It will be at least a month before Cameco knows whether it will be approved for licences at three of its northern mines.
Public hearings of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission wrapped up Thursday in La Ronge.
The uranium company is seeking licence renewals at its operations in Rabbit Lake, Key Lake and McArthur River.
Cameco spokesman Gord Struthers says the company is positive about how the hearings went and feels it made a strong case for the licence renewals.
He says it was also good that the hearings took place in a northern part of the province.
“I think it created an opportunity for a lot of people to be heard that generally aren’t in the licensing process and we commend the commission for holding the hearing in La Ronge,” he says.
The nuclear safety commission says a decision should come down within the next 30 days but could possibly take longer.
One of the last presenters to take the floor at the regulatory hearings was Kevin McCallum of Saskatchewan Environment.
He has been helping set up a program designed to help northerners personally collect samples for uranium emissions testing.
Fish, water, berries, caribou and moose are just some of the items that have been tested. Commission chair Michael Binder asked McCallum if Cameco was impacting the natural food supply in northern Saskatchewan with its mining activities and the environment official gave the company a passing grade.
“I would say at this point they’ve been open and transparent to everything we’ve been doing,” he says. “They’ve been good to the communities when we deal with these programs and they’ve been a good partner in the work that we’re doing and we’ve not seen anything that stands out. If it is, similar to what’s been said (by the interveners), if we see something that stands out as anomalies, we definitely dig into it further.”
Another commissioner also questioned McCallum about why the provincial government allows Cameco to be one of the funding partners for the study in question.
Commissioner Rumina Velshi told McCallum the environment department should consider the perception this places on the work they are doing.
McCallum says the rationale for including the uranium company is based on the so-called “polluter pays” working model.
He also stresses the research that’s done is reviewed by university-based scientists.
Members of the commission were pointedly asked why no one with an in-depth environmental background was on hand to answer questions related to renewable energy options.
A member of the Committee for Future Generations also asked if the commission has already decided to award Cameco three new licenses at its facilities in the Athabasca basin.
The commission’s Ramzi Jammal stresses this is not the case and it has actually shut down nuclear facilities, such as an operation at Pickering, Ontario, a few years ago.
“The information became available and we staff came to the conclusion that certain parts of the operation were unsafe and the board, at the time, did shut down the operations accordingly,” she says.