Blog: Update on Standing Committee on Nuclear Waste Governance

Blog post by Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director

In September 2022, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development chaired by Francis Scarpaleggia released its report on Canada and Radioactive Waste Management:  Important Decisions for the Future.

CELA had provided submissions to that Committee in its study on nuclear waste governance, among other things calling for better separation of cabinet oversight of the nuclear regulator from the crown corporation responsible for promoting the utilization and development of nuclear technology.  This is critical to both meet international guidance on nuclear safety, and to increase the trust and credibility of the nuclear regulator charged with making decisions regarding the protection of the public and the environment.

The Standing Committee reviewed submissions from other witnesses who raised similar concerns. In its report, the Standing Committee stated that “the Committee does not suggest that there is a conflict of interest in having the CNSC report to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources. However, the Committee sees benefits to improving public trust and confidence in Canada’s radioactive waste management by eliminating a perceived conflict of interest. Greater social acceptance of potential future nuclear development may be one such benefit. The Committee recommends that the Auditor General of Canada conduct a public audit of Canada’s radioactive waste governance.”

CELA therefore now encourages the Auditor General to follow through on this recommendation.  In the meantime, CELA advocates that the Prime Minister could rectify this issue immediately, by making a change in the designation of the Minister responsible under each of the statutes governing the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Atomic Energy Control Limited.  This is a matter currently within his power and does not need further reports nor statutory change (in fact the necessary statutory changes occurred back in 1997 to facilitate this change).

CELA considers that the issue of trust in the nuclear regulator is urgent, and given the myriad projects and proposals underway in Canada, it is necessary to correct the cabinet oversight of that agency.