Sierra Club of Canada Media Release

March 20, 2001

Submission from the Sierra Club of Canada Nuclear Campaign to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regarding the Bruce Power Licence Application


This submission is provided on behalf of the Sierra Club of Canada, a national environmental organization with 5,000 members, which was federally incorporated in 1992. Sierra Club’s programs endeavor to protect ecosystem integrity through a range of activities, including addressing the risks posed by the nuclear industry. Lack of comment on any given issue in the Bruce Power licence application or related CNSC staff reports does not constitute endorsement of the Bruce Power and/or CNSC treatment of that issue.

Participation in this licensing process should not be interpreted as endorsement of the CNSC Rules of Procedure for hearings. These rules are unfair to public interest intervenors due to the restricted time placed on presentations to the Commission, the lack of opportunity for intervenors to directly question the evidence of CNSC staff or proponents at Commission meetings, and the lack of intervenor funding for experts and for other intervention expenses.

Relevant Commission Member Documents have been reviewed in preparing this submission, including CMDs 01-H6, 01-H6.1, and 00-M51, as well as the transcripts of the 'Day One Hearing’ on February 8, 2001. CNSC policy needs to be amended to ensure that timely and full access is provided for intervenors to documents referenced in Commission Member Documents. Access to selected items referenced in 01-H6 was requested on February 5, 2001 but only the first ten pages of some items were received, along with an attachment stating “document more than 10 pages”. Other items were forwarded without attachments. A full copy of all items referenced in CMDs, along with related CMDs, should be filed with the CNSC Library on the date of public release of CMDs.

BRUCE B SAFETY ISSUES

CNSC staff chose not to review the current status of the many outstanding safety issues at Bruce B, or the status of the Integrated Improvement Program (IIP). Staff suggest that Commissioners ignore these issues until fall 2002 and that a 2 &Mac184; year licence be provided, expiring in fall 2003. There is ample evidence that these issues should not be ignored. The previous staff report, 00-M51 “Mid-Term Report on the Performance of Bruce NGS B”, dated September 19, 2000, gave only a 'conditionally acceptable’ rating to fifteen issues, including: fire protection, maintenance backlogs, management of aging of station components, staff training and qualification, and radiation protection programs, among other issues. A report on the IIP programs, 00- M61.1, dated October 2000, raised concerns about the competition for resources between normal operations and maintenance and the IIP projects, as well as noting that the IIP projects as a whole are two years behind schedule. A baseline of information on outstanding safety issues and IIP project status is needed from which to judge safety issues under the lease arrangement between Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power. These safety issues are relevant regardless of which company operates Bruce B and must be disclosed as part of the CNSC review of the Bruce Power licence application. It is unacceptable to approve the licence application and allow important safety issues to be subject to back-room deals. The public deserves to know the real risk of these aging reactors that are being placed for the first time under private control.

CONTRACTING OUT AND STAFFING ISSUES

Bruce Power intends to contract out certain CANDU-specific technical support work to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and to Ontario Power Generation (OPG). This raises the compounded problem of inadequate quality assurance programs at both AECL and OPG (which have been repeatedly documented by the CNSC), coupled with an untested quality assurance program run by a new company, Bruce Power.

In addition, OPG and Bruce Power will be competitors if Bruce Power receives a CNSC licence to operate Bruce B. While this conflict of interest for OPG as a key contractor to its main competitor is loosely identified, no specific measures are set out to address the matter. Bruce Power states that “sharing of generic support makes good business sense for both companies” (slide 16, CMD 01-H6.1). However, this seemingly friendly business climate between the two companies may quickly sour, once the restructured electricity sector in Ontario is actually launched.

Other concerns include issues such as Bruce Power’s internal capability of supervising and assessing technical support work which it contracts out. This issue of technical competence within the licensee’s own organization was identified by the U.K. nuclear regulator in it’s 1999 report on British Energy, Bruce Power’s main parent company. The “Safety Management Audit” report by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) was carried out to assess the effect of staff downsizing undertaken by British Energy on the safety of its nuclear stations. The NII concluded that British Energy was relying too heavily on contractors to fulfil its safety-related obligations, and had undertaken excessive downsizing.

While Bruce Power states that it will retain all existing staff at the Bruce site, as well as some from OPG head office, it has also acknowledged that retirement of staff over the next ten years will considerably reduce the size of the Bruce workforce by attrition. General staff recruiting and training plans are disclosed by Bruce Power in CMD 01- H6.1. Bruce Power seems to be assuming that the potential staff shortages will also be offset by increased staff productivity. This leads to another concern that was addressed by the NII Audit of British Energy. The NII report concluded that the 'management of change’ process was in effect being used to rationalize staff reductions after the fact. The NII also found cases of staff working significant overtime and evidence of the under-reporting of overtime.

CNSC staff state that the Bruce Power 'management of organizational change’ documentation is based on the modified British Energy process which reportedly responds to the NII audit findings. A February 5, 2001 request by Sierra Club for a selection of references included reference #14 of CMD 01-H6, the British Energy response to the NII Audit findings. Access to this reference has not been provided by the CNSC to date, due to the need for third-party approval to release the document. Guarantees must be put in place to ensure that the age-related attrition of the Bruce site workforce is managed in a way that does not reduce the margin of safety, regardless of which company operates the plant. It remains to be seen whether Bruce Power’s 'management of organizational change’ program will be able to prevent an erosion of safety due to staff retirement, coupled with an over-reliance on productivity improvements in the remaining workers.

MOX PLUTONIUM FUEL

The Sierra Club accepted an invitation from Bruce Power to meet to discuss the licence application and related issues at a meeting on March 16, 2001. At this meeting, Bruce Power representatives would not rule out the possibility of using mixed oxide-plutonium fuel at the Bruce nuclear stations in the future. While the full proposal to import mixed oxide-plutonium fuel from the U.S. and Russia for use in Canadian reactors may not be implemented for a number of years, a controversial testing program is presently underway at AECL’s Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories, and the Canadian government avidly supports the use of mixed oxide plutonium fuel.

There are a number of outstanding concerns regarding the mox-plutonium fuel import plan, including transportation and reactor hazards, as well as civil liberty and international security issues. The Sierra Club requests that the CNSC institute a condition on the Bruce Power licences to prevent the testing or use of mixed oxide plutonium fuel at the Bruce nuclear stations. A formal licence amendment should be required in order to do so, and we ask that the CNSC make a commitment at this time, to require full public hearings by an impartial Panel as defined under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, prior to approving a licence amendment for testing or use of mixed oxide plutonium fuel at the Bruce nuclear stations.


CONCLUSION

This submission discusses three areas of concern and recommends against approving the licence application by Bruce Power at this time.

Undisclosed safety status of the Bruce B nuclear station

There are numerous unresolved safety issues at Bruce B, seen in the 'conditionally acceptable’ ratings by CNSC staff in previous reports. In addition, there has been a two-year delay in the Integrated Improvement Program (IIP), and reorganization of the IIP with the transfer from OPG’s head office back to the nuclear station sites. The IIP projects have incorporated CNSC safety-related requirements, so these delays have safety implications. These issues are not adequately evaluated in the current licence application documentation. The existing licence expires in fall 2001 and the safety performance of Bruce B should be reviewed in detail on the current licence schedule.

Effects of contracting and staffing policies on reactor safety

The record of British Energy, Bruce Power’s main parent company in the UK, with respect to contracting out of safety-related services and excessive downsizing of the workforce, raises concerns about similar potential trends at the Bruce stations. Downsizing at the Bruce nuclear stations caused by retirement of a significant part of the existing workforce, coupled with pressure for increased staff productivity by Bruce Power, may result in reduced overall safety. Regardless of which company holds the licences for the Bruce nuclear stations, the licencee should be required to provide assurances that it will maintain appropriate staff levels and training programs, as well as the internal capability to supervise and assess technical support work which it contracts out. Bruce Power should not be allowed to rely on its competitor, OPG, for contract services for safety-related technical support work.

Mixed oxide plutonium fuel use at the Bruce nuclear stations

The testing or use of mixed oxide plutonium fuel at the Bruce nuclear stations, which has not been ruled out by Bruce Power, must not be allowed without a licence amendment, as well as full public hearings by an impartial Panel as defined under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The CNSC should provide this assurance now, given the outstanding safety and security issues related to this controversial program.