What We Heard Report – DIS-16-01

DIS-16-01, How the CNSC Considers Information on Costs and Benefits: Opportunities to Improve Guidance and Clarity

Preamble

Discussion papers play an important role in the selection and development of the regulatory framework and regulatory program of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). They are used to solicit early public feedback on CNSC policies or approaches.

The use of discussion papers early in the regulatory process underlines the CNSC’s commitment to a transparent consultation process. The CNSC analyzes and considers preliminary feedback when determining the type and nature of requirements and guidance to issue.

Introduction

As Canada’s nuclear regulator, the CNSC regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect health, safety, security and the environment; to implement Canada's international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy; and to disseminate objective scientific, technical and regulatory information to the public. The CNSC’s top priority is safety.

As part of its initiative to update its regulatory framework, and in keeping with best practices to review existing documents on a regular basis, the CNSC initiated a review of P-242, Considering Cost-benefit Information. This document affirms that, when making a decision under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA), the Commission or its designated officers will consider relevant cost-benefit information submitted by any participant in the process.

DIS-16-01 proposed retaining key elements of P-242, chiefly that the CNSC will consider all relevant cost-benefit information submitted by participants. The discussion paper also sought feedback on proposed additional guidance on how to submit cost-benefit information.

Consultation process

The CNSC posted DIS-16-01 for public comment from February 10 to June 10, 2016. Stakeholders were informed and invited to comment though a number of mechanisms, including announcements in the “Latest News” and “What’s New” sections of the CNSC website. A message was also sent to the CNSC’s email subscription list, alerting recipients that DIS-16-01 had been posted.

On July 7, 2016 the CNSC posted comments it received on its website, and issued an invitation to provide feedback on the comments until August 12, 2016.

Summary of stakeholder comments

The CNSC received feedback from nine organizations in response to DIS-16-01. A summary of comments received follows:

Question 1: Should any elements be added or removed from the draft guidance?

Feedback demonstrated overall satisfaction with the proposed guidance. Commenters requested information about how the CNSC gathers cost-benefit information, specifically for the development of a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) that is published when making or amending regulations. Commenters also asked how the CNSC uses input provided by stakeholders.

CNSC response: Additional information will be added on the topics in the proposed guidance and on how the CNSC reviews and uses cost-benefit information in reaching decisions. However, the CNSC does not perform cost-benefit analysis, nor does it require the submission of cost-benefit information. The CNSC will continue to consider all relevant cost-benefit information that is submitted voluntarily by stakeholders to support their case.

Question 2: Are there other resources the CNSC should include in the draft guidance?

Stakeholders provided many references for consideration and pointed out that more international publications may help to inform the References section of the CNSC’s proposed regulatory document.

CNSC response: The references provided are being considered for inclusion in the potential regulatory document. During the development of the document, staff will explore if other references could also be included.

Question 3: Is there a need for further discussion on methodologies or certain aspects of estimating costs in use by the Canadian nuclear sector?

Feedback generally indicated that no further discussion on methodologies is required at this time. However some commenters requested additional information on the concepts of ALARAFootnote 1 and BATEAFootnote 2 , as well as further discussion on discount rates and reference monetary value of a person-Sievert (person-Sv). The person-Sv is the unit used to express collective dose, which is a useful measure of the total radiation exposure resulting from a specific source or activity to an entire group of people.

Other industry comments proposed a more collaborative decision-making approach, about which more discussion would be desirable.

CNSC response: Where more information was requested, the CNSC will include additional guidance in the planned regulatory document.

Decision-making authority rests entirely with the Commission. The CNSC already engages all interested stakeholders in the decision-making process through consultation and public hearings.

Question 4: Are there alternative ways of obtaining information on costs and benefits?

Comments received demonstrate mixed views on this topic; however, one suggestion included referencing tools that may be of use to smaller licensees in performing cost-benefit analyses (CBA). Other comments demonstrated a desire to have the CNSC perform CBA when proposing new requirements.

CNSC response: The CNSC will consider additional resources for how to conduct CBA for smaller businesses. Guidance in the regulatory document will clarify that CBA may not be warranted for minor, routine decisions. The CNSC does not perform CBA for regulatory documents, which clarify the CNSC’s expectations. However, stakeholders are encouraged to submit cost-benefit information on impacts early and throughout the CNSC’s consultation process for proposed regulatory changes. CNSC staff will consider all input when developing regulatory proposals for the Commission’s consideration.

It is up to the proponent or stakeholder to determine whether to submit cost-benefit information to the CNSC.

Question 5: Should the CNSC identify specific program areas in which the submission of a formal cost-benefit analysis by the applicant should be considered?

Most stakeholders did not support the CNSC identifying specific program areas in which to consider the mandatory submission of a formal cost-benefit analysis. Respondents generally indicated that they preferred the current approach, which allows proponents to decide if they would like to include cost-benefit information.

CNSC response: The CNSC will retain the current process, which allows proponents to choose if they will submit cost-benefit information to support their case.

Question 6: Did we miss anything?

Commenters requested additional information on how the CNSC uses cost-benefit information when assessing whether or how to introduce new requirements, and how the CNSC determines if new requirements will improve safety.

CNSC response: The CNSC acknowledges the need to provide more information on how it uses cost-benefit information when making decisions. It should be reiterated that cost-benefit information, when submitted voluntarily by proponents, is just one element of the CNSC’s decision-making process. REGDOC 3.5.3, Regulatory Fundamentals, will elaborate on how cost-benefit information informs the CNSC’s decisions.

General comments

Many concerns and comments similar to those outlined in the answers to the preceding six questions were also raised about other parts of the discussion paper. The CNSC believes that these other concerns and comments are addressed in its responses to the six questions above.

Multiple stakeholders raised concerns about the transparency and disclosure of cost-benefit information. Other comments pointed out missing or broken links to some references, or offered wording suggestions. The CNSC thanks parties for these comments, has noted them, and will make changes as required.

Comments received from one commenter that CBA is not a good choice to deal with projects, policies, or decisions of the CNSC when “... getting the decisions wrong could lead to serious or irreversible damage to the environment or human health.”  Instead of CBA, the commenter argued for the adoption of the Precautionary Approach.

CNSC responses to general comments: The CNSC will never compromise health, safety, security or the environment.

The CNSC does not perform cost-benefit analysis for regulatory documents, and follows Government of Canada policies for the consideration of costs and benefits of regulatory proposals. There are no plans to require the submission of cost-benefit information, or for applicants or licensees to conduct CBA. It is up to applicants and licensees to provide the CNSC with this information if they wish it to be considered. Notwithstanding, the CNSC can request cost-benefit information if a cost-benefit argument is made by the licensee. The elements of the Precautionary Approach, such as continuous improvement, adoption of best practices, transparency and public scrutiny, are already woven into the fabric of the CNSC’s regulatory approach. It is important to note that licensee submitted CBA is only considered by the CNSC in its regulatory decision making when licensees want to compare and contrast between various or alternative means of achieving a safety goal or regulatory requirement.

All information is reviewed as part of a risk-informed decision-making process. Where uncertainty arises, the CNSC will ensure that applicants and licensees undertake research to support the safety case.

When cost-benefit information is voluntarily submitted to the Commission, it becomes public record, subject to the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act. When information is deemed commercially-sensitive, the CNSC will consult with the licensee to determine if it is suitable to make this information public. This practice is in accordance with Government of Canada policies.

Next steps

The CNSC will update the contents of P-242 and combine it with the upcoming regulatory document REGDOC 3.5.3, Regulatory Fundamentals.

The CNSC is no longer planning to provide sample methodologies for the submission of cost-benefit information. It will only request that any voluntarily submitted cost-benefit information use a repeatable methodology.

The CNSC is always looking for ways to improve its regulations and welcomes feedback at any time.

Email: cnsc.consultation.ccsn@canada.ca

Mail:
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
P.O. Box 1046, Station B
280 Slater Street
Ottawa, ON  K1P 5S9
Fax: 613-995-5086

Footnotes

Footnote 1

ALARA: as low as reasonably achievable

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Footnote 2

BATEA: best available technology economically achievable

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