“Our international guests must know that an above ground landfill is only acceptable for very low-level radioactive waste and entirely inadequate for wastes that will endure for a hundred thousand years. The proposed Chalk River mound would contaminate the Ottawa River and drinking water for millions of Canadians downstream for millennia. This is a terrible example to set for the world.”

Johanna Echlin, OFWCA

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