Close to 80 people from across Canada, including members of local groups such as Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Pontiac Environment Protection, participated in the first of four roundtables Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) hosted in relation to the current review of radioactive waste policy in Canada, March 4.
The roundtables came about as a result of pressure from citizens and organizations to expand opportunities for public involvement in the policy review process. Nuclear Waste Watch, a network of organizations concerned about radioactive waste and nuclear power in Canada, took responsibility for publicizing and signing people up for the March 4 roundtable, and also held
a preparatory information session the evening before.
The topics for the first roundtable were “Principles of Radioactive Waste Management” and “Waste Minimization”. Jim Delaney, NRCan Director, Uranium and Radioactive Waste, welcomed participants and introduced representatives from the federal ministries of Health, Global Affairs and Environment and Climate Change present for the session. One of the criticisms of the review process has been that the departments of health and environment are not directly involved in the policy process, but should be.
The hour and a half wasn’t near enough time for everyone to comment and towards the end of the session, people were limited to one minute to have their say. Adding to communication difficulties, the ‘chat’ function wasn’t accessible
to all participants to read or contribute. Simultaneous translation, though promised, wasn’t provided.
Post-session comments ranged from gratitude for the opportunity to participate to highly critical. One participant wrote: “I attended the worst online session I’ve ever attended in 25 years. I was completely perplexed why the process is expected to end March 31 when the first session was a travesty.”
At the beginning of February 2021, over a hundred groups signed a letter to the Natural Resources minister requesting that efforts be made to ensure a broader engagement of Canadians in the policy process, including an extension of the process deadline, currently March 31, 2021. “Timeline concerns will be taken into consideration according to the minister (of Natural Resources Canada), but we are still working with the March 31 deadline,” said Delaney.
To date, in addition to the March 4 roundtable, NRCan created a web site, posted four discussion papers and comment forums, held one by-invitation information session, and a number of bilateral conversations with citizen organizations and others in December 2020. The next three roundtables are scheduled March 12, 16 and 24.