Interventions in Committee
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View Nathan Cullen Profile
The Gentilly-2 refurbishment will not be built to any standard above 7.5 or 8. Do we know what the standard is going to be for the Gentilly-2 construction?
Duncan Hawthorne
View Duncan Hawthorne Profile
Duncan Hawthorne
2011-03-24 16:14
We're not changing the regulatory requirement for earthquakes as part of the refurbishment of G-2.
David Ullrich
View David Ullrich Profile
David Ullrich
2011-03-10 15:59
Thank you very much, Mayor Lapointe.
Chair Benoit, and distinguished members of the committee, thank you very much for this opportunity to speak today.
The second major concern we have is that the shipment exceeds the International Atomic Energy Agency safety standards for total amount of radioactivity allowed on a single ship. The CNSC’s February 4, 2011, decision acknowledges the shipment would exceed the safety standards by a factor of six, which is why the special arrangements that include compensatory measures are necessary.
These IAEA standards are set for a reason—to protect public health and the environment. It is the large amount of radioactive waste exceeding the safety standards on a single ship that leads directly to our next concern.
We do not believe that the environmental review was adequate to characterize the risk presented by the shipment. The risk increases as the steam generators are moved from secure storage onto trucks, transported over land to a port, unloaded on a ship, and moved through three Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and a system of locks and narrow channels.
The risks to Canadian and U.S. citizens and waters are not adequately characterized, quantified, or differentiated, based on the various conditions present in open lakes, locks, flowing rivers, and channels. If there were an accident, the seriousness of the accident is not adequately quantified, except that an assumption—a very rosy assumption of 1% of the radioactive waste from one of the 16 generators—is made.
The next step in assessing the risk is to determine what happens to the released material. The review essentially concludes that there is so much water in the lakes, rivers, and channels that the problem can be diluted away. Our review indicates that a release as the result of an accident could exceed drinking water standards in Canada. Places with the smallest volume of water are the most vulnerable.
Our fourth concern is that the shipment sets a precedent that could lead to many more shipments. This shipment is not routine. To our knowledge, no shipment of this large a number of nuclear steam generators containing radioactive waste has ever occurred on the Great Lakes or the St. Lawrence. Yes, there are shipments of other hazardous materials, but those are beyond the scope of this matter.
With Bruce Power alone having 64 nuclear steam generators that may be shipped, and with the amount of additional radioactive waste from nuclear plants along the Great Lakes, the potential for many more shipments is very real. This shipment certainly should be viewed as precedent-setting.
To address the concerns we have raised, we recommend that a thorough, rigorous, comprehensive environmental review be performed of the entire proposed shipment, and be subjected to full public scrutiny and review. If that risk is above levels acceptable under Canadian law and policy, either the shipment should not be made or additional measures should be required to reduce the risks to acceptable levels.
Thank you very much again for this opportunity to speak.
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Chair.
I'll just preface my remarks by saying that my riding of Lac-Saint-Louis sits on the St. Lawrence. It covers the western tip of the island of Montreal. I'm pretty sure that any citizen of my riding who is aware of this plan to ship these radioactive boilers to Sweden through the St. Lawrence, passing in front of my riding, would almost certainly be against it.
I'm trying to sort out what seems to be contradictory testimony. On the one hand, Mr. Ullrich, you were saying that the amount being shipped is the largest amount ever to be shipped through the St. Lawrence or the Great Lakes. Is that correct?
View Francis Scarpaleggia Profile
Lib. (QC)
It is six times what is recommended as a safe quantity to be shipped by the International Atomic Energy Association. Is that correct?
David Ullrich
View David Ullrich Profile
David Ullrich
2011-03-10 16:05
Yes, it's at least that. Our calculations show that the exceedance is much larger. It goes to a question about the interpretation of the International Atomic Energy standards. We were assured that we would get a clarification of that at the September 28 hearing; we have never received that clarification.
View Bill Siksay Profile
On another topic, are there any international agreements or international bodies that have made statements on proactive disclosure or open government that have had an impact, with recommendations or suggested standards, on the conversation in the U.K.? Are there international standards or international agreements that apply to the kind of work that's been done in the U.K. on freedom of information or data publishing?
John Sheridan
View John Sheridan Profile
John Sheridan
2011-03-09 16:52
Could you clarify for me what sorts of things you would envisage?
I can certainly speak to data publishing, where this is an emerging art—for example, the involvement I have with the worldwide web consortium, which is the web standards body. That consortium has just chartered a group to look at government-linked data standards and approaches to try to develop some best practice. The area of open data is very fluid in terms of what's good practice and the level of maturity of the guidance and standards you can latch onto. If you were to compare it, for example, with something like website accessibility, where there have been standards in place for a long period of time, we're just beginning to establish what is best practice and what best practice looks like through standards organizations. And we're very much at the beginning of some of this activity around government link data, literally starting next month. So it's early days from an open data perspective.
Ben Worthy
View Ben Worthy Profile
Ben Worthy
2011-03-09 16:53
Just to add one more thought, one particular kind of international institution to keep an eye on is the World Bank, which recently set itself some new standards in terms of openness. Now it seems to be very much an enthusiast for open data, for itself and also for the developed and particularly the developing world. They've long been an exponent of freedom of information as an anti-corruption tool but also as what they call a leverage right to help people gain certain socio-economic benefits. They've now increasingly come to look at open data as helping to serve those ends as well.
View Daryl Kramp Profile
Thank you.
We've now adopted international standards on auditing, and to me that's pretty important. But I think we need a little bit of a clarification on that. Has Canada played a role in that, and how would that differentiate us and/or the system now from what was previously there? Is there an improvement, and how and why is there one?
Duncan Hawthorne
View Duncan Hawthorne Profile
Duncan Hawthorne
2011-03-08 16:38
Thank you.
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for the invitation.
I'll start by apologizing to the translator, because my accent normally causes a bit of interest, but I'll try my best.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Duncan Hawthorne: Obviously I've listened with interest to the searching questions the committee has already asked of the regulator, so I don't intend to reprise all of that. Let me start by introducing what Bruce Power is. I'm sure you may be aware of some of these facts.
We are Canada's only private sector nuclear operator on the shores of Lake Huron and we operate North America's largest operational nuclear facility. As this topic brings about, we are in the process of refurbishing and returning to service 1,300 megawatts of nuclear plant that was retired from service some 15 years ago.
As part of the process, of course, we do have very clear regulatory guidelines governing everything we do, frankly, but as we went through the decision-making on the return to service of these units, we did go through the environmental assessment process that preceded our project, which commenced for real in late 2005.
The first slide gives a bit of background. When you turn to slide 2 you can get a sense of the magnitude of the activity that represents this refurbishment project. We are replacing many of the major life-cycle components, including all the reactor core material where we are dismantling all the reactor pressure tubes and calandria tubes and all the reactor internals. We are cutting them into small pieces and storing them on site.
One of the unique features of this project is that each of our reactors has eight steam generators. If you consider the picture you're looking at on slide 2, the four square blocks equate to the four reactors. Units 3 and 4 are in operation, and if you notice the third one from the left, you see a large crane parked outside unit 2. It was through the use of this crane that my colleague, Patrick Lamarre from SNC-Lavalin, took on board the project to remove these steam generators from their location and to replace them with new ones.
As was mentioned previously, of course, many elements of this project went into the planning phase. Everything we do in the industry is governed by two things: first, a commitment to meet our regulations; and second, to seek continuous improvement.
Dr. Binder mentioned the whole principle of “as low as reasonably achievable”, the ALARA principle. It's one that I'd say governs the very safe operation of Canada's nuclear industry. We should recognize that we have an industry with a stellar safety record, and it compares very well with the nuclear community internationally. I can say that because, as my accent would let you detect, I started my 40-year career in this industry in a different place, so I know what U.K. standards look like, I know what U.S. standards look like, and I know what Canadian standards look like. So I'm able to give some degree of objectivity to how the Canadian nuclear industry compares with others.
On slide 3, we're trying to give a principle here. As I said, I'm not trying to talk about the half life of radioactive isotopes, because, as was just pointed out, I can tell you the difference between heavy and light water reactors too and eat up an entire hour of this committee hearing. This can be a very complicated subject, or it can be a simple subject based on good practice and principles.
This diagram here we call “The Right Thing to Do”, but this is not a Bruce Power diagram. This comes from international standards and procedures. This is the internationally accepted mandate that all of us have to minimize our environmental footprint. It's true in domestic waste today where we consider what our standards looked like 20 years ago when we did not segregate our domestic waste, and look at where we are today: we separate plastics, we recycle, we turn plastic water bottles into chairs. We do many things to reduce our environmental footprint. No surprise then that the same obligation is placed on the nuclear industry.
As we continue to evolve our thinking, we all have an obligation to reduce our environmental footprint. So when we talked about the possibility of storing these steam generators--and to answer the question someone will ask, if we refurbish all these units on our site, there will be 64 steam generators: eight times eight. We've done two, so that gives us 16 steam generators.
Our intention would be to refurbish all of these units as part of Ontario's long-term energy plan. A critical part of securing the extra life will involve replacing all 64 steam generators over the next 20 years.
Clearly one of the issues we have is whether it is environmentally responsible. Is it the best option we can think of to build 64 buildings, which look very similar to the size of this room, for the sole purpose of storing these steam generators? For within that environment, we are more than aware that there are four grams of radioactive isotope material inside a 100-tonne vessel, which has to be secured and looked after for a very long time.
That was the option open to us. That was the bounding option and our planning assumption for environmental assessment.
But none of us can be satisfied that's the best we can do. As we looked to international practice, we saw a number of utilities facing the same timetable as us, the same requirement to replace many of their aging components. And we started to see a change occur. Rather than store things for the long term, people developed techniques and strategies and approaches.
In fact, Studsvik is a world leader in this, both in their place in Sweden and also in the U.S., where they're going through a very sound environmental practice. As we look at that, this is not about commercial gain; it's about the right thing to do.
Would I like this facility to be right next door? Sure, I would. But that's not the case. It's a unique facility, created for a special purpose, to manage a high volume of these sorts of activities. When we understood exactly what their process looked like—we saw their international standards and the regulations they operate in—it became a credible option for us.
The next thing we had to do was consider how we move these steam generators from their place on Lake Huron to the facility in Sweden. How do we do it safely and responsibly? It was mentioned previously that the regulations are mature in this regard; they're not new regulations created for this purpose. They are regulations that have been in place for a very long time. They are tested regularly, and they are enacted and enforced regularly.
The difference, of course, in this situation is that we cannot fit steam generators into the standard packaging. This has been said already here today, and it was clear in the regulatory hearings. Were it possible to fit a slab steam generator in an approved standard package, that would have occurred and it would have gone. Actually for Bruce Power, the same activities that we undertook would also have occurred.
Moving large components in our community creates the risk of distorting traffic flow and affecting a small rural community. When we embarked on this project, we treated that as being the issue. That was the disruption we were going to create in our community. We treated it in the same way when we moved the new steam generators in. The reason for that was because we were already comfortable that the radioactive nuclides met all of the regulatory standards.
Of course, when you begin that consultation, you run the risk of attracting other attention, for different reasons and different intent. I can tell this committee that our purpose was to look at this triangle of environmental footprint and try to move up the pyramid. That's the right thing to do.
When I talk about our activities, I can say we're obviously not at all immune to the public sentiment. We're not idiots. We know what's happening. We can see a number of important things. Firstly, very responsible elected officials are expressing concern, which is entirely what they're elected to do. It's not just in this room but in every municipality along the route. I have no problem with that—none whatsoever. The problem we do have, and the problem we have run into, is that it's always easier to alarm than it is to inform.
We have tried manfully to inform. We have issued documents like this: “The Right Thing To Do”. We've explained exactly what we do. We have set up websites. We've had mailshots. We've held open house meetings. We have tried our best to deal with those issues. I don't suggest for a moment that we can be everywhere and we can convince every person. I've been in the industry a long time, and I never expect unanimous consent. It will never happen.
The question we have to answer is whether we have done all that's reasonable given the actual intent of our activity.
As I say, if you start on the basis that this is a low-level radioactive activity with marginal risk, then the amount of consultation is affected by that. We have gone far and beyond that as an attempted response to the sentiment.
As I say, I fully understand. Some very well-regarded public figures have expressed concern. I get that. I do understand that. But I would hope—it's always been my hope—that Canadians have comfort in the strong regulatory body that exists. Just because the CNSC agrees with us doesn't mean I've got my hand up their back. It's never been the case, and it never will be the case. A good licensee always needs a strong regulator. It's always been so. It gives the public confidence. It gives us the confidence that we know where the benchmarks are. Good regulations do that for us.
As I say, I can talk at length about the half-life of isotopes, but I don't think I'd be doing a service to the committee. All of those things were fully dealt with in a commission hearing.
I'm very open to answering any questions and concerns that people have. If you want to talk about the science, we can do that too.
I want to reassure you that the basis of what we're doing is grounded in good environmental policy. You could not enact good environmental policy while putting Canadians at risk in the process.
We have reassured ourselves of our ability to seal these steam generators, to characterize them, to transport them, and to deal with them in a responsible way. That's what I believe we were tested on in the regulatory proceedings. I believe we passed that test.
Thank you.
View Robert Carrier Profile
I'm going to share my speaking time with my colleague, if there's a little left after I speak.
My question is for Mr. Meunier. One thing intrigued me. Mr. Rosen, a tax expert, testified here. He told us, among other things, that the new accounting standards are international financial reporting standards that have been in place since last year. They have replaced the standards that used to be found in the reports by firms that have to file a public report. He things this is a step backward by 50 years, that it allows firms to conceal a lot of information. I was surprised to learn that, because he blamed parliamentarians for letting all this happen.
Given that you work directly in this area, do you have an opinion on this subject? It intrigues me.
View Luc Malo Profile
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
According to Ms. Jobin, one way to improve the nutrition facts on foods is to standardize serving sizes. Currently, in fact, consumers are unable to compare two products on the same shelf. So, when they are buying cereal, cookies or crackers, they cannot compare nutrition facts because the serving size is different.
Last Tuesday, we had Mr. Duhamel, from Dietitians of Canada, before us. He was saying that the issue was quite simple and we could address it rather quickly. Mr. Sherwood, from Refreshments Canada, also said that it could be done relatively easily by his industry.
Mr. Nighbor, can you tell us whether the members of your association intend to quickly adopt this solution? It is not a panacea, but it is relatively simple and gives users and consumers a tool so they may more easily compare products they are purchasing within a category of similar products.
Derek Nighbor
View Derek Nighbor Profile
Derek Nighbor
2011-03-03 16:12
I'm happy to respond to that. As many of you will know, schedule M of the food and drug regulations does outline the criteria. I want to be clear that there are criteria in place in stores, restaurants, and so on across the country, and those criteria are enforced by CFIA.
One of the examples that came up--I think it was earlier this week, when a gentlemen from the Dietitians of Canada was speaking--was about differences with respect to cereals. In fact, there are two different standards for cereal. If you have a flaked cereal or a puffed cereal, as opposed to a more dense oat-type cereal, those are going to measure differently in a bowl in the morning, so there are some categories....
We were engaged with Health Canada and a number of other stakeholders in the drafting of these regulations many years ago. We're always prepared to sit down and talk. We've told folks at Health Canada that if there is research that shows there are significant problems and that this table needs to be revisited as the food supply changes, we owe it to ourselves at some point probably to revisit this schedule.
I want to be very clear that there are rules that my member companies need to follow. They can't just make that up and put different serving sizes on there. I even think of bread versus a bagel. A bagel is about a 90-gram serving size, but you would compare that against two pieces of bread for a comparable meal, which is about 70 grams.
Once again, I don't want to dismiss the question, because it's one we hear often, but when you're comparing like products, there are inherent complexities because they're not exactly the same.
View Colin Carrie Profile
View Colin Carrie Profile
2011-03-03 16:29
Madame Savoie, I had a question for you, because you raised something that I've put a lot of thinking into. You had this chart. At the last meeting, we had some conversation on what healthy is and on defining what healthy is. This chart really tells a bit of a story for me. You look at things like avocados, for example. I love guacamole, and there's very good fat in avocados, but I think a guacamole product would probably be labelled as poor. You have salmon down there. If you're looking at your omega fatty acids, I think that's a good choice. Almonds are a great snack we have around the house. There's olive oil. We like to cook with olive oil and put it in salads.
Can you tell me about the challenges? If government starts labelling things as healthy or unhealthy, what challenges can you see coming from taking that approach?
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