Media Liaison: Eva Schacherl,
Latest press release:
Nuclear regulator’s case to approve giant nuclear waste mound is fraught with serious errors and omissions, citizens’ groups say
OTTAWA, February 22, 2022 – Citizens’ groups from Ontario and Quebec provided Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) President Rumina Velshi with a searing critique of CNSC’s case to approve a giant radioactive waste mound alongside the Ottawa River in advance of a February 22nd hearing.
If approved, the giant landfill would stand 60 feet high and hold one million tonnes of mixed radioactive and hazardous wastes. Some of the contents would remain dangerously radioactive for thousands of years, but the mound itself is only expected to last a few hundred years according to studies produced by the proponent, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, owned by a consortium of multinational corporations. International safety standards prohibit disposing of long-lived radioactive wastes in landfills.
The citizens’ critique of key licensing documents found eleven critical flaws ranging from a failure to provide detailed information about what would go into the dump, as required under the Nuclear Safety and Control Regulations, to a failure to note serious deficiencies in the siting process for the facility.
“You couldn’t find a worse site for this dump if you tried,” said Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association, one of the groups that co-authored the citizens’ critique. “The site is on the side of a hill, and is surrounded on three sides by wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River, a kilometre away. The water table is just inches under the surface at that location and the bedrock is highly fractured.”
The site of the proposed facility is also of concern to downstream communities who take their drinking water from the Ottawa River, including Ottawa, Gatineau and Montreal. The three cities are among the more than 140 municipalities that have passed resolutions of concern about the proposed dump. The Assembly of First Nations has also passed a resolution opposing the facility.
Ole Hendrickson, a scientist and researcher for the group Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area said there are a number of serious errors in the licensing documents including a 1000-fold overestimate of radioactivity in nearby uranium ore bodies. “That gross overestimate is used by the proponent and the regulator to make the case that the giant mound would be less radioactive than surrounding rocks after a few hundred years,” Hendrickson said. “In fact, high-radioactivity waste containers in the dump would exceed levels in surrounding rocks for thousands of years.”
The Quebec-based Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive contributed a number of findings to the critique. The group is very concerned about the presence of cobalt-60, which alone will provide 98% of the initial radioactivity in the dump, even though its radioactivity will decline rapidly thereafter. Used cobalt-60 sources require lead shielding because they emit intense gamma radiation that endangers workers.
Physicist Ginette Charbonneau, a spokeswoman for the Ralliement, says that only low-level cobalt-60 sources could be accepted in an above-ground mound and that the criteria for accepting such waste in the dump must be tightened.
“It is also out of the question that long-lived radioactive substances like plutonium be disposed of in a landfill,” Charbonneau said. “This is simply a senseless proposal, which is not in line with international standards at all,” she added.
The citizens’ groups say the case to approve the giant radioactive landfill, called the NSDF by the proponent, is so seriously flawed that CNSC Commissioners cannot make a sound licensing decision based on the contents of the documents. They have asked that the citizens’ critique be distributed to Commissioners at the hearing on Feb 22 and that all of the flaws, errors and omissions be fully addressed before the Commission is asked to make a decision on the license for the dump.
The licensing hearings for the giant radioactive waste dump will take place in two parts. Part 1 will take place February 22. Part 2 will start on May 31, but is expected to take several days as it will include presentations from Indigenous communities, municipal representatives, NGOs and members of the public. Requests to intervene in the hearings must be submitted in writing to the CNSC by April 11, 2022. See Notice of Public Hearing for details.
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MPs and groups oppose hearings to license Canada’s first permanent radioactive waste dump
Le français ICI
OTTAWA, February 16, 2022 – Members of Parliament and 50 environmental and citizen groups are opposed to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)’s forthcoming hearings to license Canada’s first permanent “disposal” facility for radioactive waste.
A statement calling for suspension of the hearings is signed by three MPs: Laurel Collins, NDP environment critic; Elizabeth May, Parliamentary Leader of the Green Party of Canada; and Monique Pauzé, environment spokesperson for the Bloc Québécois.
Union signatories of the statement include SCFP Québec, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) and Health, safety and environment committee of Unifor Québec.
Other signatories include Friends of the Earth, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive, National Council of Women of Canada, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, and Quebec’s Front commun pour la transition énergétique. Ottawa Valley groups include Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, Action Climat Outaouais, and Pontiac Environmental Protection, among others.
On January 31, the Kebaowek First Nation asked that the hearings be halted until a consultation framework between them and the CNSC is in place. The hearings are for authorization to build a “Near Surface Disposal Facility” for nuclear waste at Chalk River, Ontario, on unceded Algonquin Anishinaabeg lands alongside the Ottawa River.
The CNSC staff report recommends licensing the construction of the mound for 1 million cubic metres of radioactive and toxic wastes accumulated by the federal government since 1945. The CNSC has scheduled licensing hearings on February 22 and May 31. No separate environmental assessment hearing is scheduled.
The proposed facility would be an aboveground mound a kilometre from the Ottawa River, upstream from Ottawa and Montréal. 140 municipalities have opposed the project and fear contamination of drinking water and the watershed.
In 2017, the CNSC received 400 submissions responding to its environmental impact statement, the overwhelming majority of them opposed to the plan.
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October 20, 2020
Groups say federal funding of new nuclear reactors is a “dirty, dangerous distraction” from tackling climate change
Ottawa, October 20, 2020 — Public interest groups across Canada are criticizing the federal government for funding small nuclear reactor development and are challenging the government to release the research and data that support its strategy.
Ministers Seamus O’Regan and Navdeep Bains last week announced a $20 million grant to Terrestrial Energy in Ontario to continue developing a molten salt reactor. More funding announcements for new nuclear reactors are expected in the coming weeks.
The federal funding for new nuclear energy is opposed by groups from BC to New Brunswick, including the West Coast Environmental Law Association, Friends of the Earth Canada, Greenpeace Canada, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Environmental Defence, Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick, Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan, Concerned Citizens of Manitoba, Northwatch, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive, Équiterre and the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
The groups say “next generation” nuclear reactors are a dirty, dangerous distraction from tackling the climate crisis. Nuclear energy is not green, not clean, too costly and too slow to build.
The groups charge that the federal government is trying to save the nuclear industry rather than saving the environment and protecting health.
The groups say that:
SMR development is too slow to address the climate crisis:
The 2020 World Nuclear Industry Status Report says that developing new nuclear energy is too slow to address the climate crisis – as well as more expensive – compared to renewable energy and energy efficiency. No SMRs have yet been built and the models being proposed will take a decade or more to develop.
SMRs are more expensive than renewable energy:
A Canadian study found that energy from small nuclear reactors would be up to ten times the cost of renewable energy. In the past decade, the cost of building solar, wind power and battery storage has gone down dramatically, while the cost of building new nuclear reactors has gone up. Small reactors will be even more expensive per unit of power than the current large ones.
Nuclear power creates fewer jobs than renewable energy:
Renewable energy is one of the fastest-growing job sectors in North America. An American study found that solar energy leads to six times as many jobs as nuclear power for each gigawatt-hour of electricity generated.
There are better sources of energy:
Minister O’Regan has said repeatedly, without providing evidence, that there is no path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions without nuclear energy. In fact, on the contrary a new study of 123 countries over 25 years found that countries that invested in renewable energy lowered their carbon emissions much more than those reliant on nuclear energy.
SMRs are dirty and dangerous:
The new “small” reactors, proposed to be built across Canada, will produce radioactive waste of many kinds. Some of the proposed models would extract plutonium from irradiated fuel, worsening concerns about weapons proliferation and creating new forms of radioactive waste that are especially dangerous to manage. The federal government currently has no detailed policy or strategy for what to do with radioactive waste, and no design or location for a deep underground repository where industry proposes to store high-level radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years.
The federal government has never consulted the public about small modular reactors, which would create environmental risks and financial liabilities for Canadians.
Public Interest Groups Opposing SMR Funding:
Action Climat Outaouais (Que.)
Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Citizens’ Network on Waste Management (Ont.)
Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River (Ont.)
Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan
Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick
Committee for Future Generations (Sask.)
Concerned Citizens of Manitoba
Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area (Ont.)
Friends of the Earth Canada
The Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Cooperative (Sask.)
Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace
Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association (Que.)
Ontario Clean Air Alliance
Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive (Que.)
Sierra Club Canada Foundation
Sustainable Energy Group, New Brunswick
VOICES for Sustainable Environments and Communities (N.B.)
West Coast Environmental Law Association (B.C.)