Remarks by President Rumina Velshi at the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
February 7, 2019,
Ottawa, Ontario

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Good morning Madam Chair and Members of the Committee.

My name is Rumina Velshi and I am the President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, or CNSC.

I am joined this morning by Mike Rinker, Director General of the CNSC’s Directorate of Environmental and Radiation Protection and Assessment.

Before beginning my remarks, I would like to acknowledge that the land on which we gather is the unceded territory of the Algonquin people.

I have been CEO since August 2018. Prior to that, I served as a CNSC Commission Member for six years. For over 30 years before that, I worked as a scientist, nuclear engineer and manager in Canada’s nuclear sector for Ontario Hydro and Ontario Power Generation.

Thank you for inviting me to provide comments on the proposed legislation Bill C-69. Let me state at the outset that the CNSC supports the government’s intent to enhance the impact assessment process.

We will do everything within our authorities to support a successful transition and implementation. Implementing the new process successfully will require ongoing and close collaboration between us and our governmental partners.

The CNSC is an independent, quasi-judicial administrative tribunal, whose decisions are based on science and not subject to government or political review.

The Commission’s decisions can only be reviewed in federal court.

The CNSC gets its mandate from the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, or NSCA, and reports to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources.

We are responsible for regulating everything nuclear in Canada.

Our mandate is for the protection of health, safety, security and the environment; to implement Canada’s international obligations on the peaceful use of nuclear energy; and to disseminate information to the public. It is a clear mandate and one that we have fulfilled faithfully for over 70 years.

Canada’s nuclear sector is broad and ranges from uranium mining, nuclear reactors, nuclear medicine, industrial applications of nuclear technology to the safe management of nuclear waste.

Bill C-69 does not modify the NSCA and the Commission’s authorities for the licensing and life-cycle regulation of nuclear facilities remain unchanged. The bill therefore preserves the independence of the Commission and its role to ensure the safe and secure operation of nuclear facilities in Canada throughout their life cycle.

There is, however, an important difference proposed in Bill C-69 for the CNSC.

Currently, all environmental assessments for designated nuclear projects are conducted by the CNSC. Under Bill C-69, the assessment, which would be known as an impact assessment, would be conducted by a panel established by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

The panel the Minister appoints would include at least one person from a roster composed of members of the Commission.

In this context, there would be an important responsibility to ensure close collaboration and sharing of expertise between the staff of the CNSC, the new Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, or IAAC, and the review panel.

We must ensure that, in support of the goal of one project, one review, the impact assessment put forward by the panel informs properly all required decisions.

This includes the Governor in Council’s decision under the Impact Assessment Act on whether adverse effects within federal jurisdiction of the project are in the public interest.

It also includes the Commission’s decision on whether to issue the licence – for example, to prepare a site – under the NSCA.

In other words, we must work toward ensuring that one assessment serves two distinct authorities who exercise distinct roles and who make complementary but distinct decisions.

Together, the CNSC and the new IAAC can support a rigorous, efficient and effective regulatory system. In support of the “one project, one review” policy direction, we welcome a fully integrated process where review panels for designated nuclear projects are able to make both impact assessment recommendations as well as licensing decisions.

For this to work, a review panel must also be constituted as a panel of the Commission under the NSCA to make a licensing decision after the impact assessment decision has been made.

Commission licensing decisions must consider several areas beyond health, safety and the environment, such as security, international proliferation, nuclear engineering, and financial guarantees.

It is key to the success of a single integrated review process that the review conducted is based on science and evidence sufficiently robust to support all required decisions – including licensing decisions. As a lifecycle regulator, we are here for the long term.

We are also the only place in government with significant and specialized nuclear expertise.

As such, it is critical that we are included throughout the impact assessment process for any nuclear project. We also need to be part of all engagement and consultation activities with Indigenous peoples from the very beginning.

Continuing to encourage and welcome the public and stakeholders into the process will also be very important.

These are relationships that we value and must continue to nurture for the long term, well after impact assessment and initial licensing decisions have been made.

To conclude, the CNSC has the required and necessary expertise and capacity to support the proposed impact assessment review process.

We have an extensive and positive history of close collaboration with other governmental partners. This experience will be important as we move forward together with the IAAC and other government departments.

We are working closely with our interdepartmental colleagues and are confident a process can be established that effectively integrates the licensing review into the impact assessment process. Nuclear projects often span many, many decades.

The CNSC, as Canada’s nuclear lifecycle regulator will be there for the entire life of a nuclear project, ensuring Canada’s nuclear facilities and activities remain safe.

Legislative requirements and processes may evolve but the assessment of potential impacts to the environment, and protection of the environment, will always be a focus for the CNSC.

I will be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

Thank you.

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