Hearings!

Licensing hearings for the Chalk River Mound (NSDF) will take place May 30 – June 3, 2022

Wow, that time is upon us!

For six long years, many folks have been working hard to stop the plan to pile up one million tonnes of radioactive and hazardous wastes in a gigantic landfill beside the Ottawa River. The proponent’s own studies show that the giant mound would leak and disintegrate long before radioactive components like plutonium decayed to a harmless state. 

Staff of Canada’s captured nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, are recommending that the license be approved. There are many flaws, errors and omissions in the CNSC staff’s case to approve the license. The hearings will take place at the Best Western Hotel in Pembroke from May 30 to June 3, 2022.

This is precedent setting folks! Please join us in supporting all the groups and individuals who will intervene on behalf of common sense and future generations. You are welcome to watch the hearings online or in person, and we hope there might also be some activities outside of the official proceedings that we will livestream and invite the public to attend.

This page will provide an up-to-date list of all the goings on that you can support remotely by internet or in person during the week long hearings.

To begin, here is a link to the draft agenda for the five days of hearings: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HUScWS-WgMwX0mABZW9cNF3q3B_I6K7U/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=112478340457417432001&rtpof=true&sd=true

The graphic below from Radio Canada Découverte, March 2018, shows the mound overflowing as part of the degradation and erosion process, described by the proponent in its Performance Assessment report.

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Lettre ouverte ~ Nettoyage des déchets radioactifs de Chalk River

(veuillez consulter la version anglaise pour les liens vers les références)

le 29 avril 2022

Chers maires, préfets et conseillers du comté de Renfrew et de la ville de Pembroke,

Les élus de la vallée de l’Outaouais ont fait l’objet de pressions pour soutenir le ” NSDF “, le gigantesque site d’enfouissement de déchets nucléaires de Chalk River, qui accueillera un million de tonnes de déchets radioactifs et dangereux. L’audience finale d’autorisation de l’installation commence le 30 mai 2022.

Les Laboratoires de Chalk River ont été le deuxième employeur du comté de Renfrew pendant de nombreuses années. Il est compréhensible que les élus souhaitent soutenir les Laboratoires de Chalk River et maintenir le financement et les emplois. Cependant, soutenir le NSDF pourrait être une grave erreur pour le comté de Renfrew. Considérez ce qui suit :

  • Les déchets radioactifs de Chalk River, décrits dans un article du Ottawa Citizen de 2011 intitulé ” Chalk River’s Toxic Legacy “, doivent être nettoyés. Ils représentent la part du lion d’une responsabilité fédérale en matière de déchets nucléaires qui est de loin la plus grande responsabilité environnementale du gouvernement du Canada. S’il est effectué correctement, selon les normes internationales et conformément aux plans élaborés par EACL en 2014, le nettoyage coûterait environ 16 milliards de dollars et prendrait plusieurs décennies.
  • Dans le but d’accélérer les choses et de réduire les coûts, un consortium multinational a été engagé en 2015 dans le cadre d’un partenariat public-privé et s’est vu confier la propriété des Laboratoires nucléaires canadiens (LNC).  Le consortium, ” Canadian National Energy Alliance “, est composé de SNC Lavalin et de deux multinationales basées au Texas, Fluor et Jacobs. Leur contrat stipule qu’ils réduiront rapidement et à moindre coût le passif nucléaire fédéral.
  • CNL a proposé le NSDF comme moyen de nettoyer le site des laboratoires de Chalk River et de réduire le passif nucléaire fédéral. Le coût estimé de la NSDF est de 750 millions de dollars. CNL propose de mettre dans le NSDF des matières qui ne devraient jamais être mises en décharge, comme le plutonium.
  • CNL importe des déchets nucléaires commerciaux et fédéraux à Chalk River pour les éliminer dans le NSDF. Ces expéditions ont lieu en dépit d’une demande spécifique de la ville d’Ottawa de cesser les importations de déchets radioactifs dans la vallée de l’Outaouais.
  • Les détracteurs de la proposition de NSDF, y compris des scientifiques et des cadres supérieurs d’EACL à la retraite, affirment que l’installation est mal située et ne répond pas aux normes de sécurité internationales. Les propres études de CNL montrent que le NSDF fuirait et se désintégrerait bien avant que les composants radioactifs comme le plutonium ne soient réduits à un état inoffensif. L’Assemblée des Premières Nations et plus de 140 municipalités, dont le comté de Pontiac, Ottawa, Gatineau et Montréal, ont adopté des résolutions d’inquiétude au sujet du projet proposé.
  • Si le NSDF est approuvé, nous obtiendrons une installation non conforme aux normes et qui fuit pour 750 millions de dollars, au lieu des 16 milliards de dollars dépensés sur plusieurs décennies. Si le projet est approuvé, le monticule radioactif qui fuit polluera la rivière des Outaouais, aura une incidence négative sur la valeur des propriétés et posera des risques pour la santé des générations actuelles et futures de la vallée de l’Outaouais.

Cela ne semble pas être un traitement équitable pour les résidents de la vallée de l’Outaouais qui ont vécu avec la pollution radioactive des laboratoires de Chalk River pendant près de huit décennies. Nous méritons certainement des installations de classe mondiale dont nous pouvons être fiers et qui empêcheront les déchets radioactifs d’entrer dans notre air et notre eau potable. Des voûtes de béton creusées dans le sol et des cavernes rocheuses sur des sites plus éloignés de la rivière des Outaouais permettraient de mieux contenir les déchets et de mieux protéger la rivière.

Nos élus devraient s’inquiéter du fait que les coûts pour les contribuables canadiens ont quadruplé depuis le début du partenariat public-privé en 2015. Le consortium est payé plus d’un milliard de dollars par an, en hausse par rapport aux 327 millions de dollars reçus par EACL en 2015. Une demande d’accès à l’information de 2016 a révélé que neuf cadres supérieurs de CNL étaient payés en moyenne 722 000 $ par personne par année et que vingt-huit entrepreneurs principaux étaient payés en moyenne 377 275 $ par année par personne. La responsabilité fédérale en matière de déchets nucléaires n’a pas diminué depuis que le consortium a pris le contrôle des Laboratoires de Chalk River.

Les médias ont récemment fait état de dons de CNL à des œuvres de charité dans la vallée de l’Outaouais. Il ne fait aucun doute qu’il s’agit de dons précieux pour les bénéficiaires, mais ce ne sont que des gouttes d’eau dans l’océan des plus d’un milliard de dollars que le consortium reçoit chaque année des contribuables canadiens, dont une grande partie va à des actionnaires étrangers, des cadres supérieurs étrangers et des entrepreneurs étrangers. Nous nous demandons s’il est approprié que l’argent de nos impôts soit utilisé par des sociétés étrangères pour obtenir un soutien pour le NSDF.

Dire “non” au NSDF ne signifierait pas la fin des emplois de l’industrie nucléaire dans la vallée de l’Outaouais. Les déchets ne vont nulle part et doivent être nettoyés. La responsabilité des déchets nucléaires est une industrie de plusieurs milliards de dollars. Pourquoi ne pas développer davantage notre expertise canadienne et devenir des leaders mondiaux dans le déclassement des centrales nucléaires et la gestion des déchets radioactifs ?  Un engagement à l’égard d’un nettoyage de classe mondiale entraînerait un financement accru sur une plus longue période, plus d’emplois, la protection de la santé et de la rivière des Outaouais, une plus grande tranquillité d’esprit et le respect de nos partenaires internationaux.

Yours sincerely,

Lynn Jones

Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area 

Johanna Echlin

Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association

Traduit avec www.DeepL.com/Translator(version gratuite)

Open Letter ~ Cleanup of Chalk River radioactive wastes

April 29, 2022

Dear Mayors, Reeves and Councillors of Renfrew County and the City of Pembroke,

Elected officials in the Ottawa Valley have been lobbied to support the “NSDF,” the giant Chalk River nuclear waste landfill for one million tonnes of radioactive and hazardous waste. The final licensing hearing for the facility begins on May 30, 2022.

Chalk River Laboratories has been the second largest employer in Renfrew County for many years. It is understandable that elected officials wish to support Chalk River Laboratories and keep the funding and jobs going. However, supporting the NSDF could be a serious mistake for Renfrew County. Consider the following:

  • The radioactive waste at Chalk River, described in a 2011 Ottawa Citizen article “Chalk River’s Toxic Legacy,” needs to be cleaned up. It represents the lion’s share of a federal nuclear waste liability that is by far the largest environmental liability on the books of the Government of Canada. If done properly, to international standards and according to plans developed by AECL in 2014, the cleanup would cost roughly $16 billion and take several decades.
  • In an effort to speed things up and cut costs, a multinational consortium was contracted in 2015 under a public-private partnership and given ownership of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL).  The consortium, “Canadian National Energy Alliance,” is comprised of SNC Lavalin and two Texas-based multinationals, Fluor and Jacobs. Their contract says they will quickly and cheaply reduce the federal nuclear liabilities.
  • CNL has proposed the NSDF as the way to clean up the Chalk River Laboratories site and reduce the federal nuclear liabilities. The estimated cost for the NSDF is $750 million. CNL is proposing to put materials in the NSDF that should never be put in a landfill such as plutonium
  • CNL is importing commercial and federal nuclear wastes to Chalk River for disposal in the NSDF. These shipments are happening despite a specific request from the City of Ottawa for cessation of radioactive waste imports into the Ottawa Valley.
  • Critics of the NSDF proposal, including retired senior scientists and managers from AECL, say the facility is poorly sited and fails to meet  international safety standards. CNL’s own studies show that the NSDF would leak and disintegrate long before radioactive components like plutonium decayed to a harmless state. The Assembly of First Nations and more than 140 municipalities, including Pontiac County, Ottawa, Gatineau and Montreal have passed resolutions of concern about the proposed project.
  • If the NSDF is approved, we will get one substandard leaking facility for $750 million, instead of $16 billion spent over many decades. If approved, the leaking radioactive mound will pollute the Ottawa River, adversely affect property values, and pose health risks to current and future generations in the Ottawa Valley.

This does not seem to be fair treatment for Ottawa Valley residents who have lived with radioactive pollution from Chalk River Laboratories for close to eight decades. Surely we deserve world class facilities that we can be proud of and that will keep radioactive wastes out of our air and drinking water. In-ground concrete vaults and rock caverns on sites further from the Ottawa River would provide better waste containment and better protection for the river.

It should concern our elected representatives that costs to Canadian taxpayers have quadrupled since the public private partnership began in 2015. The consortium is being paid more than $1 billion annually up from the $327 million AECL received in 2015. A 2016 access to information request revealed that nine senior CNL executives were paid an average of $722,000 per person per year and twenty-eight senior contractors were paid an average of $377,275 per year per person. Almost all of these senior executives and senior contractors were non-Canadian.There has been no decrease in the federal nuclear waste liabilities since the consortium took over control of Chalk River Laboratories.

Donations from CNL to charitable causes in the Ottawa valley have been reported in the media recently. No doubt these are valuable donations to the recipients but they are tiny drops in the bucket of the more than $1 billion the consortium is receiving annually from Canadian taxpayers, much of it going to foreign shareholders, foreign senior executives and foreign contractors. We question whether it is appropriate for our tax dollars to be used by foreign corporations to garner support for the NSDF.

Saying “no” to the NSDF would not mean an end to nuclear industry jobs in the Ottawa Valley. The wastes are not going anywhere and need to be cleaned up. The nuclear waste liability is a multibillion dollar industry. Why not further develop our Canadian expertise and become world leaders in nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management?  A commitment to world class cleanup would bring more funding over a longer period, more jobs, protection of health and the Ottawa River, greater peace of mind and the respect of our international partners. 

Yours sincerely,

Lynn Jones, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

Johanna Echlin, Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association

Concerns about commercial wastes destined for disposal in the Chalk River Mound

Posted 29 April 2022, revised 9 May 2022

If the license to build it is approved, large quantities of Cobalt-60 and Tritium from commercial sources will be disposed of in the Chalk River Mound.

Significant quantities of cobalt-60 and tritium are imported as radioactive wastes from other countries. These two substances would give off nearly all the initial radioactivity in the NSDF.  The “Licensed Inventory” for the NSDF (Table 13 in the Waste Acceptance Criteria) includes 90.6 Terabecquerels of cobalt-60 and 0.891 Terabecqurels of tritium.

Chalk River Laboratories, a publicly owned research facility, is Canada’s only commercial radioactive waste STORAGE facility.  

There are many companies shipping wastes to Chalk River.  A partial list for the period 2014 to 2018 obtained through an Access to Information request to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) includes ABB Inc., ALARA Consultants, Bunge Canada, BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada, DFF Recyclex, Energy Solutions Canada, Kinetrics, MDS Nordion, Noremtech Inc., Nuclear Services Canada, Overwatch, Permafix NW, Shield Source, Spencer Manufacturing, SRB Technologies, Stuart Hunt, Uni-Vert, and Voith.

Large quantities of cobalt-60 and cesium-137 ‘disused sources’ are in storage at Chalk River, mainly imported by Ottawa-based companies Nordion and Best Theratronics.  The transcript of the 2019 licensing hearing for Best Theratronics says “In 2014, we had a resident inventory of disused sources at Nordion. All of that has now been disposed of at CNL… So I can report that all those legacy sources, which is over 500 sources, cobalt and cesium, have been successfully removed from our license.”

Amounts of cesium-137 in storage are likely to be roughly 100,000 times the  “licensed inventory” limit for the NSDF. CNL may have initially planned to put its stored cesium-137 waste in the NSDF as well, but backed off because it is designated as intermediate level waste (ILW) by the International Atomic Energy Agency (higher activity cobalt-60 waste is also considered to be ILW).

SRB Technologies (based in Pembroke) imports large quantities of waste ‘light sources’ filled with tritium (the radioactive form of hydrogen) from the U.S.  It regularly receives truckloads of expired tritium exit signs, dismantles them, and puts the tritium-filled ‘glow in the dark’ glass tubes in packages, and ships them to Chalk River for storage.  Nuclear regulations in the U.S. do not allow expired tritium exit signs to be dumped in municipal landfills.  Canada has a special exemption in its nuclear regulations to allow this, but as far as we can tell, SRB only sends small quantities of its tritium wastes to the Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Center.  All of SRB’s radioactive waste imports are sent to Chalk River.

When commercial wastes are sent to Chalk River the ownership changes.  We, the Canadian citizens and taxpayers, become the proud owner of radioactive waste shipped from around Canada and around the world.  Technically speaking, the federal crown corporation AECL becomes the owner of this waste, and is responsible for its long-term management.  

This has been going on for many years.  Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, which has been contracted by AECL to deal as quickly and cheaply as possible with AECL’s 70+ years of accumulated waste, appears to be planning to put into the NSDF as much as possible of the (former) commercial waste now in storage at Chalk River .

~~~~~

Information from Canada’s most recent report to the Joint Convention confirms that wastes are being imported from other countries

Table D.5 in Canada’s Seventh National Report to the Joint Convention lists facilities in Canada that manage non-spent fuel radioactive waste, including intermediate level waste (ILW) and low level waste (LLW).  These include Best Theratronics Manufacturing Facility, Kanata, Ontario that engages in “Storage of disused sealed sources and depleted uranium shielding (LLW and ILW)” and Nordion Manufacturing Facility in Kanata that also engages in “Storage of disused sealed sources (ILW).”

Table D.8 in the Report has an inventory of low and intermediate level radioactive waste in storage in Canada as of December 31, 2019.  It shows that Best Theratronics had 71 Terabecquerels of “Disused cobalt-60 sealed sources, disused cesium-137 sealed sources, depleted uranium shielding components;” and Nordion had 4,126 Terabecquerels of “Disused cobalt-60 sealed sources; disused cesium-137 sealed sources.”  A Terabecquerel is the radioactivity of the quantity of a radioactive substance that undergoes one thousand trillion radioactive disintegrations every second.

Section J of the Report says that “the CNSC has received more than 2,820 applications to export Category 1 and 2 radioactive sealed sources to 100 countries and has controlled the export of more than 20.4 million TBq [Terabecquerels],” adding that “Canada remains a global leader in the production and export of Category 1 cobalt-60 radioactive sealed sources, supplying approximately 95 percent of the global demand.”

Section J of the Report, Disused sealed sources, quotes the Joint Convention as saying that “A Contracting Party shall allow for re-entry into its territory of disused sealed sources if, in the framework of its national law, it has accepted that they be returned to a manufacturer qualified to receive and possess the disused sealed sources.”  Section J adds that “For long-term management, radioactive sealed sources may be returned to the manufacturer in Canada,” and that disused sources may be sent to a licensed waste management facility “such as the facility operated by CNL in Chalk River, Ontario.”

~~~~~~~~

Here are specific points about Cobalt-60 excerpted from the Concerned Citizens’ intervention for the May 30 licensing hearings:

B. Cobalt-60 commercial wastes
… It nonetheless appears that CNL may plan to put large numbers of disused, highly radioactive cobalt-60 sources in the mound. Disposal of disused sources is described in sections 5.7 and A.5.7 of the NSDF Waste Acceptance Criteria, the key document providing limits on quantities and radioactivity concentrations of radioactive substances destined for the mound.

IAEA guidance does not allow near-surface disposal of high-activity cobalt-60 disused sources. The IAEA says that higher-activity disused Cobalt-60 sources represent intermediate-level waste. Higher-activity disused sources cannot be placed in near surface disposal until they decay below a certain concentration of radioactivity.

Lead shielding must be used to protect workers handling such waste. Roughly 200 tonnes of lead would be disposed of in the mound, leading to contamination of groundwater. 

~~~~

The following presentation was given to the City of Ottawa Environment Committee on March 30, 2021

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1PBgA1D48fBgKw3N7yGoUta_3J1Jt5FETz83vhtMc4k0/edit?usp=sharing

Commercial wastes are being brought to Chalk River from all over the world. 

SRB Technologies, a factory in Pembroke, manufactures and exports tritium exit signs. The tritium in one sign, if oxidized and taken into the body, would be lethal. SRB takes back used, but still highly radioactive, tritium exit signs from around the world and ships them to Chalk River for disposal. 

Kanata-based Nordion and Best Theratronics manufacture 95% of the world’s radioactive devices for food sterilization, cancer treatment and other uses.  These devices are still highly radioactive when no longer useful. The companies take back the devices(photo in the top right) from around the world and ship them to Chalk River for disposal.

A call for World-class Cleanup at Chalk River Laboratories

April 2022

Canada’s $16 billion nuclear waste legacy is in danger of being abandoned in substandard facilities and allowed to leak into our rivers and drinking water. Instead, let’s use our expertise  to turn Canada into a world leader in the cleanup and safe storage of  radioactive waste.  

WORLD-CLASS NUCLEAR WASTE CLEANUP would protect  health, drinking water, property values and peace of mind.    

What do experts say is needed?  

The International Atomic Energy Agency says that radioactive waste  facilities must be carefully sited and waste placed below ground to keep  radioactive materials out of air and water and protect current and future  generations. The IAEA says that siting is a fundamentally important activity in the disposal of radioactive waste. Location of a disposal facility in a “stable geological formation” provides protection from processes such as erosion and glaciation.  It says that  nuclear reactor entombment should only be used in the case of a “severe accident”, such as a meltdown.

Retired AECL scientists say that IAEA guidance must be followed, that  Canada has an obligation to follow the guidelines as a signatory to the  Joint Convention on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.  

First Nations, in a Joint Declaration, endorsed by resolution at the  Assembly of First Nations, say that nuclear waste should be managed  according to five principles: 1) no abandonment, 2) monitored and  retrievable storage 3) better containment, more packaging, 2) away from  drinking water and major water bodies and 5) no unnecessary transport  (exports and imports) 

The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility says radioactive  waste should be carefully managed in monitored and retrievable condition  so that repairs to packaging can be made as needed, to keep the contents  out of the biosphere, our air, soil and drinking water. The CCNR suggests  that a “rolling stewardship” strategy whereby each generation teaches  each subsequent generation how to look after the wastes and keep them  out of the biosphere.

Some countries such as Finland have made good progress building  facilities to keep radioactive waste out of the biosphere. Finland puts  low- and intermediate-level radioactive wastes produced by its four nuclear reactors in bedrock  geological facilities 100 meters deep. It has over 25 years of experience  with these facilities. They will also house the radioactive remains of the  reactors when they are shut down and dismantled. 

WORLD-CLASS NUCLEAR WASTE CLEANUP would bring  money into the Ottawa Valley economy and support good  careers for generations of valley residents.  

WORLD-CLASS NUCLEAR WASTE CLEANUP would involve: 

Thoroughly characterizing all wastes

Establishing an impeccable record-keeping system for use by current and future generations.

Careful packaging and labelling of the wastes. Repairing packages  when they fail and improving them if safer packaging materials become  available. 

Regional mapping to locate a site with stable bedrock 

Construction and operation of an in ground or underground storage facility. Materials that will be radioactive and  hazardous for thousands of years cannot be safely stored on the surface.

While waiting for all of the above steps to be completed, wastes should  be stored in above ground monitored and reinforced (and shielded if  necessary) concrete warehouses; such facilities were pioneered by  Atomic Energy of Canada Limited in the 1990s.  

WORLD-CLASS NUCLEAR WASTE STORAGE FACILITIES  would protect the Ottawa River and future generations.  

Inadequate siting process for the NSDF

April 14, 2022 (Updated May 13, 2022)

IAEA Safety Guide SSG-29, Appendix 1, Siting of Near Surface Disposal Facilities, says siting is a “fundamentally important activity in the disposal of radioactive waste.” (Ref: https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub1637_web.pdf, p. 83)

SSG-29 says the first two stages in the siting process are a “conceptual and planning stage,” during which “projected waste volumes and activities should be quantified,” and an “area survey stage,” involving “regional mapping or investigation.”   

The NSDF facility type and site were selected without quantifying volumes and activities of federal wastes awaiting disposal, and without a regional investigation, thus skipping the first two stages identified in the IAEA Safety Guide.

Proximity to contaminated structures being demolished at the Chalk River Laboratories — not safety or environmental protection — appears to have been the priority is choosing the site of the NSDF. No serious consideration was given to sites other than those on AECL’s 3700-ha Chalk River property,

Alternative sites should be sought to avoid rapid discharge of radioactive and hazardous substances to a major water body and to avoid placing wastes in an area with a high water table (Ref: CMD 22-H7, Section 3.2, Design Options Evaluation). 

Flat, sandy portions of the 30,770-ha Department of National Defence Garrison Petawawa property, adjacent to the Chalk River Laboratories, would accommodate a larger, less expensive, and safer in-ground concrete vault facility.  Vegetation was removed from extensive portions of this property to create a parachute training zone for the Canadian Airborne Regiment, which was disbanded in 1995.

A regional investigation of crown land for geological formations suitable for a shallow rock cavern facility should also be conducted.

IAEA Safety Requirement SSR-5, Disposal of Radioactive Waste, indicates that an in-ground concrete vault or a shallow rock cavern could contain a wider range of waste types than an above ground, landfill-type facility such as the NSDF. (Ref: https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1449_web.pdf)

The southern portion of the site chosen for the NSDF is underlain by a feature categorized in 1994 as a ““high-probability” fracture zone,” ten meters wide and over a kilometer long – a potential groundwater flow pathway with “permeability values several orders of magnitude greater than bulk rock mass.” (Ref: https://www.iaac-aeic.gc.ca/050/evaluations/document/139596, p.5-109).This feature should have eliminated the proposed site from further consideration.

Original site selection criteria announced by the proponent would have excluded any site with more than a 10% slope. This criterion was changed to 25% to allow CNL’s desired site (Ref: Near Surface Disposal Facility Site Selection Report 232-10300-TN-001 Revision 2. Oct. 2016).  .

Site selection criteria were also supposed to exclude known or proposed critical habitats for species listed under the Federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) or by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).”  However, construction of the NSDF would destroy 30 hectares of mature and semi-mature forest that provides high-quality maternity roosting habitat for three endangered bat species (Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis and Tri-colored Bat) and nesting habitat for six at-risk bird species (Canada Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, Whip-poor-will, Wood Thrush).  It would also have adverse impacts on at-risk aquatic species such as the Blanding’s Turtle.

The proposed NSDF site is on a hillside, over fractured rock, with a high water table, surrounded on three sides by wetlands that drain into Perch Lake 50 metres from the base of the hill. Perch Creek flows from Perch Lake into the Ottawa River, one kilometre away.  The entire Chalk River Laboratories property — with its proximity to the Ottawa River, high groundwater table, uneven terrain, and fractured bedrock — is a very poor location for permanent radioactive waste disposal.  The NSDF would destroy habitat for many at-risk species.  Volumes and activities of federal wastes were not quantified prior to selection of a landfill-type disposal facility, so there is no certainty that the NSDF could safely  accommodate a significant portion of these wastes.

This is why concerned citizens say this is the “Wrong Plan” in the “Wrong Place”.  

Chalk River Laboratories

IAEA guidance suggests Chalk River wastes are not suitable for disposal in an above ground mound or in-ground trenches

April 2022

The radioactive wastes at Chalk River Laboratories (CRL), Canada’s main nuclear research facility, are well described in Annex III, Origin and Types of Radioactive Waste, in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Safety Guide GSG-1, Classification of Radioactive Waste:


Waste from research reactors III–16.
The waste generated by research reactors and from some disused radioactive sources is particularly significant because, owing to its level of activity concentration and to the half-lives of the radionuclides, it does not meet the waste acceptance criteria of near surface disposal facilities.

Waste from research facilities III–17.
Research facilities (e.g. hot cell chains, glovebox chains) or pilot plants for checking fuel fabrication processes (particularly the fabrication of mixed uranium plutonium oxides, known as MOX), for fuel reprocessing (particularly advanced schemes), and for post-irradiation examinations, as well as their
analytical laboratories, generate types of waste that, often, are different from the typical waste generated by industrial plants. Owing to the presence of non-negligible amounts of long lived alpha emitters, waste from research facilities generally belongs to the ILW class and even, in some circumstances, to the HLW class.

Annex III, Origin and Types of Radioactive Waste, IAEA General Safety Guide GSG-1, Classification of Radioactive Waste:


These two paragraphs indicate that the radioactive waste at CRL would not be appropriate for near surface disposal. Much is likely to belong to the ILW class, requiring disposal tens of meters or more below the ground surface.

The NSDF proponent is misusing the name “Near Surface Disposal Facility” for an above -ground
landfill. It beggars belief that CNSC staff would support the construction of an aboveground facility for wastes from a Government of Canada research facility, nearly all of which (by volume) will remain hazardous and radioactive for more than 100,000 years.

It beggars belief that CNSC staff would support the construction of an aboveground facility for wastes from a Government of Canada research facility, nearly all of which (by volume) will remain hazardous and radioactive for more than 100,000 years.

Properly characterizing the radioactive wastes at Chalk River Laboratories would be the work of decades

Pushing ahead with a disposal facility, before properly characterizing the wastes is an act of very poor judgement according to an expert in waste inventory control and radioactive waste characterization.

The following submission to the CNSC for the NSDF licensing hearing was prepared by Greg Csullog, an expert on radioactive waste characterization who worked for 21 years at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and seven years at the the International Atomic Energy Agency. He has given us permission to share his intervention here. His qualifications and experience are summarized at the start of his intervention which can be viewed below.

This information is critical to the issue of whether or not CNSC should grant approval to CNL to construct the NSDF. The bottom line is that the legacy radioactive wastes accumulated at Chalk River Labs over a period of nearly eight decades are a poorly characterized mishmash of “low” and “intermediate” level waste, and they are not suitable for disposal in the proposed NSDF.

The legacy radioactive wastes accumulated at Chalk River Laboratories over a period of nearly eight decades are a poorly characterized mishmash of “low” and “intermediate” level waste, and they are not suitable for disposal in the proposed NSDF.

Here are some key “takeaways”:

  • in Mr. Csullog’s opinion, the NSDF proponent has displayed a deep lack of knowledge of “low level waste” and “intermediate level waste” and how they must be handled
  • For the vast majority of time that radioactive wastes were generated, collected and stored at CRL, LLW and ILW were not characterized, labeled, and tracked and most were not managed separately. Simply put – a lot of LLW and ILW were stored together in unmarked packages.
  • mixing a small amount of ILW with LLW would mean the mix of LLW and ILW wastes would have to be re-classified as all ILW, just as contaminating 1000 ml of water with 1 ml of toxic water would turn drinkable water into non-drinkable water.
  • Prior to the 1990’s  wastes were not classified as would be commonly accepted today. They were placed into  storage based on where they were generated, the radiation field they emanated, and the size,  shape and weight of packages. They were NOT classified as LLW and ILW
  • CNSC would seem to have underestimated the huge effort if would take to adequately characterize stored waste, much of it a mish-mash of unsegregated, unmarked, uncharacterized, mixture of LLW and ILW.
  • CNSC should advise the NSDF project that it  would be better off considering a non-surface option for this mish-mash. 
  • bad past practices would make it extremely difficult for anyone to determine how  much LLW and ILW was stored (at CRL) and that puts any estimate like done for the JC [Joint  Convention] in the suspect category.

Here is Greg Csullog’s full intervention. Click on the link below the window if you prefer to read in your browser without downloading.

Greg Csullog also submitted details comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the NSDF. They are posted on the Impact Assessment registry at these links.

Greg Csullog (May 1, 2017)

Greg Csullog (May 29, 2017)