MEDIA RELEASE: Citizens’ groups say licensing hearings for the giant Chalk River nuclear waste dump beside the Ottawa River should be stopped

OTTAWA, November 10, 2021 – The recent announcement of licensing hearings in February and May 2022 for a controversial nuclear waste dump beside the Ottawa River got a strong reaction from citizens’ groups who have been fighting the plan for five years. The groups say the environmental assessment has not been properly conducted and licensing hearings should be stopped because there are so many serious flaws in the plan.

The license would authorize a giant above-ground mound (called NSDF by the proponent) for more than a million tonnes of radioactive waste beside the Ottawa River, upstream of Ottawa-Gatineau.The Chalk River site is right beside a drinking water source for millions of Canadians and underlain with porous and fractured bedrock. 

Many citizens’ groups, along with NGOs, First Nations, and more than 140 downstream municipalities are opposed to the plan. Many say it fails to meet international guidelines for keeping radioactive waste out of the biosphere. As a disposal facility, it will eventually be abandoned.

“The facility would not keep radioactive waste out of the environment,” according to Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area researcher Ole Hendrickson. “The proponent’s own studies identify many ways the mound would leak, and suggest the mound would disintegrate within 400 years and its contents would flow into surrounding wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River less than a kilometre away,” he said. Hendrickson also noted that the groundwater table would be right at the base of the mound, disregarding an Ontario standard for waste disposal sites that protects aquifers. 

fact sheet produced by Concerned Citizens, based on the information prepared by the dump proponent, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, identifies materials that would be disposed of. They include:

  • Radioactive materials such as tritium, carbon-14, strontium-90, four types of plutonium (one of the most dangerous radioactive materials if inhaled or ingested), and several tonnes of uranium and thorium. Twenty-five of 30 radionuclides listed in the reference inventory for the mound are long-lived. This suggests the dump would remain radioactive for 100,000 years. 
  • A very large quantity of cobalt-60 in disused radiation devices used in food irradiation and medical procedures. These materials would give off so much intense gamma radiation that workers would need lead shielding to avoid dangerous radiation exposures while handling them. The International Atomic Energy Agency says high-activity cobalt-60 is “intermediate-level waste” and must be stored underground.
  • Dioxins, PCBs, asbestos, mercury, and up to 13 tonnes of arsenic and 300 tonnes of lead would go into the dump. It would also contain up to 7000 tonnes of copper, 3500 tonnes of iron and 66 tonnes of aluminum, tempting scavengers to dig into the mound after closure.

“The so-called environmental assessment of this project has been a sham from day one,” says Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association (OFWCA) based in Sheenboro, Quebec. 

Echlin says the serious flaws in the assessment process include failure to properly consult Indigenous Peoples, failure to properly consult the public, failure to consider substantive input at the project description and scoping stage, and changing the rules in midstream to benefit the proponent. 

In an August 2020 letter to the Minister of Natural Resources, the Kebaowek First Nation and the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council called for suspension of the environmental assessment, stating that “the CNSC’s approach does not even meet the Government of Canada’s modernized standards of consultation, engagement and reconciliation with First Nations.”

“The fact that dates have now been set for licensing the radioactive waste mound is a sign of failure by the Government of Canada to listen to First Nations and hundreds of intervenors in the environmental assessment. It is past time for the government to step up and stop this licensing process and prevent permanent contamination of the Ottawa River,” Echlin says.

Echlin and others characterize the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), the agency responsible for the assessment and licensing of the dump project, as “a captured regulator” that acts more like a “nuclear industry cheerleader” than a protector of the public and the environment. 

Echlin added that “It’s not just us saying that the CNSC is widely seen to be a captured regulator — the Expert Panel on Environmental Assessment noted the same in its final report to the Trudeau government in 2017.” A document obtained by the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility notes that the CNSC has never refused to grant a license in its 20-year history. 

The import of radioactive waste into the Ottawa Valley from other federal sites to be placed in the facility is a big red flag for citizens’ groups and First Nations.They say the Chalk River site is not suitable for long term storage of nuclear waste. According to a Joint Declaration from the Anishinabek Nation and Iroquois Caucus, “Rivers and lakes are the blood and the lungs of Mother Earth.  When we contaminate our waterways, we are poisoning life itself.  That is why radioactive waste must not be stored beside major water bodies for the long-term.” 

Importation of radioactive waste to the Ottawa Valley was also opposed by a City of Ottawa resolution in April 2021.

The economics of the project are also fraught with problems according to Hendrickson, whose study concluded the facility would not reduce Canada’s $8 billion nuclear waste cleanup liability and could even increase it. 

Citizens’ groups have also called into question the Government-owned Contractor-operated model for Canada’s nuclear facilities brought in by the Harper government in 2015 and renewed by the Trudeau government in 2020. Under the model, costs to the Canadian taxpayer have skyrocketed, and decisions about Canadian nuclear waste are being made by foreign nationals and corporations. The groups have called for cancellation of the contract and creation of a radioactive waste management organization in Canada, independent of the nuclear industry, similar to what exists in a number of European countries. 

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Additional resources:

The environmental assessment registry for the giant mound (NSDF) can be found at this link:

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

Kitchissippi (Ottawa River) Summer 2021, photo by Frank Style

Media release ~ Some candidates oppose radioactive waste dump near the Ottawa River and call for a federal regional assessment

la version française suit

OTTAWA, September 16, 2021 – Community organizations opposed to the construction of a massive aboveground radioactive waste dump near the Ottawa River are finding support among some federal electoral candidates.The groups asked candidates in the 2021 federal election in 13 ridings in West Quebec, Eastern Ontario and Ottawa if they would initiate a regional assessment under the federal Impact Assessment Act to look into radioactive waste, nuclear decommissioning and the remediation of contaminated lands in the Ottawa Valley. Seven candidates from the NDP and Green Party and one Independent agreed to push for a regional assessment.

In May 2021, the City of Ottawa wrote to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson asking for a regional assessment on nuclear waste in the Ottawa Valley, but the minister declined the request. 

Ottawa CentreGreen Party candidate Angela Keller-Herzog said: “The fact that a regional assessment has been requested by the Council of the City of Ottawa and then declined by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change is disturbing. These decisions will affect residents and the environment for thousands of years. I will continue to press for a comprehensive assessment.”

The groups also asked the candidates if they would oppose the current plans for a million-cubic-metre radioactive waste disposal facility at Chalk River and a reactor entombment at Rolphton, Ont., both next to the Ottawa River.

Of the 16 candidates who replied, almost three-quarters (11) said they oppose the current plans or had serious concerns. They included Greens Keller-Herzog, Jennifer Purdy (Kanata-Carleton) and Gordon Kubanek (Nepean), NDPer Konstantine Malakos (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell), independent candidate Stefan Klietsch (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke), the Bloc’s Geneviève Nadeau and PPC’s Mathieu St-Jean (both in Gatineau).

Directly across the Ottawa River from the proposed waste facilities, candidates in the Quebec riding of Pontiac (where former Liberal MP Will Amos is not running) all responded, including:

·         NDP candidate Denise Giroux pledged to work tirelessly to oppose these “irresponsible” waste management plans and added she would “refuse to stand idly by, as the former MP did, while these projects forge ahead. Nearly 40 Indigenous groups, along with 6 million people downstream from these projects. . .have tried to voice their opposition to these plans.”

·         Bloc Québécois candidate Gabrielle Desjardins said her party is opposed to “any risk for Quebec of contamination with nuclear waste from projects such as the Chalk River dump, along the Ottawa River. . . .The option as proposed at Chalk River is not acceptable and is not sufficiently safe.” [Translated from French]

·         “It’s time to rethink the plan to build Canada’s first permanent nuclear waste dump less than one kilometre from the Ottawa River,” said Shaughn McArthur of the Green Party. “The near surface waste mound uses geomembranes and a cover that will disintegrate over time, whereas the waste can be dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.”

·         Conservative candidate Michel Gauthier, said he is opposed to the nuclear waste facility at Chalk River: “This project is far from achieving the standard of social acceptability and should not go ahead until a serious study of alternative sites, far from populated regions, has been made and the population has been clearly informed.” [Translated from French]

·         Liberal candidate Sophie Chatel did not oppose the waste dump but said she would monitor the project  “extremely closely” if elected, and called for it to be “rigorously monitored to ensure that no radioactive materials leach into the Ottawa River.”

The radioactive waste facility and entombment of an old reactor are proposals of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), which is owned by a private-sector consortium of SNC-Lavalin and two Texas corporations under contract to the federal government. The contract was signed in 2015 by the Harper government during the federal election campaign and was renewed last year by the Liberal government. 

As shown in Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) annual reports, contractual amounts spent by the federal government on radioactive waste management, nuclear decommissioning and contaminated sites, through the CNL contract, have tripled from $332 million in 2016 to $955 million in 2020.

The questionnaire was organized by the Council of Canadians – Ottawa Chapter, the Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River (CANDOR) and the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association. The candidates’ full responses can be read here on the website of the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.

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Media contact:Eva Schacherl
Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River (CANDOR)

Chalk River Laboratories on the Ottawa River, site of proposed giant radioactive waste mound.

Certains candidats et candidates s’opposent à la décharge de déchets radioactifs près de la rivière des Outaouais et demandent une évaluation fédérale régionale

OTTAWA, le 16 septembre 2021 – Des groupes communautaires opposés à la construction d’un immense monticule de déchets radioactifs près de la rivière des Outaouais trouvent du soutien chez certains candidats et candidates aux élections fédérales.

Les groupes ont demandé aux candidats et candidates fédéraux dans 13 circonscriptions de l’ouest du Québec, de l’est de l’Ontario et d’Ottawa s’ils entreprendraient une évaluation régionale en vertu de la Loi sur l’évaluation d’impact fédérale pour examiner les déchets radioactifs, le déclassement des installations nucléaires, et l’assainissement des terres contaminées dans la région. Sept candidats du NPD et du Parti vert et un indépendant ont accepté de faire pression pour une évaluation régionale.

En mai 2021, la Ville d’Ottawa a écrit au ministre fédéral de l’Environnement Jonathan Wilkinson pour demander une évaluation régionale des déchets nucléaires dans la vallée de l’Outaouais; le ministre a refusé la demande.

La candidate du Parti vert d’Ottawa-Centre, Angela Keller-Herzog, a déclaré : « Le fait qu’une évaluation régionale ait été demandée par le Conseil de la Ville d’Ottawa puis refusée par le ministre fédéral de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique est inquiétant. Ces décisions affecteront les résidents et l’environnement pour des milliers d’années. Je continuerai à faire pression pour une évaluation complète. »

Les groupes ont également demandé aux candidats s’ils s’opposeraient aux projets actuels d’un dépotoir nucléaire d’un million de mètres cubes à Chalk River et de mise en tombeau d’un réacteur à Rolphton, en Ontario, tous deux aux abords de la rivière des Outaouais.

Sur les 16 candidats qui ont répondu, près des trois quarts (11) ont déclaré qu’ils s’opposaient aux plans actuels ou avaient de sérieuses inquiétudes. Parmi eux, on compte les Verts Keller-Herzog, Jennifer Purdy (Kanata-Carleton) et Gordon Kubanek(Nepean), Konstantine Malakos du NPD (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell), le candidat indépendant Stefan Klietsch (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke), la bloquiste Geneviève Nadeau et Mathieu St-Jean du PPC (tous deux à Gatineau).

De l’autre côté de la rivière des Outaouais, juste en face des projets proposés, les candidats et candidates de la circonscription québécoise de Pontiac (où l’ancien député libéral Will Amos ne se présente pas) ont tous répondu, notamment :

• La candidate du NPD Denise Giroux s’est engagée à travailler sans relâche pour s’opposer à ces plans de gestion de déchets « irresponsables » et a ajouté qu’elle « refuse de rester les bras croisés, comme l’a fait l’ancien député, alors que ces projets vont de l’avant. Près de 40 groupes autochtones, ainsi que 6 millions de personnes en aval de ces projets. . . ont tenté d’exprimer leur opposition à ces plans. » 

• La candidate du Bloc québécois Gabrielle Desjardins a déclaré que son parti s’oppose à « tout risque pour le Québec de contamination aux déchets nucléaires qu’impliquent des projets comme le dépotoir de Chalk River, le long de la rivière des Outaouais. . . L’option telle que proposée à Chalk River n’est pas acceptable et n’est pas suffisamment sécuritaire. »

• « Il est temps de repenser le plan de construction du premier dépotoir permanent de déchets nucléaires au Canada à moins d’un kilomètre de la rivière des Outaouais », a déclaré Shaughn McArthur du Parti vert. « Le monticule de déchets en surface utilise des géomembranes et une couverture qui se désintégreront avec le temps, alors que les déchets peuvent être dangereux pendant des centaines de milliers d’années. »

• Le candidat conservateur Michel Gauthier s’est dit opposé à l’installation de déchets nucléaires de Chalk River : « Ce projet est loin d’obtenir la norme de l’acceptabilité sociale et ne doit pas aller de l’avant tant et aussi longtemps qu’une étude sérieuse de sites alternatifs, loin des régions peuplées, n’aura été faite et que la population aura été clairement informée. »

• La candidate libérale Sophie Chatel ne s’est pas opposée au dépotoir, mais a déclaré qu’elle suivrait « de très près » le projet si elle était élue, et a demandé qu’il soit « rigoureusement surveillé pour assurer qu’aucune matière radioactive ne s’infiltre dans la rivière des Outaouais. »

Le dépotoir et la mise en tombeau d’un ancien réacteur sont des propositions des Laboratoires Nucléaires Canadiens (LNC), qui appartiennent à un consortium du secteur privé composé de SNC-Lavalin et de deux sociétés texanes sous contrat avec le gouvernement fédéral. Le contrat a été signé en 2015 par le gouvernement Harper lors de la campagne électorale fédérale et a été renouvelé l’an dernier par le gouvernement libéral.

Selon les rapports annuels d’Énergie atomique du Canada limitée (EACL), les montants dépensés par le gouvernement fédéral pour la gestion des déchets radioactifs, le déclassement nucléaire et les sites contaminés, dans le cadre du contrat des LNC, ont triplé, passant de 332 millions de dollars en 2016 à 955 millions de dollars en 2020.

Le questionnaire a été organisé par le Conseil des Canadiens – Section d’Ottawa, la Coalition contre les décharges nucléaires sur la rivière des Outaouais (CANDOR) et la Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association. Les réponses complètes des candidats se trouvent sur le site Web de Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.

Small modular nuclear reactors: A nightmare, not a dream for Canada in this week’s Throne Speech

For immediate release

OTTAWA, September 22, 2020—In anticipation of this week’s Throne Speech, environmental groups across Canada are sending a message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan that “small” nuclear reactors would be a nightmare and not a dream for Canada’s Northern and First Nations communities and are not the solution to climate change.

Critics of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) say that developing experimental nuclear reactor technologies will take too long to make a difference on climate change and could drain billions of dollars from public coffers. A recent University of British Columbia study showed that energy produced by SMRs could cost up to ten times as much as renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. 

SMRs would also leave radioactive waste in the proposed locations across Canada’s North, remote and First Nations communities. Some models would introduce new problems by utilizing plutonium fuel  extracted from used fuel rods liquefied in corrosive acid, creating a legacy of long-lived, highly-radioactive waste.

A group of women leaders wrote to members of the Treasury Board on Monday, stating that federal support for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) would breach Canada’s international commitment to minimize generation of radioactive waste, and asking them to stop all government support and funding for SMRs.

SMRs are touted by Minister O’Regan as essential to addressing climate change. Yet the SMR roadmap published by Natural Resources Canada says that SMRs would be used for oil sands and oil and gas extraction, in addition to mining and heavy industry. The roadmap also calls on federal and provincial governments to share the cost of the first SMRs and their radioactive waste with industry.

Plans for one SMR demonstration project are already underway at Chalk River Laboratories on the Ottawa River, northwest of Ottawa. The site is run by a private-sector consortium of SNC-Lavalin and two Texas-based companies (Fluor and Jacobs). It is federally owned but its operations were privatized in 2015.

The messages being sent to Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister O’Regan by groups and individuals argue that:

·         SMRs will delay climate action because 15 years to build untested technology is too long. Lower-cost, proven renewable energy exists now.

·         SMRs have no business case and will require billions in public funds, in a fiscal environment already strained by COVID-19.

·         SMRs will create more radioactive wastes, different and in addition to what already exists, and won’t “recycle” or reduce nuclear waste stockpiles.

They also ask for consultation with Canadians and Indigenous peoples and say SMRs would link Canada to a plutonium economy and weapons production, and proliferate nuclear risk to locations and communities across Canada.


“More opportunities for jobs and economic recovery exist in renewable energy production and energy efficiency than in the unaffordable and polluting nuclear industry. If the government plans to pour taxpayer money into untested new nuclear technologies, it will just delay action to reduce emissions now. In addition, SMRs would create a nightmare legacy of radioactive waste from coast to coast to coast.”

–           Dr. Ole Hendrickson, Vice-President of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation.

“How many sacrifice zones can we take responsibility for on a finite planet? There are already too many.”

–          Candyce Paul, English River First Nation, Saskatchewan, Outreach Coordinator for the Committee for Future Generations

“We formed the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) in response to the decision by the New Brunswick government to invest in SMRs rather than sustainable renewable energy. We want residents of New Brunswick to avoid being exposed to more nuclear waste and to avoid having our public funds wasted on developing prototype nuclear energy technology. Instead, we want to be players in the emerging global low-carbon renewable energy economy.”

–          Dr. Susan O’Donnell, PhD, lead researcher of the Rural Action and Voices for the Environment (RAVEN) project at the University of New Brunswick and member of CRED-NB

“Investment in nuclear power at the 11th hour is a distraction from real climate action when scalable, cost-effective renewable solutions could and need to be employed. Already climate-burdened future generations should not have new risks imposed on them, due to SMR’s radioactive waste and accompanying proliferation risk. We need to invest in known renewable energy solutions, and not the promise of a hypothetical and risky technology. “

–          Kerrie Blaise, Northern Services Legal Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association

“All nuclear plants, small or large, are expensive, can undergo severe accidents, produce hazardous radioactive waste, and use materials that can be used to make nuclear weapons. While smaller reactors might be better on some metrics, they will be worse on others. A smaller reactor will necessarily be more expensive per unit of electrical energy generated because they lose out on economies of scale. There is no way that SMRs will be able to rescue nuclear power and make it safe or sustainable.”

–          Dr. M. V. Ramana, Director, Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia

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Link: Letter to Treasury Board from women leaders across Canada re: small nuclear reactors:
Media contact:Eva Schacherl Cell:  613-316-9450

Civil society urges suspension of decisions involving radioactive waste after international body finds Canada’s nuclear waste policy deficient

Civil society urges suspension of decisions involving radioactive waste after international body finds Canada’s nuclear waste policy deficient

Ottawa (May 19, 2020) – Over one hundred civil society organizations and prominent scientific experts from across Canada have called on the federal minister of Natural Resources (Hon. Seamus O’Regan) to suspend all decision-making involving radioactive waste disposal until Canada has a sufficient radioactive waste policy in place.

In February 2020, it was reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Canada’s Radioactive Waste Management Policy Framework “does not encompass all the needed policy elements nor a detailed strategy” necessary to provide a national strategy for long-term radioactive waste management in Canada. In the letter, signatories request that the development of Canada’s radioactive waste policy and associated strategy must be based on “meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples and strong public engagement from the outset.”

Signatories underscored the urgency of their request as Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, presses ahead with regulatory licence decisions on a number of radioactive waste projects. Fearing Canada’s deficient radioactive waste framework will imprint itself on decisions affecting the health and safety of future generations and the environment, signees urged Canada to provide leadership, and establish sufficient guidance and federal policy.

Other commitments requested by signees included that Canada establish objectives and principles to underly a nuclear waste policy and strategy. They also requested Canada identify the problems and issues posed by existing and accumulating radioactive waste.

The full text of the letter sent to the Minister, may be found on the Nuclear Waste Watch website here: “Canada Needs a National Radioactive Waste Policy” May 15, 2020


Links:Find the letter to Minister Seamus O’Regan and the media release in English and French here:
A full list of deficiencies in Canada’s nuclear safety framework, identified by the IAEA, is available here: “International peer review finds deficiencies in Canada’s nuclear safety framework”

Groups urge Trudeau to fix serious gaps in nuclear safety and governance

For immediate release (Montreal, April 8, 2020) Three independent organizations — the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and the Ottawa River Institute – have written to the Prime Minister saying that Canada’s nuclear safety standards and nuclear governance are failing to adequately protect Canadians from dozens of dangerous radioactive pollutants from nuclear facilities.

An April 3rd letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cites serious deficiencies in Canada’s nuclear safety framework and nuclear governance that require urgent attention by government. The authors draw on the contents of a recent report to the government by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on nuclear safety in Canada.

The IAEA review of Canada’s nuclear safety framework found that “CNSC regulations do not comprehensively cover all IAEA Fundamental Safety Requirements.” The report confirmed several concerns raised previously by Canadian public interest groups.

Specific deficiencies noted by the IAEA include:

  • Canada’s regulator is considering allowing future nuclear facilites (such as small modular reactors) and old radioactively contaminated nuclear reactors to be entombed and abandoned on site, a practice that is explicitly rejected by the IAEA;  
  • The IAEA found “no evidence… of a governmental policy or strategy related to radioactive waste management”;
  • Canada’s nuclear legislation does not require justification of radiation risks from nuclear facilities; the IAEA says for nuclear facilities and activities to be considered justified, the benefits must be shown to outweigh the radiation risks to which they give rise; 
  • Canada’s system for managing the transport of radioactive materials does not align with IAEA regulations;
  • There are problems in the ways that Canada authorizes radiation releases from nuclear facilities; 
  • Canada’s current and proposed regulations don’t adequately protect pregnant workers, students, and apprentices from radiation risks; eg. they allow four times higher radiation doses for pregnant nuclear workers than IAEA standards.

“These deficiencies concern us very much,” said Dr. Éric Notebaert of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “We feel strongly that Canada is failing to adequately protect Canadians from dangerous radioactive substances that are known to cause cancers, serious chronic diseases, birth defects, and genetic damage that is passed on to future generations.”

The letter to the Prime Minister points out that these gaps in Canada’s nuclear safety practices, identified by the IAEA and others, leaves Canada vulnerable to unwise decisions on investment in new nuclear technology.

“Canada’s rush to promote and invest in small modular nuclear reactors is ill-advised” said Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, “especially when these reactors have been exempted from environmental assessment. Such reactors will produce radioactive wastes of all varieties, yet there is no policy for their safe long-term disposition. With no need to “justify” the radiation exposures from such new reactors, entrepreneurs and provinces can proceed without any explicit consideration of faster, cheaper and lower risk energy alternatives to reduce carbon emissions.”

The letter also draws attention to nuclear governance problems cited in Environmental Petition 427 to the Auditor General of Canada. These include (1) outdated and inadequate legislation, (2) inadequate government oversight, (3) lack of checks and balances, (4) a federal policy vacuum on nuclear waste and nuclear reactor decommissioning, and (5) the problem of regulatory capture on the part of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. 
The authors of the letter support the recommendation in Petition 427 for the creation of a high-level, interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder task force to advise the government on the needed reforms to nuclear governance in Canada.

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Dr. Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility514-489-5118    cell: 514-839-7214
Dr. Ole Hendrickson, Ottawa River Institute613-234-0578

Letter to the Prime Minister, April 3, 2020:

IAEA Report:

Environmental Petition 427 to the Auditor General of Canada, June 2019. Petition summary: Full text of petition:

Health and environmental groups appeal to International Atomic Energy Agency to nix Canadian appointment

For immediate release 
(Montreal, March 23, 2020) Three independent civil society organizations — the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and the Ottawa River Institute —  are asking the Director General of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to reconsider the recent appointment of a Canadian as chair of its commission on safety standards.

In a recent letter to IAEA Director General Rafael M. Grossi, signed by Dr. Gordon Edwards, Dr. Éric Notebaert, MD, and Dr. Ole Hendrickson, the authors say they are concerned about the appointment of Rumina Velshi, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), to chair the IAEA’s commission on nuclear safety standards because the organization she heads has a documented record of disregarding IAEA safety standards and advocating for exemption of smaller nuclear reactors from environmental assessment in Canada. 

“We fear that Ms. Velshi’s chairmanship could result in the lowering of international standards, with an emphasis on benefits to the nuclear industry and support of ‘innovation’ at the expense of public protection,” says the letter.

According to the letter, Ms. Velshi might not meet the IAEA’s standards for regulatory officials’ independence from the nuclear industry. Before her appointment as CNSC president, she worked for Ontario Power Generation for eight years in senior management positions and led the OPG commercial team involved in a multi-billion dollar proposal to procure new nuclear reactors. 

published statement from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission dated February 26, 2020 says its president, Rumina Velshi, “intends to use her chairmanship to champion the importance of greater harmonization of standards and ensure they support nuclear innovation.”  In a recent address to the Canadian Nuclear Association Ms. Velshi reiterated these sentiments.

The letter’s authors cite the final report of a recent IAEA review of Canada’s nuclear safety framework as evidence of the CNSC’s failure to meet IAEA safety standards. The review identified numerous deficiencies and found that “CNSC regulations do not comprehensively cover all IAEA Fundamental Safety Requirements.” The review also found Canada to be out of alignment with IAEA standards for nuclear reactor decommissioning.

“The CNSC is proposing to permit entombment and abandonment of very long-lived radioactive entrails of shutdown ‘legacy’ nuclear reactors as an acceptable strategy for decommissioning in Canada. This approach is expressly rejected by IAEA safety standards, except in emergency circumstances such as severe reactor accidents (i.e. meltdowns),” says Dr. Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.  “We are alarmed by this attempt of the CNSC to permit practices in Canada that the IAEA warns against and we don’t want to see this approach exported to the rest of the world.”

The letter to the IAEA Director General cites the CNSC’s handling of three controversial proposals for nuclear waste disposal as further evidence of the regulatory agency’s disregard of IAEA safety standards. The proposed facilities include: a giant, above-ground mound, close to the Ottawa River, for one million tons of mixed radioactive and other toxic wastes including long-lived radionuclides such as plutonium-239, americium-243, zirconium-93, nickel-59, carbon-14 and many more; as well as the planned entombment in concrete of two shutdown federal reactors beside the Winnipeg and Ottawa rivers, which provide drinking water for millions of Canadians.

The groups call on the IAEA director to maintain the integrity of IAEA safety standards and to continue to emphasize the vital importance of ensuring independence and objectivity, stating:  “We value IAEA safety standards; at the moment they are all that is of an official nature standing between Canadians and three nuclear waste disposal projects that would adversely affect the environment and public health in Canada for generations.”

The letter notes that the CNSC is widely perceived to be a “captured regulator”, that prioritizes needs of the nuclear industry over protection of the public from radioactive pollutants released from nuclear facilities.


  1. Letter to IAEA Director General March 12, 2020. 
  2. Federal nuclear regulator urges Liberals to exempt smaller reactors from full panel review. Globe and Mail, November 6, 2018. 
  3. CNSC president wants to harmonize international nuclear safety standards, Email message from CNSC February 26, 2020.
  4. Remarks by President Rumina Velshi at the Canadian Nuclear Association 2020 Conference. CNSC February 27, 2020.
  6. International peer review finds deficiencies in Canada’s nuclear safety framework. Blog post. March 7, 2020.

Citizens’ groups and multinational consortium still at odds over plans for two nuclear waste dumps beside the Ottawa River

SNC-Lavalin and two Texas-based corporations fail to convince the public that radioactive dumps will be safe

For immediate release
(December 17, 2019, Ottawa, Ontario). Civil society groups remain staunchly opposed to two radioactive waste dumps beside the Ottawa River, despite new studies released December 12 by the embattled multinational consortium behind the proposals. Citizens groups and NGOs say no amount of tweaking by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories can make the proposed projects meet international safety standards.

Announced in 2016, the consortium’s plans to build a giant mound for more than one million tonnes of radioactive waste and to entomb a defunct reactor in concrete along side the Ottawa River have raised the ire of citizens and retired nuclear scientists alike. First Nations, NGOs, federal government departments, the Quebec government, and over 140 municipalities have also weighed in with serious concerns about the proposed projects.

“These proposals violate the principle that radioactive waste must be kept out of contact with the biosphere for as long as it remains radioactive,” according to Ole Hendrickson, a scientist and researcher for the group Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area. “The mound and the tomb are the wrong strategies; they simply can’t do the job of keeping radioactive toxins out of our air and drinking water,” Hendrickson said. “In addition to radioactive materials, both facilities would release heavy metals and toxic organic compounds during and after construction.” 

Critics are calling on the federal government to cancel these quick-and-dirty radioactive dumps and step up with funding to support world class radioactive waste storage facilities for Canada’s $8 to $10 billion nuclear waste legacy. Ottawa has admitted it has not even formulated a detailed policy on the long-term management of radioactive wastes.

“Radioactive wastes should never be abandoned right beside major water bodies”, says Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, “They should be maintained in a monitored and retrievable fashion so that future generations can cope with them. These wastes will be hazardous and radioactive for more than one hundred thousand years, essentially for eternity. They must be carefully packaged and labelled and stored securely, well away from drinking water sources.”

Hendrickson adds that the lack of a careful siting process concerns many citizens groups and NGOs. “It is obvious that the consortium chose the proposed sites based on convenience and low cost, not public safety.” 

The proposed facilities do not comply with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines. The IAEA requires that long-lived radioactive waste be placed in a moderately deep or very deep underground facility.  The IAEA also says that flooding a defunct reactor with concrete can only be used in cases of extreme emergency such as a meltdown.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories misrepresents the amount of long-lived radioactive material that would go in its gigantic five-to-seven story surface mound. The revised environmental impact statement includes a partial inventory of 30 radioactive materials destined for the dump, and 25 of them are very long-lived indeed, each with a half-life of more than four centuries. Of the 30 materials listed, 22 have half-lives over a thousand years, 17 have half-lives over 100,000 years, and 7 have half-lives over a million years.  None of these materials would meet the IAEA definition of short-lived waste. Nevertheless, the revised environmental impact statement, released last week by the consortium, asserts only low level waste that “primarily contains short-lived radionuclides” would go into the mound.

“This is a clear example of the ways that CNL misleads the public and decision-makers by playing fast and loose with terms such as “near surface” “low level” and “short-lived”, says Johanna Echlin, of the Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association.

According to Echlin, a federal commitment to create world class facilities for its radioactive waste is urgently needed and would have many benefits.
“We have the expertise in Canada to be a world leader in looking after these radioactive wastes,” Echlin said. “Many well-paying jobs and careers will be created when the government of Canada takes this issue seriously and does the right thing. We can do this. We can keep radioactive waste out of our rivers. We’ll all sleep easier knowing that our health, our property values, the beautiful Ottawa River, and future generations are all protected.”

The proponent of the two nuclear waste dumps, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is owned by the “Canadian National Energy Alliance”, a consortium of SNC-Lavalin and two Texas-based engineering firms. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is under contract by the federal government to reduce Canada’s $8 billion federal nuclear waste “legacy” liabilities quickly and cheaply.

Environmental assessments of the giant mound and the reactor tomb are in progress. Licensing hearings for the projects are expected in late 2020. 

More information:
Quick Facts about Low Level Waste
How would the Chalk River Mound leak? Let us count some of the ways
International agency’s findings confirm serious concerns  about Canada’s radioactive waste handling and radiation protection practices
Petition to the Auditor General: Nuclear governance problems in Canada
Scientists decry plan for Ontario nuclear-waste site
Revised Environmental Impact Statement and supporting documents

International agency’s findings confirm serious concerns about Canada’s radioactive waste handling and radiation protection practices

(Montreal, Quebec, September 18, 2019)  The need for urgent reform of Canada’s approach to radioactive waste has just been confirmed by findings from the global authority on nuclear matters, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which completed an 11-day review mission to Canada on September 13.  Canadian civil society groups say the IAEA findings validate their concerns about the substandard radioactive waste disposal plans of a consortium of SNC-Lavalin and two U.S. companies that is being paid close to $1 billion annually by the Government of Canada to deal with $8 billion worth of federal radioactive waste liabilities.

The IAEA mission was conducted by a 24-member team including 20 senior regulatory experts from 17 countries. An IAEA press release says the team’s final report will recommend that “The Government of Canada enhance the policy and strategy for radioactive waste management,” and that “The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission should consider better aligning its radiation protection requirements with IAEA safety standards”.

“These recommendations are unprecedented from the explicitly pro-nuclear IAEA that is usually very accommodating to member states such as Canada”, said Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. “We consider IAEA standards to be minimum standards that responsible nations should strive to exceed. For the IAEA to find the Federal Government and CNSC lacking, is a major red flag that should concern all Canadians.”

The review mission was conducted at the request of the Government of Canada, says the IAEA, but it also follows a public letter to the IAEA director general requesting an investigation into Canada’s radioactive waste polices and practices, in April of 2018. The letter’s signatories included five First Nations and 40 civil society groups.

Edwards and representatives of many other groups have charged that the Federal Government’s failure to develop policies and strategies for radioactive waste has given the SNC-Lavalin consortium free rein to deal with Canada’s $8 billion radioactive waste legacy that is spread across the provinces of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. They point out that the resulting plans to pour concrete over old nuclear reactors and dump radioactive waste beside drinking water sources fall far short of international safety standards.

“The Government of Canada is not just putting us all at risk by pouring money into bad nuclear waste projects, it is missing a golden opportunity to develop leadership and excellence in radioactive waste management on a global scale”, according to Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association. “We call upon all media, the public and candidates in the upcoming election to press for an urgent reform of Canada’s approach to radioactive waste matters” she said. “Canada must take this opportunity to not just meet but exceed IAEA standards, and ensure the protection of Canadians today, and for centuries to come.”

“This is a tremendous vindication of our concerns about how radioactive waste is being mishandled in Canada” according to Gilles Provost, of the Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive. “We have been telling the Federal Government for years that its radioactive waste policies are inadequate, and now world experts from the IAEA are saying the same thing.”

The IAEA is a United Nations organization that recommends safety standards for nuclear plants and nuclear waste facilities; it has 171 member states worldwide. It also administers an international convention on the management of radioactive waste to which Canada is a party. 
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Gordon Edwards, presidentCanadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (514) 489-5118 or (514) 839-7214
Johanna Echlin, spokespersonOld Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association (514) 484-2814 
Gilles Provost, spokespersonRalliement contre la pollution radioactive (514) 523-5704 ou (514) 773-5704

Background information
Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau September, 2017

Letter to IAEA Director General April 2018

Letter to Auditor General of Canada September 2018

Full-page statement in the Hill-Times newspaper April 2019

Op Ed in the Hill Times May 27, 2019 by Dr. Gordon Edwards Parliament should investigate what Canadians have gotten for their nuclear waste funding  

Letter to the Editor Hill Times, June 17, 2019 CNSC subject to regulatory capture

The other SNC-Lavalin affair: Nuclear waste

Media release from the Ottawa Centre Green Party Campaign September 5, 2019

Green Party candidates blast Liberals’ and Conservatives’ cosy relationship with the nuclear industry

Plans to abandon toxic radioactive waste next to drinking water sources

OTTAWA, September 5, 2019 — Three Green Party candidates have given an “F” to recent Liberal and Conservative governments for handing control of Canada’s federal nuclear waste to SNC-Lavalin and two American corporations.

Candidates Angela Keller-Herzog, Claude Bertrand and Lorraine Rekmans say that the Harper and Trudeau governments deserve a “Fail” because decisions about nuclear waste that will last for millennia are being driven by corporate profits, not health protection. The candidates gathered today with a flotilla of canoes and kayaks on the Ottawa River to protest plans for a nuclear waste dump at Chalk River.

“Both the previous Conservative and Liberal governments have handed the dirty job of cleaning up nuclear waste to SNC-Lavalin and American corporations. We have to end this cosy relationship and stop funneling billions of taxpayer dollars to corporations for plans that may worsen, not improve, Canada’s nuclear waste problem,” said Keller-Herzog.

Releases of radioactive waste increase the risks of cancer, birth defects and genetic mutations in people who drink the contaminated water or breathe the contaminated air, she said.

The Harper government signed a 10-year, multibillion-dollar contract with a consortium of SNC-Lavalin and several foreign corporations in September 2015, very shortly before the last federal election. The consortium’s plan for an aboveground engineered mound that holds one million cubic metres of radioactive waste – less than a kilometre from the Ottawa River – does not meet International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines. Nor do its plans to bury two defunct reactors in cement next to the Winnipeg and Ottawa rivers.

In November 2018, the Liberal government released a roadmap to introduce “small modular” nuclear reactors across Canada, and in regulations enacted on August 28, 2019, the government has exempted new nuclear reactors under 200 thermal megawatts from environmental impact assessment under Bill C-69. “There are already large quantities of radioactive waste being transported from Manitoba, Québec and even the United States to Chalk River over public roads. First Nations are rightly concerned, as we all should be, about what’s happening to this nuclear waste, and we want to see transparency about the shipments and full consultation with Indigenous communities,” said Lorraine Rekmans, Green Party candidate for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. Rekmans is the Green Party of Canada critic for Indigenous Affairs and Shadow Cabinet Co-chair. 

Claude Bertrand, running in the Pontiac riding that stretches over 200 km along the Ottawa River, noted the strong opposition in Québec to abandonment of nuclear waste near the river. “Over 140 communities in Quebec and Ontario are strongly opposed to the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ plans, including the Metropolitan Community of Montréal,” Bertrand said. “It’s our drinking water, and we don’t want to take risks with it in the name of short-term corporate profits.”

Chalk River Laboratories are located in Green Party candidate Ian Pineau’s riding, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. “We need the right plan in the right location,” Pineau (not present at the event) said. “That would protect, not risk, our river and our drinking water, stimulate the local economy, and provide long-term, well-paying careers in responsible waste management.”

The candidates called on Ottawa to abandon the current nuclear waste plans and aim to meet or exceed international standards. They also called for full public consultation to create a federal policy for the long-term management of non-fuel radioactive waste.

“The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission should not be approving nuclear waste plans with no oversight by Parliament, and no federal policies spelling out how low-level and intermediate-level waste must be managed,” said Keller-Herzog.-30-

Civil society groups condemn plan to exempt nuclear reactors from Bill C-69 impact assessment


Ottawa, May 7, 2019 — The Government of Canada is proposing that the “project list” for Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, exempt many nuclear reactors from any environmental assessment.  Civil society groups are condemning the exemption from environmental assessment under Bill C-69 and demanding that all new nuclear reactors be subjected to formal environmental assessment, as is now the case.

The federal government’s discussion paper, released on May 1, proposes that all nuclear reactors that produce less than 200 megawatts of thermal power be excluded from the Impact Assessment Act, as well as nuclear reactors built on existing nuclear sites that produce up to 900 megawatts of thermal power. 

“Excluding nuclear energy projects from impact assessment means there will be no credible sustainability-based assessment of the environmental, health, economic or social impacts of new, expanded or refurbished nuclear energy projects before they proceed,” says Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel for the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “In our view, giving the nuclear power industry a free pass under the Impact Assessment Act is the antithesis of sound and precautionary environmental planning, and should not be countenanced by Parliament.” 

“It is shocking that the federal government expects nuclear projects to go ahead with no impact assessment,” says Dr. Ole Hendrickson, a retired Environment Canada scientist and board member of Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “This may benefit the nuclear industry, but at the expense of the environment, public health and safety and the rights of Indigenous communities.”

In November, federal Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi launched a “roadmap” at a nuclear industry conference in Ottawa that outlines plans to build Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in Indigenous and northern communities and at remote mining sites across Canada. The Roadmap’s recommendations included comments suggesting that SMRs should be exempted from Bill C-69. 

The discussion paper for Bill C-69 regulations says that the effects from SMRs are “well known” and “share core characteristics” with existing conventional reactor technology. However, all proposed SMRs would employ new and untested designs, or technologies, some involving liquid metal and molten salt coolants that caused serious accidents in early prototype reactors, and some using controversial fuels never commercially allowed in Canada before, based on plutonium, thorium, or enriched uranium. 

“People in northern and Indigenous communities where the nuclear industry wants to build these reactors have a right to know what the risks are,” says Hendrickson. “A formal impact assessment with public disclosure is essential to identify these risks, including radioactive emissions and long-lasting contamination of soil and groundwater, especially due to malfunctions or accidents.”

Impact assessment of SMRs became a focus of media attention last November when it was revealed that Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), had been secretly lobbying the Government for the reactors to be exempted from environmental assessment. The Globe and Mail reported that CNSC encouraged the government to exempt small modular reactors from the list of designated projects (see Federal nuclear regulator urges Liberals to exempt smaller reactors from full panel review – November 6, 2018).

The discussion paper also does not include decommissioning of nuclear reactors and facilities on the project list for Bill C-69.   Decommissioning includes cleaning up, dismantling and removing contaminated nuclear facilities; storing the resulting radioactive waste; and returning the nuclear sites back to public use. This is despite the environmental risks of these activities and direct requests from host communities.  

Remediation of contaminated nuclear sites, new radioactive waste storage facilities at existing nuclear sites, and nuclear waste transport are also not identified for impact assessment in the discussion paper.

The federal government is giving Canadians until May 31 to submit comments on the discussion paper regarding the Bill C-69 Project List at the following address:    


The Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area was formed in 1978 to research and advocate about nuclear waste and other pollution issues in Eastern Ontario and the Ottawa River watershed. The group works closely with other civil society groups to promote responsible management of radioactive wastes and protection of the environment.

The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility is a not-for-profit organization, federally incorporated since 1978, dedicated to education and research on all issues related to nuclear energy, whether civilian or military, especially those pertaining to Canada.


Sierra Club Canada Foundation is a national and grassroots non-profit organization committed to empowering people to protect, restore and enjoy a healthy and safe planet.


The mission of the Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive (RCPR) is to act voluntarily and collectively to promote responsible solutions for the management of radioactive waste that are safe for the environment and for the health of the population.


The Canadian Environmental Law Association is a public interest law group founded in 1970 for the purposes of using and enhancing environmental laws to protect the environment and safeguard human health. CELA lawyers represent low-income and vulnerable communities in the courts and before tribunals on a wide variety of environmental and public health issues.   

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Media contacts:

Theresa McClenaghan
Executive Director and Counsel, 

Canadian Environmental Law Association

416-960-2284 ext.7219

Lynn Jones 

(to arrange an interview with Dr. Ole Hendrickson of SCCF or Dr. Gordon Edwards of CCNR)
Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area 

Ginette Charbonneau

Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive