Mr. Speaker, the response is as follows:
a) While the federal government has important responsibilities relating to nuclear energy, electricity and the ownership and management of natural resources are under provincial jurisdiction. As such, provinces and utilities, acting under provincial laws, are responsible for determining the generation mix. As well, the provincial jurisdiction over resource management includes the technology by which extraction is performed, including the method of steam production for a steam-based process. Thus, it will be industry, working within the framework of provincial laws and regulations, that will determine whether nuclear energy is used to extract oil from the oil sands.
The Government of Canada regulates all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle including activities, materials and facilities. To this end, the Government has established one of the most stringent regulatory regimes in the world, administered by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CNSC. Any proposal to build new nuclear power stations in Canada would have to meet all requirements of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in addition to relevant provincial laws, regulations and policies.
The response to b), c), d), e), f), and g) is as follows: Natural Resources Canada has joined with the province of Alberta and oil sands companies to sponsor an independent study to assess the technical, practical and economic application of nuclear technologies in the oil sands. It is anticipated that the first phase of the study will be completed late this year. The cost of the study is $384,000 with the federal government contributing $96,000 towards the total. The study is part of the “Alternative Energy Solutions to Replace Natural Gas for Oil Sands Development” study. This study on nuclear does not have a title of its own at this time.
h) No Environmental Assessments, EA, have yet been initiated with respect to the use of nuclear power in the oil sands. However, on August 27, 2007, Energy Alberta Corporation, EAC, filed an application with the CNSC to prepare a site for the potential construction of new reactors near Peace River, Alberta. The CNSC will be able to initiate the EA process when EAC’s Project Description is filed with the CNSC. The CNSC has extensive experience with EAs, the first step of this regulatory process, and works closely with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and other federal and provincial agencies to ensure an effective and efficient EA process that follows the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The EA must be completed before the commission can issue a site licence, the first licence in a series for any new nuclear power plant.
i) In 2002, the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act came into force and required nuclear energy corporations to establish the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, NWMO, to manage all of Canada’s used nuclear fuel waste– that exists now and that will be produced in the future.
On June 14, 2007, the Government announced its decision to select the adaptive phased management, APM, plan that was recommended by the NWMO for the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste in Canada. The APM plan was primarily designed to handle nuclear fuel waste coming from Canada’s existing reactors. The approach was tested against many future nuclear fuel waste scenarios and it was found to be technically capable of dealing with additional quantities of nuclear fuel waste. The NWMO will continue research and testing to ensure that its plans and programs address new circumstances and remain robust.
j) Energy Alberta Corporation has made presentations to the federal government as well as the House Standing Committee on Natural Resources regarding the company’s plans to bring CANDU technology to Alberta. The government has also received copies of an AREVA presentation, which outlines the potential they see for nuclear in the oil sands. The Government has not received any presentations from oil and gas companies.
k) The applications received for site licences for new nuclear power plants from Energy Alberta Corporation, in Alberta, and Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation, in Ontario, are the first ones to be considered under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. Given the fact that it has been over 30 years since such an application has been submitted for review it is difficult to predict the time that will be needed for regulatory review for these. In the time since the last application was submitted, the technology has changed, the understanding has changed and the requirements and expectations have changed. The review period is also very dependent on the details of the EA and the completeness of the applications for the two subsequent licences, construction and operating, assuming the site licences are granted.
l) According to its application, EAC is planning to build its proposed nuclear power plant on land adjacent to Lac Cardinal, near the town of Peace River, Alberta.
m) The cost of building a reactor in the oil sands will be determined through negotiations between the vendor and proponent; and accordingly, any estimate of construction cost by the Government would be speculative.