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


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



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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Citizens ask Auditor-General to probe origins of plan to create a giant mound of radioactive waste beside Ottawa River

(Ottawa, June 26, 2017) A petition to the federal environment commissioner Julie Gelfand, filed on June 20 with the Office of the Auditor-General, seeks the commissioner’s help in probing the origins of the radioactive waste dump proposal that has been ringing alarm bells for citizens’ groups, business owners and residents of Quebec and Ontario since the environmental impact statement for it was released in March, 2017.

According to critics, the proposed radioactive landfill, the so-called “Near Surface Disposal Facility”, is on a fast track to approval despite the fact that it does not meet safety standards established by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Critics of the plan include a number of retired scientists from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).

A former Director of Safety Engineering and Licensing at AECL notes that problems with the plan include an unsuitable location next to wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River and inadequate technology.  Other scientists point out that the disposal facility would contain materials such as plutonium that will be radioactive for more than 100,000 years. After a period of “institutional control”, the wastes would be abandoned and the mound would deteriorate, leaking contaminants into the environment and the Ottawa River essentially for eternity.

Citizens groups want to know how such a flawed proposal could have emerged after the federal government spent $1.15 billion between 2006 and 2015 on a program to clean up its “legacy” radioactive wastes. At the time, it was estimated that $10 billion was needed to clean up Canada’s nuclear legacy liabilities, including contaminated waste areas, buildings and plutonium left over from Canada’s role in Cold War nuclear weapons production. A disposal facility was expected to be operational by 2035, reflecting the lengthy process required for characterizing wastes, selecting appropriate technologies, choosing a site, and licensing an environmentally acceptable facility.

Johanna Echlin, of the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, notes that an abrupt U-turn took place when the previous conservative government privatized Canada’s nuclear facilities, set up Canadian Nuclear Labs, and awarded a 6-year contract to a multinational, private-sector consortium to manage Canada’s federally-owned nuclear business and radioactive wastes in September 2015.

“We are very concerned that the contract negotiated with SNC Lavalin and others, emphasizes low cost, disposal of all wastes, and completion of a facility within six years,” Echlin said. “It appears the consortium may have won the bid to manage Canadian Nuclear Labs by proposing a quick and dirty approach to dealing with Canada’s nuclear wastes that reduced the cost of “cleanup” from $10 billion to $600 million. We want to know who said it was okay to ignore over a billion dollars worth of work on the previous cleanup plan.“

Echlin questions the former conservative government’s decision to privatize AECL and says that citizens’ groups see it as an abdication of responsibility by the Government of Canada to look after its radioactive wastes properly.

Dr. Ole Hendrickson, researcher for Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area says “It appears that annual expenditures for AECL more than doubled to almost one billion dollars after privatization. We are asking the Minister of Natural Resources to account for this increase”.

The petition to the environment commissioner was co-signed by Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel for the Canadian Environmental Law Association, notes the petition is aimed at ensuring that funding has been appropriately allocated towards safely and efficiently reducing risks to Canadians.  McClenaghan states, “If the proposed facility fails to meet regulatory requirements for health, safety and protection of the environment, a great deal of money, time and effort will have been wasted in a misguided effort to accelerate the reduction of the nuclear legacy liabilities currently on the balance sheet of the Government of Canada”.

The petition presents a series of 15 questions for the Minister of Natural Resources Canada, James Carr. The Minister is required to respond to the questions within 120 days of receiving them from the Office of the Auditor-General.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The public has 60 days to respond to the EIS (until May 17, 2017).  It is posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website at:

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Citizens upset by proposed radioactive waste dump beside the Ottawa River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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