The NSDF facility, if approved, will be the first permanent repository to be authorized by the Canadian government, through the CNSC, for the permanent irretrievable storage of post-fission radioactive elements. These radioactive poisons have been mass-produced by humans as waste byproducts of the nuclear age. Keeping them out of the environment is an unprecedented challenge, with a virtually infinite time horizon. Technetium-99 has a 210,000 year half-life. Plutonium-239 has a 24,400 year half-life. Worse yet, every atom of plutonium239 eventually decays, turning into an atom of uranium-235 – and uranium-235 has a 700 million year half-life. We are talking about an infinite time horizon. 

I sometimes wonder whether such information is ever communicated to the Commissioners. It certainly is not communicated to the general public. The industry, and the regulator, seem to prefer not to disrupt the benign state of ignorance about radioactive materials that is so prevalent in our society. Too bad. The CNSC could perform a great public service by educating people on the facts, in an objective and unbiased way, thereby dispelling the ignorance.

From the CCNR intervention for the NSDF hearings 30 May to 3 June 2022

Dr. Gordon Edwards

“The EIS does absolutely nothing to address the very long-term implications of the project. For example, the NSDF is intended to house approximately 1000 tonnes of uranium-238, a primordial radioactive element with a half-life of 4.5 billion years. As time goes by, the disintegration of uranium-238 atoms creates a dozen other radioactive “decay products”, all of them much more radiotoxic than uranium-238 itself. Thus the uranium-238 “family” becomes increasingly more radioactive, not less radioactive, as the centuries tick by.

In the first year alone the radioactivity from uranium-238 in the NSDF will just about triple, due to the inbreeding of thorium-234 and protactinium-234. The total radioactivity of the uranium-238 family will continue to increase until it ends up being more than seven times as radioactive as the original uranium-238. The amount of radon gas generated inside the NSDF will steadily increase, year after year, virtually forever, as will the radium-226 content. In fact the NSDF facility will eventually hold the radioactive equivalent of 500,000 tonnes of Elliot Lake uranium tailings, just due to the uranium-238 family alone. ”

Read the submission:

Dr. Gordon Edwards, CCNR