Regulatory Environment for
Uranium-Related Activities in Canada
Almost all uranium mining, processing, and reclamation activities (as well as other activities involving radionuclides) in Canada are under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Canada’s Nuclear Safety and Control Act states,
“Any work or undertaking constructed for the development, production or use of nuclear energy, or for the mining, production, refinement, conversion, enrichment, processing, possession or use of a nuclear substance … is declared to be a work or undertaking for the general advantage of Canada.” (Section 71)
The CNSC is an independent, quasi-judicial executive agency. The Canadian Nuclear Safety and Control Act, which replaced a series of older Canadian laws dating back to the 1940s, established the CNSC in 2000. There are also other federal laws that apply to uranium mining, processing, and reclamation, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. As a result, CNSC employs a joint regulatory strategy—involving both Health Canada and Environment Canada—in decision making.
Provincial laws also apply to uranium mining, processing, and reclamation. For example, provincial laws applicable to water use would apply to any mine that seeks to withdraw groundwater. In addition, provinces have the authority to regulate and monitor exploration activities.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act requires that any project requiring a CNSC license must undergo an environmental assessment. The CNSC must review, and make a decision regarding, the environmental assessment (EA) before any project license is issued. The EA process is flexible, and the requirements depend upon the nature of the project. It is the responsibility of the CNSC to determine the extent and nature of, and establish guidelines for, the EA. If a project is likely to have significant adverse environmental effects, a comprehensive study is likely to be required. If a project is deemed to have few or minor environmental
and court decisions have affected the way that regulations have been written and interpreted. Fifth, the nature of cooperation and coordination between the state and federal governments varies by law and agency. The programs of states that have signed agreements with the USNRC (i.e., Agreement States) are provided technical assistance and are subject to review for their continued adequacy.2