Environmental assessments

In June 2018, the Government of Canada introduced proposed legislation to replace the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 with the Impact Assessment Act (Bill C-69) which broadens the scope of assessments to consider how a proposed project could not only result in environmental impacts, but also health, social and economic impacts, as well as impacts on Indigenous peoples, over the long term.

On May 1, 2019 the Government of Canada invited the public to comment on the new proposed Regulations Designating Physical Activities, also known as the Project List, and the new Information Requirements and Time Management Regulations. The consultation will run from May 1 to 31, 2019.

These regulatory proposals are the result of extensive consultation with companies, Indigenous peoples and the public on what kinds of industrial activities should be subject to federal impact assessments under the proposed Impact Assessment Act (Bill C-69).

The Project List is intended to capture major activities with the greatest potential for impact on the environment. Activities related to nuclear power plants and uranium mines and mills, and for small modular reactors, are addressed.

Until the legislation is enacted, existing laws and interim principles for project reviews will continue to apply to projects under review.

Protecting the environment is an important part of the work at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

The CNSC assesses the environmental effects of all nuclear facilities or activities at every phase of their lifecycle. This assessment is based on the scale and complexity of the environmental risks associated with the facility or activity.

The CNSC carries out environmental assessments (EAs) under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (an EA under the CEAA 2012) or under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (an EA under the NSCA). Early in the process, CNSC staff determine which EA applies by reviewing the information provided by the applicant or licensee in their application and supporting documentation.

The CNSC ensures that the public has an opportunity to participate in the EA, and Aboriginal consultation activities are integrated in the EA process to the extent possible. Learn how you can participate in an EA.

Additional information on the CNSC’s EA process can be found in REGDOC-2.9.1, Environmental Principles, Assessments and Protection Measures.

Environmental assessments under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA)

Under the NSCA, one of the CNSC’s key responsibilities is protection of the environment. To meet this responsibility, the CNSC requires the potential environmental effects of all nuclear facilities or activities to be considered and evaluated when licensing decisions are made. An EA under the NSCA is conducted for projects not listed in the Regulations Designating Physical Activities or for projects previously assessed under CEAA 2012 (or its predecessor CEAA 1992).

An EA under the NSCA is primarily based on information that the applicant or licensee is required to submit to the CNSC through the established licensing process, such as the licence application and its supporting documentation, and information on environmental protection measures. An EA under the NSCA may also be supported by additional information from research, annual environmental monitoring reports, environmental risk assessments, the CNSC’s independent environmental monitoring program (IEMP), and the CNSC’s compliance verification activities.

An EA report under the NSCA is prepared for a project or activities at the end of the licence term and for which the proposed licence renewal or amendments are not listed in those regulations. The EA report is a summary of the technical assessments for all projects or activities regulated by the CNSC that demonstrate potential interactions with the environment. This is done to ensure that the applicant or licensee will, in carrying on a licensed activity, make adequate provision for the protection of the environment and the health of persons.

See the list of completed EAs under the NSCA Reports

Environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012

An EA under the CEAA 2012 is a planning and decision-making tool. Its objectives are to minimize or avoid adverse environmental effects before they occur, and incorporate environmental factors into decision making for designated projects. An EA under the CEAA 2012 is carried early in the licensing process (before any licence is granted) and considers the entire proposed lifecycle of a project. It includes information prepared by the applicant and CNSC staff, as well as comments received from Aboriginal groups and the public.

The CNSC has developed Generic Guidelines for the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. The purpose of this document is to inform proponents of the information requirements for the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a project that requires an EA under the CEAA 2012. An EIS is a report written by a proponent that presents the technical studies and findings of an EA.

See the list of ongoing EAs under CEAA 2012 and its predecessor
See the list of completed EAs under CEAA 2012 and its predecessor
See the list of cancelled EAs under CEAA 2012 and its predecessor

Environmental assessments under land claim agreements

In many parts of northern Canada (e.g., Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, parts of Quebec and parts of Newfoundland and Labrador), EA processes established under land claim agreements apply, and the CEAA 2012 does not. In these areas, the CNSC acts as a technical advisor throughout the EA process and has no role in the EA decision. However, the Commission retains decision making on licensing matters, and uses the information gathered in the EA process to inform its licensing decision under the NSCA. When multiple jurisdictions are involved, these processes are harmonized as much as possible to reduce duplication and promote efficiency.

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