CNSC response to the editorial entitled “Cleaning our own house”, published in the Ottawa Citizen on April 15, 2010
Canada’s radioactive waste is safely managed
To the editor,
Your April 15 editorial “Cleaning our own house” in the Ottawa Citizen compels me to correct the false impressions your readers may have been left with regarding radioactive waste.
The CNSC’s mandate is to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment. It includes the licensing, monitoring and inspection of radioactive waste management facilities. Licence conditions state numerous requirements, including rigorous reporting requirements that are in place for the operators of nuclear waste management facilities. In addition, CNSC staff verifies overall compliance with safety requirements through site inspections and audits to ensure that waste owners and those possessing radioactive wastes treat, handle, manage and store these materials safely and securely.
All used nuclear fuel in Canada is currently held on site in safe, secure and environmentally sound interim storage facilities. These interim facilities are designed to last up to 100 years and are readily maintained, upgraded or replaced. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has begun a dialogue with the Canadian public to collaboratively develop and implement an approach for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel that is socially acceptable, technically sound, environmentally responsible and economically feasible. The Canadian approach was accepted by the Government and the NWMO is now implementing this approach.
Regarding Port Hope, the CNSC issued a licence to AECL last fall that will allow for the development of a new long-term waste management facility and the remediation of contaminated sites in the Port Hope area. A contract for the design of the facility was recently announced by Public Works Canada. In the meantime, the waste is stored securely and poses no health risk to the citizens of Port Hope.
Finally, all nuclear power plant operators are required to establish and maintain a decommissioning plan and an acceptable financial guarantee for the future decommissioning of their facilities. In fact, financial guarantees are a condition of operating licences issued by the Commission and are regularly reviewed and discussed at public hearings that are open to everyone. Therefore, contrary to your article’s insinuations, the funds are available to cover all costs of future decommissioning.
We believe this information demonstrates that issues related to nuclear waste management in Canada are being dealt with safely and effectively. The CNSC has worked hard in meeting its mandate of disseminating objective scientific information. In the future, I encourage you to contact us, or visit our Web site at nuclearsafety.gc.ca for facts which could support your articles.
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission