Citizens denounce rubber stamp approval of 10-year nuclear site license for SNC Lavalin consortium

For immediate release 

Chalk River consortium gets 10-year licence

Nuclear regulator confirms its reputation as a rubber stamp organization

Decision paves the way for a giant radioactive dump at Chalk River, a new generation of subsidized reactors and growing stocks of toxic long-lived radioactive waste that Canadian taxpayers will be on the hook for 

(Ottawa/Montreal, 4 April 2018)   In a clear attempt to avoid public scrutiny, just before the Easter weekend the CNSC gave a consortium of multinational corporations based in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, an unprecedented 10-year license to run the Chalk River Laboratories. The licence gives the consortium free rein to advance its nuclear business at the federally-owned facility, located on the Ottawa River 200 km upstream from the nation’s capital, using billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

 

The new license sets the stage for SNC Lavalin and its consortium partners to build and test a new generation of small nuclear reactors at Chalk River, and to create a giant radioactive dump on the surface that would leach radioactive waste into the Ottawa River, a primary source of drinking water for the residents of Ottawa, Gatineau, Laval, Montreal and other populations downstream.

 

Canada’s Auditor General has noted that SNC Lavalin and other members of the consortium operating Chalk River received at least $866 million in federal money for contractual expenses in the 2016–2017 fiscal year alone. The federal allocation for fiscal year 2017-2018 was also close to a billion dollars.

 

In 2013 SNC Lavalin was banned from bidding on any international engineering projects funded by the World Bank for 10 years, because of fraudulent practices. That same year, CH2M, another consortium member, was convicted of criminal fraud-related charges in the USA. SNC Lavalin also faces criminal charges for multimillion dollar bribes in connection with the building of the Montreal Superhospital.

 

The questionable past activities of some of these corporations, the unprecedented licence duration, the elimination of vitally important licence conditions, the billions of dollars in federal subsidies, and the inevitable exposure of millions of Canadians to radioactive pollutants were among the concerns raised by First Nations, citizens’ groups and independent experts at a three-day January 2018 public hearing.

 

Citizens’ groups charge that the CNSC completely disregarded thorough and well-documented concerns and recommendations on the licence proposal presented by dozens of intervenors, including former Chalk River scientists, at the January hearings. This confirms critics’ views that Canada is in urgent need of a credible, responsible nuclear authority that puts protection of health and the environment ahead of the convenience of the nuclear industry. CNSC shows all the signs and symptoms of a “captured regulator”.

 

The Chalk River licence, signed by CNSC President Michael Binder on the 39th anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, eliminates numerous safety compliance criteria that were previously included in the licence to govern operations at the Chalk River facility. The previous 17-month Chalk River licence had 2020 words and was accompanied by a 257-page “Handbook”, with licence compliance criteria “written in mandatory language”.  The new licence has 590 words and its Handbook is only 61 pages long.  Prepared by CNSC staff, the new Handbook replaces most of the previous explicit compliance criteria with references to standards that have been prepared by the nuclear industry.

 

“There is an urgent need for responsible, credible, public interest-driven management of Canada’s nuclear industry and its ever-growing waste problem,” says Dr. Ole Hendrickson of the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area. “In particular, there is a policy vacuum at the federal level when it comes to the long-term management of highly toxic post-fission radioactive wastes, other than nuclear fuel wastes.”

 

The Government of Canada carries an eight billion dollar liability on its balance sheet for the waste generated by past operations at Chalk River and other federal nuclear sites. The Trudeau government, far from showing leadership in addressing this waste problem, recently launched a campaign to champion a new generation of nuclear reactors. It plans to promote nuclear power as “clean” and “NICE” (Nuclear Innovation – Clean Energy) at a May 22-23 Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in Scandinavia, without public consultation or parliamentary debate.

Incredibly, the licence indicates that no financial guarantee is required from the multinational consortium for possible damages arising from its operations. It states that the federal government, as ultimate owner of the Chalk River Laboratories and its assets, is responsible for any resulting liabilities.

“The cozy relationship between the nuclear industry, the CNSC, and the political class has been hidden from the public for too long,” says Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR).  The CCNR and other citizens’ groups are calling for reform of nuclear governance, including (1) widespread public hearings to establish guiding principles for long-term nuclear waste management; (2) suspension of existing plans to abandon nuclear wastes beside major water bodies; (3) removal of the CNSC from playing a decisional role in environmental assessments, and (4) a thorough review of Canada’s Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

In the 17-year history of the CNSC, the Commissioners have never once refused to grant a licence requested by the nuclear industry.

– 30 –

 

 

Media contacts:

Dr. Gordon Edwards, 514-489-5118

Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

 

Dr. Ole Hendrickson, 613-234-0578,

Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

 

Background information:

 

Fact Sheet

Eleven key concerns ignored by CNSC in approval of 10-year license for Chalk River

 

Hearing transcripts and interventions: http://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/the-commission/hearings/documents_browse/results.cfm?dt=2018-01-24

 

Record of Decision: 

https://tinyurl.com/CRL-record-of-decision-2018

Experts say high release limits for radioactive tritium endanger humans and other species that drink water from the Ottawa River

 

 

(Ottawa, Ontario, March 22, 2018) An environmental scientist and a health expert say that dumping of tritium-contaminated water into the Ottawa River from a defunct nuclear reactor in Rolphton, Ontario is a risk to humans and other species, and that the practice is part of a systemic problem with the regulation of the nuclear industry in Canada.

 

The multinational consortium responsible for the dumping, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, has defended its actions, saying that the concentration of tritium it has dumped into the Ottawa River is 10,000 times below the discharge limit in its federal license.

 

Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen that is released in very large quantities from Canadian nuclear reactors. A small amount is also produced naturally in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Tritium combines with oxygen to form radioactive water molecules that travel rapidly through the human body right into cell nuclei, where tritium can be incorporated into genetic material. Once there, it acts as a ticking time bomb that will eventually decay, giving off a beta particle that can cause severe damage on the molecular level.

 

The risks of exposure to tritium have been greatly underestimated by the nuclear industry in Canada, according to Dr. Éric Notebaert, a physician and board member for Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “Each and every release of tritium increases risks of cancer, birth defects in offspring and genetic mutations in humans who drink the contaminated water or breathe the contaminated air,” Notebaert said, adding: “There is no safe level of exposure to tritium or any other manmade radioactive element.”

 

According to Dr. Ole Hendrickson, environmental scientist and researcher for the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, discharge limits for radioactive substances in Canada do not protect the public from exposure to man-made radioactive materials that are routinely released from nuclear facilities. These discharge limits, known in the industry as “Derived Release Limits” or DRLs, are calculated by the facilities themselves, using voluntary guidelines, and are based on many assumptions about how the emissions will be absorbed by humans. The release limits do not take into account humans being exposed to multiple radioactive pollutants and to cumulative emissions from more than one source of pollution.

 

“The nuclear industry has been hiding behind DRLs for years. The limits are set very high so that actual releases look low in comparison. It is time that the industry was called out on these absurd limits that allow very high levels of contamination to be characterized as low, confusing the public and decision-makers in the process,” Hendrickson stated.

 

Hendrickson calculates that the tritium release limit for the Rolphton reactor — upstream from Ottawa —  is so high that, if the facility released the permitted amount, the Ottawa River would be contaminated with tritium at a level 8,000 times higher than the natural background level. It would also be more than twice the Ontario drinking water standard of 7,000 Becquerels/litre — a standard that the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council recommended in 2009 should be reduced to 20 Becquerels per litre.

 

“A one-litre bottle of water from the Ottawa River would contain 17,000 Bq of tritium, meaning that it would be giving off 17,000 radioactive disintegrations from tritium every second, second after second,” said Hendrickson. “This gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘sparkling water.’”

 

Hendrickson cites other examples that he says illustrate the absurdity of DRLs and their lack of connection to health protection.  “Before it closed in 2013 Shield Source, a tritium light factory in Peterborough, Ontario had a DRL for tritium gas that was over 200 times higher than the total global natural tritium production rate.  Each year, in theory, Shield Source could have emitted more than ten times the world’s natural tritium inventory. Had they done so, tritium levels in rainfall, and in every water body in the world, would have risen several hundred-fold, exceeding those measured at the peak of nuclear weapons testing in 1963.

 

“Another tritium light factory, SRB Technologies in Pembroke, Ontario during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s released more radioactive tritium annually to the local environment than all of Canada’s nuclear power stations combined, while well within its DRL.”

 

During a recent review of the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposal to entomb the Rolphton Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor in cement and grout, it was revealed that the reactor basement continuously fills with water that seeps in through cracks in the foundation, becoming highly contaminated with radioactive tritium and other toxic substances like PCBs, mercury and lead. The facility manager, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, routinely dumps batches of the contaminated water directly into the Ottawa River, even though it exceeds Ontario and Canadian surface water quality standards by hundreds and thousands of times.

 

Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, widely perceived to be a “captured agency”, published a discussion paper in 2012 on establishing release limits at nuclear facilities. The discussion paper acknowledged that Canadian DRLs are not meeting international standards and need to be lowered. CNSC has not yet taken any regulatory action on these recommendations.

ABOUT CCRCA

The Concerned Citizens of RenfrewCounty 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 citizen and environmental groups to promote responsible management of radioactive wastes and protection of the environment.

Dumping of toxin-laced water into the Ottawa River by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories should be stopped immediately, says expert report

 
(Ottawa, Ontario, March 21, 2018) Sixteen thousand litres of water contaminated with radioactive tritium, PCBs and other toxins – at levels hundreds and thousands of times greater than Ontario and Canadian surface water quality standards – were dumped directly into the Ottawa River in 2015 from a non-operating nuclear reactor 200 km northwest of Ottawa, says a report by an expert hydrogeologist. From 1997 to 2015, an annual average of 26,000 litres of radioactive water were discharged into the Ottawa River from the Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor in Rolphton, Ontario.

The report by Wilf Ruland notes that releases of contaminated water into the Ottawa River “appear to have been ongoing for decades and continuing to the present day.” Ruland analysed test results published by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, which operates the site, and concluded that “regulatory guidelines for surface water quality were vastly exceeded in the contaminated water being dumped untreated into the Ottawa River from the NPD facility in 2015.”

Ruland is a specialist in groundwater and surface water contamination and has served as an expert witness before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and various environmental tribunals. His report was prepared for the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council and submitted to the CNSC as an independent review of hydrogeological issues related to the Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) Closure Project. His report acknowledges that the contaminated water will have been “steadily diluted” as it flows down the Ottawa River, but nonetheless expresses disappointment “to learn that this practice is occurring at a Canadian nuclear facility in the modern day.” He urges that dumping be discontinued immediately.

“Radioactive substances, PCBs and toxic metals are accumulating in the Ottawa River,” said Norm Odjick, Director General of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council.  “Millions of Canadians drink this water, including the residents of Ottawa and Montreal.  It’s shocking that these releases are being allowed to continue.” 

Levels of radioactive tritium in the contaminated water, at 4,100,000 Becquerels per litre, were 586 times higher than Ontario’s Provincial Water Quality Objective for surface water quality (PWQO) in the 2015 releases. The Becquerel is a measure of how radioactive a substance is, that is, how many radioactive particles per second it emits.

The contaminated water also contained 5,450 nanograms per litre of PCBs — while the Ontario PWQO is only 1 nanogram per litre. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) are pollutants that accumulate in the environment and that cause cancer in animals and probably humans.

The water also contained mercury, cadmium, copper and lead at levels up to 1,720 times higher than the regulatory guidelines contained in the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Environmental Quality Guidelines for surface waters.


The Rolphton Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) Reactor is owned by the federal government. Located about 100 metres from the Ottawa River, it was shut down in 1987 and has since been maintained in “long-term storage.” All federal nuclear sites are run by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), which in September 2015 was transferred to a private-sector consortium of U.S., U.K. and Canadian companies, including SNC Lavalin.

The data on contaminated water are contained in the draft environmental impact statement  (EIS) on the NPD Closure Project.  In September 2017, CNL submitted a proposal to “entomb” the NPD reactor in concrete to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (the federal agency that regulates the nuclear industry). The EIS shows the number and volume of releases of contaminated water into the Ottawa River back to 1997.

“Reactor entombment wouldn’t stop groundwater from penetrating cracks in the concrete walls of the reactor vault, then re-emerging and transporting contaminants down to the river,” says Dr. Ole Hendrickson, a researcher for the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.  He adds, “The entombment proposal is problematic for many reasons and is definitely not a solution to the leaking of contaminated water.”

CNL is also proposing to build a landfill-type nuclear waste disposal facility at Chalk River to contain at least 1 million cubic metres of radioactive and toxic waste. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is expected to make decisions this year about both proposals.

Both proposals have been criticized by former professional staff members of the two sites (then managed by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited), including a former director of safety engineering and senior scientists. Environmental groups say that the proposals will increase Canada’s liability for radioactive waste cleanup in the future and could contaminate the drinking water of millions of people along the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River into which it flows.

Citizens groups, First Nations and nuclear scientists decry plan to entomb a nuclear reactor beside the Ottawa River, endangering drinking water

(Ottawa, Ontario, March 20, 2018) Retired nuclear scientists, citizens’ groups and First Nations are shocked by plans to “entomb” a defunct nuclear reactor, by covering it with cement and grout, beside the Ottawa River at Rolphton, Ontario. The site of the proposed “entombment” is upstream of Ottawa-Gatineau and Montreal, and directly across from the Province of Quebec. The so-called “Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) Closure Project”, advanced by a multinational consortium, was roundly criticized during a recent public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement for the project.
“NPD will remain a radiological hazard for tens of thousands of years …It is absurd to conclude that cement grout, a reinforced concrete cap above the reactor vessel, and an engineered barrier…over the building footprint will protect the public for that period of time” according to a retired senior manager from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Dr. J. R. Walker, one of several retired nuclear scientists who submitted detailed briefs during the recent public comment period.
According to Dr. Ole Hendrickson, researcher for the group Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, “entombment” is only supposed to be used in emergencies according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.  “If approved, this project would set a very bad precedent” Hendrickson said.
First Nations raising concerns about the NPD entombment project include the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council, the Métis Nation and the Algonquins of Ontario. A review of the hydrogeology in the vicinity of the proposed site, done on contract for the Algonquin Anishinabeg First Nation Tribal Council, is highly critical of the field investigation of the surrounding fractured bedrock, calling it “rushed” and “woefully inadequate”.
“This is a crazy proposal,” according to Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association. “Proposing to abandon long-lived radioactive toxins 100 metres from a drinking water source for millions of Canadians is unbelievably irresponsible,” Echlin said. “It’s totally out of alignment with international guidance and the radioactive waste treaty that Canada signed in 1998.  These types of long-lived radioactive wastes are supposed to be kept in stable rock below the surface and away from water bodies”.
Federal agencies and the Ontario environment ministry submitted over 200 comments noting inconsistencies and missing information in the environmental impact statement. Additional concerns raised by public commenters are that the Ottawa River is a major fault line; lead, mercury, dioxins and PCBs may enter the river; the inventory of radioactive waste is deficient; and that entombing the defunct reactor will make it more costly and difficult for future generations to fix problems that may arise in the future.
The Environmental Assessment process will continue with internal discussion between the proponent and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), widely perceived to be a “captured regulator”.  A CNSC decision whether to approve and license the project is expected in December 2018.
–  30 –

The crazy plan to “entomb” a nuclear reactor beside the Ottawa River

The multinational consortium that brought us the plan for the giant radioactive “Chalk River Mound” now wants to entomb a defunct nuclear reactor right beside the Ottawa River at Rolphton, Ontario, 200 km upstream of Ottawa-Gatineau. Essentially “entombment” means to cover over with cement and grout and hope for the best.

This plan is just as crazy as the mound, if not more so, since it would be situated a mere 400 meters from the Ottawa River. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says “entombment” is not a decommissioning strategy and should only be used in the case of a severe accident.

Cement and grout, in the Upper Ottawa Valley climate with freeze-thaw cycles and abundant precipitation can only last a small fraction of the time during which the witches’ brew of toxic man-made radioactive substances, contained in the defunct reactor, will be hazardous to all life. IAEA says such materials need to be kept out of the biosphere for as long as the hazard persists which is more than 100,000 years.

Do you have a half hour to help prevent this crazy plan from going forward? If so, your assistance would be greatly appreciated!

Comments are needed on the Environmental Impact Statement for the project. The deadline is February 13, 2018 at midnight. So far there are only 13 comments posted on the public registry. We need more comments from concerned citizens and groups to show that we will not stand by silently and allow such irresponsible abandonment of nuclear waste beside the Ottawa River.

If you can help, step one would be to read some background materials (see below) and step two would be to write a short letter outlining your concerns and send it to: Lucia Abellan, Environmental Assessment Officer, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Email: cnsc.ea-ee.ccsn@canada.ca. The subject line of your email should read ” Comments on the EIS for the Nuclear Power Demonstration Closure Project”

Key points to mention are 1) retired nuclear scientists such as Dr. J. R. Walker  have raised very serious concerns about the proposal (you could include one or more quotes from the  Walker submission) and 2) that you would like remind/urge the regulator to insist that long-lived radioactive wastes be stored in state-of-the art facilities, well away from drinking water sources, to ensure that they are kept out of our air and drinking water for as long as they remain hazardous.

Here are some useful background documents:

1) Nine quick facts on the crazy plan to “entomb” a nuclear reactor beside the Ottawa River

2) NPDRolphton ~ overview of important information and links produced by the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association

3) Submission by Dr. Gordon Edwards on the Whiteshell 1 reactor (a similar “entombment” on the Winnipeg River)

Thanks everyone for your ongoing support. Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments!

www.concernedcitizens.net

https://www.facebook.com/RadWasteAlert/

Press conference on Parliament Hill to highlight concerns about Chalk River relicensing hearings

Norm Odjick, Director General, The Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council

Grand Council Chief Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee Anishinabek Nation

Patrick Nadeau, Executive Director, Ottawa Riverkeeper

Lynn Jones, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

Réal Lalande, Stop Oléoduc Outaouais / Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive (RCPR)

 

Letter to the Editor – Proposed new site license for Chalk River raises serious concerns

Dear Editor,
RE: the upcoming public hearing into renewal of the site license for the Chalk River Laboratories, which is operated by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, a private multinational consortium, under contract with the government of Canada.
We understand that the economic contribution of CNL to the Ottawa Valley is significant and that our local municipal representatives are therefore inclined to support CNL’s request for a 10 year license. We would like to draw your readers’ attention to serious concerns about both the 10-year term and the content of the new proposed license for the facility.
Eighty-eight interventions for the upcoming public hearing in Pembroke, January 23-25, 2018 can be viewed on the website of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission at this link:
Approximately two-thirds of these interventions express serious concerns about the length of the proposed license, extensive deletion of license conditions, weakening of regulatory oversight, and other matters. Here are some highlights:
Three former senior AECL scientists highlight instability in CNL management, lack of knowledge of key regulations and international obligations, and lack of open and transparent public engagement. The submission concludes as follows:
“This evaluation raises questions as to whether CNL “… is qualified to carry on the activity that the licence will authorize the licencee to carry on…” and “We respectfully submit that a decision by the Commission to grant a 10-year licence to CNL would be an unsafe and unsound decision.”
Prepared by Dr. Ole Hendrickson, and supported by intervenor funding from the CNSC, this submission provides a detailed analysis of proposed deletions from the site license and license condition handbook. Asks “Why do the proposed CRL licence and license condition handbook contain sweeping changes that would reduce regulatory oversight, and why do CNSC staff provide no information about these changes, or their implications?”
Filed in support of the CCRCA submission. Notes that half of current license conditions are proposed for deletion. States “the level of generality and vagueness being introduced into the text of this legal instrument, and the accompanying licence condition handbook, is an open invitation for non-compliance”. Requests that the CNSC issue an order rejecting the CNL site licence renewal application as submitted by CNL and endorsed by CNSC staff.
States “This is definitely not the time for the CNSC to modify, eliminate, or substantially weaken any of the current regulations…All reporting and record keeping requirements should be maintained…” and “A 10-year license has not been granted before for CRL. OFWCA questions why it would even be considered now. Why would the license be longer than CNL’s contract which comes up for renewal in three years – in 2021? … We strongly urge CNSC to limit a new license to a maximum of three years or to extend the current license for a maximum of three years ending in 2021”.
Warns that some proposed licence changes may be “intentional to enable the NSDF,” citing the example of “the removal of the prohibition of controlled liquid waste releases to the ground,” adding that “Ottawa Riverkeeper is not supportive of the plans to collect, treat and release polluted water from the NSDF into the groundwater table.”
Points out that the lead Canadian member of the consortium that owns CNL, SNC Lavalin, is currently debarred from the World Bank for 10 years and facing charges in Canada for fraud, bribery and corruption, and that the consortium member CH2M has been convicted in the United States of fraud. Mr. Unger suggests the existing licence be extended for a short period, and a longer license period only be considered if and when SNC Lavalin is cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
In view of the many serious concerns that have been raised by these and many other intervenors, we feel it would be prudent for no new 10-year license to be granted to CNL for the Chalk River Labs site. The alternative that we and many others suggest is for the current CRL site license to be extended for a short period of time so that the concerns can be adequately addressed before considering a longer license. We hope that our municipal officials will reconsider their support for a 10-year license and recommend a shorter license period instead.
Sincerely,
Lynn Jones
Johanna Echlin

 

Government must act to prevent mismanagement of radioactive waste

Open Letter To:

The Honourable Justin Trudeau, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Youth

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

The Honourable James Carr, Minister of Natural Resources

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

 

Dear Justin Trudeau, Carolyn Bennett, James Carr and Catherine McKenna,

 

We learned recently that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is proposing massive changes to the license for the Chalk River Laboratories, site of a proposed radioactive megadump, including removal of 28 conditions of the license itself and removal of several hundred “compliance verification criteria”. We are appalled at this radical move toward deregulation to benefit the multinational consortium, Canadian National Energy Alliance, whose Canadian partner, SNC Lavalin, is currently debarred from the World Bank for ten years and facing criminal charges in Canada for fraud, bribery and corruption.

 

Our two groups along with First Nations, scientists, municipalities, individuals, and the Quebec Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development are very concerned about the consortium’s plan to emplace and eventually abandon one million cubic meters of radioactive wastes in a giant mound on the side of a hill, next to a swamp, less than one kilometer from the Ottawa River at Chalk River, Ontario in unceded traditional Algonquin territory. As we and many others have stated, in comments on the environmental assessment for this misleadingly named “Near Surface” Disposal Facility, the proposed giant mound flouts international guidance, would exceed public dose limits for radiation for 100,000+ years and would contaminate the Ottawa River, Canada’s most recently designated Heritage River, which provides drinking water for millions of Canadians downstream all the way to Montreal.

 

We and many others believe that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission should not have decision-making authority for the environmental assessment of this or any other nuclear project.  We concur with the Expert Panel on environmental assessment reform, the final report of which reflects the widely held view that CNSC is a captured regulator with no independence from the industry it regulates. We note that House of Commons e-petition 1220 requesting suspension of the environmental assessment for the Chalk River megadump and replacement of CNSC as decision maker for nuclear projects has been signed by more than 2,000 Canadians from coast to coast to coast in all ten provinces and three territories.

 

We are also very concerned by the Auditor General report that Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, owner of the Chalk River Laboratories and other federal nuclear facilities, has experienced a “significant deficiency in board renewal”, has “not met its statutory obligation to hold public meetings” since 2009, and lacks “a formal, systematic process for monitoring and reporting on risks” among its facilities.

 

Legal experts we have consulted have stated that CNSC’s proposed changes to the Chalk River site license would greatly reduce CNSC oversight and render important safety requirements unenforceable. For example, the following license conditions are among those planned for removal:

 

  • 4.2 New Nuclear Facilities: The licensee shall only carry out construction and/or operation activities of any new nuclear facility at the CRL site with the prior approval of the Commission. [GONE!]
  • 4.4 Nuclear Facilities Undergoing Decommissioning Activities. The licensee shall only decommission a nuclear facility, or any part thereof, at the CRL site in accordance with documented decommissioning plan(s) and procedures, and with the prior approval of the Commission to proceed with the decommissioning.[GONE!]
  • 12.3 Nuclear Legacy Liabilities The licensee shall ensure that nuclear legacy liabilities at the CRL site are addressed. [GONE!]

 

We believe this radical move towards deregulation must be stopped immediately. CNSC’s proposal appears to confirm the widely held view that Canada’s nuclear regulator is more interested in supporting the nuclear industry than in protecting health and the environment, its primary mandate under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

 

The Government of Canada urgently needs to overhaul nuclear governance in this country to ensure responsible handling of radioactive waste. Consultations with the public and First Nations must be an essential part of this process.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Lynn Jones, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

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

 

cc

Perry Bellegarde, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations

Verna Polson, Grand Chief, Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council

Kirby Whiteduck, Chief, Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation

Jean Guy Whiteduck, Chief Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg

Patrick Madahbee, Grand Chief of the Anishinabek Nation

Joe Norton, Grand Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, on behalf of the Iroquois   Caucus

Margaret Froh, President, Metis Nation of Ontario

Michael Binder, President, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health

Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

Mélanie Joly, Minster of Canadian Heritage

Mona Nemer, Chief Science Advisor

Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader

Martine Ouellet, Bloc Quebecois Leader

Jagmeet Singh, NDP Leader

Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party Leader

Monique Pauze, Bloc Environment Critic

Linda Duncan, NDP Environment Critic

Ed Fast, Conservative Environment Critic

Stéphane Bergeron, MNA for Verchères

David McGuinty, MP for Ottawa South

Greg Fergus, MP for Hull-Aylmer

Will Amos, MP for Pontiac

Karen McKrimmon, MP for Kanata-Carleton

Cheryl Gallant, MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke

Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa

Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal

Isabelle Melançon, Quebec Environment Minister

Sylvain Gaudreault, Environment Critic, Quebec National Assembly

Sylvain Rochon, Natural Resources Critic, Quebec National Assembly

Marc Demers, Mayor of Laval

Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, Mayor of Gatineau

Bob Sweet, Mayor of Petawawa

Joan Lougheed, Mayor of Deep River

Mike LeMay, Mayor of Pembroke

Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario

Phillippe Couillard, Premier of Quebec

Jennifer Murphy, Warden of Renfrew County

Jane Toller, Warden of Pontiac County

Chris Ballard, Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Kathryn McGarry, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry

Julie Gelfand, Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development

 

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission plans massive changes to Chalk River site license

Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), is proposing sweeping changes to the current Chalk River site licence, site of the proposed radioactive megadump.  These changes include extending the licence period to ten years, allowing construction of new facilities or decommissioning of old facilities without Commission approval, weakening decommissioning requirements to enable bulk demolition, deleting language requiring the licensee to “control, monitor and record releases” of radioactive nuclear and hazardous substances, and deleting the current requirement for site-wide groundwater monitoring.

See details on the proposed changes:

Planned changes to the site license for Chalk River Laboratories

Planned changes to the License Condition Handbook

 

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.

-30-