The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is hosting three days of hearings in Port Hope later this month. Over the years, the community's air, water, and soil have become contaminated by nuclear and nuclear-related waste. Now, an unprecedented 285 interveners have lined up to participate in the decision whether or not to re-licence two uranium facilities in Port Hope.
The operating licences for Cameco and Zircatec (also owned by Cameco) are about to expire, and the plants need new ones to continue manufacturing nuclear fuel products in Port Hope. If the CNSC grants the licenses, it must also decide how long they should last and under what conditions.
Some of the issues for the Commission to consider include:
Zircatec and Cameco's fire safety and emergency response concerns
Uranium emissions to air and water
Of the 285 separate interventions, there will be close to 120 oral presentations. (The others are written submissions.) The Cameco hearing begins at 8:30 am on November 28 and will end sometime on November 29. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper will be 53rd in a line of 75 presenters we will not know the day or time in advance. All 44 presentations on Zircatec are scheduled for November 30.
Some believe Cameco and Zircatec should be re-licenced for five years. Others believe the nuclear fuel facilities should be shut down. Still others believe new conditions or shorter licences are necessary.
The CSNC must consider all of the arguments and then decide what is appropriate. This may be difficult, considering the nature of the process. There will be no sworn evidence, no cross-examination of witnesses.
It is hard to imagine the CNSC shutting Cameco down without receiving evidence, hearing from witnesses, or subjecting arguments to cross-examination. The conversion plant is the world's only commercial supplier of natural uranium dioxide (UO2), used in fuel for Candu reactors. Zircatec is one of just two fuel manufacturers serving nuclear utilities in Canada.
But it's even harder to imagine not attending. This is an opportunity to set regulatory precedent for the safe operation of modern nuclear facilities. Charities and residents have no other tools to help ensure the plants are operating safely and that the lake and its citizens are protected. This is our tool. That's why we're there.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's submission to intervene with an Oral Presentation regarding Cameco's license renewal can be found here
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's written submission to intervene regarding Zircatec's license renewal can be found here
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's comment to Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Office regarding Nuclear Waste Site Clean-up can be found here