Photo: Quyon Ferry approaching Pontiac from Ottawa on the Ottawa River courtesy of Colin Temple/ Shutterstock.com
* This is the fifth in a series of blogs by CELA’s summer law students, Rebecca Waxman and Adam Meadows, live from the CNSC hearing room. Check back every day as they share reflections and reactions from the nuclear licensing hearing. Read the full series here
PEMBROKE, ON – Day 5 marked the final day of the Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) environmental assessment and licensing hearing by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).
The day began by hearing from the last of intervenors, including presentations by the Corporation of the Town of Deep River, followed by the County of Renfrew. Both were very much in support of the proposed NSDF, primarily focused on the economic benefit of the project. Later in the day, the Mayor of Pembroke appeared, also fully supporting the project.
The municipal support for the project was starkly contrasted later in the morning by Jane Toller, the Elected Warden of Municipalité régionale de comté de Pontiac. She noted that Pontiac had unanimously passed a resolution that the NSDF is too close to the Ottawa River. Ms. Toller expressed concerns about the existing poor health conditions of Pontiac, and shared that community members are concerned about further negative health impacts stemming from the NSDF and any potential future leakage. Ms. Toller implored to the CNSC as Canada’s nuclear regulator: “I ask you as a regulatory body to listen and be accountable to the people downstream.”
Intervenor John Jackson of Nuclear Waste Watch (NWW), gave a presentation which focused on the lack of community acceptance of the NSDF project. He went through research from 2017 that NWW had undertaken with an independent consultant to conduct a survey and roundtables on community awareness and acceptance of the project. The results from the study showed a low to moderate amount of public awareness for the project and stark difference of opinion amongst the community, as to whether there was support for the proposal. NWW noted that they had reapplied for participant funding to do a subsequent study on the community’s current opinions of the project; however this funding was denied. When Commissioner Maharaj asked the CNSC why the funding was denied, staff responded by saying an independent funding group did not deem it to be in “scope”.
As the afternoon progressed, selected Intervenor questions from throughout the week were answered, including CELA’s question on how CNL will deal with strontium-90 plumes that are currently on site. Intervenor Judith Fox Lee’s question to CNL asked them to share as many of the most difficult problems CNL had experienced and what the specific remedies to those problems were. One example was given by CNL, who discussed the water control problems they had experienced at Port Hope and Port Granby, especially in terms of precipitation. They stated that there have been changes over the years to factor into the design. No other problems that CNL has faced were addressed.
As the hearing came to a close, CNSC President Rumina Velshi made a statement on the lack of Indigenous consultation and engagement. She said, “persistence is not enough. This requires a new way of reaching out” and further noted that neither the CNL nor the CNSC had been successful in Indigenous consultation and engagement. She emphasized that the concerns of First Nations communities must be addressed.
After a short 5 day hearing to hear environmental assessment and licensing submissions, the hearing was concluded and now, we wait the CNSC’s decision as to whether or not the EA will be approved, in order to proceed with the proposed license amendment (check out our Day 1 blog for our Q&A about the EA and licensing process).
Rebecca Waxman is a JD Candidate (2024) at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. She has a strong interest in environmental and administrative law and is currently Co-Chair of Dalhousie’s Environmental Law Students’ Society. Rebecca’s summer role at CELA is generously funded by the Schulich Academic Excellence Internship program.
Adam Meadows is a JD Candidate (2023) at Osgoode Hall Law School. He has a particular focus in Indigenous and Environmental law, recently completing an Intensive Program in Indigenous Lands, Resources, and Government at Osgoode.