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. 
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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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Contacts
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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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: impactassessmentregulations.ca    

ABOUT CCRCA

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.

ABOUT CCNR
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.

ABOUT SIERRA CLUB CANADA FOUNDATION

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.

ABOUT RALLIEMENT CONTRE LA POLLUTION RADIOACTIVE

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.

ABOUT CELA

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

theresa@cela.ca

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
hendrickson.jones@gmail.com 
613-234-0578

Ginette Charbonneau

Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive

ginettech@hotmail.ca

514-246-6439

Canada should reject new nuclear reactors as a climate change solution

Ottawa, November 6, 2018— Citizens groups are marching in downtown Ottawa today and petitioning Canada’s Auditor General, urging the Government of Canada to reject new subsidies for nuclear energy and instead to prioritize funding for renewables, efficiency and conservation in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In early October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) called for rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented efforts worldwide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to prevent what scientists now call a near-term risk of dangerous to catastrophic levels of global warming.
“Canada must respond rapidly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s call for action to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions” said Elizabeth May, Green Party of Canada leader.  “Nuclear technology is too slow to develop and investing in nuclear now would take money away from the real solutions that we know can work.”
On Wednesday November 7th the federal government will unveil a “roadmap” towards development and deployment of a new fleet of “small modular” nuclear reactors, which it claims will “make the most of our ongoing transition to a low-carbon economy.”  The roadmap will likely target “off-grid” applications of these reactors, such as remote and northern communities.
A recent in-depth report by the Deloitte Centre for Energy Solutions highlights rapid changes in the landscape for solar and wind power and concludes that  “Solar and wind power recently crossed a new threshold, moving from mainstream to preferred energy sources across much of the globe.”  The old argument against wind and solar, their intermittency, has become irrelevant owing to advances in storage technology.
 “Canada cannot afford to waste time and billions of dollars on new small nuclear reactors. We should look to the City of Seoul whose ten million citizens recently eliminated the need for a large nuclear generating station in 2.5 years with renewables, efficiency and conservation” said Lynn Jones a spokesperson for Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.
In a petition sent yesterday to the Auditor General, the citizens’ group argues that investments in new nuclear technology at this time would reduce Canada’s ability to respond to the IPCC call for rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes by tying up funds that could otherwise quickly and effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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Important Background resources:
 
Petition to the Auditor General on investment in new nuclear
One Less Nuclear Power Plant program in Seoul, Republic of Korea
NB. ~ in phase 1 of this project, the citizens of Seoul, population 10 million, eliminated the need for a large nuclear generating station, equivalent in size to the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station with six reactors operating, in two and a half years, with a combination of efficiency, conservation and renewables.
Report from the City of Seoul
Video on the One Less Nuclear Power Plant project https://vimeo.com/248840136
Headline Politics: Elizabeth May Speaks Out Against New Nuclear Technology Investment | CPAC ~ full video of press conference
Photograph and Posters:  Bob Del Tredici

Government urged to halt push for new fleet of nuclear reactors

Civil society groups across Canada urge federal government to rethink small modular  reactor deployment, citing risks to the public, environment and future generations

Oct 30 2018

Toronto – Over 20 civil society organizations from across Canada are calling on the federal government to say ‘no’ to nuclear industry pressure to spend taxpayer resources on the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMR).

“So-called Small Modular Reactors are just the nuclear industry’s old promise of producing ‘cheap, safe and clean’ power recycled into a new request for taxpayer dollars. The federal government shouldn’t support these unproven risky reactor designs,” said Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch.

SMRs are compact and unproven reactor designs, producing anywhere from 1 MW to 300 MW of electricity, and proponents say they could be deployed in communities across Canada. Despite claims of being cleaner and safer, they will still produce long-lived radioactive waste and require protection from liability for the federal government in the event of an accident.

In their letter to the Ministers of Environmental and Climate Change, Natural Resources and Science and Sport, the organizations state that the government has not carried out a transparent, public dialogue on possible federal support for SMRs. Instead, they have consulted the nuclear industry only. As a result of these industry consultations, Natural Resources Canada is set to release a policy roadmap for the development of SMRs next week.

“Gambling on untested reactors is foolish when we could invest more in proven technologies like renewables. The Trudeau government would be wise to consider how the federal government has been duped into wasting taxpayer dollars on nuclear industry proposals in the past,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a senior energy analyst with Greenpeace Canada.

The groups say SMRs will just add to Canada’s nuclear waste legacy and divert investment from safer, less costly and more socially acceptable renewable energy technologies.

“We know the nuclear industry is lobbying to exempt SMRs from assessments under the proposed Impact Assessment Act, but these are exactly the type of projects that should be subjected to an environmental review. We urge the federal government to not succumb to pressure to subsidize SMRs with either tax-dollars or cuts to public oversight,” said Theresa McClenaghan, executive director and counsel at the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

The full text of the letter sent to the Ministers may be found on the CELA’s website: https://www.cela.ca/no-to-smrs-in-canada.

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Multinational consortium yields to public pressure on nuclear dump plan

(Ottawa, October 30, 2017) The multinational consortium running Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and managing Canada’s federally-owned radioactive waste announced on Thursday (October 26th) that it will remove intermediate-level waste, which requires remote handling, from its plans for a giant radioactive mound beside the Ottawa River at Chalk River, Ontario.

Citizens’ groups who have been working for months to sound the alarm about the CNL proposal hailed the announcement as a partial victory. Over 200 submissions, most highly critical, were sent to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission during the public comment period for the project’s environmental impact study that ended in August.

CNL said in a press release October 26th that it was responding to comments from the public and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and that wastes intended for disposal in the proposed facility will meet guidelines for low level radioactive waste set out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“We are pleased that our concerns are being heard,” said Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, based in Sheenboro Quebec. “We said from the start that the facility should not contain “intermediate level” waste which is supposed to be disposed of in underground caverns according to the IAEA.”

There is still a long way to go before the proposal could be considered acceptable, according to Echlin. She notes that even “low level” radioactive waste is not supposed to be disposed of on top of the ground in a mound according to the IAEA. “It’s only common sense”, says Echlin. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or nuclear engineer to understand that radioactive waste should not be placed on plastic liners that will deteriorate long before the waste becomes harmless.”

“Low-level” waste is a misnomer that causes a lot of confusion, according to Dr. Ole Hendrickson of Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area. “Low-level” waste is so named because it can be handled without using robots or special shielding, unlike used nuclear fuel rods which can provide a fatal dose of radiation within seconds to a person standing a few feet away.

“Low-level” radioactive waste can contain very hazardous materials, says Hendrickson. “Man-made isotopes such as plutonium, neptunium, and americium have extremely long half lives. They are highly toxic and will be around for thousands of years. Yet significant quantities are destined for this facility if it gets approved.”

Citizens groups say the proposed technology, an “engineered mound” similar to a municipal landfill, is not acceptable. They would like to see a “state-of-the-art” facility that would keep the radioactive materials out of the air and water for as long as they remain harmful, which could be longer than 100,000 years.  Facilities currently under construction in Finland and France which utilize engineered caverns in stable rock, tens of metres below the surface, would be much safer and could serve as an example for a new Canadian facility.

Dump opponents are also concerned about the site for the facility. “You couldn’t choose a worse site for this dump if you tried,” according to Echlin, “on the side of a hill, that would have to be deforested, and smack in the middle of a wetland that drains into the Ottawa River only a kilometre away”.

Proximity to the river is causing worry about possible contamination of drinking water since the Ottawa River is a drinking water source for millions of Canadians downstream of Chalk River in cities such as Ottawa-Gatineau and Montreal.

Ole Hendrickson of the CCRCA notes that siting was not done according to IAEA guidance that calls for a site that can ensure the environment will be adequately protected during the entire lifetime of the facility. “CNL should explore the 70,000 acres of federal land adjacent to the Chalk River Labs property to find a more suitable location,” Hendrickson said. “With a better location, away from the river and in stable rock, we could all get behind this project and build a facility that Canada can be proud of,” he added.

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Canada setting a terrible example for nuclear decommissioning, citizens’ groups say

(Ottawa, October 4, 2017) Experts from around the world are meeting in Ottawa this week, October 3-5, to discuss decommissioning and dismantling of nuclear facilities.  Delegates to the meeting of the Nuclear Energy Agency’s Working Party on Decommissioning and Dismantling, cohosted by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) will exchange information about decommissioning policy, strategy and regulations.

Responding to promotional material for the upcoming meeting, Citizens’ groups were quick to point out that Canada is an excellent place to come to see examples of how not to do decommissioning.

Three badly-flawed decommissioning projects are currently on the table in Canada: the widely criticized proposal to construct a giant radioactive landfill at Chalk River, Ontario, and two proposals for “entombment” of old reactor facilities, one on the Winnipeg River and the other on the Ottawa River at Rolphton, Ontario.  According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, “entombment” is only supposed to be employed in exceptional circumstances such as after a severe accident. “Entombment” and above-ground landfilling of long-lived radioactive wastes are being promoted by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), a multinational consortium contracted by the previous Conservative government to cut costs for nuclear decommissioning in Canada.

Retired scientists and citizens have slammed CNL’s three proposals for being unsafe, irresponsible, and badly out of sync with international guidance and best practices.

“There is great irony in the hosting of this meeting by CNSC and NRCan, since there is a virtual absence in Canada of polices and strategies for wastes arising from decommissioning” according to Dr. Ole Hendrickson, researcher for the group Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area. On September 21, 2017, Concerned Citizens along with the Canadian Environmental Law Association submitted a petition to the Auditor-General on gaps in policies and strategies for dealing with non-fuel, post-fission radioactive wastes, which are the main challenge in decommissioning nuclear facilities.

A letter sent to Prime Minister Trudeau last month by Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, also called attention to Canada’s sloppy handling of non-fuel, post fission radioactive wastes. “The absence of any policies or strategies for dealing with these wastes, many of which will be hazardous for more than 100,000 years is a serious problem”, said Edwards. “This must be addressed as soon as possible in consultation with the Canadian public and aboriginal groups.” Edwards’ letter was co-signed by 35 leaders of organizations and First Nations in Canada.

Co-host of this week’s international meeting, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, is presently embattled in its dual role as regulator and environmental assessment (EA) authority for the aforementioned decommissioning proposals from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, all three of which have set alarm bells ringing and elicited serious criticism from retired scientists, citizens’ groups and First Nations.

A petition to the government of Canada, House of Commons e-petition 1220, asks the government to suspend the EA’s of the three decommissioning projects and strip the CNSC of its decision-making role in environmental assessment as recommended by the Expert Panel on EA reform in April of this year. The Expert Panel noted that the CNSC is not sufficiently independent of the industry it regulates to be responsible for EA decisions about nuclear projects. The e-petition has been signed by Canadians from ten provinces and two territories.

Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association notes that nuclear decommissioning is faltering badly in Canada at present. “The take-away message for international delegates to this meeting is clear”, said Echlin. “Do not do what Canada has done and hand control of decommissioning and radioactive waste to a multinational private sector consortium, in the absence of policies and strategies that ensure safety. This has been a disaster for us”.

A visit to Chalk River Laboratories, site of the giant proposed radioactive landfill, is on the agenda for the visiting international delegates. “I hope their eyes are wide open and they will not be fooled by this proposed quick, cheap and dirty fix to Canada’s non-fuel radioactive waste” said Echlin.  “Our international guests must know that an above ground landfill is only acceptable for very low-level radioactive waste and entirely inadequate for wastes that will endure for a hundred thousand years”, she added. “The proposed Chalk River mound would contaminate the Ottawa River and drinking water for millions of Canadians downstream for millennia. This is a terrible example to set for the world.”

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Giant Radioactive Waste Dump on the Ottawa River: New revelations alarm citizens’ groups

(Ottawa, Ontario, April 3, 2017)  The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed giant nuclear waste dump along the Ottawa River is ringing alarm bells for citizens’ groups.   It reveals that the dump would contain plutonium and dozens of other waste products created by nuclear reactors,  many of which will be radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

The proposed “Near Surface Disposal Facility” (NSDF) would be built on a 34-hectare site about one km from the Ottawa River at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario.  The site is about 150 kilometres northwest of Ottawa, across the river from the Municipality of Sheenboro in the Province of Quebec.  The dump would be similar in design to a municipal landfill.  It would be used for permanent disposal of up to one million cubic meters of “low-level” and “intermediate-level” radioactive wastes in a mound up to 25 meters high.

The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) was released on March 17th.  A CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) decision on approval of the facility is expected in January 2018 and construction could begin soon after.

Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association was shocked to learn that the dump would contain very long-lived radionuclides. “How can it possibly be ethical and environmentally-responsible to put plutonium and other very long-lived radioactive wastes in a landfill beside the Ottawa River?” she asks. “I have talked to many people on both sides of the river, all the way to Montreal, and everyone I have spoken to thinks this is a terrible idea.”

Plutonium is one of many radioactive byproducts of nuclear fission that would be present in significant quantities in wastes disposed of in the NSDF.  Inhaling or ingesting plutonium or other radionuclides (e.g., in dust from the waste dump or runoff into the river) would increase risks of cancers of the lung, bones, blood and liver.

Dr. Ole Hendrickson is reviewing the draft EIS for the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.  He says that the landfill-type design would expose radioactive wastes to wind, rain and snow.  Long-lived radioactive wastes would be hazardous long after plastic liners had deteriorated and leachate collection and treatment had ceased, and would spread into surrounding wetlands, lakes and waterways.   

“By failing to provide adequate waste containment, this proposal flagrantly disregards the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safety standard for disposal of radioactive waste,” warns Hendrickson.

The public has 60 days to respond to the EIS (until May 17, 2017).  It is posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website at: http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=118381

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Citizens upset by proposed radioactive waste dump beside the Ottawa River

(Ottawa, Ontario, March 12, 2017)  A proposal for a giant disposal facility for radioactive waste on the Ottawa River near Chalk River, Ontario is raising the ire of local residents and citizens’ groups.

A consortium of multinational companies is behind the proposal, currently under review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. If approved, the 30–hectare “Near Surface Disposal Facility” would dispose of up to one million cubic metres of low- and medium-level radioactive waste in a huge mound up to 25 metres high, about 1 km from Ottawa River at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.

The project description, posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website, notes that the facility would include wastes from “commercial activities”. In addition to being radioactive, some “mixed” wastes could contain PCBs, arsenic and mercury. Construction of the facility could begin as early as 2018.

Local citizens’ groups say that the proposed site is unsuitable for a dump of any kind given its proximity to the Ottawa River, a source of drinking water for millions of Canadians. They also point out that the site is near a major fault line, and on top of fractured and porous bedrock through which groundwater flows rapidly into the Ottawa River. These and other points are covered in a fact sheet prepared by concerned citizens entitled “Ten things Canadians need to know about the Chalk River Near Surface Disposal Facility”.

According to Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, the proposal has shocked and angered local residents as well as people downstream in Ottawa and Montreal. “Folks I talk to are outraged at the idea of dumping a million cubic metres of radioactive waste beside the Ottawa River”, said Echlin.

Citizens are concerned that the consortium of multinational corporations has no stake in the long-term health of the Ottawa River. Echlin and her fellow cottagers worry that “after making a tidy profit on creation of the dump, they could walk away in 10 years when their contract ends and leave a leaking mess for others to live with”. Echlin’s group is encouraging downstream municipalities to pass resolutions opposing the facility, and they are tracking opposition on their website.

Dr. Ole Hendrickson, researcher for Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, hopes that questions raised by local citizens will be addressed in the draft Environmental Impact Statement scheduled for release on March 17, 2017.  “We don’t yet have adequate information about the purpose of the proposed facility, such as what commercial activities the proponents have in mind,” said Hendrickson.  “A key question” he added, “is whether wastes from Canada’s nuclear power reactors could be sent to this facility for disposal.”  

The public will have 60 days to respond to the Environmental Impact Statement after it is posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website at:

www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/details-eng.cfm?evaluation=80122

The fact sheet and other materials produced by the citizens’ groups are available at:

http://ofwca.org/SheenOFWCA/OFWCACNL.html and https://sites.google.com/site/concernedcitizensrca/

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