Dear Members of Council,
Residents of Port Hope asked Lake Ontario Waterkeeper to appear before your committee this evening to talk about ongoing environmental assessments in town. In 2001, Waterkeeper released a report about contamination from Port Granby polluting Lake Ontario. In 2002, we began participating in the environmental assessment dealing with legacy waste in Port Hope and at Port Granby. In 2003, Waterkeeper appeared before the CNSC regarding Cameco Corporations proposal to create Slightly Enriched Uranium on Lake Ontario.
It is Cameco's project we wish to talk about this evening. As many of you are aware, both Waterkeeper and members of the community have asked that Cameco's proposal undergo a complete environmental assessment with an independent panel review. The current process is called a screening. Cameco prepares a project proposal for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which is then approved, approved with conditions, or rejected. The public is being given opportunities to comment on the proposal, but Cameco is not required to answer their questions or adopt their suggestions.
There is an alternative process, called a panel review. In short, Waterkeeper has asked that Cameco's proposal to create Slightly Enriched Uranium on Lake Ontario undergo the careful scrutiny of a panel review. We believe that this process will unite the community, address concerns, and ensure that a project of this magnitude is undertaken with the utmost respect.
Only the Minister of Environment can order that a review panel be held. The Minister can do this at the request of the public or at the request of the project proponent. To date, both the project proponent Cameco and the responsible authority Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have not requested this process.
There are two grounds for a full review: environmental effect and public concern. An environmental effect is any change in the physical environment, in health or socio-economic conditions, or in physical and cultural heritage. Port Hope is named after its waterfront. Its heritage is its waterfront the waterfront that was here long before industry made it one of the most contaminated sites on the Great Lakes. Any project that prevents public access to its waterfront has a significant environmental effect. Any project that preserves the status quo in Port Hope has a significant environmental effect.
There are also reasons for public concern. You have heard concerns from local residents about their property values. There is also concern from communities outside Port Hope. The uranium mining and refining facilities have been the subject of numerous panel reviews and court challenges. Our American neighbours have expressed concerns about the cumulative effects of operating this facility on a international waterbody. Once the Slightly Enriched Uranium leaves Port Hope, it will be used in reactors. Some new reactors may be built in Ontario. Some new reactors may be sold overseas. Fuel will be sold to keep these reactors operating. Waste from both the Port Hope facilities and these power generation facilities must be stored somewhere, and communities are very concerned about that.
The Slightly Enriched Uranium project is more than just a slight change in operations at the Cameco facility. It is the most crucial component of Cameco?s business plan. Cameco made $712 million dollars last year mining and refining uranium. They plan to build more nuclear reactors in Ontario that would consume fuel from Port Hope and boost those revenues further. They plan to sell more reactors and more fuel worldwide to expand their marketshare. Port Hope is their lynchpin.
This is simply a commercial venture. All Waterkeeper requests is that a private corporation with no public interest mandate be required to demonstrate that they are acting in the public interest. There are too many process and too many backroom meetings happening right now for any of us to be sure. There is an environmental assessment for the Bruce proposal. There is an environmental assessment for the Port Hope proposal. There may be assessments to deal with waste, transportation, and the construction of other reactors. Cameco is buying more nuclear plants in other countries. The province just issued a 10-year permit to take water, though Cameco?s operating licence is up for review this fall. This year, Cameco registered lobbyists in Ottawa and at Queen's Park. We want to know what important things they have to say.
We need the panel review so that we can have a chance to ask questions in an open, public forum where everyone including community members, politicians, and press can come and hear for themselves if this is a good deal for Port Hope. If we find that it is not, is there a way we can make it a good deal? That is all we want to know.
Mark Mattson, President and Waterkeeper
Krystyn Tully, Executive Director