The following news release outlines the response of the Canadian federal government to the recommendations of the Environmental Review Panel, which are contained in its report released in March 1998.

December 3, 1998


Ottawa - The federal government will ensure producers and owners of nuclear fuel waste take responsibility for safely and properly managing their waste in the long term and that they meet this responsibility.

Ralph Goodale, Minister for natural Resources Canada, today outlined the steps the government will take in response to recommendations of the Nuclear Fuel Waste Management and Disposal Concept Environmental Assessment Panel, also known as the Seaborn Panel. The Panel, which reported to the government in March, after almost ten years, found the nuclear fuel waste disposal concept developed by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to be technically safe but that it did not have broad public support.

"There will be no concessions made on the issues of safety and transparency," said Minister Goodale. "Clearly, Canadians want nuclear fuel waste to be handled in a safe and environmentally sound manner by an organization they can trust. The federal government will take steps to see that this happens."

One of the Panel's recommendations was the creation of a waste organization to manage and coordinate all activities dealing with nuclear fuel waste in the long term. The Panel also recommended that the organization be subject to regulatory control, policy direction from the federal government, and regular public review.

Minister Goodale also made it clear that the Government of Canada expects that the producers and owners of nuclear fuel waste, in particular Ontario Hydro, Hydro-Quebec, and New brunswick Power, will establish and fully fund a waste management organization. The organization should be a separate legal entity which operates at arm's length from both the nuclear utilities and AECL.

The federal government has set out three fundamental policy objectives for long term nuclear fuel waste management in Canada:

  • a dedicated fund for nuclear fuel waste be established by the producers and owners.

  • the waste management organization must report regularly to the federal government on the process of waste management activities; and

  • a federal review and approval mechanism must be established to provide oversight and access to funds.

"We are determined to see that these three fundamental objectives are met," said Minister Goodale. "We will be consulting all stakeholders and interested parties, including Aboriginal people, to help identify options, including legislative options, on how best to proceed. I will return to Cabinet with the preferred option within 12 months."

The Atomic Energy Control Board, Canada's independent nuclear regulator, will make certain that health, safety, security and protection of the environment will not be compromised.

Minister Goodale indicated that further development of the concept should be undertaken at the Underground Research laboratory at Lac du Bonnet in Manitoba. Taking steps to resolve the nuclear fuel waste issue would further support nuclear energy, and particularly the CANDU option, as a sustainable supply option for electricity.

For more information contact:

John Embury
Press Secretary
Natural Resources Canada
613) 996-2007