CNL misusing definition of “Near Surface Disposal” ~ Letter to the editor of the Aylmer Bulletin

Letter from Dr. Ole Hendrickson, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, to the editor of the Aylmer Bulletin, June 27, 2018

While it is true that near surface disposal facilities are recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a preferred way of managing low-level radioactive waste, CNL’s proposal is for an above-ground mound, not a near surface disposal facility. This was conceded by CNL official Jim Buckley at a July 2017 meeting in Fort William (Pontiac). Mr Quinn’s use of the misleading term “NSDF” to suggest that CNL’s mound proposal is proven technology is troubling.

Pat Quinn (June 20 letter) also misleadingly calls the proposed NSDF facility “watertight”.  Wastes would be exposed to rain and snow, leaching radioactive contaminants from the mound and necessitating long-term operation of a complex and expensive water treatment facility that at best would only remove a portion of the contaminants.  Radioactive tritium would routinely be discharged to adjacent wetlands. The proposed location of the mound, a kilometre from the Ottawa River, makes this extremely problematic.

Not all the wastes that CNL wants to put in the mound would be “low-level”, as Mr Quinn claims. The IAEA classifies waste with significant quantities of long-lived radioisotopes as “intermediate-level”.  These are found in large amounts at Chalk River — and CNL is bringing in more from the WR-1 reactor at Manitoba’s Whiteshell Laboratories.  CNL’s intent, stated in the environmental impact statement, is to put all these wastes in the mound.

The formal environmental assessment process is well behind schedule. CNL requested more time to respond to hundreds of critical technical comments. While Mr Quinn says members of the public may participate in this process, there may be no further opportunities to do so for more than a year.

The NSDF project is wasting taxpayer dollars and delaying action to deal with the federal government’s 70-year legacy of nuclear waste. The project should be abandoned in favour of a geological repository that can isolate the waste from the biosphere and drinking water sources – the IAEA’s preferred option for managing long-lived radioactive waste.

Ole Hendrickson
Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area


Dr. Hendrickson’s letter was written in response to the following letter from Pat Quinn of CNL published in the Aylmer Bulletin on June 20, 2018.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories responds(This letter is in response to Colin Chisdale’s letter on CNL’s proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) at Chalk River in the Bulletin d’Aylmer (June 6), I invite Colin to contact me by email at .)

There are misconceptions about the proposed NSDF, so I want to be clear that this facility is designed to protect the environment, not harm it. CNL employees care about the area and the Ottawa River, we are local residents and have a shared interest in responsibly addressing waste at the Chalk River Laboratories site. The NSDF will allow us to clean up and isolate historic, low-level contamination that is currently at the site, and dispose of the waste in a watertight enclosure that has been designed to withstand sabotage, earthquakes and flooding. These facilities are recognized internationally as a safe and appropriate way to dispose of low-level waste, and are being used successfully in Canada and the United States.

For two years CNL has engaged with the public about the NSDF project.  We have hosted many public meetings throughout Ontario and Quebec, including  a recent town hall meeting in Gatineau, hosted by MP for Hull-Aylmer, Greg Fergus. This is in addition to public information sessions, meetings, discussions, project orientations and site visits with elected officials, media, members of the public, members of the industry and non-governmental organizations. At each of these engagements we have openly discussed the project and have responded to requests for information. These events will continue, and I’d encourage Mr. Chisdale to stay tuned for future sessions and on the project’s progress.

This project is subject to a federal government-led, and very public, environmental assessment process. In order to proceed CNL requires an environmental assessment decision and authorization from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Members of the public are welcome to participate in this assessment, and are encouraged to raise any concerns they have through this formal review process.

Pat Quinn, Corporate Communications
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories

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