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The Participant Funding Program: Achieving transparency through public participation

Do you live in a nuclear host community? Would you like to share your knowledge or concerns about a nuclear facility or activity in your area? Perhaps you want to raise questions about environmental concerns to the nuclear regulator?

The Participant Funding Program (PFP) can help you do just that. “All individuals, Indigenous peoples, and environmental organizations can bring valuable information to public Commission hearings. Through the PFP, we’re able to help provide them with funding to enhance their participation in the decision-making process,” says Adam Zenobi, PFP Administrator, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

Enabling public participation in the Commission hearing process

Whenever a major licensing decision for a nuclear facility or activity needs to be made, the CNSC holds a public Commission hearing. During these hearings, the Commission considers written and oral statements from CNSC staff, the licensee or applicant, and the public before making a decision. However, the public often lacks resources to be able to participate. 

Established in 2011, the PFP was created to provide funding to enhance public and Indigenous participation in the CNSC’s licensing and decision-making processes. The PFP supports intervenors by providing funding to help them share their concerns and knowledge about CNSC-regulated facilities and activities with the Commission. Indigenous peoples, members of the public and not-for-profit organizations are all invited to apply for funding. Applications are then reviewed by an independent funding review committee, which provides recommendations to the CNSC on who to award funding to. The PFP is critical to the CNSC’s mission of being an open, transparent regulator. As the only nuclear regulator in the world with such a program, the CNSC is proud to lead the way among its counterparts.

“The PFP welcomes applications from individuals or groups who are interested in or affected by licensing decisions and would like to provide their perspective and insights to Commission members,” adds Zenobi. “Funding can be used to cover hiring a subject matter expert, travel expenses, meeting costs, translator fees, and even administrative costs. It helps give intervenors the tools they need to contribute meaningfully to Commission hearings.”

The program demonstrates the CNSC’s commitment to meaningful public and Indigenous participation by providing financial support for interested groups or individuals to take an active role in public Commission proceedings. With the help of this funding, intervenors can submit a written report and make a presentation to the Commission on the licensing matter at hand. The Commission will then have an opportunity to question the intervenors, the licensee or applicant, and CNSC staff about the report and presentation – giving everyone the opportunity to have a dialogue that will help influence the Commission’s decision.

So who is an intervenor?

An intervenor is anyone who has a direct or local interest in the proposed project, and who is planning to provide the Commission with new, relevant information. To date, the majority of PFP funding has been awarded to Indigenous peoples, who provide invaluable information to the Commission on a proposed project’s effects on their rights, interests, communities and traditional territories. Intervenors are an integral part of Commission proceedings, as they often bring public concerns to the Commission’s attention.

Continuously seeking to improve

The CNSC is always looking to further enhance the PFP. “We gather feedback from program participants at the end of each Commission proceeding. We want to know how we can improve the program and the comments provided allow us to do that,” states Zenobi.

With increased demand for greater citizen engagement in matters that affect the environment, the CNSC will continue to work with Canadians to ensure that the Commission hears their voices with the help of initiatives like the PFP.

Want to apply for participant funding?

For more information on the PFP and on how to apply, please visit the CNSC’s Participant Funding Program Web page.

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