A call to protect the Ottawa River ~ letter to municipal candidates

Letter to all candidates in the Ontario municipal election, whose districts border the Ottawa River (from Deep River to the Quebec border) sent September 10, 2018

We note that you have declared your candidacy for elected office this fall.  We commend your community service and wish you success.
We have a major concern with nuclear waste disposal projects being proposed at Chalk River and Rolphton. Your constituents are very worried that large amounts of radioactive waste could contaminate the Ottawa River if these plans are not changed. These nuclear facilities are now operated by a consortium of international engineering companies under a Federal Government contract through Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). CNL has recently been granted a 10-year licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).
The contract includes the requirement to “seek the fastest, most cost-effective means” to dispose of all the radioactive waste which has been accumulating at Chalk River and other federal nuclear sites. The contract also includes decommissioning and entombing the nuclear reactor at Rolphton.
The consortium, known as Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), plans to put the radioactive waste at Chalk River into an engineered containment mound that CNL refers to as a “Near Surface Disposal Facility” (NSDF). The waste will be contained in a “geomembrane” and be covered over by a combination of sand, stone, gravel and top soil.
 This “mound”:
  • will be 65 to 80 feet high and cover 27 acres.
  • will contain one million cubic metres of radioactive nuclear waste.
  • will contain radioactive and other wastes transported from decommissioned nuclear sites in Canada.
  • is directly over an active earthquake zone above porous and fractured rock.
  •  is less than a kilometre from the Ottawa River.
  • is beside a small lake which drains directly into the Ottawa River through a small creek.
As CNL’s plans now stand, portions of the mound will remain uncovered for over 50 years. Radioactive material will mix with precipitation creating a continuous volume of contaminated water that is very difficult to treat. This radioactive waste will be released into the environment and make its way back to the Ottawa River. Climate change brings unpredictable, catastrophic weather that could cause permanent radioactive contamination of the Ottawa River.
Please see the Background Information at the end of this email.
Retired AECL senior nuclear scientists have raised many serious concerns in comments submitted as part of the environmental assessments that are currently underway. For example, Dr. J.R. Walker says the mound proposal “employs inadequate technology and is problematically located” and “does not meet regulatory requirements with respect to the health and safety of persons and the protection of the environment.” Despite CNL’s claim, their radioactive waste dumping proposal is not based on proven technology.
There are serious concerns about CNL’s plan to decommission the Rolphton reactor by “entombing” it in concrete and grout which would make Rolphton a permanent nuclear waste disposal facility. Dr. Walker points out that entombing radioactive waste lacks credibility and fails to address Canada’s international obligations. He quotes at length from the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding the “inappropriateness of entombment.”
In summary, we are asking you to:
1) raise as election issues the Chalk River nuclear waste proposal and the Rolphton decommissioning proposal.
2) be prepared to state your position on CNL’s present proposals
3) when you are elected, work towards having your Council:
a.   pass resolutions to oppose CNL’s proposals as they currently stand and oppose the importation of nuclear waste to Chalk River from other locations as over 135 municipalities in Ontario and Quebec have already done.
b.  question the process now in place with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for approving CNL’s radioactive waste plans.
Thank you for your consideration of these issues. We look forward to hearing from you. Please let us know what your position is so we can share it with members of the groups we represent.  Please note that we are not taking issue with the ongoing work at the Laboratories, but only with where and how the nuclear radioactive waste is managed. We are alarmed by CNL’s plans to dispose legacy radioactive waste at Chalk River and to entomb the nuclear reactor at Rolphton. Both of these sites are far too close to the Ottawa River and the potential for ongoing and greater lethal contamination is too great a risk to take.
Please show leadership in joining 135 municipal councils along the Ottawa River from Sheenboro to Montreal on the Quebec side who have passed resolutions questioning CNL’s waste proposals. Your colleagues in Ontario have also acted in response to the alarm of their constituents. East Hawkesbury has adopted a resolution in opposition to CNL’s current Chalk River AND Rolphton proposals. Both Alfred and Plantagenet’s and Clarence Rockland’s resolutions have opposed more radioactive waste being brought to Chalk River for storage or disposal.
If you would like to discuss this matter further or would like more information from independent experts, we would be pleased to assist you. For further information, you may find the links below helpful.
Yours sincerely,
Johanna Echlin
Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association
On behalf of:
Dr. Ole Hendrickson and the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area
Ottawa Riverkeeper
Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River (CANDOR)
Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association (OFWCA)
Petawawa Point Cottagers’ Association (PPCA)
Articles from mainstream media:
Canada has a dirty big nuclear secret at Chalk River Editorial by Eva Schacherl, Ottawa Citizen – April 23, 2018
Taxpayers are getting a bad deal The Hill Times – July, 2017
Fact sheets produced by Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area:
Please note that we are not advocating for the closure of Chalk River nuclear laboratories. Our concern is only CNL’s proposed plan of how and where to remove and dispose of their radioactive nuclear waste.
We are asking you to support our efforts to petition the Government of Canada to move the proposed radioactive nuclear disposal site much farther away from the Ottawa River and to use more secure containment methods. Other sites and safer containment methods are available.
•    Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) had been operating a nuclear facility at Chalk River for    over 65 years.
•    A large amount of radioactive nuclear waste has been collecting there over that period of time.
•    AECL (a Federal Government Crown Corporation) has been ordered by the current government to dispose of their radioactive nuclear waste.
•    AECL has contracted with a private company called Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to undertake this project. CNL is a PRIVATE company owned by a consortium of  international engineering companies, including SNC-Lavalin. The previous Conservative government directed CNL to reduce Canada’s $10 BILLION federal radioactive waste legacy liabilities in the FASTEST and MOST COST EFFECTIVE way.
•    CNL has chosen a “dump” site that is less than a kilometre from the Ottawa River.
•    CNL has proposed what they call a “Near Surface Disposal Facility” (NSDF). They propose to put the nuclear waste inside a “geomembrane” and cover it over with a combination of sand, stone, gravel and top soil.
•    This mound will contain one million cubic metres of radioactive nuclear waste. It will cover an area of 16 hectares. It will reach a height of a 6-storey building. This is not “NEAR SURFACE.”
•    The mound will be situated close to a small lake (Perch Lake) less than a kilometre away from the Ottawa River. This lake flows directly into the Ottawa River through a small creek.
•    The radioactive nuclear waste in the mound will remain hazardous for thousands of years.
•    CNL claims that there is “scientific” certainty that the geomembrane and its earthen covering will endure for hundreds of years. Independent scientists contracted by the Ottawa Riverkeeper assert there is a lack of evidence to support this claim. In addition, the dump site is directly over an active earthquake zone.
•    The Ottawa Riverkeeper and many other scientists believe that there is a high likelihood of leaking from this mound. This would contaminate the Ottawa River — the source of drinking water for millions of Canadians along the River including Petawawa, Pembroke, Ottawa, Gatineau, Montreal and Laval — with lethal radioactivity.
•    CNL will receive more than 600 million dollars of taxpayer money to do this project.
•    In addition to the Chalk River site, CNL is also planning an equally unacceptable radioactive decommissioning project at Rolphton, Ontario. This site is a mere 100 metres from the River.
•    CNL plans to “entomb” the defunct nuclear reactor without properly dealing with the radioactive water which continues to leach into the Ottawa River through fractured rock in which it is encased.
•    This plan is referred to as “in situ” and involves covering over the existing facility with grout and concrete. This is contrary to standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
•    CNL has no liability in the event that things go wrong. Canadian taxpayers are on the hook financially and risk having the Ottawa River radioactively contaminated for future generations.
Please join us and your other constituents to STOP the radioactive nuclear waste dump at Chalk River and the reactor entombment at Rolphton.  They are dangerous projects and are located too close to the Ottawa River that is the source of drinking water for millions of Canadians in the Ottawa Valley and St. Lawrence Valley.

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