City of Ottawa urges CNL and its regulator, the CNSC, to take action on the City’s concerns about the Chalk River mound, Rolphton Reactor tomb and related activities

May 3, 2021

In this letter Mayor Jim Watson urges CNL and the CNSC to take action on Ottawa’s concerns about the giant radioactive waste mound (NSDF) proposed for Chalk River and the entombment of a nuclear reactor beside the Ottawa River at Rolphton.

Specifically the letter and the resolution on which it is based calls on CNL/CNSC to:

  • stop current and future import or transfer of radioactive waste to Chalk River from other provinces
  • increase safeguards to protect the Ottawa River
  • prevent precipitation from entering the Chalk River Mound (NSDF)
  • provide timely environmental monitoring data
  • commit to prompt notification of spills/releases

City of Ottawa requests a regional assessment of radioactive waste disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley

The City of Ottawa is requesting a regional assessment of radioactive waste disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley under Canada’s new Impact Assessment Act. This review, if undertaken as requested, would address cumulative impacts of radioactive waste projects planned for the Ottawa Valley. It would be conducted by a committee appointed for the task by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change or by the Impact Assessment Agency.

Reforms needed at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ~ Hill Times letter to the editor

April 12, 2021

Canada’s nuclear regulatory agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says it’s the “World’s best nuclear regulator” on its website. That “self-image” of the CNSC’s is inconsistent with statements made in recent years by international peer reviewers, high-ranking Canadian officials, international nuclear proponents and others.

The International Atomic Energy Agency recently reviewed Canada’s nuclear safety framework. It identified numerous serious deficiencies including: not following IAEA guidance on nuclear reactor decommissioning, failure to justify practices involving radiation sources, inadequate management systems for transporting nuclear materials and allowing pregnant nuclear workers four times higher radiation exposures than IAEA would permit.

In testimony before the House Standing Committee on Natural Resources, in November 2016, Canada’s Environment Commissioner said:

“the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission… was quite difficult to work with… I would say that the commission was aggressive with the auditors.”

In April 2017, the Expert Panel on reform of environmental assessment, in its final report noted that it had heard many concerns about lack of independence at the CNSC:

“There were concerns that these Responsible Authorities (CNSC and NEB) promote the projects they are tasked with regulating…The term “regulatory capture” was often used when participants described their perceptions of these two entities.”

Counter to Expert Panel recommendations, the CNSC is the agency responsible for making environmental assessment and licensing decisions for three controversial radioactive waste disposal projects on the Ottawa and Winnipeg rivers. 

The nuclear industry publication, Nuclear Energy Insider, recently touted Canada’s “benign regulatory environment” as a reason for SMR developers to come to Canada to experiment with and promote “small”, “modular”, nuclear reactors.

Globe and Mail article in November 2018, revealed that CNSC officials had engaged in backroom lobbying to exempt small modular nuclear reactors from environmental assessment. 

A June 2020 briefing session for MPs and media,“Sham regulation of radioactive waste in Canada,” by the Canadian Environmental Law Association and other NGOs, outlined several ways in which the CNSC was creating “pseudo regulations” to benefit the nuclear industry and allow cheap and ineffective nuclear waste facilities to receive approval and licensing.

A recent petition to the Auditor General from our respective public interest citizens’ groups and Quebec colleagues, entitled “Nuclear governance problems in Canada,” noted that the CNSC has a mandate to protect health but lacks a health department.  A review of CNSC’s organizational chart reveals that the word health does not appear on it.

We believe the CNSC is in need of serious reform if Canadians want it to become a world-class nuclear regulator that prioritizes the health of Canadians and the environment over the health of the nuclear industry. The Government of Canada should address regulatory capture and other serious problems at the CNSC as soon as possible.

Lynn Jones, MHSc, Ottawa, Ontario, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

Anne Lindsey, OM, MA, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Concerned Citizens of Manitoba


The images below are screen shots from the CNSC website, on April 13, 2021, illustrating that the word “health” does not appear on the organizational chart, despite the fact that CNSC’s primary legal mandate is to protect the health of Canadians from the adverse effects of exposure to ionizing radiation.

Who will fix Canada’s nuclear governance gaps?: citizens’ groups (Hill Times)

The following letter to the editor was published in the Hill Times, March 3, 2021

Our respective public interest citizens’ groups from Manitoba and Ontario along with colleagues in Quebec submitted Petition 427 to the federal auditor general in June 2019 to flag serious problems in Canada’s nuclear governance regime and recommend solutions. The concerns raised in our petition are shared by many other groups from across Canada.

Our research into nuclear governance was sparked by a desire to understand why and how substandard radioactive waste projects have come to be planned for sites on the Winnipeg and Ottawa Rivers. OECD documents allowed for comparisons between Canada and other OECD countries on many aspects of nuclear governance.

Canada came up short on many metrics. For example, Canada has:

  • Weak and outdated primary legislation with purposes that do not explicitly aim to protect the public from the detrimental effects of ionizing radiation;
  • No legislation dealing with the vast majority (by volume) of nuclear reactor wastes in Canada;
  • Delegated almost all nuclear oversight to one agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, resulting in a lack of checks and balances found in other OECD countries;
  • A serious and ongoing perception of regulatory capture of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, reported by the Expert Panel on environmental assessment reform. The CNSC promotes the projects it is tasked with regulating;
  • A serious conflict of interest in the reporting relationship of CNSC to the minister of natural resources, who has a mandate to promote nuclear energy under the Nuclear Energy Act;
  • Delegated to a nuclear industry group, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), the job of developing strategies for radioactive waste, counter to guidance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
  • A serious policy vacuum on radioactive waste and nuclear reactor decommissioning, currently being addressed but with problems that include leadership by the minister of natural resources who has a conflict of interest as noted above, and delegation to the NWMO, counter to IAEA guidance.

Why does it matter that Canada has one of the least robust systems of nuclear governance in the world? The nuclear business comes with risks of catastrophic accidents and produces dangerous and potentially deadly wastes. There is no safe level of exposure to the radioactive substances produced in nuclear reactors. These materials remain hazardous for many millennia. Robust nuclear governance is needed to protect humans, other life forms, and the environment from these risks.

We believe that Canada’s weak nuclear governance regime is a root cause of the substandard proposals to build a giant radioactive waste mound upstream of Ottawa-Gatineau and to entomb highly radioactive nuclear reactors in concrete beside the Ottawa and Winnipeg Rivers.

In our view, Canada’s weak nuclear governance regime also makes federal funding for new nuclear reactors risky and liable to compound serious existing nuclear waste problems and liabilities in this country.

Remedies are offered for many of these problems in Petition 427, but to our knowledge, no one in government is considering them. A letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 11 months ago, on April 3, 2020, requesting urgent attention to these matters and others raised by a recent IAEA peer review of Canada’s nuclear safety framework has gone unanswered. It appears that no one is minding the shop.

It’s a vexing conundrum: in a country with a weak nuclear governance regime consisting of a “one-stop shop,” “captured regulator” that reports to a minister responsible for promoting nuclear energy, who will take responsibility for fixing Canada’s nuclear governance gaps?

Anne Lindsey, OM, MA
Winnipeg, Man., Concerned Citizens of Manitoba

Lynn Jones, MHSc
Ottawa, Ont., Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

LETTRE OUVERTE au premier ministre Justin Trudeau et au Conseil des ministres fédéral ~ ARRÊTEZ le dépotoir radioactif de Chalk River

Le 25 janvier 2021

Monsieur le Premier Ministre et mesdames et messieurs les Membres du Conseil des Ministres,

La rivière des Outaouais est une rivière du patrimoine canadien qui coule au pied de la Colline du Parlement. Sa valeur comme site naturel et comme trésor historique est inestimable. La rivière est sacrée pour le peuple algonquin, dont elle définit le territoire traditionnel.

La rivière des Outaouais est menacée par un dépotoir géant, d’une hauteur de sept étages, conçu pour abriter un million de tonnes de déchets radioactifs. Un consortium multinational (SNC-Lavalin, Fluor et Jacobs) prévoit construire ce monticule sur les terrains des Laboratoires nucléaires canadiens (LNC) près de Chalk River, en Ontario, à 150 km au nord-ouest d’Ottawa.

Les scientifiques indépendants et le public n’ont pas eu d’occasion de s’exprimer officiellement sur le projet depuis août 2017, alors que des centaines de commentaires critiques ont été soumis à la Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire (CCSN). La CCSN est l’« autorité responsable» en vertu de l’ancienne Loi canadienne sur l’évaluation environnementale et prévoit tenir une audience sur l’émission d’un permis cette année. Un Comité d’experts recommandait en 2017 que la CCSN ne soit pas chargée de l’évaluation environnementale des projets nucléaires. Le Comité avait aussi noté que la CCSN était largement perçue comme un « régulateur captif » des entreprises plutôt qu’un organisme indépendant.

L’Assemblée des Premières nations et plus de 140 municipalités du Québec et de l’Ontario ont adopté des résolutions s’opposant au dépotoir nucléaire de Chalk River.

Voici six raisons d’ARRÊTER ce projet:

1. Le site proposé est tout simplement inapte à recevoir un dépotoir, de quelque type qu’il soit. Le site est à moins d’un kilomètre de la rivière des Outaouais, qui forme la frontière entre l’Ontario et le Québec. La rivière fournit l’eau potable à des millions de Canadiens. Après avoir passé les LNC, elle coule entre Ottawa et Gatineau, au pied de la colline du Parlement, puis jusqu’à Montréal. Le site est exposé aux risques de tornades et de tremblements de terre; la rivière des Outaouais constitue d’ailleurs une ligne de faille géologique majeure. Le site est partiellement entouré de milieux humides et le substrat rocheux est poreux et fracturé.

2. Le monticule prévu contiendrait des centaines de matériaux radioactifs, des douzaines de produits chimiques dangereux et des tonnes de métaux lourds. Parmi les matériaux radioactifs destinés au monticule, on trouve du tritium, du carbone 14, du strontium 90, quatre types de plutonium (un des matériaux radioactifs les plus dangereux lorsqu’inhalé ou ingéré), et jusqu’à 80 tonnes d’uranium. Vingt-cinq des 30 radionucléides cités dans l’inventaire de radionucléides pour le monticule ont une longue durée de vie. Ces renseignements donnent à penser que le dépotoir demeurerait dangereusement radioactif pour quelque 100 000 ans.

La très grande quantité de cobalt 60 dans le dépotoir émettrait tellement de radiation gamma que les travailleurs devraient utiliser un blindage en plomb pour éviter une exposition dangereuse. L’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique (AIEA) considère le cobalt 60 à haute activité comme un « déchet de moyenne activité », qui doit être stocké en profondeur.

Le dépotoir recevrait aussi des dioxines, des BPC, de l’amiante, du mercure, jusqu’à 13 tonnes d’arsenic et des centaines de tonnes de plomb. Il contiendrait aussi des milliers de tonnes de cuivre, de fer et 33 tonnes d’aluminium, des métaux qui pourront amener des voleurs à creuser dans le monticule après la fermeture du site.

3. Le monticule laisserait s’écouler des matériaux radioactifs et dangereux dans la rivière des Outaouais durant son opération et après sa fermeture. L’énoncé des incidences environnementales décrit plusieurs des façons dont le monticule pourrait laisser fuir son contenu. On prévoit que le monticule se désintégrera avec le temps, un processus qualifié d’« évolution normale ».

4. Il n’existe pas de niveau sécuritaire d’exposition aux radiations qui s’écouleraient du monticule de Chalk River dans la rivière des Outaouais. Chacun des matériaux radioactifs qui s’échapperait du site augmenterait les risques de malformations congénitales, d’altérations génétiques, de cancer et d’autres maladies chroniques. L’AIEA considère que les déchets radioactifs doivent être soigneusement stockés à l’écart de la biosphère et non dans un monticule en surface.

5. Les normes internationales de sécurité n’autorisent pas l’utilisation de dépotoirs pour disposer des déchets radioactifs. L’AIEA considère que seuls des déchets de très faible activité peuvent être placés dans une installation en surface, comme un dépotoir. Le Canada se déroberait à ses obligations internationales comme État membre de l’AIEA et signataire d’un traité international sur les déchets nucléaires s’il autorisait ce dépotoir à obtenir sa licence.

6. Le monticule géant de Chalk River ne réduirait pas la responsabilité légale du Canada face aux déchets nucléaires, qui s’élève déjà à 8 milliards de dollars. Il pourrait au contraire l’alourdir. La remise en état de cette colline de déchets radioactifs serait très difficile. Les coûts d’assainissement pourraient dépasser ceux de la gestion des déchets s’ils n’avaient pas été mis dans le monticule.

Monsieur le Premier Ministre et mesdames et messieurs les Membres du Conseil des Ministres: Retirez à la CCSN le pouvoir de décision en cette matière et arrêtez le dépotoir nucléaire de Chalk River. Protégez la rivière des Outaouais pour les générations actuelles et futures de Canadiens.

Veuillez recevoir l’expression de nos sentiments les plus sincères,

Gordon Edwards, Regroupement pour la surveillance du nucléaire, Montréal, QC

Éric Notebaert, Association canadienne des médecins pour l’environnement, Montréal, QC

Réal Lalande, Action Climat Outaouais, Gatineau, QC

Paul Johannis, L’Alliance pour les espaces verts de la capitale du Canada, Ottawa, ON

Lynn Jones, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, Ottawa, ON

Johanna Echlin, Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association, Sheenboro, QC

Robb Barnes, Écologie Ottawa, Ottawa, ON

Beatrice Olivastri, Les ami(e)s de la terre Canada, Ottawa, ON

Ole Hendrickson, Ottawa River Institute, Ottawa, ON

Eva Schacherl, Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River, Ottawa, ON

Hon. Erin O’Toole, Chef de l’opposition

Yves-François Blanchet, chef du Bloc québécois

Jagmeet Singh, Chef du Nouveau Parti démocratique

Annamie Paul, Chef du Parti vert du Canada

To Prime Minister Trudeau and members of the federal cabinet ~ Stop the Ottawa River radioactive waste dump

January 25, 2021

Dear Mr. Trudeau and members of the federal cabinet:

The Ottawa River is a Canadian Heritage River that flows past Parliament Hill. It has untold value as a beautiful natural and historical treasure. The river is sacred for the Algonquin People whose traditional territory it defines.

The Ottawa River is threatened by a giant landfill for one million tonnes of radioactive and other hazardous waste. A multinational consortium (SNC-Lavalin, Fluor and Jacobs) plans to build the seven-story mound on the grounds of the Chalk River Laboratories, northwest of Ottawa, directly across the Ottawa River from the province of Quebec.

Independent scientists and the public have not had a formal opportunity to comment on this project since August 2017 when hundreds of critical comments were submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. CNSC is the “responsible authority” under the old Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and plans to hold a licensing hearing this year. An Expert Panel  recommended in 2017 that the CNSC not be in charge of environmental assessment for nuclear projects. The panel also noted that the CNSC is widely perceived to be a captured regulator.

The Assembly of First Nations and more than 140 Quebec and Ontario municipalities have passed resolutions opposing the Ottawa River nuclear waste dump.

Here are six reasons to STOP this project:

1. The proposed site is unsuitable for a dump of any kind. The site is less than one kilometre from the Ottawa River which forms the border between Ontario and Quebec. The river is a drinking water source for millions of Canadians. After passing the Chalk River Laboratories, it flows downstream through Ottawa-Gatineau, past Parliament Hill, and on to Montreal. The site is tornado and earthquake prone; the Ottawa River itself is a major fault line. The site is partly surrounded by wetlands and the underlying bedrock is porous and fractured.

2. The mound would contain hundreds of radioactive materials, dozens of hazardous chemicals and tonnes of heavy metals. Radioactive materials destined for the dump include tritium, carbon-14, strontium-90, four types of plutonium (one of the most dangerous radioactive materials if inhaled or ingested), and up to 80 tonnes of uranium. Twenty-five out of the 30 radionuclides listed in the reference inventory for the mound are long-lived. This suggests the dump would remain dangerously radioactive for 100,000 years. 

A very large quantity of cobalt-60 in the dump would give off so much intense gamma radiation that workers must use lead shielding to avoid dangerous radiation exposures. The International Atomic Energy Agency says high-activity cobalt-60 is “intermediate-level waste” and must be stored underground.

Dioxin, PCBs, asbestos, mercury, up to 13 tonnes of arsenic and hundreds of tonnes of lead would go into the dump. It would also contain thousands of tonnes of copper and iron and 33 tonnes of aluminum, tempting scavengers to dig into the mound after closure.

3. The mound would leak radioactive and hazardous contaminants into the Ottawa River during operation and after closure. Many ways the mound would leak are described in the environmental impact statement. The mound is expected to eventually disintegrate in a process referred to as “normal evolution.”

4. There is no safe level of exposure to the radiation that would leak into the Ottawa River from the Chalk River mound. All of the escaping radioactive materials would increase risks of birth defects, genetic damage, cancer and other chronic diseases. The International Atomic Energy Agency says radioactive wastes must be carefully stored out of the biosphere, not in an above-ground mound.


5. International safety standards do not allow landfills to be used for disposal of “low level” radioactive waste. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that only Very Low Level Radioactive Waste (VLLW) can be put in an above-ground landfill-type facility. Canada would be shirking its international obligations as a member state of the IAEA and a signatory to an international nuclear waste treaty if it allowed this dump to be licensed.

 The International Atomic Energy Agency says that only Very Low Level Radioactive Waste (VLLW) can be put in an above-ground landfill-type facility. Canada would be shirking its international obligations as a member state of the IAEA and a signatory to an international nuclear waste treaty if it allowed this dump to be licensed.

6. The giant Chalk River mound would not reduce Canada’s $8 billion federal radioactive waste liabilities and could in fact increase themThe giant pile of leaking radioactive waste would be difficult to remediate. Remediation costs could exceed those of managing the wastes had they not been put in the mound.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Members of Cabinet, we urge you to take the decision-making authority out of the hands of CNSC for this project and stop the Chalk River nuclear waste dump. Protect the Ottawa River for current and future generations of Canadians. 

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Montreal, QC

Éric Notebaert, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Montreal, QC

Réal Lalande, Action Climat Outaouais, Gatineau, QC

Paul Johannis, Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital, Ottawa, ON

Lynn Jones, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, Ottawa, ON

Johanna Echlin, Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association, Sheenboro, QC

Robb Barnes, Ecology Ottawa, Ottawa, ON

Beatrice Olivastri, Friends of the Earth Canada, Ottawa, ON

Ole Hendrickson, Ottawa River Institute, Ottawa, ON

Eva Schacherl, Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River, Ottawa, ON


Hon. Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Official Opposition

Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Québécois

Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada

Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada

Ottawa River looking north; photo taken opposite Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories

Hill Times Letter to the Editor ~ We need parliamentarians to stop project, prevent Ottawa River from being permanently contaminated by gigantic radioactive landfill

January 18, 2021

Re “CNL working to accomplish responsible action in managing Canada’s nuclear research and development legacy” (The Hill Times, Letters to the Editor, December 14, 2020).

This letter from Joe McBrearty, President and CEO of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) deepens my concern about the handling of Canada’s $8 billion nuclear waste liability. 

Mr. McBrearty claims that the Chalk River Mound beside the Ottawa River, 150 km north of Ottawa-Gatineau, “will contain only low-level radioactive waste which contains radionuclides that require isolation and containment for only a few hundred years.”

Unfortunately this claim does not stand up to scrutiny.

Last month CNL published its final environmental impact statement listing a partial inventory of radionuclides that would go into the gigantic five-to-seven story radioactive mound (aka the “NSDF”).

Twenty-five out of the 30 radionuclides listed in the inventory are long-lived, with half-lives ranging from four centuries to more than four billion years. To take just one example, the man-made radionuclide, Neptunium-237, has a half-life of 2 million years such that, after 2 million years have elapsed, half of the material will still be radioactive. 

The inventory includes four isotopes of plutonium, one of the most deadly radioactive materials known, if inhaled or ingested.

It is incorrect to say that these materials “require isolation and containment for only a few hundred years.” Many of them will be dangerously radioactive for more than one hundred thousand years. The International Atomic Energy Agency states that materials like this must be stored tens of meters or more underground, not in an above-ground mound.

The CNL inventory also includes a very large quantity of cobalt-60, a material that gives off so much strong gamma radiation that lead shielding must be used by workers who handle it in order to avoid dangerous radiation exposures. The International Atomic Energy Agency considers high-activity cobalt-60 sources to be “intermediate-level waste” and specifies that they must be stored underground. Addition of high-activity cobalt-60 sources means that hundreds of tons of lead shielding would be disposed of in the mound along with other hazardous materials such as arsenic, asbestos, PCBs, dioxins and mercury.

CNL’s environmental impact statement describes several ways that radioactive materials would leak into surrounding wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River during filling of the mound and after completion. It also describes CNL’s intent to pipe water polluted with tritium and other radioactive and hazardous substances from the waste treatment facility directly into Perch Lake which drains into the Ottawa River.

I stand by my original conclusion: We need parliamentarians to step up now to stop this deeply flawed project and prevent the Ottawa River from being permanently contaminated by a gigantic, leaking radioactive landfill that would do little to reduce Canada’s $8 billion nuclear waste liability.

Letter to the editor published in the Hill Times Monday January 18, 2021

Hill Times letter ~ No, not all nuclear materials and by-products are safely stored in a highly regulated environment

The Hill Times, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021
Letters / opinions
No, not all nuclear materials and by-products are safely stored in a highly regulated environment, says letter writer (

Re: “We cannot afford to be naive about climate change—renewables and nuclear must work together,” by John Gorman, The Hill Times, Dec. 14, 2020.

Mr. Gorman states “the nuclear industry is the only energy industry that can account for all its by-products. While fossil-fuel emissions go into the atmosphere and other industrial waste goes to landfill, all nuclear materials and by-products are safely stored, managed, and monitored in a highly regulated environment.”

Mr. Gorman appears to be unaware that all CANDU nuclear reactors routinely emit large volumes of radioactive water vapour and other radioactive gases into the atmosphere. CANDU reactors also routinely emit radioactive materials into water bodies (including drinking water sources) such as tritium, carbon-14 and radioactive cesium, strontium and cobalt.

There are numerous leaking radioactive waste areas on the Chalk River Laboratories site north-west of Ottawa-Gatineau on the Ottawa River. These leaking waste sites were described in detail in an Ottawa Citizen article in 2011 by Ian McLeod, entitled “Chalk River’s Toxic Legacy.”

The multinational consortium running Chalk River Laboratories is planning to build a gigantic above-ground landfill for one million tonnes of radioactive waste including plutonium and other materials that would remain radioactive for more than 100,000 years. This way of dealing with radioactive waste contravenes international safety standards and best practices.

The consortium’s own studies show that the mound would leak during operation and after closure. The mound is expected to eventually disintegrate in a process referred to as “normal evolution” described in a study called the “Performance Assessment,” produced by the proponent as part of a protracted and controversial environmental assessment that is ongoing.

So much for Mr. Gorman’s assertion that “all nuclear materials and by-products are safely stored, managed, and monitored in a highly regulated environment.”

Lynn Jones

Ottawa, Ont.

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