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

Environmental Petition: Nuclear governance problems in Canada

June 13, 2019

Petition summary (Office of the Auditor General website)

PDF version of the full petition available here

Environmental Petition: Nuclear governance problems in Canada

This petition is being submitted to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada in accordance with section 22 of the Auditor General Act by Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area (Ontario), Pontiac Environmental Protection (Quebec), and Concerned Citizens of Manitoba. The concerns highlighted in this petition and the answers sought are also matters of importance to our colleagues in other organizations including the Alliance of the Anishinabek Nation and the Iroquois Caucus, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive (Quebec), Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Friends of the Earth (Canada), the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association, Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan, the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Cooperative (Saskatchewan), the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Physicians for Global Survival, Mining Watch, Watershed Sentinel Educational Society (British Columbia), Green Coalition Verte (Montreal), and First United Church Water Care Allies (Ottawa).

We request that the Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, and Justice undertake to address serious governance problems in the management of Canada’s nuclear waste legacy. These problems, highlighted in this petition, must be corrected to support sustainable development, protect the biosphere and avoid undue financial, health and environmental burdens for current and future generations of Canadians. 


A consortium of SNC-Lavalin and other multinational corporations has assumed ownership of “Canadian Nuclear Laboratories” (CNL) and now controls all of Canada’s federally-owned nuclear facilities and radioactive wastes. A “Government-owned, Contractor-operated” (GoCo) arrangement was put in place by the former Conservative government in September 2015, just prior to the October 2015 federal election.  Environmental petition 405 and Environmental Petition 405b to the Auditor General raise questions about whether this GoCo arrangement is providing value for Canadian taxpayers (1, 2).  These questions remain relevant.

In May 2016 the consortium put forward three proposals for permanent radioactive waste disposal, the first such proposals ever in Canada. These proposals are currently undergoing environmental assessment (EA) under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012. They include construction of a giant, above-ground radioactive waste mound at Chalk River, Ontario and “entombment” in concrete of defunct, federal-government-owned nuclear reactors at Rolphton, Ontario and Pinawa, Manitoba (3, 4, 5). 

These project proposals disregard International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safety standards on entombment of reactors and above-ground disposal of waste (6, 7, 8). They would permanently contaminate the Ottawa and Winnipeg Rivers with radioactive materials such as plutonium, caesium, strontium and tritium, some of which will be remain hazardous for over 100,000 years (3, 4, 5). 

Over 140 downstream municipalities that use the Ottawa River for drinking water have passed resolutions against the consortium’s projects (9). First Nations, Ontario, Quebec, civil society groups, independent scientists, municipalities, federal government departments and concerned individuals have submitted hundreds of critical comments on the project descriptions and EAs that are posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry (10, 11, 12).

Seeking to understand how the consortium’s nuclear waste proposals came to be undergoing EAs despite their lack of alignment with IAEA safety guidelines, the petitioners have researched nuclear governance in Canada and have identified problems in the way nuclear waste is dealt with by the Government of Canada, and in Canada’s system of nuclear governance generally.


Canada’s system of nuclear governance is described in a report  to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) entitled “Nuclear Legislation in OECD Countries ~ Regulatory and Institutional Framework for Nuclear Activities: Canada” (13). This is part of a series consisting of similar reports from all OECD countries that carry out nuclear activities (14).

Canada’s radioactive waste management program is described in a profile (15) that is part of an OECD series entitled “Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in NEA (Nuclear Energy Agency) Member Countries” (16).

In addition to IAEA and OECD resources we have drawn on Access to Information requests and our own experience for this review.

Problems with Canada’s nuclear governance

1)  Legislation 

Two main acts govern nuclear activities in Canada.  These acts are very “hands off”, providing limited direction and delegating to non-governmental agencies responsibilities that in other countries are managed by government departments and elected representatives.

Weak purposes and value-laden judgments

The primary legislation governing nuclear activities in Canada is the Nuclear Safety and Control Act of 2000 (NSCA). It establishes a regulatory body, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), and provides the CNSC with a mandate to limit risks of nuclear energy to health and national security to a “reasonable level” and meet international non-proliferation obligations (17).

The Act’s weak and indirect purpose is “to provide for the limitation to a reasonable level…of the risks…”.  Use of the word “reasonable” implies that there are “reasonable” levels of exposure to man-made ionizing radiation and that it is acceptable for the Commission to make decisions to expose certain members of the public to ionizing radiation without their permission and without any benefit to them. Similarly, the NSCA allows the Commission to decide what constitutes a “reasonable” risk to national security.

Value laden judgments on what risks are “reasonable” or “acceptable” should be made by elected officials who can ultimately be held accountable by the electorate. These are not scientific decisions, but rather value judgments informed by science, economics and social values.  They should not be made by non-elected appointees, especially if they have past associations with the sector being regulated.

Acts in other countries are more direct with clear intentions to protect health and the environment. Two examples are instructive. The purpose of Finland’s Nuclear Energy Act is “To keep the use of nuclear energy in line with the overall good of society, and in particular to ensure that the use of nuclear energy is safe for man and the environment” (18).  The purpose of Germany’s Atomic Energy Act is “to protect life, health and property against the hazards of nuclear energy and the detrimental effects of ionizing radiation” (19).

Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste Act of 2002 (NFWA) sets up a private non-profit corporation owned by waste producers to manage nuclear fuel waste and recommend and implement strategies for dealing with it. Its purpose is

“to provide a framework to enable the Governor in Council to make, from the proposals of the waste management organization, a decision on the management of nuclear fuel waste that is based on a comprehensive, integrated and economically sound approach for Canada.” (20)

Nowhere in this Act is there any mention of protecting people or the environment.

“Delegation” (or abdication?) of responsibilities

The organizations created by the NSCA and NFWA are independent of the Canadian government. The NSCA delegates responsibilities for decision making to the CNSC.  The NFWA delegates the development of an approach to manage high level, irradiated nuclear fuel waste to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a corporation run by nuclear industry waste owners. 

This is in striking contrast to the way most other OECD countries manage their nuclear governance responsibilities. Requirement #1 of the IAEA’s Governmental, Legal and Regulatory Framework for Safety is that “The government shall establish a national policy and strategy for safety,” that “shall express a long term commitment to safety,” and that “shall be promulgated as a statement of the government’s intent.” (21). The Government of Canada has not expressed a long-term commitment to safety in its nuclear policy or legislation.  

No mention of the word “waste” in the NSCA

As the primary act governing nuclear activities and nuclear safety in Canada, it is surprising the word “waste” appears nowhere in the NSCA. This is in contrast to primary acts in other countries such as Finland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic which mention waste 197, 239 and 174 times respectively (14).

The NFWA does not address any type of radioactive waste other than irradiated nuclear fuel.  Thus neither Act addresses the vast majority (by volume) of nuclear reactor wastes, including the shut-down reactors themselves.

2) The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Sole agency responsible for almost all aspects of nuclear governance. 

In contrast to the situation in other OECD countries, the federal government has conferred most of its nuclear governance responsibilities on the CNSC. One ensuing problem is that CNSC has assumed the role of creating policy, even though an IAEA standard explicitly states that policy should be developed and approved by the federal government and not by a regulatory agency (21).

For example, in all OECD member countries other than Canada, decisions about licensing of radioactive waste disposal are made by government bodies – not by a national regulatory agency (22). Canada is unique in giving CNSC sole and final decision-making power in this domain.

Too much independence from Parliament

As noted on the CNSC website: 

“The CNSC … reports to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources on the Commission’s activities under the Act. While the Chair and Board of CNSC are appointed by Order in Council, neither the Minister nor the Governor in Council has a role in CNSC’s decision making or the power of appeal. Its decisions are reviewable only by the Federal Court of Canada.” (23) 

In other countries, recommendations made by the regulatory body are generally forwarded to a government minister for a final decision. The CNSC’s “independence” from the elected government of the day arguably limits its responsibility to the Canadian people who are affected by its decisions. 

No independence from industry

The CNSC is widely perceived to be a “captured regulator” that promotes projects it is tasked with regulating.  This was noted by the Expert Panel on Reform of Environmental Assessment in its April 2017 report “Building Common Ground” (24). (Footnote 1) According to Wikipedia, “Regulatory capture is a form of government failure which occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating… leading to a net loss for society”(25).

Examples of the CNSC’s tendency to promote the projects it is tasked with regulating are presented in Environmental Petition 413 to the Auditor General, which describes the CNSC’s handling of environmental assessments for the consortium’s nuclear waste projects (26).

The international nuclear industry also appears to perceive the CNSC as a captured agency. The CNSC was recently described in an international nuclear industry publication as presiding over a “benign regulatory environment” (27).

Mandate to protect health but no health department

Despite having a mandate to protect health, the CNSC lacks a health department.  A review of CNSC’s organizational chart reveals that the word health does not appear on it (28).

3) Radioactive waste policy vacuum

The IAEA provides detailed guidance on national policy requirements for nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management (6, 7, 8, 29). 

On waste management, the IAEA says: “To ensure the effective management and control of radioactive waste, the government shall ensure that a national policy and a strategy for radioactive waste management are established.”  The IAEA adds that “The national policy on radioactive waste management has to set out the preferred options for radioactive waste management.” (4)  

On decommissioning, the IAEA says “the government should establish the overall objectives of decommissioning as part of its obligation to establish and maintain a governmental, legal and regulatory framework for all aspects of decommissioning, including management of the resulting radioactive waste. The policy should be developed by the government in cooperation with relevant organizations, including the licensee, and in consultation with the public.” (29)

Canada has no policy that sets out its objectives and preferred options for decommissioning or radioactive waste management.  The Government of Canada itself has never undertaken public consultations on these matters, but instead delegates consultation to the NWMO and CNSC. 

Non-fuel waste

Environmental Petition 411 to the Auditor General describes in detail the lack of federal policies for management of non-fuel radioactive waste. The petition reviews documents provided by NRCan in response to an Access to Information request for Canada’s radioactive waste policies.  It states that these documents:

 “… do not contain information recommended by IAEA. These documents contain no strategies, and no timeframes. They contain no goals or requirements for safe handling of radioactive wastes. They do not define how and when the goals and requirements will be achieved. They do not set out preferred options for radioactive waste management. They include non-standard, inconsistent and incomplete waste classifications. The policy framework includes the phrase “in accordance with approved waste disposal plans”, implying that such plans exist, but we were unable to find any”. (30)

Canada’s sole radioactive waste policy document is a “Radioactive Waste Policy Framework” (emphasis added) consisting of 143 words in three bullet points (31).  Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr wrote in July 2018 that “Canada does not yet have a federal policy for the long-term management of non-fuel radioactive waste.” (32)


The absence of federal policies for nuclear reactor decommissioning is described in detail in Environmental Petition 418 to the Auditor General, “Need for a national policy on decommissioning of nuclear reactors”. The petitioners note that the lack of federal policy has enabled the consortium that controls federal nuclear sites to propose to entomb reactors in concrete, based solely on cost, with no consideration of international safety guidelines (33).  Government, not private industry, should develop policies and strategies for nuclear decommissioning.

Canada also lacks a policy on the management of irradiated nuclear reactor fuel waste. As noted earlier, the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act delegates the responsibility to develop an approach for high level irradiated nuclear fuel management to an industry-run corporation, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (20).

4) No checks and balances

A review of OECD documents reveals that Canada has one of the least robust systems of nuclear governance in the world, relying as it does on one agency for nearly all aspects of nuclear governance in the country.  By comparison, most other OECD countries involve high ranking public officials and have multiple government departments involved in nuclear governance. They also have high-level, multi-stakeholder, and interdisciplinary advisory committees and commissions set up to govern nuclear activities. Appendix A provides more details on this. 

As noted earlier, the side-by-side comparison of OECD countries on various aspects of nuclear governance indicates that Canada is the only OECD country that leaves decisions on nuclear waste disposal projects solely in the hands of its nuclear regulatory agency. Canada is also the only OECD country where industry has exclusive responsibility for “cost estimation” (22). Questions have arisen about cost estimates for the project proposals of the multinational consortium that manages federal nuclear sites and wastes under the current GoCo arrangement. Having only a single industry cost estimate creates risks that Canadian taxpayers are not receiving “value for money” from these project proposals. Parliamentary appropriations for nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management amounted to $737 million in the 2019-2020 federal budget alone.

The lack of checks and balances in Canada’s nuclear governance system and the absence of a clearly defined purpose to protect health in the environment in the NSCA create an over-riding emphasis on promotion of nuclear energy.  The Minister of Natural Resources, who is responsible for the NSCA, also has powers under the Nuclear Energy Act to “cause… the utilization of nuclear energy” (34), thus creating a conflict of interest in which promotion of nuclear energy tends to be given priority over efforts to limit risks. Recently, Natural Resources Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada have been promoting nuclear energy as “clean” and “sustainable”, despite the fact that all nuclear reactors produce hazardous radioactive waste that Canada is ill-equipped to deal with as outlined above. Environmental Petition 419 (35)  and Environmental Petition 421 (36) to the Auditor General present the cases against referring to nuclear energy as “clean” and against federal spending on new nuclear technologies. 


Canada’s policies and legislation governing radioactive waste management, and decommissioning of nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities, have serious deficiencies. This puts Canada in contravention of international safety standards that clearly express a requirement for government leadership in these areas.

Elected representatives, in consultation with Indigenous Peoples and ordinary Canadians, should be directly involved in making decisions about nuclear wastes. These wastes will be hazardous and radioactive for millennia, long after the nuclear industry has ceased to exist.  Decisions should be made in the best interests of current and future generations of Canadians.

Recommended Remedies 

The Government of Canada should formally and publicly review its nuclear governance framework in the context of IAEA standards and guidelines, with a specific focus on policies and legislation for decommissioning and nuclear waste management.  This review is urgently needed to identify gaps, to recommend reforms, and to assure compliance with international standards. 

Two types of reviews would be helpful:

  1. A review by a highly credible, independent and transparent body such as the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development or the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, and
  2. An ARTEMIS  review (Footnote 2) by the International Atomic Energy Agency that would 

review the safety cases for the three radioactive waste disposal projects advanced by the consortium that owns CNL, and broadly examine Canada’s policies and legislation for decommissioning and waste management.

Both review bodies should be provided with this petition as background information. The results of both reviews should be made public, as soon as possible after completion of the reports.

Drawing upon the results of these reviews, Canada should undertake a program of restructuring and reform of the CNSC to eliminate the problem of regulatory capture and ensure that Canada’s nuclear regulator has a clear mandate and adequate capacity to protect health and the environment.  Actions might include transparent, merit-based selection of board members and senior staff, training of board and senior staff, and establishment of a CNSC office of public service ethics.

Canada should establish a high-level, interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder task force with representation from civil society groups, First Nations and industry to advise on the development of policies and strategies for managing Canada’s post-fission, non-fuel radioactive waste that meet or exceed international safety requirements. 

Canada should strengthen existing legislation (NSCA and NFWA) to reflect international standards, and to better balance long-term human and environmental health considerations with short-term economic interests.

Overall Conclusion

This petition identifies serious weaknesses in Canada’s system of nuclear governance.  This creates risks for Canadians and their environment from nuclear waste, now and in the future. A formal commitment by the Government of Canada to review and remedy these weaknesses will protect current and future generations of Canadians and their environment from the hazards of improperly managed radioactive waste.


These questions are addressed to the Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, and Justice.  We ask that this petition also be sent for information to the Ministers of Health, Finance, and Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

1) Will you commit to addressing the problems with nuclear governance identified in this petition? If yes, what steps will you take to do so?

2) Will you commit to strengthening the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act to reflect international standards and to better balance long-term human and environmental health with economic interests?

These questions are addressed to Minister of Natural Resources Canada and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

3) Given the problems with nuclear governance in Canada outlined in this petition, what immediate steps will you and your cabinet colleagues take to ensure that any nuclear waste disposal project that is licensed in Canada will meet or exceed international safety standards, and will protect drinking water for current and future generations of Canadians?

4) Will you request a review of Canada’s nuclear governance by a highly credible, independent and transparent body such as the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development or the Office of the Auditor General of Canada?

5) Will you request an IAEA ARTEMIS review of the nuclear governance problems identified in this petition and will you provide the IAEA ARTEMIS team with this petition as background for its review?

6) Will you commit to establishing a high-level, interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder task force with representation from civil society groups, First Nations and industry to advise on the development of policies and strategies for managing Canada’s post-fission, non-fuel radioactive waste that meet or exceed international safety requirements.


  1. “A frequently cited concern was the perceived lack of independence and neutrality because of the close relationship the NEB and CNSC have with the industries they regulate. There were concerns that these Responsible Authorities promote the projects they are tasked with regulating. The apprehension of bias or conflict of interest, whether real or not, was the single most often cited concern by participants with regard to the NEB and CNSC as Responsible Authorities. The term “regulatory capture” was often used when participants described their perceptions of these two entities. The apprehension of bias on the part of these two Responsible Authorities eroded confidence in the assessment process.“
  2. In 1998 the IAEA instituted an “Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS)”, which is available to both government and private sector entities. ARTEMIS reviews can cover national frameworks and regulatory systems as well as specific aspects of national programs. (37). CNSC Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Operations Officer Ramzi Jammal indicated that the CNSC would “request an IAEA review mission for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programs (ARTEMIS) to review the safety cases for CNL’s proposed major projects” in a May 2018 presentation to the 42nd International Nuclear Regulators Association Meeting in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea (38).


1. CCRCA and CELA 2017. Canadian nuclear legacy liabilities: Cleanup costs for Chalk River Laboratories. Environmental Petition No. 405. Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Canadian Environmental Law Association.

2. CCRCA and CELA 2018. Follow-up petition on Canada’s nuclear legacy liabilities. Environmental Petition No. 405b.  Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Canadian Environmental Law Association.

3. CNL 2017.  Near Surface Disposal Facility Environmental Impact Statement.  Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.  Chalk River, Ontario.

4. CNL 2017. Environmental Impact Statement – NPD Closure Project. NPD Decommissioning, Revision 0. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. Chalk River, Ontario.

5. CNL 2017b. Environmental Impact Statement – In Situ Decommissioning of WR-1 at the Whiteshell Laboratories Site, Revision 1. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. Pinawa, Manitoba.

6. IAEA 2011. Policies and Strategies for the Decommissioning of Nuclear and Radiological Facilities. Nuclear Energy Series No. NW-G-2.1. International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna. 

7. IAEA 2009. Predisposal Management of Radioactive Waste. General Safety Requirements. Safety Standards Series No. GSR Part 5. International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.

8. IAEA 2009. Policies and Strategies for Radioactive Waste Management. IAEA Nuclear Energy Series No. NW-G1.1. International Atomic Energy Agency Vienna.

9. CCRCA. 2019. Updated list of municipal resolutions opposing the Chalk River and Rolphton nuclear waste dumps. Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.

10. CEAA 2019.  Near Surface Disposal Project. Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

11. CEAA 2019. Nuclear Power Demonstration Closure Project.Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

12. CEAA 2019. In Situ Decommissioning of the WR-1 Reactor. Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

13. OECD 2009. Nuclear Legislation in OECD and NEA Countries. Regulatory and Institutional Framework for Nuclear Activities: Canada

14. OECD undated.  Nuclear Energy Agency.  Nuclear Legislation.  OECD and NEA Countries

15. OECD 2015.  Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in OECD/NEA Member Countries: Canada.

16. OECD 2018a.  Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in NEA Member Countries.

17.  Government of Canada 2019.  Nuclear Safety and Control Act. Justice Laws Website.

18.  Finnish Nuclear Energy Act. 2008.

19.  German Atomic Energy Act.  2002.

20. Government of Canada. 2019.  Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. Justice Laws Website.

21.  IAEA. 2016. Governmental, Legal and Regulatory Framework for Safety. General Safety Requirements.  IAEA Safety Standards Series No. GSR Part 1 (Rev. 1).  International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.

22.  OECD 2009.  The Regulatory Infrastructure in NEA Member Countries.

23. CNSC. 2018.  The Commission.  Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

24. Government of Canada. 2017. Expert Panel Report. Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada., 

25. Wikipedia. 2019. Regulatory Capture.

26. CCRCA and OFWCA. Environmental Assessment of Nuclear Projects. Environmental Petition No. 413.  Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Old Fort William Cottager’s Association.

27.  Nuclear Energy Insider. 2013. Whitepaper: Understand potential market deployment opportunities in Canada.  December 13, 2013.

28. CNSC 2018.  Organization.  Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.,

29.  IAEA. 2018. Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants, Research Reactors and Other Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities.  Specific Safety Guide No. SSG-47.

30. CCRCA and CELA 2018. Policies and strategies for managing non-fuel radioactive wastes. Environmental Petition No. 411. Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Canadian Environmental Law Association.

31. NRCan. 1996. Radioactive Waste Policy Framework. Natural Resources Canada. 

32. Carr, J. 2018. Letter from the Minister of Natural Resources to the Honourable Francis Scarpaleggia, M.P., Member of Parliament for Lac-Saint-Louis (Quebec). July 17, 2018. 

33. CCRCA and CELA 2018. Need for a national policy on decommissioning of nuclear reactors. Environmental Petition No. 418.  Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Canadian Environmental Law Association.

34. Government of Canada. 2019.  Nuclear Energy Act. Justice Laws Website.

35. CCRCA 2018. Concerns about investment in “new” nuclear technologies. Environmental Petition No. 419. Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area  

36.  CCRCA 2018.  Questioning nuclear power as clean energy.  Environmental Petition No. 421.  Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.

37. IAEA 2019.  Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS). International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.

38. Jammal, R. 2018.  Canadian Update to the International Nuclear Regulators Association. Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. 

Appendix A

What Canada can learn about nuclear governance from other OECD countries

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has produced two series of documents that are informative about nuclear governance in Nuclear Energy Association (NEA) member countries. These are: 

  1. “Regulatory and institutional framework for nuclear activities”. and 
  2. “Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in NEA Member Countries”

Each OECD country has a report. Review of these documents indicates that Canada’s governance system is less robust than others, lacks checks and balances that exist in other countries, lacks attention to radioactive waste and is overly reliant on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Some highlights of nuclear governance in other OECD countries are presented below:

1) Finland 

Finland is advanced in terms of handling its radioactive waste. An examination of its report in the OECD series suggests some reasons for this. Finland has a very comprehensive “Nuclear Energy Act” that deals extensively with radioactive waste. It also has a “Radiation Protection Act” which aims to protect human health from the adverse effects of radiation, an Advisory Committee on Nuclear Safety and a State Nuclear Waste Management Fund that reports to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority is an independent body that reports to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Its principal functions are to prevent harmful effects of radiation, to regulate the safe use of nuclear energy and radiation, to carry out research on radiation protection and to provide training and information. Its secondary functions are to licence nuclear facilities and for this aspect of its mandate it reports to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

2) Germany

In Germany there are three advisory committees to the federal government on nuclear issues: a Reactor Safety Commission, a Radiation Protection Commission, and a Disposal Commission which advises the Environment Ministry on all aspects of nuclear waste including transport.

3)  France

France has an elaborate system of nuclear governance, with several high level committees, councils, commissions and directorates.  The Atomic Energy Commission in France was renamed and became the Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission; it now also deals with renewable energy. The National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA)  deals with all types of radioactive waste. It is supervised by the Ministries of Ecology and Industry and Research and is independent of waste producers. France has a National Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety. The President of France sits on the Council for Nuclear Policy. 

France also has an independent High Committee for Transparency and Information in Nuclear Safety. In France there is a National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Waste that is updated every three years. There is also an expert assessment committee that evaluates and reviews the various programs carried out for the management of high-level and long-lived intermediate-level radioactive waste; it is neither a regulator nor an operator.

4) The United Kingdom

In the UK, there is a National Radiological Protection Board and a Radiological Protection Act aimed at protecting mankind from radiation hazards; there is no equivalent for these in Canada. The UK also has two important advisory boards relevant to nuclear waste and decommissioning with no equivalent in Canada; these are the Nuclear Safety Advisory Committee and the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee. The UK also has a Nuclear Decommissioning Authority that reports to the government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; its role is to implement government policy to “ensure the safe and efficient cleanup of the UK’s nuclear legacy”.

5) The United States

A very large share of nuclear governance responsibilities in the US is vested in The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy. However there is also a major role for the Environmental Protection Agency. The National Research Council in the United States produces regular reports on health risks from exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation. Further there is a National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement with a mission to support radiation protection by providing independent scientific analysis, information, and recommendations that represent the consensus of leading scientists.

6) Sweden

Sweden has an Act on Nuclear Activities and a Radiation Protection Act that contains provisions for both radioactive waste management and decommissioning. The Nuclear Activities Act requires all holders of nuclear reactor licenses to establish and carry out an R & D program on the safe handling and disposal of nuclear waste including decommissioning and they must submit reports on this every three years to the government.

The National Council for Nuclear Waste is an independent committee attached to the Ministry for the Environment. The Council’s mandate is to study issues relating to nuclear waste and the decommissioning of nuclear installations and to advise the Government and certain authorities on these issues. The Council reports to the Ministry of the Environment. In Sweden, the Ministry for the Environment is responsible for the regulatory policy for nuclear activities, including management and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

How would the Chalk River Mound leak? Let us count some of the ways

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) – run by a consortium of profit-making multinational companies – is proposing to build a giant mound that it misleadingly calls a “Near Surface Disposal Facility” for a million cubic meters of radioactive waste at its Chalk River facility along the Ottawa River.

CNL’s high cost ad campaign (paid for with Canadian tax dollars) says the dump is safe and uses “proven technology”. Ads say the dump will protect the public and the environment.

However, CNL’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) describes several ways that contents of the proposed “engineered containment mound” of radioactive waste could leak into the Ottawa River. Here are some of the ways:

During operation (while the dump is being filled)…

1. Wastes being added to the mound would be exposed to the elements. 

Rain and melting snow would leach radioactive contents down through the mound. The liquid would be collected and pumped uphill to a water treatment plant. Some but not all radioactive contaminants would be removed prior to releasing the treated leachate into wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River. (Table 3.5.3-1 on page 3-23 of the draft EIS) 

2. Radioactive water (tritium) would leach in very large amounts from the mound. 

Tritium is part of the water molecule and cannot be removed by water treatment. The draft EIS suggests the very high tritium content will be reduced but does not say how. Untreated tritium would be discharged to wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River where it would get incorporated into fish and enter drinking water supplies Large quantities of tritium would also be released from the dump as water vapour. 

3. Other toxic substances such as PCBs leaching from the mound would be only partially removed by water treatment.. 

Table 3.5.3-2 on page 3-25 shows that treatment would only partly remove non-radioactive toxic compounds in the wastes such as lead, PCBs and dioxin. Measurable amounts would be released to the environment. 

4. Heavy storm events would erode the mound’s surface and wash toxic substances into low areas. 

Highly contaminated water washing off active dumping areas would be pumped to the water treatment plant. Less contaminated water would be pumped to three storm-water management ponds around the perimeter of the facility and be discharged to adjacent wetlands. Ponds would provide only “basic” containment of sediments before their contents were released (draft EIS explains this on page 3-57) 

5. The capacity of storm-water ponds would be exceeded during extreme rainfall events or snowmelts. 

The draft EIS (page 9-2) says that pond overflow “would be conveyed by inlet and emergency outlet structures adjacent to the surface water management ponds,” presumably to be released directly into adjacent wetlands. 

6. Other possible ways the facility might leak during operations (not described in detail the EIS) include tornado damage, pump failures during extreme storm events with loss of electrical power, improper installation of the base liners, puncture of the base liners by heavy or sharp materials, melting of liners by radioactively hot materials, and blockage of the leachate collection system. 

After closure…

1. Wastes in the mound would be re-exposed to the elements when the top cover fails. 

After waste dumping ended the leachate collection system and water treatment plant would be shut down, and a top cover placed over the wastes. The draft EIS acknowledges that the top cover would fail with “normal evolution” through forces such as erosion, extreme storms, burrowing animals, root penetration, etc. 

2. Failure of the top cover while the base liners remain intact would initiate the “bathtub scenario”. 

Rain and melting snow would again leach the radioactive wastes, 

but the leachate collection and pumping system would no longer be operational. Contaminated leachate would be trapped by the bottom liner and accumulate in the space between the mound and the surrounding berm. Leachate levels would rise and spill over along the low point of the 


Long-lived radioactive elements such as plutonium and uranium, exposed to wind and water erosion, would flow into the river for thousands to millions of years. Eventual failure of the bottom liners would also allow radionuclides to move into groundwater. The Ottawa River would be permanently contaminated by radioactive wastes. Countless generations of people drinking its water would be exposed to increased cancer risks.

Regulatory Challenges in the Age of Nuclear Waste and Decommissioning

by Gordon Edwards, Ph.D.,October 7, 2019.

Executive Summary
This report was prepared for the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area (CCRCA) through a grant from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Participant Funding Program.

The present report is intended to link two documents, the Integrated Waste Strategy issuing from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) in April 2017 and the Regulatory Oversight Report for Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ Sites: 2018, issuing from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in September 2019.

Under the terms of the funding agreement, the participant is instructed to “review the Regulatory Oversight Report for Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Sites: 2018 and prepare a report on CNL’s Integrated Waste Strategy that examines issues such as the consolidation of high, intermediate, and low-level radioactive waste at Chalk River Laboratories, as well as waste characterization and analysis, packaging, labeling, and transport considerations,” and to “Summarize the findings and recommendations in a written report to be submitted to the Commission.”

CNL’s Integrated Waste Strategy was first expounded in an April 2017 document entitled Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Integrated Waste Strategy, Summary Document, Company Wide, CW-508600-PLA-006, Revision 0, henceforth referred to as the Integrated Waste Strategy. This CNL document, published 19 months after the consortium of private companies that now owns and operates CNL was awarded the contract to manage federal nuclear properties, represents a radical departure from radioactive waste practices and strategies previously espoused by Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL). 

Nevertheless, the CNL strategy document has received little discussion, debate or circulation. Most members of the public, including elected representatives, seem to be ignorant of its existence.

Surprisingly, the recently released CNSC Regulatory Oversight Report does not mention “CNL’s Integrated Waste Strategy” at all. Nor does the Oversight Report discuss the “consolidation of high, intermediate, and low-level waste at Chalk River Laboratories” referred to in the funding agreement, nor does it discuss the extensive transport of radioactive materials of all kinds that has been, is, and will be taking place over public roads and bridges in order to achieve the “consolidation” of radioactive waste at Chalk River Laboratories. 

One is tempted to conclude that any attempt to review the Regulatory Oversight Report in the light of the Integrated Waste Strategy would be futile, since the Oversight Report does not cite the Strategy document; however, CNSC has funded the present report explicitly on those terms. Of necessity, then, this report deals with much content that is completely missing from the Regulatory Oversight Report. 

List of Recommendations
1.  that CNSC not accept or circulate for public comment any draft proposal for a nuclear waste facility or a decommissioning project that is clearly at odds with international guidance;

2.  that in the case of the proposed WR-1 and NPD in-situ decommissioning projects, CNSC require the proponent to demonstrate that the original and already approved decommissioning strategy cannot be carried out, and in the absence of such a demonstration, the original decommissioning strategy be retained;
[Note: WR-1 and NPF are two federally-owned nuclear reactors, the first located beside the Winnipeg River at Pinawa, Manitoba, the second [NPD] located beside the Ottawa River at Rolphton, Ontario, 30 kilometres upriver from Chalk River.]

3.  that CNSC require that a complete list of radionuclides involved in any waste management, transportation or decommissioning scenario, complete with half-lives, activities (total becquerels as well as becquerels per kilogram or per litre), mode of disintegration, radioactive progeny and target organs, be provided by the proponent;

4.  that all information about the radioactive inventory involved in any such scenario be communicated to indigenous peoples and to other members of the Canadian public in plain language stripped of scientific symbols and abbreviations;

5.  that CNSC not accept the emplacement of any intermediate-level waste in any surface  or near-surface radioactive waste facility;

6.  that CNSC not accept the emplacement of any measurable amounts of transuranic waste in any surface or near-surface facility;

7.  that CNSC ensure that the necessary laboratory tests are carried out on each batch of decommissioning waste to detect the presence of transuranic contamination;

8.  that CNSC not accept the emplacement of any measurable quantities of radioactive carbon-14  in any surface or near-surface facility, given its 5700 year half-life and its exceptional environmental mobility as radioactive carbon dioxide or carbonic acid;

9.  that CNSC ensure that no ion-exchange resins be emplaced in any surface or near-surface radioactive waste facility (among other reasons, the fact that carbon-14 contamination is almost always found in such resins);

10.   that CNSC reconsider its opposition to the mandatory environmental assessment of new nuclear reactors and recommend that such assessments be required;

11.  that CNSC require any proponent of a facility for permanent storage of radioactivewaste to propose and prepare a comprehensive strategy for the transmission of RK&M (Records, Knowledge and Memory on Radioactive Waste) to future generations, including a detailed inventory of specific radionuclides included in the proposed facility along with relevant physical, chemical and biological properties ;

12.  that CNSC require any proponent of a facility for permanent storage of radioactive wastes to provide detailed instructions as to how the wastes can be retrieved and repackaged if need be at some future date, and failing the provision of those instructions, approval for the project be withheld;

13.  that CNSC require any proponent of a facility for permanent storage of radioactivewaste to examine the option of Rolling Stewardship as an alternative to abandonment ;

14.  that CNSC request the government of Canada to formulate a socially acceptable  policy on the long-term management of radioactive wastes other than used nuclear fuel, based on extensive public consultations with First Nations and other Canadians.

15.  that CNSC establish a new set of regulations governing the transport of radioactive waste, including requirements for justification and discussion of alternatives ;

16.  that CNSC withhold approval for the transportation of radioactive wastes over public roads unless the proponent of such transport can show a demonstrable improvement in security and environmental protection as a result of such transport;

17.  that CNSC send a correction to the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management giving the true radioactive inventory of the Chalk River liquid being transported over Ontario roads and clarifying the danger following a potential spill;

18.  that CNSC staff recalculate and publish the amount of drinking water that could be ruined if accidentally contaminated with various quantities of high-level radioactive liquid waste currently being trucked from Chalk River to South Carolina; 

19.  that CNSC not permit the transport of irradiated fuel from other CNL sites to the Chalk River site unless CNL presents an irrefutable safety case for doing so;

20.  that CNSC initiate a consultation process to develop a new classification scheme for radioactive waste materials based on health and environmental considerations rather than ease of handling;

21.  that CNSC require a thorough manifest of radionuclides, complete with half-lives, activity levels in becquerels, and type of radioactive emission, to accompany every shipment of radioactive waste material, easily accessible for use by first responders;

22.  that CNSC develop an entire suite of regulations focused exclusively on radioactive wastes, concentrating on questions of waste characterization, hazard analysis, packaging, labeling, and transport requirements.

A List of Organizations and Acronyms

CNL = Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, owned and operated by a consortium of multinational corporations (SNC-Lavalin, Fluor and Jacobs), contracted by the Harper government in September 2015 to reduce the federal government’s $7.9 billion radioactive waste liability;

CNL Sites: Since 2015, CNL manages the following federally-owned nuclear sites – CRL (Chalk River Laboratories), WL (Whiteshell Laboratories), DP (Douglas Point Nuclear Reactor), G-1 (Gentilly-1 Nuclear Reactor), NPD (Nuclear Power Demonstration Reactor), PH (Port Hope Legacy Radioactive Wastes), PG (Port Granby Legacy Radioactive Wastes).

AECL = Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, a federal crown corporation to whom CNL reports and from whom CNL is allocated annual federal funding; AECL was previously responsible for all of the sites and radioactive wastes now under the management of CNL;

CNSC = Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada’s nuclear regulatory agency;

CRL = Chalk River Laboratories, Canada’s main federal nuclear research centre since its construction was first authorized in Washington DC in December 1944.

WL = Whiteshell Research Laboratories, Canada’s second federal nuclear research centre, sited at Pinawa, Manitoba, in operation from 1960 to 1998, now being decommissioned;
Read the Full Report:

La majorité des candidats fédéraux interrogés s’opposent au monticule de déchets radioactifs à Chalk River

Ottawa, le 9 octobre 2019 – La Coalition contre les décharges nucléaires sur la rivière des Outaouais et les Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area annoncent les résultats d’un sondage sur les politiques et la gestion des déchets nucléaires présenté aux candidats aux élections fédérales.

Les candidats ont été contactés dans 14 circonscriptions d’Ottawa, de l’est de l’Ontario et de l’ouest du Québec.

Les candidats du NPD, du Parti vert et du Parti populaire du Canada qui ont répondu ont été presque unanimes à s’opposer à la construction, à Chalk River, d’un monticule permanent de déchets radioactifs en surface, dans le cadre d’un contrat fédéral de plusieurs milliards de dollars avec SNC-Lavalin et deux sociétés américaines.  Tous les candidats du NPD et les répondants du Parti vert étaient opposés. Cependant, deux candidats au PPC, Mario Belec de Pontiac et Azim Hooda de Nepean, n’étaient pas d’accord.

Aucune réponse n’a été reçue des candidats libéraux ou conservateurs. Le sondage a également été envoyé à tous les membres du Cabinet libéral, avec zéro réponse.

Les circonscriptions sondées étaient Ottawa-Centre, Ottawa-Vanier, Orléans, Ottawa-Ouest, Nepean, Carleton Kanata, Renfrew Nipissing Pembroke, Glengarry Prescott Russell, Carleton, Nepean, Argenteuil-La Petite-Nation, Gatineau, Hull-Aylmer et Pontiac.

 Les candidats du NPD, du Parti Vert et du PPC qui ont répondu ont été unanimes à convenir que :

• Les «petits» réacteurs nucléaires NE DOIVENT PAS être exemptés de l’évaluation d’impact fédérale. Les réacteurs de moins de 200 MW ont été exemptés de l’évaluation d’impact en vertu de la réglementation de la loi C-69 annoncée par le gouvernement libéral à la fin du mois d’août. L’industrie nucléaire, appuyée par Ressources naturelles Canada, propose de construire des «petits réacteurs nucléaires modulaires» dans les communautés nordiques éloignées et les communautés autochtones.

• Le Comité permanent des comptes publics de la Chambre des communes devrait déterminer si le financement fédéral de la gestion des déchets nucléaires dans le cadre du contrat de plusieurs milliards de dollars conclu avec SNC-Lavalin et ses partenaires américains permet d’optimiser l’utilisation des ressources des contribuables.

• Le Canada devrait élaborer des politiques et des stratégies de gestion à long terme des déchets radioactifs avant d’approuver des installations de stockage définitif.

• Le plan de regrouper des déchets radioactifs fédéraux à Chalk River devrait faire l’objet d’une divulgation publique complète, d’une évaluation environnementale et d’une surveillance fédérale.

• Ils travailleraient avec leurs collègues de la Chambre des communes pour lancer une réforme de la Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire et de la législation nucléaire canadienne afin de traiter de la gestion à long terme des déchets radioactifs;

• Ils préconiseraient une vaste étude canadienne scientifiquement valide sur les effets sur la santé de l’exposition aux rayonnements ionisants.

En 2015, le gouvernement Harper a privatisé la gestion de ses sites nucléaires et de ses déchets nucléaires à un consortium composé de SNC-Lavalin et de deux sociétés américaines et leur a conféré la propriété de Laboratoires Nucléaires Canadiens (LNC).  Les LNC prévoient de regrouper 1 000 000 mètres cubes de déchets radioactifs dans un monticule en surface situé à Chalk River, près de la rivière des Outaouais. Il prévoit également ensevelir deux anciens réacteurs près de la rivière des Outaouais et de la rivière Winnipeg en les remplissant de ciment et en les abandonnant sur place au lieu de restaurer les sites.

La Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire a reçu des centaines de soumissions de groupes et de citoyens s’opposant à ces propositions.

Les déchets radioactifs du gouvernement fédéral, notamment des laboratoires de Chalk River en Ontario, de Gentilly-1 au Québec et de Whiteshell Laboratories au Manitoba, représentent un passif de 8 milliards de dollars pour le gouvernement du Canada. Les décisions à ce sujet auront une incidence sur la santé et la sécurité des Canadiens et sur notre environnement — maintenant et pour des milliers d’années.

                                                   – 30 –

Majority of federal candidates surveyed oppose radioactive waste mound at Chalk River

Ottawa, October 9, 2019 – The Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River and Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area announce the results of a federal election candidate survey on nuclear waste policy and management by the federal government.

Candidates were contacted in 14 ridings in Ottawa, Eastern Ontario and West Québec.

The NDP, Green Party and People’s Party of Canada candidates who replied were virtually unanimous in opposing the construction of a permanent aboveground radioactive waste mound at Chalk River by the federal government through its multi-billion-dollar contract with SNC-Lavalin and two American corporations. All NDP candidates and the Green Party respondents were opposed; however, two PPC candidates, Mario Belec of Pontiac and Azim Hooda of Nepean, disagreed.

No responses were received from Liberal or Conservative candidates. The survey was also sent to all members of the Liberal Cabinet, with zero responses.

The ridings surveyed were Ottawa Centre, Ottawa South, Ottawa Vanier, Orleans, Ottawa West Nepean, Carleton Kanata, Renfrew Nipissing Pembroke, Glengarry Prescott Russell, Carleton, Nepean, Argenteuil-La Petite-Nation, Gatineau, Hull-Aylmer, and Pontiac.

The NDP, Green Party and PPC candidates who responded were unanimous in agreeing that:

  • “Small” nuclear reactors should NOT be exempted from federal impact assessment.  Reactors under 200 MW were exempted from impact/environmental assessment under Bill C-69 in regulations announced by the Liberal government at the end of August. The nuclear industry, supported by Natural Resources Canada, proposes to build “small modular” nuclear reactors (SMRs) in Indigenous and remote northern communities.
  • The House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts should examine whether federal funding of nuclear waste management through the multi-billion-dollar contract with SNC-Lavalin and its American partners is providing “value for money” to taxpayers;
  • Canada should develop policies and strategies for long-term radioactive waste management before approving permanent disposal facilities;
  • There should be full public disclosure, environmental assessment, and federal oversight of the plan to consolidate federal radioactive wastes at Chalk River;
  • They would work with their House of Commons colleagues to initiate reform of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Canada’s nuclear legislation to address long-term management of radioactive wastes;

·    They would advocate for a large, scientifically valid Canadian study into the health effects of exposure to ionizing radiation.

In 2015, the Harper government privatized the management of its contaminated nuclear sites and nuclear wastes to a consortium of SNC-Lavalin and U.S. companies, and gave them ownership of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). CNL plans to consolidate 1,000,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste in an aboveground mound at Chalk River near the Ottawa River. It also plans to entomb two defunct reactors near the Ottawa River and the Winnipeg River by filling them with cement and abandoning them in place, instead of restoring the sites.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has received hundreds of submissions from groups and citizens objecting to the proposals.

The federal government’s radioactive waste, at sites such as Chalk River laboratories in Ontario, Gentilly-1 in Québec, and Whiteshell Laboratories in Manitoba, represents an $8 billion liability for the Government of Canada. Decisions about it will affect the health and safety of Canadians and our environment – now and for thousands of years to come.

– 30 –

L’agence internationale confirme les craintes citoyennes envers le traitement des déchets radioactifs au Canadaet la protection contre les rayonnements.

Montréal, 18 septembre 2019 – L’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique (AIEA) vient de confirmer l’urgence d’améliorer la politique canadienne en matière de déchets nucléaires, à l’issue d’une mission d’examen qui s’est poursuivie au Canada pendant onze jours, jusqu’au 13 septembre dernier. Cette équipe de 24 spécialistes incluait 20 experts en réglementation issus de 17 pays différents. 

Selon le communiqué de presse de l’AIEA, le rapport final de son équipe d’évaluation recommandera que « le gouvernement du Canada renforce sa politique et sa stratégie de gestion des déchets radioactifs » . Il proposera aussi, en matière de radioprotection, « que la Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire envisage de mieux aligner ses exigences sur les normes de sûreté de l’AIEA. »  (Nous avons fait une version française du communiqué.)

Cette mission d’examen a été organisée à la demande du gouvernement du Canada, affirme l’AIEA, mais elle fait également suite à la publication, en avril 2018, d’une lettre collective adressée au directeur général de l’AIEA. Signée par cinq Premières Nations et par 40 groupes citoyens, cette lettre ouverte demandait une enquête sur les politiques et sur les pratiques du Canada en matière de déchets nucléaires. 

« Ces critiques de l’AIEA sont exceptionnelles, de la part d’un organisme qui se consacre à la promotion du nucléaire et qui est généralement très accommodant pour ses États-membres comme le Canada », souligne Gordon Edwards, président  du Regroupement pour la surveillance du nucléaire. « À nos yeux, les normes de l’AIEA ne sont qu’un minimum et tout pays responsable devrait chercher à les dépasser. Si l’AIEA souligne elle-même des lacunes du gouvernement fédéral et de la CCSN, cela devrait agiter un inquiétant drapeau rouge pour tous les Canadiens. »

Comme les représentants de nombreux autres groupes, M. Edwards soutient qu’en refusant d’élaborer des politiques et des stratégies en matière de déchets nucléaires, le gouvernement fédéral a permis au consortium SNC-Lavalin de piger librement dans le fonds de 8 milliards $ avec lequel le Canada espérait régler son vieux problème de déchets radioactifs dispersés en peu partout en Ontario, au Québec, au Manitoba et au Nouveau-Brunswick. Voilà pourquoi, disent-ils, on se retrouve aujourd’hui avec des projets visant à remplir de béton nos vieux réacteurs nucléaires ou à empiler des déchets radioactifs près de nos sources d’eau potable, au mépris des normes de sécurité internationales.

« Non seulement le gouvernement du Canada nous met tous en danger en dilapidant les fonds publics dans de mauvais projets de déchets nucléaires, mais il rate une occasion en or de se bâtir un leadership mondial pour l’excellence de sa gestion des déchets nucléaires », souligne Johanna Echlin, de l’Association des propriétaires de chalets du vieux Fort William, au Québec. « Nous lançons un appel à tous les médias, au public et à tous les candidats à la prochaine élection pour qu’ils exigent d’urgence une réforme des pratiques canadiennes en matière de déchets nucléaires », dit-elle. « Le Canada ne doit pas seulement saisir l’occasion de se conformer aux normes de l’AIEA, mais il doit aussi les surpasser et protéger les Canadiens dès aujourd’hui et pour les siècles à venir. » 

« Ce communiqué de l’AIEA est une formidable confirmation de nos inquiétudes à l’égard de la mauvaise gestion des déchets nucléaires au Canada », fait remarquer Gilles Provost, du Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive. « Cela fait des années que nous disons au gouvernement fédéral que sa politique en matière de déchets radioactifs est inadéquate, et les experts mondiaux de l’AIEA nous donnent maintenant raison. » 

L’AIEA est un organisme des Nations Unies qui recommande des normes de sûreté pour les centrales nucléaires et les installations de traitement de déchets radioactifs. On dénombre 171 états membres dans le monde entier. Il administre également une convention internationale sur la gestion des déchets nucléaires dont le Canada fait partie.

 – 30 –


Gilles Provost, porte-parole
Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive (514) 523-5704 ou (514) 773-5704

Gordon Edwards, président
Regroupement pour la surveillance du nucléaire (514) 489-5118 ou (514) 839-7214

Informations contextuelles:

Lettre au Premier ministre Trudeau, septembre 2017
Lettre au directeur général de l’AIEA, avril 2018
Lettre au vérificateur général du Canada, septembre 2018
Déclaration d’une page complète dans le journal Hill-Times, avril 2019 (anglais seulement)
Opinion de Gordon Edwards, le 27 mai 2019, dans le Hill-Times, le Parlement devrait enquêter sur les avantages que les Canadiens ont obtenu en retour du financement consacré aux déchets nucléaires (anglais seulement)
Lettre au rédacteur en chef du Hill-Times, 17 juin 2019 La CCSN sous le coup d’une saisie réglementaire (anglais seulement)

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. 
 – 30 –
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

Une mission de l’AIEA reconnait l’engagement du Canada envers la sécurité, mais il reste place à améliorations

TRADUCTION française du communiqué de presse de l’AIEA

13 septembre 2019
OTTAWA, CANADA Une équipe d’experts de l’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique (AIEA) a conclu que le Canada a entrepris de renforcer son cadre réglementaire de sûreté nucléaire et radiologique. L’équipe a également noté certains aspects qui devraient être améliorés.

L’équipe du Service intégré de réglementation (IRRS) termine aujourd’hui une mission de onze jours destinée à scruter la réglementation du Canada en matière de sécurité nucléaire. Effectuée à la demande du gouvernement canadien, la mission a été organisée par la Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire (CCSN). L’équipe a également rencontré des représentants de Ressources naturelles Canada et de Santé Canada.

À la lumière des normes de sûreté de l’AIEA et des meilleures pratiques internationales, les missions IRRS visent à améliorer l’infrastructure réglementaire du pays, même s’il appartient à chaque État d’assurer la sûreté nucléaire et radiologique.

« Le Canada possède un cadre complet de sûreté nucléaire et radiologique qui couvre les installations et les activités en place », a déclaré la chef d’équipe, Marta Ziakova, présidente de l’autorité de réglementation nucléaire de la Slovaquie. « De plus, la CCSN s’efforce d’améliorer continuellement sa réglementation pour faire face aux nouveaux défis liés aux technologies futures, comme les petits réacteurs modulaires. »

L’énergie nucléaire produit environ 15% de l’électricité du Canada. Le pays possède 19 réacteurs nucléaires de puissance répartis sur quatre sites et il développe et exporte sa technologie des réacteurs. Le Canada exploite également des mines et des usines de concentration d’uranium, des installations de traitement et de fabrication de combustible et des sites de stockage des déchets. Le Canada utilise des sources de rayonnement pour des applications médicales et industrielles, ainsi que dans les sciences et la recherche. Il exploite cinq réacteurs de recherche.

« Même si nous rherchons constamment à nous améliorer et si nous saluons les recommandations de nos collègues internationaux, cet examen IRRS confirme que la CCSN dispose d’un cadre réglementaire solide qui garantit l’exploitation sécuritaire des installations nucléaires au Canada», a déclaré Ramzi Jammal qui est Vice-président de la CCSN et responsable de la réglementation des opérations.

L’équipe de 24 membres incluait 20 experts en réglementation de 17 pays et quatre employés de l’AIEA.

“Cette mission reconnaît que le Canada fait un effort constant pour s’améliorer et pour appliquer les normes de sûreté de l’AIEA, qui sont un fondement international de la sûreté nucléaire et radiologique”, a déclaré David Senior, chef de la Section des activités de réglementation de l’AIEA. “Les suites de cette mission aideront le Canada à améliorer ses règlements sur la gestion du vieillissement des centrales nucléaires et sur le traitement sécuritaire des déchets radioactifs.”

L’équipe d’experts a observé diverses activités d’inspection réglementaire : dans des réacteurs de recherche et de production électrique, des installations de gestion des déchets radioactifs, dans un site

en cours de déclassement, dans des centres de recherche, une installation de conversion, un hôpital, une installation de production et de transport de sources radioactives, dans une installation de radiographie industrielle et un irradiateur industriel.

L’équipe a identifié plusieurs points forts, notamment:

  • La CCSN fait preuve d’une grande transparence dans ses activités et ses décisionsréglementaires.
  • Santé Canada a sensibilisé le public au radon d’origine naturelle.L’équipe d’experts a aussi formulé plusieurs recommandations et suggestions pour améliorer le cadre réglementaire du Canada, notamment:
    • Le gouvernement devrait renforcer sa politique et sa stratégie de gestion des déchets radioactifs.
    • En matière de radioprotection, la CCSN devrait envisager de mieux aligner ses exigences sur les normes de sûreté de l’AIEA.Le rapport final de la mission sera remis au Gouvernement dans environ trois mois. Le Gouvernement prévoit publier ce rapport.

Canada’s Eight Billion Dollar Nuclear Liability – Backgrounder

In 2012, the Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper amended the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to give the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) total authority and decision-making power over all nuclear-related projects. 

The CNSC is currently conducting environmental assessments of three contentious radioactive waste “disposal” projects. Each is the brainchild of a consortium of private multinational corporations operating under the name “Canadian National Energy Alliance.”  The consortium consists of the scandal-ridden SNC-Lavalin, currently facing criminal charges for fraud and corruption in a Canadian court, and two U.S.-based corporate partners (Fluor and Jacobs), both of whom have also faced criminal charges of a similar nature in the past.

This consortium was hired in 2015 by the Harper government to operate the Government of Canada’s nuclear sites and reduce Canada’s eight billion dollar radioactive waste liability. The consortium received all the shares in a new corporation called “Canadian Nuclear Laboratories” (CNL) that had been created the previous year as a subsidiary of the federal crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).  In effect, this privatized AECL.  Roughly 3000 former AECL employees now work for CNL, mostly at the Chalk River Laboratories. Billions of taxpayers’ dollars are funneled into the private consortium through the ghost of AECL.

The three proposals being assessed by CNSC are:

(1) an above-ground mound, five to seven stories high, covering 11 hectares of land, for permanent disposal of one million cubic meters of mixed radioactive wastes at Chalk River, less than a kilometer from the Ottawa River;

 (2) the permanent entombment of Canada’s first electricity-producing nuclear reactor, the Nuclear Power Demonstration reactor, by encasing its radioactive remains in concrete and abandoning them only 100 meters from the Ottawa River; 

(3) the permanent entombment of the radioactive remains of another prototype nuclear reactor, the Whiteshell Reactor No. 1, at the Whiteshell Laboratories, right beside the Winnipeg River in Manitoba. 

All three projects run counter to guidance of the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Even as the consortium and CNL promote their disposal projects, they are soliciting proposals to build new nuclear reactors at the Chalk River and Whiteshell federal nuclear sites.  The CNSC secretly lobbied the government to have new nuclear reactors under a certain size exempted from Bill C-69, the new Impact Assessment Act. However, any reactor–regardless of size–will create accident risks and its own legacy of radioactive wastes. 

CNSC has long been recognized as a “captured” regulator. It has never denied a license for any major nuclear project. Its lobbying to have small reactors exempted from impact assessments–if successful–would minimize effective public participation in planning and decision-making for nuclear projects.