Northwatch News | December 2016
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Nuclear Industry Conference Unveils Shift in Waste Burial Plan
For decades the nuclear industry and their fellow travellers in the federal government have been pitching the idea of burying nuclear waste in a large rock formation. The search has been on since the 1970s for that elusive pluton - many will recall drilling in Massey and Atikokan in the early 1980's as part of that phase of the nuclear industry's waste burial campaign - but no evidence has ever been presented that a rock formation can be found of the size and characteristics  the industry describes, large enough to accomodate a massive series of caverns in which nuclear waste would be stashed deep underground.

Since 2005, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s project descriptions infer that the NWMO has a plan: they know what they have to do and how to do it. That “plan” - to bury all of Canada's high level nuclear fuel waste in a "deep geological repository" - has been the subject of numerous community presentations since the NWMO launched its site search in 2010. But the nuclear industry has now uveiled new versions of the plan. The revisions to the NWMO’s “Adaptive Phased Management” plan suggest that the NWMO’s “Learn More” program should be redubbed “Learn Again” (“Learn More” is the NWMO’s program for interacting with municipalities engaged in the NWMO’s search for a “willing and informed community”). The changes to their plan are significant.
The earlier NWMO plan was outlined in their 2005 “recommendation” to the federal government. In 2012, a 594-page report described in more detail a deep geological repository in the crystalline rock of the Canadian shield, followed by a report in 2013 describing a repository in sedimentary rock.

From 2005 to 2015 the plans for a repository in the Canadian Shield depicted a flat-topped cylindrical container that would be placed either vertically in the floor of an underground cavern or horizontally in the room itself. In late 2015, project descriptions began to replace the images of that waste container with one of a sphere-topped container placed in a large box filled with buffering materials. Dubbed “Mark II” by the NWMO technical staff, the revised fuel container design features a copper-coated steel vessel with welded ends.

A potentially more significant shift in the NWMO plan is in the layout of the underground repository. For ten years, all NWMO project descriptions showed a single “compact” block layout with an underground footprint of two kilometres by three kilometers. The NWMO’s predecessor plan by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited had a similar layout, as do the plans of other countries with a geological repository program.

In technical sessions at a nuclear industry sponsored conference in mid-September, a new approach was outlined, generically titled “Adaptive Deep Geologic Repository Layout”.

It signifies a huge shift: instead of situating the underground repository in a single rock formation, the notion of “adaptive layout” introduces the idea that a repository design could “bridge across fractures”.

For decades, the Canadian program has assumed that a sufficiently large and homogeneous rock formation will be available to host a repository, but forty years of research has yet to identify such a rock formation, dubbed by tongue-in-cheek critics as “the perfect pluton”.

The NWMO now appears to be on the brink of giving up the concept that a single rock formation can be found and then engineered to provide a barrier to the release of radioactive waste.
READ MORE | News reports on September conference

Anishnabek News
Ontario News North
Peace Magazine
OPG to File  Additional Studies for DGR Review by end of 2016
In February 2016, the federal minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna directed Ontario Power Generation to carry out additional studies to support OPGs controversial plan to bury radioactive wastes right beside Lake Huron.  It was at least the third time around the block for one of the studies - an assessment of alternate locations - after the requirement for an evaluation of alternatives having been included in the starting guidelines for the review, then the subject of information requests from the Joint Review Panel, and then specific direction from the Joint Review Panel to produce a study of alternate locations (a requirement that extended the hearing into 2014).

OPG has presented an initial outline of what they intend to file to both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and to a "stakeholders" meeting, but in at least the latter case remained coy as to whether they were going to following the Minister's direction to produce a study of actual alternate locations, or were going to try once again to slide through with a generic composite description of what an alternate location could be like.  
Planning Begins for Nipissing Forest 2019-2029 Forest Management Plan
An invitation to participate in the development of the forest management plan for the Nipissing Forest was posted on December 4th, marking the official start of the development of the next ten year plan. During the "Invitation to Participate" comments are being sought on the background information to be used in the development of the plan. The review of the proposed "Long Term Management Directions", which includes objectives and harvest levels which then drive further plan development, is scheduled for review in August 2017.

MNR Developing Forest Carbon Policy
The Ministry of Natural Resources is inviting comment on a discussion paper about two potential forest carbon policy approaches. Described by MNR as options "to optimize the mitigation potential of managed Crown forests, while remaining consistent with the principles of sustainable forest management", the two policy approaches under consideration are:
1) forest carbon management - a government-led approach that could use forest carbon policies to influence the amount of carbon stored in forests and in wood products, or
2) forest carbon offset projects - a market-driven approach that would enable forest carbon offset projects on managed Crown forests.

According to the consultation notice policy will be developed that optimizes climate change mitigation while balancing multiple forest objectives and values, and is based on the results of consultation and further analyses.

MNR will be holding information sessions in Thunder Bay, North Bay and Toronto. The deadline for comments on the discussion paper is January 23, 2017. Comments should include EBR Registry Number: 012-8685. For more information, contact

Temagami Forest Management Planning Process to Begin 
An invitation to participate in the development of the 2019-2029 forest management plan for the Temagami Forest is expected to be  issued before the end of December.
Forest Audit System Overhaul
The Independent Forest Audit system is the subject of a major overhaul.  In September 2016 the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) announced that it had made a decision in July 2015 to proceed with the proposal  posted for public comment in August 2014.
Independent Forest Audits (IFA) have been carried out on forest management units in Ontario since 1996. The audits examine compliance with legislation, regulations, policies and licence requirements, and also assess the effectiveness of the implementation of plans and operations.

According to the 2014 proposal, “the modernization project aims to align the audit process with current and future business processes and adjust the audit processes to achieve efficiencies while retaining overall effectiveness. An additional objective is to move towards a risk-based approach to auditing.”

The changes are multi-faceted, but key features include allowing  to focus only on  “the aspects of the forest and forest management which present the greatest potential impact to sustainable forest management, and to minimize auditing procedures in areas where risk is minimal”.  Reports will be shortened, reviews of the IFA program will shift from every five years to every ten years, auditors will  make “findings” instead of recommendations, and auditors are to adjust their wording, and to no longer contain a statement on whether or not forest sustainability “…is being achieved…”  but instead  report on whether or not a forest is being “…managed consistently with principles…” of sustainable forest management.

On December 12th, Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr  announced the appointment of 3 new temporary members to the National Energy Board (NEB), stating that "These new appointees are qualified to be considered by the NEB for assignment to the Energy East review panel".

The release indicated that  "the NEB will name a new Energy East Hearing Panel shortly. The new Hearing Panel will determine how to move forward with the review process of the Energy East and Eastern Mainline projects.The NEB will communicate details as soon as they become available. At this time, the 21-month time limit remains unchanged."

The appointments come three months after the Energy East hearing stalled following the recusal of the 3 board members assigned to the hearing in the aftermath of the National Observer revealing that they had met in secret with former premier of Quebec Jean Charest while Charest was working for TransCanada. The revelations added to a longstanding criticism that the NEB had close ties to the oil industry it was mandated to regulate in the public interest.

Following the suspension of the hearings, Ecojustice sent a letter to the NEB on behalf of Transition Initiative Kenora to have the hearings restart to avoid apprehension of bias. After NEB board members are assigned to the Energy East review, a first task will be to determine how to restart the hearing. A full restart, as requested by Transition Initiative Kenora, would mean that the company would have to re-file its application and the hearings would have to restart from the very beginning. The original timeline and process was set out in a hearing order
(Sources: Council of Canadians blog, National Energy Board news release and Energy East page)

Following up on 2015 election commitments and mandate letters issued to key cabinet ministers, the federal government has multiple review processes underway, including a review of  federal environmental assessment processes, a process to "modernize" the National Energy Board, and processes to restore lost protections to the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Protection Act.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, along with the Minister of Transport, asked Parliament's Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to examine recent changes to the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The deadline for public submissions was December 7th and in their December 12th meeting the Committee gave instructions to an analyst for the writing of their report. A government  response will beo in early to mid 2017. 

December 23rd is the final deadline for providing comments to the Expert Panel reviewing federal environmental assessment processes. Comments can be provided through a written submission or completing an on-line survey

The Minister of Natural Resources has established an Expert Panel to review the National Energy Board's (NEB) structure, role and mandate under the National Energy Board Act. The members of the NEB Modernization Expert Panel are: David Besner, Wendy Grant-John, Brenda Kenny, Hélène Lauzon and Gary Merasty. The Panel Terms of Reference set out its mandate for the review.  The Panel  "engagement activities" will wrap up in March 2017, with a  report due to the Minister on or before May 15, 2017. Click here to learn more. 

MCTV Coverage, Energy East rally, December 11, 2016
Nuclear waste transportation flagged as a possible issue for North Bay, BayToday, September 2016
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