years or less. 3. Impose stricter emissions standards in the licence, better reflecting ALARA, including: a. 5 Âµg/L limit on uranium effluent from all sources b. Reasonable, clear limits on ambient air quality for uranium that reflects human toxicity and improved monitoring of ambient air quality in Port Hope. 4. Add a licence condition mandating compliance with other provincial and federal environmental legislation.
A. Cameco has failed to comply with fire safety and emergency response requirements B. Cameco does not meet provincial and federal water quality standards for uranium and Cameco's air emissions of uranium are increasing.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is charged with protecting health, safety and the environment in relation to the use of nuclear materials, and the public relies on it to fulfill this role. Since the auditor general's report to the CNSC in 2000, the CNSC has been working towards ensuring that it applies a consistent, rationalized approach to regulating the nuclear industry. In 2005 the auditor general made clear its expectation that the CNSC would implement clear policies and procedures for ensuring compliance with and enforcement of Canadian laws and international standards.
The mandate of the CNSC under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act permits it to take regulatory action in the case of the supply of false information and broken licence conditions. LOW respectfully submits that Cameco has failed to comply with the conditions of its licence and that it is time for the Commission to take regulatory action.
A. Fire Safety and Emergency Response
After the mid-term review in 2005, Cameco was required to comply with a CNSC order to have hazardous materials response capability 90% of the time within ten minutes. To date, Cameco representatives and CNSC staff have not claimed to have this capability. At the Day 1 hearing, Cameco representatives indicated that the ERT response time was variable but could be as long as one hour. This is an astonishing admission given that this requirement had a deadline that passed over one year ago in July 30, 2005. During 2004 inspections the building was also found to be non-compliant with the National Fire Code. Despite warnings from the CNSC, a follow-up inspection in August 2005 found that the failure to comply was ongoing. The commission should not set the dangerous precedent of accepting partial compliance with licence conditions on a repeated and ongoing basis.
B. Uranium Emissions
Cameco's facility rests on the shores of Lake Ontario, adjacent to the Ganaraska River. The facility impacts air toxicity, water toxicity to fish and humans, and radiological dose to the public and wildlife.
The recent decision of the Federal Ministers of Health and Minister of the Environment not to regulate uranium under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act made specific reference to the CNSC, suggesting that the CNSC's jurisdiction under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act was sufficient to regulate both the chemical and radiological effects of uranium in the environment.
LOW supports a strong role for other provincial and federal regulators in regulating the nuclear industry. However, the provincial government has also declined to develop uranium air concentration standards. In this context, the CNSC must take full responsibility for licensing Cameco in accordance with appropriate health standards based not only on the radiological dose represented by Cameco's air emissions but on the renal toxicity of uranium inhaled in Port Hope's air.
There is a clear legal mandate under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act for the CNSC to regulate the production of nuclear substances to prevent unreasonable risk, to the environment and to the health and safety of persons, without qualification as to the properties of the nuclear substances. As a federal body, the CNSC has clear jurisdiction to regulate all aspects of the health and environmental safety of uranium arising from the production of nuclear substances. There are therefore no legal impediments to CNSC regulating uranium dose on the basis of the true toxicity of uranium rather than its radiological dose alone. LOW submits on this basis that the CNSC must impose stricter standards for uranium.
Uranium in the air
Licence Limit is Unreasonably High
The ambient air limit for uranium imposed by the CNSC of 0.5 g/m3 is unreasonably high and bears no relationship to either what is safe or what is ALARA. Cameco has consistently released emissions that reflect levels lower than 0.5 g/m3. In actual fact, Cameco's ambient air monitoring of suspended particulate found air quality in the range of 0.002-0.017 g/m3.
LOW submits that the CNSC should impose a licence standard well below 0.5 g/ m3 for Cameco's air emissions. The US Centre for Disease Control Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has derived an minimal risk level (MRL) of 0.3 Âµg/m3 for chronic-duration inhalation exposure (365 days or more) to soluble compounds of uranium based on a level of 0.05 mg/m3 for renal effects in dogs. Uranium hexafluoride, which constitutes the bulk of Cameco's emissions is considered soluble.
The CNSC should strive for licence limits that reasonably reflect the human health and environmental impacts of the release of radionucleides in the environment as well as ALARA. The use of a licence standard that considers only the radiological annual dose is not sufficient to protect Port Hope residents. Cameco itself uses 1 Âµg/m3 as an â€œoperational guidelineâ€ (a standard that is still over three times the MRL) and an alert level of only 0.05 Âµg/m3. The CNSC licence limit is therefore 10 million times higher than Cameco's own, self-imposed voluntary standard.
Using emission standards that are so high is dangerous to the health and safety of the Port Hope community. LOW recognizes that Cameco has gone beyond the regulatory limits, nevertheless, the CNSC must be willing to adopt appropriate standards.
Monitoring of ambient uranium emissions
There is no information in the relicensing documents relating to the particle sizes or the nature of the uranium under consideration. The particle sizes under consideration are highly relevant because they impact the site of deposition in the lungs and therefore the toxicological impact.
This rate of uranium emissions from the Cameco facility is reflected in uranium soil contamination at the Marina Park site. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment study conducted from 1998-2002 concluded that there was uranium accumulation of 0.5-1.3 ppm each year. At the time of this submission, the updated soil accumulation information has not yet been made public.
The current releases by Cameco are rising, the move of the ambient air monitoring from the Canadian Tire site to the Marsh Street Station in May 2005 is not reflected in a significantly higher ambient air concentration in the second half of 2005, rather the higher numbers are exclusively reflected in 2006.
This is not consistent with a result produced solely by the relocation of the ambient monitor or a recalculation of fugitive emissions over two years ago. The fugitive explanation is also unsupported by the data in 2004 and 2005 regarding the total kilograms of emissions that do not rise notably until 2005. Cameco has alternated between these two explanations claiming in their written submission that it is explained by recalculating fugitive emissions, but orally that they are explained by moving the POI monitor. LOW would like to draw the attention of the commission to the fact that there was a shutdown in April at the Cameco plant, and the ambient air data is still approximately twice the amount that it was the year before at the identical POI station, with identical fugitive emissions calculations.
LOW submits that the CNSC should require particle-size data to be included in future reports by Cameco and CNSC staff, and that improved ambient air monitoring in the Port Hope area, in addition to studies of renal effects of ambient air concentrations of uranium in the Port Hope area are an important part of the CNSC's role as a regulator in Port Hope.
Uranium in the water
LOW submits that CNSC should impose effluent standards for uranium that are sensitive to human health, and fish habitat considerations, rather than the 150 Âµg/L standards (action level 300 ug/L) that are currently in place. LOW would like to draw the attention of the CNSC to the recent decision not to regulate uranium as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the absence of comprehensive provincial standards for uranium effluent. As the body charged, increasingly exclusively, with responsibility for the regulation of the nuclear industry the CNSC must rise to this challenge by adopting rational standards based on a high level of environmental protection. In Cameco's mid-term licensing review, the CNSC noted that while it does not enforce the Fisheries Act it undertakes to ensure compliance with that Act.
The CNSC licence limit for Cameco's uranium effluent in Port Hope water is 0.15 mg/L, or 150 Âµg/L. However, the Provincial Water Quality Objective (PWQO) for uranium is only 5 Âµg/L, reflecting toxicity for fish, and liability under the Fisheries Act. LOW submits that the standards adopted in the Fisheries Act are the appropriate effluent standards developed for the protection of the environment and should be reflected in Cameco's licence.
Cameco has consistently reported uranium effluent figures in the rage of 2 to 5 times the level required by Provincial Water Quality Objectives. At the Port Hope sanitary sewer, the discharges were on average ten times the PWQO in 2005, slightly less in the first half of 2006. Although Cameco has not violated its licence limits, LOW submits that violation of the standards used in the Fisheries Act should be a factor weighing against the renewal of Cameco's licence. LOW would like to draw the commission's attention to failed Daphnia Magna tests in April of 2006 reflecting actual toxicity to fish of Cameco's uranium effluent. This occurred despite the remediation program instituted by Cameco in 2004 in response to a failed test in that year. Abuse of the Port Hope fishery in this manner is not and should not be acceptable to the commission and is a factor that should weigh strongly against the relicensing of Cameco.
Beyond toxicity to fish, while the standards imposed by the commission do not ensure that the effluent meets Health Canada and Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act drinking water standards of 20 Âµg/L. Cameco's actual effluent is frequently exactly at the limit of this standard.
LOW submits that the uranium effluent discharged by Cameco Corporation is unacceptable and fails to assure compliance with federal and provincial environmental standards. Cameco's licence renewal should be refused on that basis.
LOW would like to draw the attention of the commission to the recent developments at the International Joint Commission (IJC) on the Great Lakes. The IJC has conducted very detailed and extensive modelling of lake level changes that are likely to occur as a result of climate change (Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Study or LOSL) and alterations to dam infrastructure that are proposed. This information is easily available to the proponent and should be addressed as part of their flood modelling. Of particular interest to the commission should be the proposed implementation of lake level changes, and the prediction of erosion that was made by the study.
Because Cameco has failed to comply with fire safety and emergency response requirements and because its uranium emissions are increasing, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper recommends that the CNSC rule that Cameco's licence expire unless Cameco brings itself into full compliance with its licence conditions before the expiry date. If the CNSC decides to issue a new licence, it should contain a renewal term of 2 years or less, stricter emission standards, and require compliance with other provincial and federal environmental legislation.
For graphs and tables, please see entire submission. It is available for download here.