CNL misusing definition of “Near Surface Disposal” ~ Letter to the editor of the Aylmer Bulletin

Letter from Dr. Ole Hendrickson, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, to the editor of the Aylmer Bulletin, June 27, 2018

While it is true that near surface disposal facilities are recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a preferred way of managing low-level radioactive waste, CNL’s proposal is for an above-ground mound, not a near surface disposal facility. This was conceded by CNL official Jim Buckley at a July 2017 meeting in Fort William (Pontiac). Mr Quinn’s use of the misleading term “NSDF” to suggest that CNL’s mound proposal is proven technology is troubling.

Pat Quinn (June 20 letter) also misleadingly calls the proposed NSDF facility “watertight”.  Wastes would be exposed to rain and snow, leaching radioactive contaminants from the mound and necessitating long-term operation of a complex and expensive water treatment facility that at best would only remove a portion of the contaminants.  Radioactive tritium would routinely be discharged to adjacent wetlands. The proposed location of the mound, a kilometre from the Ottawa River, makes this extremely problematic.

Not all the wastes that CNL wants to put in the mound would be “low-level”, as Mr Quinn claims. The IAEA classifies waste with significant quantities of long-lived radioisotopes as “intermediate-level”.  These are found in large amounts at Chalk River — and CNL is bringing in more from the WR-1 reactor at Manitoba’s Whiteshell Laboratories.  CNL’s intent, stated in the environmental impact statement, is to put all these wastes in the mound.

The formal environmental assessment process is well behind schedule. CNL requested more time to respond to hundreds of critical technical comments. While Mr Quinn says members of the public may participate in this process, there may be no further opportunities to do so for more than a year.

The NSDF project is wasting taxpayer dollars and delaying action to deal with the federal government’s 70-year legacy of nuclear waste. The project should be abandoned in favour of a geological repository that can isolate the waste from the biosphere and drinking water sources – the IAEA’s preferred option for managing long-lived radioactive waste.

Ole Hendrickson
Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area


Dr. Hendrickson’s letter was written in response to the following letter from Pat Quinn of CNL published in the Aylmer Bulletin on June 20, 2018.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories responds(This letter is in response to Colin Chisdale’s letter on CNL’s proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) at Chalk River in the Bulletin d’Aylmer (June 6), I invite Colin to contact me by email at .)

There are misconceptions about the proposed NSDF, so I want to be clear that this facility is designed to protect the environment, not harm it. CNL employees care about the area and the Ottawa River, we are local residents and have a shared interest in responsibly addressing waste at the Chalk River Laboratories site. The NSDF will allow us to clean up and isolate historic, low-level contamination that is currently at the site, and dispose of the waste in a watertight enclosure that has been designed to withstand sabotage, earthquakes and flooding. These facilities are recognized internationally as a safe and appropriate way to dispose of low-level waste, and are being used successfully in Canada and the United States.

For two years CNL has engaged with the public about the NSDF project.  We have hosted many public meetings throughout Ontario and Quebec, including  a recent town hall meeting in Gatineau, hosted by MP for Hull-Aylmer, Greg Fergus. This is in addition to public information sessions, meetings, discussions, project orientations and site visits with elected officials, media, members of the public, members of the industry and non-governmental organizations. At each of these engagements we have openly discussed the project and have responded to requests for information. These events will continue, and I’d encourage Mr. Chisdale to stay tuned for future sessions and on the project’s progress.

This project is subject to a federal government-led, and very public, environmental assessment process. In order to proceed CNL requires an environmental assessment decision and authorization from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Members of the public are welcome to participate in this assessment, and are encouraged to raise any concerns they have through this formal review process.

Pat Quinn, Corporate Communications
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories

Schacherl: Canada has a dirty, big nuclear secret at Chalk River

Ottawa Citizen

A boat flotilla protest against the nuclear waste site is held in August, 2017, across from Chalk River. (Photo courtesy of Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association) OTTWP

What makes Canada stand out in the world is unlimited natural beauty: miles of unspoiled forests, lakes, rivers, prairies and tundra. We are a green, clean country. Or so we like to think.

So it may come as a surprise that we plan to put 40 per cent of Canada’s radioactive waste in a gigantic dump at Chalk River, next to the Ottawa River. The dump will hold “low-level” waste that contains radioactive uranium, plutonium, cesium, strontium, iodine and tritium (among others).

Rain and melting snow will leach radioactive elements from the dump. Every year, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories estimates an average of 6.5 million litres of this water will be treated and discharged into a nearby wetland and thence the Ottawa River. 

An unforeseen event – earthquake, deluge or explosion – could contaminate the Ottawa River and its riverbed from Chalk River to Montreal.

Across Canada, there are 2,400,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste, a volume that could hold 32 million Canadians, or 1,000 Olympic swimming pools.

The wastes at Chalk River are the size of the Titanic – but will grow to one million cubic metres by decommissioning more than 100 buildings and bringing in radioactive waste from Manitoba and elsewhere over the next 50 years.

The proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility will be a super-sized landfill: seven stories high and the size of 70 NHL hockey rinks. Nothing like it exists in Canada, and it will be the largest of its kind in the world. The mound would hold five times as much radioactive waste as a controversial deep geologic repository on Lake Huron.

The proposal has been roundly criticized by environmental groups and even retired Atomic Energy of Canada Limited scientists. Critics say it’s the wrong plan at the wrong site – surrounded by water, sitting on fractured bedrock, exposed to rain and snow for 50 years until it’s capped. They say any permanent home for radioactive waste should be in vaults deep underground in impermeable rock.

The wastes at Chalk River are the size of the Titanic.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is the private sector proponent, under contract to the federal government, of the mega-dump at Chalk River. CNL is also planning to “entomb” two defunct nuclear reactors, 100 metres from the Ottawa River and next to the Winnipeg River.

But their plans are not going unnoticed. On April 23, representatives of the Anishinabek Nation and the Mohawk Nation will hold a workshop at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York about radioactive waste and Canadian First Nations.

Millions of people draw their drinking water from the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence into which it flows. Gatineau city council voted unanimously to oppose the mega-dump. Ottawa Council has not discussed the issue.

In September, 37 groups, including the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the National Council of Women of Canada, wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging him to suspend CNL’s waste disposal projects and hold hearings with First Nations and other Canadians on radioactive non-fuel wastes.  There has been no substantive response.

In 1952, the world’s first nuclear reactor meltdown took place at Chalk River. It was then a top-secret government research facility on the Ottawa River, 200 km upstream from the capital. Chalk River was chosen during the Second World War to research production of nuclear material for atomic weapons. Until 1965, Chalk River produced plutonium for the Cold War nuclear weapons buildup by our U.S. allies.

The highly radioactive debris from that 1952 accident was hastily buried onsite in sandy trenches. A second reactor accident took place in 1958, when an irradiated fuel rod caught fire, releasing 10,000 curies of radioactivity.”

Those wastes are still at Chalk River. Radioactive particles have half-lives of up to millions of years: in human terms, forever.

Since then, Canada has steadily created more radioactive waste. Used fuel bundles are the most lethal wastes of nuclear reactors. Canada has more than 2.5 million of them. A federal agency is still trying to find a place to put them long-term.

The biggest volume of Canada’s reactor waste, though, is everything else: the reactor cores, the water used for cooling, whole buildings, materials used by the workers. The industry calls these wastes “low-level” or “intermediate-level.”  But they are still highly toxic, especially if swallowed or inhaled.

Given this legacy, it’s deplorable that 66 years after the first Chalk River accident, Canada still has no policies on radioactive wastes (other than fuel) that reactors produce.  (Our Radioactive Waste Policy Framework, at 143 words, would fit into four tweets.)

CNL received $866 million in federal funding in 2016-17 to manage those wastes and federal sites such as Chalk River and Port Hope. In November, CNL is holding a “global forum” in Ottawa on the future of nuclear energy. It will promote development of “small modular reactors” for “deployment in remote or off-grid locations” in Canada’s North. Its plans include siting a small modular reactor at Chalk River by 2026.

The future looks bright. But not for the people who live downstream from the nuclear waste dumps, and for fish, birds and other creatures that live in the Ottawa River, the Great Lakes and the North.

For the sake of their futures, the Trudeau government should put an immediate halt to CNL’s mega-dump and reactor entombment proposals. They don’t meet the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and they don’t make sense. We need a national debate on how to safely deal with the waste, and whether to pour billions more into reactor technology, when we haven’t begun to clean up the existing mess.

These are not just energy decisions. They are decisions about the fate of our green, clean, home and native land, and of the people and wildlife that we hope will live here in a thousand years and, who knows, a thousand thousand years.

Eva Schacherl is the former executive director of the Canadian Environmental Network.

First Nations and environmental groups call on International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate Canada’s radioactive waste management

Ottawa, April 23, 2018—Five First Nations and 39 Canadian environmental and citizen groups today are calling on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to investigate radioactive waste abandonment plans in Canada. They charge that Canada is “grossly deficient” in failing to formulate stringent policies for managing radioactive waste other than irradiated nuclear fuel.


In a letter to the IAEA Director General, the groups say that Canada is failing to meet its commitments under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. Five First Nations chiefs are delivering this same message at UN Headquarters in New York.


“Canada has a policy vacuum when it comes to managing its most voluminous radioactive waste, which is not irradiated nuclear fuel,” said Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. “This waste contains long-lived radionuclides like plutonium, and Canada is irresponsibly planning to abandon them at insecure sites beside major water bodies – sites chosen for convenience rather than for long-term safety.”


The letter to the IAEA points out that Canada’s classification of nuclear waste allows highly dangerous radionuclides like plutonium to be classified as “low level” and not isolated from the biosphere for 240,000 years as is needful.


The letter also notes that three current proposals for abandoning the federal government’s radioactive wastes are “completely out of alignment with IAEA guidance.” The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is currently assessing proposals for:


  • An above-ground landfill at Chalk River, Ontario, beside the Ottawa River, for the permanent storage of 1 million cubic metres of radioactive waste  including significant amounts of long-lived alpha and beta/gamma emitters;
  • Entombment of the radioactive remains of the NPD nuclear power reactor 100 metres from the Ottawa River at Rolphton, Ontario; and
  • Entombment of the radioactive remains of the Whiteshell-1 nuclear reactor beside the Winnipeg River in Manitoba.


The letter informs the IAEA that the CNSC has dismissed warnings from scientific experts, including ex-AECL staff, about the three proposals, and charges that the CNSC has given “incomplete and misleading information” to the Joint Convention.


The letter is signed, among others, by the Anishinabek Nation and four other First Nations, as well as the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Friends of the Earth Canada, Nature Québec, Sierra Club of Canada, Eau Secours!, Greenpeace Canada, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, le Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.


Today’s announcement in Ottawa, followed by a rally on Parliament Hill, coincides with a special event taking place at the 17th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City. This afternoon, Grand Chief Patrick Madahbee of the Anishinabek Nation and four Chiefs of the Mohawk Nation attending the UN event will cite the letter to the IAEA and will ask the UN to determine whether Canada’s radioactive waste plans are in violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which calls for “free, prior and informed consent” when toxic materials are stored on indigenous lands.


WEBCAST: “Radioactive Waste and Canada’s First Nations” will take place April 23 at 1:15 PM at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York and will be webcast live on the United Nations web site:


– 30 –









Chalk River Nuclear Waste Dump:


NPD reactor entombment and other news:


Fact sheet on disregard of IAEA standards

Ten Things Canadians need to know about the Chalk River Radioactive Mega-dump

Ten MORE things Canadians should know about the Chalk River radioactive mega-dump

Nine quick facts about the NPD reactor “entombment”


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:


Record of Decision:

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.


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: 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!

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.
Lynn Jones
Johanna Echlin