Joint Review Panel hearings come to a close


September 21, 2014


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The last phase of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) hearings regarding the proposed deep geologic repository (DGR) for low and intermediate level nuclear waste to be located at the Bruce Nuclear site came to a close on Thursday, September 18th (2014).

The hearings that began last year year, (2013), and extended for two weeks in September of this year in Kincardine (ON) were open to the public and registered participants were given the opportunity to present before the three-member panel.

From chemists to U.S. senators, architects to lawyers and farmers, participants and the proponents submitted thousands of pages of documents to the JRP. 

Lori Swami of Ontario Power Generation (OPG) also explained that extensive work was carried out to inform the public through open houses and with everything posted on the internet.

Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) Counsel Alex Monem, asked the Canadian Safety Nuclear Commission (CNSC) if it uses third party reviews.

CNSC's Dr. Son Nguyen said that CNSC looked at all of OPG's results of testing and that CNSC research studies are already underway regarding experimentation of things such as shaft seals . He also explained that CNSC works with several universities both in Canada and the U.S. in addition to international partners to optimize the use of resources.   According to Nguyen, when there is a need for expertise that falls outside the CNSC's staff, then expertise is explored from other areas. 

CNSC's Director General, Patsy Thompson, also explained the process as it stands today regarding the Environmental Assessment (EA) and the first stage of licensing. 

"The Environmental Assessment aligns with what is being done internationally, looking at the whole lifecycle of the project and what is being done to dispose of radioactive waste.  We have received enough information, including the site characterization, to have a good understanding of what the health and environmental issues would be for the whole project.  We have a high level of confidence, with the information we have, that the project can be carried out safely, can be closed and ensure long-term safety."

Should the EA be approved, Thompson pointed out, the first stage of licensing would be to prepare the site for construction.

The work would be carried out in accordance with the management system, the worker health and safety program and the radiation program to ensure the CNSC mandate is met to protect the public and the environment.  "Should OPG do anything that would compromise the health or safety of the environment," added Thompson, "the CNSC has a wide variety of compliance and enforcement tools available at our disposal.  CNSC could immediately issue orders to stop the work."

Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch complimented the panel for its diligence and perseverance but admonished the members saying the panel "... had a very limited term - so ask what you need to ask and make the decisions you need to make."

Immediately prior to the end of the hearing, the Chair said that regarding the many requests/submissions via emails from Saugeen Shores participant, John Mann, the JRP had determined that the requests/submissions did not include any new information and, therefore, were denied.  A detailed account will be posted publicly on the CNSC website.

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The Next Steps

According to the Chair, Dr. Stella Swanson, written closing remarks from registered participants, from Aboriginal groups, including government, are to be submitted to the panel by October 9th and from the proponent OPG by October 19th.  Closing remarks are optional however and are not a requirement.

Written closing remarks are to summarize the  submissions of the participant or the proponent on the DGR project or any aspect of review and provide support for information already on the record.  New information is not to be submitted. 

Once the panel has reviewed the closing remarks, it will determine if it has all the information it requires to proceed with the preparation of its Environmental Assessment report.  If further information is required the panel will ask for it.  If no further information is required, the record for the review will be closed and no further information will be accepted.

A Public Notice was sent to all registered participants and the proponent on September 19th inviting closing remarks. 

Within 90 days of the close of the record, the JRP will submit an Environmental Assessment Report to the Federal Minister of the Environment outlining the panel's conclusions on whether or not the proposed project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.  The panel's rationale and recommendations will be part of the report.

Subject to the Federal Government's decision, the panel may then be authorized to make a decision on the application to prepare a site and construct the DGR.

Should the government allow the panel to proceed with a licensing decision, the JRP will determine if it has all the information needed to make a licensing decision or it requires additional information, but the Government must first make a decision on the Environmental Assessment.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014