Uranium Moratoriums Are Not Supported by Science
Open Letter from Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission President Michael Binder
November 22, 2012
Following the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) recent decision to license a uranium exploration project in Quebec, I’m dismayed that recent statements and discussions over the safety of uranium mining have been based neither on fact nor science. Uranium mining and milling in this country is tightly regulated by the CNSC. Canada is a world leader in responsibly developing this resource. This is largely attributable to a solid safety track record.
Uranium mining is the only type of mining that has a dedicated federal regulator that oversees all aspects of operation on an ongoing basis. Provincial oversight is also strictly applied. In fact, uranium mining is the most regulated, monitored and understood type of mining in Canada.
Activists, medical practitioners and politicians who have demanded moratoriums may have various reasons for doing so, but their claims that the public and environment are at risk are fundamentally wrong. The provincial governments that have decided to ban uranium exploration have done so ignoring years of evidence-based scientific research on this industry.
The CNSC would never compromise safety by issuing a licence or allowing a uranium mine or mill to operate if it were not safe to do so. All monitoring data shows that uranium mining is as safe as other conventional metal mining in Canada.
The numbers speak for themselves. Metal mining effluent data reported to Environment Canada demonstrates that uranium mining operations from 2007 to 2010 was 100% compliant with federal release limits for all seven types of contaminants. Uranium mining operations were the only type of metal mine to have 100% compliance during this period.
Both the CNSC and provincial environmental regulators closely monitor and analyze industry releases to ensure streams, lakes and rivers downstream of mining operations are safe for people, animals, fish and plants.
We also monitor miner safety. The average annual radiation dose to miners is well below the CNSC annual dose limits, which are conservatively established to protect workers. Radiation doses to the public and the environment near uranium mines are negligible.
In Saskatchewan, where Canada’s operating uranium mines are found, the province’s Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety monitors all conventional health and safety issues for uranium mining. All reporting continuously shows that uranium mining and milling sites are among the best performing facilities in accident prevention and lost-time incidents across the province’s entire mining and industrial sectors.
The CNSC has carried out and validated numerous studies over the decades that have repeatedly provided sound evidence that workers and residents near these facilities are as healthy as the rest of the general population. The same is true of people who live near nuclear power plants.
The CNSC’s conclusions on the uranium mining industry are clearly based on decades of studies, research, and a rigorous licencing and inspection framework. That being said, it needs to be voiced again, the CNSC will never compromise safety and would never issue a licence for a mining or milling operation unless the proposed activities were safe.
I invite Canadians to visit our Web site to get the facts about uranium mining and the complete nuclear sector in Canada.
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission