Wanted: your opinion on changes to regulatory framework for environmental protection
May 7, 2012
Aerial photograph of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station In the distance, owned and operated by the
Ontario Power Generation, near Bowmansville, Ontario
Protecting the environment is one of the fundamental responsibilities of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The CNSC has recently extended the comment periods until mid-June for two discussion papers outlining the CNSC’s proposals to enhance, harmonize and clarify the regulatory framework for groundwater protection and the establishment of limits for releases into the environment.
“The goal of the proposals out for discussion is to enhance protection and support ongoing efforts for pollution prevention across the nuclear industry” said Patsy Thompson, Director General of environmental and radiation protection programs at the CNSC. “The proposed changes are part of our commitment to strengthening the regulatory framework for the protection of the environment and identifying clear regulatory expectations.”
Proposals outlined in both discussion papers would affect all major nuclear facilities, including nuclear power plants, uranium mines and mills, processing plants and tritium handling facilities. They also address all main contaminants, not only radionuclides.
For groundwater protection, the CNSC’s discussion paper suggests adopting common methodologies for establishing environmental programs to protect water resources under nuclear facilities. In proposing these changes, the CNSC conducted international benchmarking, drawing upon information from countries such as the U.S., Australia, Germany and France.
Licensees would be expected to develop site descriptions to understand how unauthorized releases of nuclear substances or hazardous substances could contaminate groundwater and negatively affect this valuable resource.
Licensees would also be expected to implement measures to identify when contaminants may be entering groundwater and to have identified practical ways to clean up the contamination if detected.
You are invited to comment on the discussion paper Protection of Groundwater at Nuclear Facilities in Canada until June 15, 2012.
In the paper on environmental releases, the CNSC proposes to establish release limits based on the most stringent of two methods commonly used to set such limits (for both radioactive and non-radioactive substances):
- Technology Based Release Limits (release level achieved based on the most effective demonstrated pollution prevention/control technologies) OR
- Risk-Based Release Limits (release level based on scientifically defensible evidence and criteria).
The CNSC is also considering the industry-wide adoption of dose constraints in order to establish limits for the releases of radioactive substances into the environment. The dose constraints would represent a fraction (5%) of the public radiation dose limit of 1 mSv/year. Some operators in Canada already have release limits based on the 5% dose constraint; it is a matter of harmonizing practices across the country.You are invited to comment on the discussion paper Establishing Releasing Limits and Action Levels at Nuclear Facilities until June 22, 2012.
About the CNSC’s environmental protection mandate
When the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA) came into force in 2000, the CNSC’s mandate was expanded to include protection of the environment from both nuclear and hazardous substances.
Since that time, environmental protection at the CNSC has evolved from reliance on the professional judgment of CNSC subject matter specialists, to become a more transparent, structured process supported by regulatory and guidance documents and industry standards.