Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee members, for inviting me to speak with you today. It's an honour.
I'd like to talk about our nuclear industry, its future, and the role of Ontario Power Generation in that. It's an important sector, and it contributes to the sustainability and well-being not only of Ontarians but of all of Canada.
My name is Glenn Jager. I'm the president of Ontario Power Generation's nuclear fleet, and its chief nuclear officer. I'd like to start my remarks with a little-known story about an American admiral and his prediction.
Admiral Hyman Rickover was known as the father of the nuclear navy. He served there for 30 years. He really set in place a lot of the standards and principles that we use to this very day in the nuclear industry.
In 1957 he delivered a speech entitled “Energy Resources and Our Future”, in which he talked about energy and how its effective application drives civilization.
He observed that in 1850, 95% of the energy consumed came directly from humans and animals, pulling carts and things. Only 5% came from fossil fuels. A century later he noticed that was completely reversed, with most of the energy coming from fossil fuels. It was an incredible turnaround in just 100 years.
He then questioned what the next 100 years would look like, from 1950 to 2050, and hypothesized that the future would be increasingly more energy intensive, driving the economy and the quality of life.
Renewables and nuclear would become energy superstars, he said, and historians would someday refer to this as the “fossil fuel age”, the golden age of fossil fuels. He predicted this in 1957.
Think about that and about what's happening now. If we achieve Canada's carbon reduction goal in 2050, that will end the use of fossil fuels. At a minimum, it will substantially reduce it and change its role significantly in our economy.
Nuclear power has played a big role in that. It's helped Ontario move off coal. In 2014 we burned our last piece of coal to make power. Today more than half of Ontario's power comes from its three nuclear stations, and nuclear energy generates about 15% of the country's electricity.
This isn't a well-known fact, as Dr. John Barrett, president of the Canadian Nuclear Association, pointed out last week to you, and he's right. He is correct in saying, too, that nuclear energy is a stable source, and it's not dependent on fossil fuels.
This is an important piece of the nuclear story. Its power is 99.7% greenhouse gas-free.
To echo Dr. Barrett, in 2015 OPG stopped using coal to create electricity. This was the largest single climate change initiative in North America. It brought about the disappearance of the smog days in southern Ontario and the greater Toronto area.
OPG manages, and firmly believes in, a balanced energy portfolio that includes wind, hydro, gas, and nuclear, but it has to be said that it was the bringing back on line of the four reactors at the Bruce station and the two at Pickering that allowed us to stop burning coal and still maintain a clean energy system.
Nuclear is clearly a superior source of energy, especially at a time when Canada and so many other countries around the world are searching for ways to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. It's a clean source of energy, and it's also a cheaper option. OPG's power is low cost. It's about 40% lower than that of other generators in Ontario. It's a made-in-Canada technology, with a deep and diverse supply chain that's anchored right across the country.
Radioisotopes produced by our reactors have many applications in agriculture, medicine, industry, and research. Their applications vary from insect control to food preservation, and from detecting groundwater resources to the diagnosis and therapy of medical conditions worldwide.
Nuclear is helping to drive our economy and the well-being of people around the world.
Today OPG is a much different company from when it was first established in the late 1990s. We're smaller, we're more efficient, and we're more outwardly focused. We have converted two of our coal stations in northwestern Ontario to renewable biomass. The move saved jobs and contributed to reinvigorating local economic development.
We rely more on partnerships and strong community relationships to help us deliver our mandate. As a result, we have made strong commitments to mutually beneficial working relationships with indigenous communities near our current and future operations. For example, we have put in place a formal framework to assess and resolve historical past grievances. OPG has reached 23 past grievance settlements with 21 first nations communities, closing out all of our historic grievances. In turn, these efforts have resulted in a series of generation development partnerships.
Let me tell you about some of these. The Lower Mattagami River project is a $2.6-billion hydroelectric redevelopment partnership with the Moose Cree First Nation. It was completed last year on time and ahead of schedule, and on budget. Nearly 2,000 people were employed during peak construction, including 250 local indigenous people. As well, just last year, in partnership with Coral Rapids Power, a wholly owned company of Taykwa Tagamou Nation, OPG started building the Peter Sutherland Sr. generating station on the New Post Creek in northeastern Ontario. It is a $300-million project and is expected to employ 220 workers at its peak. It is scheduled to begin operating in 2018.
It's important to note, too, that with the help of these local partners and support from the public, OPG has been able to deliver all of these projects on time and on budget.
This is a good segue to the Darlington project that's happening right now. Last month, OPG began work on the first of four units at the Darlington station to undergo a full refurbishment. It's a 10-year, $12.8-billon megaproject that will ensure safe, clean, reliable, and cheap power in Ontario for the next 30 years. It is the largest clean power project in Canada, and an investment in our future.
Again, OPG has made a solemn promise to Ontarians that this project will be delivered on time and on budget. Darlington supplies 20% of all of Ontario's power. It is the lowest-cost provider in Ontario, and one of the best-performing nuclear plants in the world. It does all of this without polluting the atmosphere. To put it into even greater perspective, operating Darlington until 2055 is the equivalent of removing two million cars from Ontario's roads per year.
There are also tremendous economic spinoffs from this megaproject for Ontarians, businesses, and government. It is expected Ontarians will see $14.9 billion in economic benefits. An average of 8,800 jobs will be created annually. There will be an $8.5 billion increase to household revenues, and about $5.4 billion in revenues for all three levels of government.
The Conference Board of Canada estimated the refurbishment and continual operation of Darlington to 2055 will boost the province's GDP by $89.9 billion. This is all for an investment of $12.8 billion, so it's very good news.
What do we see for the nuclear industry beyond Darlington? We see a lot of exciting possibilities. The completion of the refurbishment, which will be delivered on time and on budget, will provide the public with the confidence for OPG to pursue new nuclear options. Among the options and on the horizon are what the industry calls SMRs, or small modular reactors. Right now there are different technologies, manufacturers, and researchers, and they're still developing ways of commercializing these small reactors.
These small reactors could have the potential to provide heat and electricity to remote communities with an industrial operation, such as a mine. They could also be used on an already existing site, connected to the grid, providing clean and stable energy for urban households.
It would mean the end of the huge nuclear plants and the massive upfront cost to construct them. It's more of a graded approach. Much work still has to be done on SMRs, but OPG is well positioned to support the development and introduction of this technology.
Darlington not only has a site licensed that could use these small reactors; it also has the supply chain, the skilled personnel and support, and could serve as the testing ground for all Canadians to explore this future nuclear technology.
In closing, let me say that there is tremendous potential for nuclear energy. Safe, clean, reliable energy is what drives our economy and ultimately the kind of life that we, as Canadians, enjoy.
Building on that thought, I want to reinforce one of the themes of my presentation. OPG is not just a power company; it plays a positive role in the lives of residents right across the province. OPG's aim is not only to deliver low-cost, clean, and reliable power safely; its aim is to generate power with a purpose, one that will make a difference in the communities where it operates, now and for the future.
As you know, nuclear power generation in Canada, produced through the country's four operating nuclear power plants, is an important source of electricity for Canadians. However, unfortunate events such as Chernobyl and Fukushima are constant reminders that this industry is not without risks and needs to be well managed.
This is why I undertook an audit of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The commission regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials under the 1997 Nuclear Safety and Control Act. The commission does this so that the environment and the health, safety, and security of Canadians are protected, and Canada's international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy are implemented.
Verifying that the industry is complying with all laws, regulations, and conditions is a core part of what regulators have to do. My audit focused on site inspections, which are one of the key verification tools used by the commission to assure Canadians that nuclear power plants perform safely and comply with regulatory requirements and licence conditions.
At this juncture, I think it is worth mentioning that this was an audit of the commission, and not of the operators of nuclear power plants, such as OPG, who are responsible for their safe operation. My audit pertained to the commission and what it is required to do to inspect facilities, and not on the operators of nuclear power plants as such.
Also, the audit did not cover inspections of nuclear waste facilities.
In our audit, we found that the commission conducted 226 site inspections of nuclear power plants that it had planned over the two-year period that we looked at. We examined a sample of 42 site inspections, the majority of which reported compliance issues, so we looked at how they did their inspections. We found they did 226 of them. We then looked very closely at 42 site inspections and found that the majority of them had non-compliances, so when the inspections were done, non-compliances were found. However, we found that the commission followed up with the licensees, the operators, 100% of the time. Every time there was a non-compliance, the commission was on it. The commission therefore ensured that all the issues were being addressed, so that was a tick on the good side for the commission.
However, we found that it was unclear whether the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was conducting the appropriate number and type of inspections, because its planning process was not very well documented. The commission could not show that planning was rigorous, systematic, and risk-based to verify that nuclear facilities were complying with all regulations.
Let me give you an example. The commission had a five-year plan intended to set out the minimum number of inspections required to verify compliance, but this plan changed into more of a list of all possible inspections. The list that was supposed to be the minimum number of inspections morphed into becoming a list of all the possible inspections we could do. That is not particularly systematic or rigorous. Particularly when we're talking about the nuclear industry, which has issues around safety, we need to make sure it's operating safely. From our perspective, the commission should have a five-year plan. The minimum number must be done in these five years, and it shouldn't just become a wish list of inspections.
We also found that the commission carried out only 48% of the inspections set out in that plan. Because of that, the commission also could not show that it had allocated the appropriate number of staff to carry out inspections. When we went to the nuclear stations and we spoke to the inspectors on site, at every single site we went to, the inspectors indicated to us that there were not enough inspectors on site, from their perspective.
Furthermore, we found that three-quarters of site inspections were conducted without an approved inspection guide. The commission's rules are that when an inspector goes out to do an inspection, that inspector must have an approved inspection guide, and we found that 75% of those site inspections were conducted without an approved inspection guide. An inspection guide is essentially a checklist that an inspector uses during the inspection, and it is intended to set out what needs to be checked, basically, to make sure that the inspectors cover everything. We did not find those approved guides in three-quarters of the site inspections that were completed.
We also found that the commission did not provide clear guidance to inspectors on which documents to retain, so as they're doing their inspections they've got notes, checklists, a handbook—field notes, basically as they're walking through and doing their inspection. Because this information was not retained in some cases, the commission could not show that its inspectors had looked at everything that was supposed to be verified. It could not assure us, therefore, that the inspection reports fully and accurately reflected the observations made during inspections.
Last, we found that the commission had a standard time for issuing inspection reports of 50 business days after on-site inspection activities. The commission's target was to meet the standard 80% of the time, but it did so only 64% of the time. This is important, because licensees like OPG have a certain number of days to respond to the commission with an action plan addressing the compliance issues, but this time period only starts once the operator receives the final inspection report. If much of the time it's not receiving it on time, it takes longer to fix the non-compliance issue.
Overall, our audit concluded that the commission could not show that it adequately managed its site inspections of nuclear power plants. We did make a number of recommendations to the commission, including to implement a well-documented, systematic, and risk-based planning process, a five-year plan with a minimum number of inspections—not a potential list of inspections—that followed their own procedures, meaning with approved inspection guides for every inspection.
The commission agreed with our recommendations, and its responses are published in our audit report. I also understand and have seen that the commission has posted an action plan on its website, indicating that it has already started to address our recommendations. However, we have not audited those actions.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening statement.
We look forward to answering the committee's questions.
Thank you very much.
I have been the environment and sustainable development commissioner for two and a half years. After I finish my reply, I will give the floor to Mr. John Affleck since he has worked with these organizations much more than I have.
No one likes to be audited by the auditor general or the commissioner. Departments do not like us coming onto to their premises to see if they have done what the are supposed to do. There are, however, a number of ways of reacting to an audit by the auditor general or the commissioner. For example, officials can think that, since they are managing a large organization, they cannot be aware of everything that happens in it. Or a deputy minister of an important department can be grateful that the auditor general or commissioner has audited a small part of the department's operations and made recommendations. The deputy minister can also show openness and look at the audit as a way of learning something.
From what I have heard, this is not what happened with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. According to Mr. Affleck, it was quite difficult to work with this organization. I would say that the commission was aggressive with the auditors.
My last report covers three audits. To guide you on these matters, I would invite you to look at the Fisheries and Oceans Canada audit. You will see how the department responded to our recommendations. You can compare the response of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to that of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada showed openness. If an organization is audited by the auditor general, I would say the best reaction is to agree and say they will do everything they are told because these audits are important and serious.
If you look at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's response, you will see there is a kind of code. It says it agrees with our findings, but that it will continue on as before and that it is doing everything correctly.
Since French is my second language, I hope I have been clear. I think your question is very important.
I will now give the floor to Mr. Affleck.
John, can you add to that?
Let me start with this. There are two principles, and principle number one—I agree with Ms. Gelfand—is that safety for the operators is our first priority always, and our plants are safe. It's built into our operation first and foremost. We understand very clearly that is our accountability to all Canadians. It's in our procedures. It's in our training. It's in our operations, just as you mentioned for pilots. It's in our DNA, quite frankly, and everybody in OPG understands that, and that's how we operate. That's a basic first principle.
The second principle, I would say, is that critical review is very important to the nuclear industry in that it improves operations and ensures safety. As operators, certainly at Ontario Power Generation we view ourselves as an open and transparent organization. Everything we do is there for anybody to see. I'd invite anybody here to come to see our operation. We regularly receive audits and reviews from many different groups, including the CNSC. The International Atomic Energy Agency, an international regulator, comes to look at our operations. We have the World Association of Nuclear Operators, the Institute on Nuclear Power Operations, and all the provincial ministries that govern our operation. There are many regulators that come to look at our operation, including our own internal audit structure as well.
All this critical input is very important and very essential to safe operation. That's a fundamental principle for nuclear power operations, and good regulation really means good operation, so we value the role of the regulator. We understand the regulator's mission and we respond to any input that the regulator has for us. Certainly, and very obviously, we comply with all the conditions and licence terms that are provided to us.
The CNSC has the ultimate authority with regard to our operation. Notwithstanding the fact that we operate safely, and that is our primary objective, the CNSC has that authority. They can issue orders, audits, oversight, and we value that.
The last thing I would say about the CNSC is they have site inspectors who are there all the time, continually reviewing our operation, so, yes, they perform audits. These are structured reviews of their program and licence conditions, but in addition to that, they have site inspectors and directors who are there all the time looking at our operation, ensuring compliance, and giving us feedback where they find issues. We promptly and immediately follow up on all that feedback where we find it. We see that as a critical part of safety.
I'll answer first that this was not an audit of the safety of the plants. This was an audit of whether or not the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission followed its own rules. It's very clear.
It's clear to us as well that it's likely the industry is ahead of the regulator. I tend to agree with Mr. Jager that within the industry, safety is in their DNA. I spent a few years in the mining industry. It is in their DNA. It never used to be in the mining industry. It is now in their DNA.
The industry is making sure that it's safe, but the regulator has a role to play. We looked at the role of the regulator. I also want to make it really clear that we looked at one tool the regulator uses. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is looking at its logbooks every day and has meetings with them every day and is using all these other tools, but it says in its own documents that the site inspections are the primary tool. They have a bunch of other tools, but the site inspections are the primary tool they use, so we looked at the primary tool. Unfortunately, we couldn't look at everything.
It's not just administrative. We saw more than one five-year plan for minimum site inspections, so which one is it? In an industry that requires precision, that probably lives with precision, to have a regulator that is not as precise, as rigorous, as systematic as the industry, is the part that's not acceptable from my perspective. They have to be as rigorous as the industry, if not more so, and to come and show me three rolls of five-year plans.... Which one is it? As an average Canadian, I don't think it's right from the regulator's perspective to have a five-year plan of the minimum number of site inspections morph into something that's not really the minimum but kind of the whole list of possibilities.
I'm going to try to answer the question. I can't tell you the safety of our plants. That's in the hands of the operators. We looked at one tool that the CNSC uses, the primary tool. We found some gaps. Are they purely administrative? I would say no, but they're still doing the site inspections. They're following up 100% of the time when they have a non-compliance. They're not doing them with approved guides, so it's like a pilot who has a checklist not having the checklist. Most pilots have a checklist. The operators are the pilots in a sense, but the inspector is also kind of a pilot for his site inspection and should have a checklist to cover everything. I want to know that the inspector is perfect, if you know what I mean. I want the industry to be perfect. It's in their DNA, but you would expect the regulator to be just as precise, just as risk-based, just as systematic.
Thank you very much, Chair.
I'll start with a little bit of a statement, then I have one question to Mr. Jager.
I would think that it would have to be profoundly frustrating for Mr. Jager and other people who are suppliers of nuclear energy that the regulator is seen in this light in this report.
I think that in the general public, if there are two points of frustration or lack of trust, one of which my colleague from the NDP has already pointed out, they would be around the management of waste and the safety of the plants themselves.
When the commission does not have a standard that's excellent, it fuels that lack of trust. Unfortunately, your report will be used by people who are anti-nuclear. It will be used, I'm certain, in a way that is out of proportion to how it was intended. It will make it tougher on power producers who operate nuclear plants, as OPG does.
I find that very frustrating. I hope that their compliance is immediate and that they are able to show that and demonstrate it to the public so that any unneeded scrutiny is mitigated.
You mentioned a number of things, Mr. Jager, in your testimony. I wish I had 30 minutes, because some of them I would really like to ask you about in regard to the billions of dollars that some of these plants will generate in GDP.
The day before yesterday in The Kingston Whig-Standard there was a big story. A woman had to choose between rent and paying her electricity bill. I need to ask you this question, because every constituent that I represent would say, “Hey, you know what? One of the biggest concerns I have right now is my electricity bill,” and you just testified that it was low cost. I'll just give you an opportunity to explain that.
How do you represent a low-cost electricity provider when one of the biggest frustrations for Ontarians today is their electricity bill?
Thanks very much for having us here today. My name is James Scongack, and I'm the vice-president of corporate affairs and environment at Bruce Power.
Before I give the Bruce Power overview and share some information with the committee, and before answering some questions and passing it off to my colleagues, I just want to thank this committee for looking into this important issue.
From a Bruce Power perspective, one of the things we've always said is that if we look at the role of energy in Canada broadly, and where we want to be as a country, it's really a three-legged stool.
The first component consists of a modern, strong, successful oil and gas sector, primarily based in western Canada, but which we see impacting the entire country.
The second component is looking at provinces like British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland, with very successful long-standing hydroelectric generation and a real role on that front.
The third leg of the stool is the nuclear industry, an industry that unfortunately sometimes does not get the recognition that it deserves, frankly.
It's really important that all three of those elements be connected and successful for Canada to have a modern, clean, successful, and economically viable electricity system. My comments will be very consistent on that front today.
For those of you who aren't aware of Bruce Power, we're Canada's only private sector nuclear generator. We operate the largest nuclear facility in the world, located in southwestern Ontario. We're entirely Canadian-owned. Our ownership consists of the OMERS pension benefit plan that invests pension funds for about 400,000 to 500,000 public service employees in the Province of Ontario; TransCanada, a massive energy player in North America; and our two unions on site. Ninety per cent of our workforce is unionized, and the Power Workers' Union and the Society of Energy Professionals are also owners in our business. In addition, over 90% of Bruce Power employees are self-investors in our company. That's our ownership structure. It's unique.
The structure of our company itself is also unique. We lease our facility from the Ontario government under a long-term lease that will run until 2064. We sell all of our output under contract, through the IESO in the province of Ontario. We're the largest public-private partnership in Canada. Over our first 15 years of operation, we've invested about $10 billion into our site. We have a plan, over the course of the next 20 years, to invest nearly another $13 billion to $20 billion.
One of the previous questioners from the other session asked about the price of power. For those members who are not from Ontario, this is one of the top-of-mind issues on the electricity file right now in Ontario. We are paid for all of our output through a contract with the IESO. As Mr. Jager alluded to, like the OPG nuclear division, we're a low-cost electricity producer.
Just to put that into perspective, there are a number of components that make up your electricity bill if you're an electricity consumer in Ontario. One component of your electricity bill, anywhere from 40% to 50% of it, depending on where you live in the province, is actually the cost of electricity. As Mr. Jager alluded to, similarly to Bruce Power, if you receive 100% of your electricity from any of the nuclear facilities in Ontario, the cost of electricity on your bill would drop between 40% and 45%.
Sometimes there's a myth that the cost of nuclear electricity doesn't cover everything, when in fact it does. When we talk about the 6.5¢ that Bruce Power is paid per kilowatt, that covers every cost of our operation. It pays for the spent fuel that will eventually be in Laurie's care and control. It covers all of our long-term liabilities. It includes all of our capital. It includes everything we generate from our operation. That's a really important point. That's why we've been recognized as a unique public-private partnership in Canada.
Obviously my comments have been a bit more Ontario-centric, because that is where we operate, but I think there are a number of important, broader Canadian elements to our operation that would be of interest to the committee, the first in the area of clean air. As we saw earlier in the week, the Minister of Environment talked about moving towards a coal phase-out agenda for Canada by 2030. I know that's going to be an issue that will be actively discussed in the coming weeks.
As people are also aware, 2015 was the first year that we had no coal generation in Ontario. Ten years ago, about a quarter of our electricity in Ontario came from coal.
Yesterday the Asthma Society of Canada released a report marking the first anniversary of the passage of the Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act and acknowledging that Bruce Power was responsible for 70% of the extra electricity needed to phase out coal. That $10 billion we spent effectively enabled coal phase-out in Ontario.
As we look at the carbon-pricing regime that is expected, whether it's cap and trade at the provincial level or some other construct, one of the things the Asthma Society also concluded yesterday is that compared to the alternatives, our continued operation will avoid a lot of additional carbon costs. That's estimated to be between $12 billion and $63 billion over the next 50 years, or up to $14,000 per family, so as we're talking about clean air, it's important that nuclear gets mentioned in that equation.
Before I wrap up, there are two other important points. I know that the member of Parliament covering the Chalk River facility is here today, and she'll be very aware of this file. One of the key elements in our nuclear industry in Canada that is often not recognized is the contribution to the medical community internationally. Bruce Power, along with Glenn's facility over at Pickering, is the world's largest provider of cobalt-60.
If any of you folks ever have to go into the operating room of a hospital, you want to make sure that every single piece of equipment and any medical supplies are absolutely sterilized and clean. Over the last 30 years, we've seen a dramatic drop in infection rates in hospitals because all of that material is sterilized from the cobalt-60 we produce in nuclear plants around the world. Seventy per cent of the world's supply of cobalt-60 comes from the province of Ontario and Bruce Power.
Just two weeks ago, we announced a major project at Bruce Power. When the Chalk River facility ceases operation at the end of March, we will start to produce a new product called “high specific activity cobalt”. We're going to be one of the world's largest suppliers of medical-grade cobalt , which will be used to treat people with brain tumours and various forms of cancer. If you've ever had a loved one or a neighbour or a friend who has had a brain tumour and has been able to go in for this innovative medical technique, where they don't need to do operations but can effectively shrink a tumour through the gamma knife technology, all of that is going to be coming from Bruce Power in a number of years.
The final thing I would like to say in conclusion is that there has been a lot of talk about the regulatory regime in Canada. I certainly don't want to open up a full dialogue on that, but I want to share with you our perspective. If you were to come to the Bruce Power site today—and I encourage any of you to come to the site—you would see a very active level of engagement from our regulator. They're based on site. They're integrated into everything that happens on the site.
I recently had the honour of travelling to Vienna with a number of members of Parliament for the IAEA general assembly. I think Ms. Gallant and Ms. Rudd would be able to reinforce this. It is amazing how respected Canada's nuclear industry is on the international scale.
There is an international fleet of about 400 nuclear plants. Canada has a very small portion of that, with between 18 and 20 plants. We really punch above our weight as a country, and we should be very proud of that, not just from a nuclear operator perspective but also from a regulatory perspective. Canada's regulatory regime in the post-Fukushima period was one of the first to step up and was internationally recognized.
When I was at the IAEA in Vienna, what was also amazing to me was the significant role that CNSC staff play at the international level. We shouldn't underestimate the importance of that. There's always room for improvement, and we as nuclear operators always talk about “gaps to excellence” and how we can do better. I think that's a standard that we should always hold ourselves to, but we shouldn't confuse gaps to excellence with something that we, as Canadians from every walk of life and from every party, should be very proud of.
I think we have a strong story to tell as an industry. I'm thrilled to be here today to share that with you.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It's an honour to appear before you today as one of my first official acts as the new president and CEO of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, or NWMO. My colleagues Derek Wilson and Elena Mantagaris are also here today to assist with any questions you may have.
I'd like to provide some background on the work currently under way at the Nuclear Waste Management Organization and provide an overview of where Canada stands relative to our peers in the world.
First of all, Canada has the required framework to move forward with safely managing used nuclear fuel over the long term. We have the benefit of a clear federal policy, a federal act, robust regulations, and sufficient funding. At the NWMO, our current work is focused on identifying an informed and willing host for a deep geologic repository. Our goal is to achieve a partnership with interested municipalities, first nations, and Métis communities, working together to implement the significant national infrastructure project that we have in front of us.
Let me run through a little bit of our history. The NWMO was established in 2002 by Canada's nuclear electricity producers as a requirement of the federal Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. Our mandate is to work collaboratively with Canadians to design and implement Canada's plan for the safe long-term management of used nuclear fuel. As a requirement of the act, we submit an annual report to the Minister of Natural Resources, who tables it in Parliament and issues a public statement within 90 days of receiving it. The 2015 statement indicated the following: “The Government of Canada believes strongly in the importance of the NWMO’s mandate, and will continue to ensure that the organization fulfills its responsibilities under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act as it implements Canada’s plan for nuclear fuel waste.”
Ontario Power Generation, New Brunswick Power Corporation, and Hydro-Québec are the founding members of the NWMO. Along with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, they are required to fund our operations. Trust and segregated funds have been established and are funded.
The Nuclear Fuel Waste Act required the NWMO to study approaches for managing used nuclear fuel and recommend an approach to the Minister of Natural Resources. In 2005, after a three-year dialogue that included 120 information sessions in every province and territory, the NWMO proposed an approach that best reflected priorities and values expressed by Canadians. We called that approach “adaptive phased management”, or APM.
The Government of Canada then selected APM in June 2007. The plan includes centralized safe containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel in a deep geologic repository located in an informed and willing host community. Following the government's decision, the NWMO undertook an additional two years of engagement with Canadians to collaboratively develop a fair and ethical site selection process that identifies technical and social criteria for suitability.
In May 2010, when the site selection process was initiated, 22 communities came forward and expressed interest in learning about this approximately $22-billion project. Following the initial screenings and preliminary assessments, the number of communities has been narrowed down to nine in Ontario. No decision has been made yet by any community to host the deep geologic repository. Like the NWMO, all are still learning. Over the next several years, NWMO will be doing technical studies and working with communities to identify a preferred site, followed by regulatory approvals. We estimate that the repository will be in service between 2040 and 2045.
There is international consensus that repositories are the responsible approach for managing used nuclear fuel over the long term. For instance, the IAEA and NEA recognize geologic disposal as a safe and permanent solution.
Like other countries, Canada is moving forward with an environmentally responsible approach that protects people and the environment. For example, Finland, Sweden, and France are all moving forward with repository programs. The U.S. Department of Energy is initiating a consent-based process to site a repository.
The NWMO is committed to excellence in research efforts. Since 2010 we have worked with 21 Canadian universities and colleges, as well as international centres of learning, on over 85 research projects. The NWMO is also working with research partners in Switzerland, Sweden, and Finland.
Adaptive phased management requires that the NWMO ensure technological innovations are incorporated in how we advance Canada's plan. For example, the NWMO has developed an innovative containment system with existing proven technology that is optimized for used CANDU fuel. This system can be manufactured entirely in Canadian facilities and could be used by companies looking to export Canadian expertise and materials in managing the back end of the CANDU fuel cycle. Adaptive phased management gives our organization the flexibility to respond to technological innovations and future changes in the nuclear sector, while ensuring the core mission of the organization can continue.
In conclusion, as stewards of Canada's plan, we take our responsibility to protect people and the environment extremely seriously. As mentioned earlier, we have all of the necessary frameworks in place to move forward.
We are happy to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee members, for inviting me to speak about Ontario Power Generation's deep geological repository and our industry.
OPG has a strong tradition of generating electricity for almost 100 years. It grew out of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario and Ontario Hydro. In the first half of the 20th century, all of our assets were hydroelectric, which laid the foundations for the economic and social development of Canada.
Fossil plants followed in the fifties and the sixties as an additional source of energy to fuel a growing and thriving province. In the seventies and nineties, nuclear stations were added to that mix.
OPG owns three nuclear stations in the province, the Pickering, Darlington, and Bruce power stations, and together they produce more than half of Ontario's electricity—stable, clean, affordable, and safe energy that has helped Ontario and Canada move to a low-carbon economy. It was nuclear power that helped the province get off coal-powered electricity, significantly reducing the province's and the country's greenhouse gas emissions, and it will be this way as nuclear continues to be an integral part of our electricity mix and the decarbonization of our economy.
In October, OPG embarked on a $12.8-billion megaproject, the biggest clean energy project in the country, refurbishing the nuclear generating station, one of our most important assets.
As I mentioned earlier, Darlington generates 20% of the province's electricity and has done so since the early nineties. It needs a mid-life refurbishment, and we're spending 10 years to do just that. Once this is completed, Darlington will continue to provide to Ontario stable and cheap energy, free of greenhouse gas emissions, for 30 or more years.
As with any industrial operation, nuclear plants produce waste, and in Canada there are strict regulations around the storage and disposal of nuclear waste. Unlike gas- or coal-burning plants that send their waste up into the atmosphere, the vast majority of nuclear waste is solid. It's stored as per the rules of Canada's radioactive waste policy framework, which dictate that waste producers and owners are responsible for the funding, organization, management, and operation of disposal and other facilities required for their waste. The policy recognizes that there may be different categories for each waste category.
OPG is responsible for the interim storage and long-term management of low- and intermediate-level waste. High-level waste, as Laurie mentioned, is the responsibility of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, the NWMO, which is in the process, as you've heard, of working on a plan for the safe long-term management of used nuclear fuel.
For 40 years, the low- and intermediate-level waste produced from the three nuclear plants has been safely stored at the Bruce generating station on Lake Huron. It has been trucked there without incident, and every single piece of waste generated over 40 years is accounted for. Currently, all the waste is stored safely above ground within the secure Bruce site.
The low- and intermediate-level waste is stored in concrete storage buildings and in in-ground containers. There are approximately 100,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level waste stored there, about half of the total that would be placed into the DGR when it's done. The spent fuel is placed in dry storage containers at each of the three stations. The containers, designed by OPG, are made of reinforced concrete and carbon steel and weigh about 70 tonnes when full. Each container holds 384 fuel bundles and, to date, we've loaded 2,500 containers.
Just as we as a society are trying to deal with the carbon waste sent up in the atmosphere by fossil fuel use, we have an obligation to future generations to safely dispose of nuclear waste responsibly, where it cannot pose a threat to the public or the environment. In this vein, OPG has identified and has been working on a safe, permanent solution to manage low- and intermediate-level waste, a deep geological repository, or DGR. DGRs are recognized internationally as the best long-term solution for nuclear waste. DGRs are used safely in the United States, Finland, South Korea, and Sweden. Countries such as Germany, Switzerland, France, and Japan are among the other developed countries seeking to construct a DGR.
OPG's proposed plan would take the waste from where it's stored above ground, move it 100 metres, then 680 metres underground—lower than the CN Tower is high—and into some of the most impermeable rock on earth. The proposed site is designed to contain 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste.
This isn't just OPG's best guess for disposal; rather, the project and the site have been subjected to a rigorous environmental and approvals process for nearly 16 years. It's been studied and peer-reviewed by scientists from around the world. In addition, the project has been the subject of nearly a decade of scrutiny, public hearings, and input from local residents.
A federal joint review panel was established in 2012 by the Minister of the Environment and the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to study the proposal. It also agreed that it was the ideal site to permanently contain the waste, and recommended that the project be built sooner rather than later. As part of the process, OPG reached out to the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, or the SON. The site is located in traditional SON territory, and OPG has given its commitment to the SON that the DGR will not proceed to construction without the support of the SON community. The panel said the following in its report: “The Panel believes that important bridges have been built between the scientific information for this environmental assessment and the cultural and spiritual worldviews of the Aboriginal people who participated in this review.”
OPG also engages with and has the strong support of the host community, the Municipality of Kincardine, as well as neighbouring jurisdictions. Every study or review has concluded that DGR would not cause any adverse effects to the environment or Lake Huron.
Following the endorsement of the joint review panel, OPG continues to seek EA approval. The federal has asked for three further studies, and OPG is finalizing its answers to those. OPG has committed to provide this additional information to the minister by year-end. Our results from those additional studies still show that the Bruce nuclear site remains the preferred site for the safe long-term management of low- and intermediate-level waste.
In conclusion, let me leave you with this observation from the joint review panel's report:
The proposed DGR is an important, unique, precedent-setting project. It would be the first of its kind in North America, and it is the first of its kind in the world to propose using limestone as the host rock formation. It is likely that the knowledge and experience gained through the project will assist the Canadian government in its separate Adaptive Phased Management process for the long-term management of used fuel.
Thank you. I'm available to answer any questions you may have.
That's an excellent question, and I completely agree with you. I think we have an industry in Canada that is respected internationally and has unprecedented levels of safety.
We always like to put the CNSC on the spot every year when all the operators in Canada go up to the CNSC for an annual review of our industry. It's an open, public, and transparent process whereby the CNSC openly rates the performance of nuclear facilities and operating plants across Canada. One of the statistics we always like to put up from the Bruce Power point of view—and I'm sure Glenn would share this from an OPG point of view as well—is that Bruce Power just exceeded six million hours' work without a lost-time injury. We're one of the industry leaders—and frankly, industrial leaders, if you look at any sector in Canada—when it comes to health and safety. Whether it's the Office of the Auditor General, the Parliament of Canada, or the CNSC, I can promise you that in most cases our lost-time injury rate and our safety performance are actually better than they are for people working in many of these buildings here today, and that is a really good benchmark. We're not only benchmarking ourselves against other nuclear plants; we're benchmarking ourselves against the best and the brightest.
With regard to the CNSC, we make it a policy not to comment on the audits of our regulator. We have enough audits of our own internally. We have permanent internal oversight functions within the company. We have independent audits that we, as operators, subject ourselves to. From a board perspective, we have an organization called the nuclear safety review board, which reports to our board. We bring in essentially independent experts on a quarterly basis to report to our board. It's an industry best practice.
We also open our doors to the World Association of Nuclear Operators on a frequent basis; a review of one of our facilities concluded just a week or so ago. There is also the IAEA.
I'm very hesitant to comment on an auditor's report of our regulator. I don't think that would be appropriate. I would say, though, that a common theme in any audit, including the ones we receive in Bruce Power, is that audits are meant to be.... How often have you heard an audit that gives a glowing review and says you don't have any room for improvement? I think this committee should be more concerned if an audit came out and said there wasn't any area for improvement, because when we talk about nuclear power, we're never satisfied. We never say that we have great safety performance and we're resting on our laurels. It's always about what we can do better.
That's one of the constant focuses we have as an operator. When we have good safety performances, we don't want our employees to think that's enough. It's always about the next thing.
I know I didn't directly answer your question, but that would be our perspective from an operational point of view.