Lake Ontario Waterkeeper requests to intervene with written presentation regarding Zircatec P.I. relicensing hearing
The entire submission is available for download here.
LOW respectfully requests that the CNSC
1. Rule that Zircatec's licence expire unless Zircatec 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 or below 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. Zircatec has failed to comply with fire safety and emergency response requirements B. Zircatec has exceeded action levels for uranium emissions every year for the last four years for air and Zircatec is in violation of provincial and federal water quality and drinking water standards.
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 Zircatec has failed to comply with the conditions of its licence and that it is time for the Commission to take regulatory action.
Zircatec has failed to meet the fire safety and emergency response requirements imposed by the CNSC last year. It has also released alarming levels of uranium every year for the last four years. LOW submits that these violations alone merit significant regulatory action by the CNSC. However in the event of a renewal, Zircatec must be held to higher licence standards for uranium emissions to air and water.
A. Fire Safety and Emergency Response
After the mid-term review in 2005, Zircatec was required to comply with a CNSC order to have hazardous materials response capability 90% of the time within ten minutes. To date, Zircatec representatives have not met this condition and five other conditions imposed last year. This situation represents a potential hazard for the Port Hope community.
Perhaps most glaring is that Zircatec has failed to install a sprinkler system in the fuel storage building, as required in an audit in 2004 and again earlier this year in the GAP report. Port Hope Fire Department lacks hazardous materials equipment, and Zircatec has promised only to provide them with drawings.
A renewal of Zircatec's licence in these circumstances suggests that delayed half-measures and partial compliance of important safety safeguards are â€œacceptableâ€ in Canada's nuclear facilities.
B. Uranium Emissions
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 recognizes there are overlapping roles between provincial and federal regulators regarding the nuclear industry. The provincial government has declined to develop uranium air concentration standards; in this context, the CNSC should take full responsibility for licensing Zircatec in accordance with appropriate health standards based not only on the radiological dose represented by Zircatec's air emissions but on the toxicity of uranium inhaled in Port Hope's air.
Uranium in the air
Licence Limit is Unreasonably High
The ambient air limit for uranium imposed by the CNSC of 0.5 g/m3 and ambient air action level of 0.01 g/m3 is unreasonably high and bears no relationship to either what is safe or what is ALARA.
LOW submits that the CNSC should impose a licence standard well below 0.5 g/ m3 for Zircatec's air emissions. The US Centre for Disease Control Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has derived a â€œminimal risk levelâ€ (MRL) of 8 Âµg /m3 for intermediate-duration inhalation exposure to insoluble compounds of uranium based on a NOAEL of 1.1 mg U/m3 for renal effects in dogs. Uranium dioxide is considered to be insoluble and can also cause pulmonary toxicity from acute inhalation exposure.
Zircatec has released on average air concentrations of around 1/4 g/m3 every year for the last four years. However, CNSC staff documents also show Zircatec exceeded the action level of 2 g/m3 every year since 2002. CNSC staff reports claim that the maximum concentration measured from ambient air was 0.001 Âµg/m3; however, there is no information in the staff documents about how those figures were arrived at. For example we do not know anything about the AIRMOD and whether the measurements were taken from appropriate locations. Waterkeeper is concerned is that the routinely exceeded action level and average uranium dioxide emissions pose a risk to the public.
Uranium in the Water
LOW submits that the 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 Âµg /L) that are currently in place. For example, the Provincial Water Quality Objective (PWQO) for uranium is 5 Âµg/L. This limit represents Ontario's recommendations for the protection of human health and aquatic life.
Zircatec's liquid effluent for uranium exceeds interim Provincial Water Quality Objectives (PWQO). In the past 4 years CNSC staff figures show that on average, liquid effluent from Zircatec is 10 times PWQO and that the highest concentration was 280 ug/L, 56 times PWQO.
There is also uranium contamination in the groundwater, as indicated by monitoring in seven of the wells on Zircatec's site. The source or the extent of this contamination is still unclear and requires further study.
Because Zircatec has failed to comply with fire safety and emergency response requirements, and because it routinely has uranium emissions at levels of concern, Waterkeeper respectfully requests that the CNSC allow Zircatec's licence expire unless Zircatec brings itself into full compliance. In the event that the CNSC decides to renew Zircatec's licence Waterkeeper recommends that the CNSC impose a renewal term of 2 years or less, stricter emissions standards, clear limits on ambient air quality for uranium, and a licence condition mandating compliance with other provincial and federal environmental legislation.