Parliament should investigate what Canadians are getting for their nuclear waste funding ~ letter to the editor of the Hill Times (print edition)

For an easier to read version, see below.

On April 29, twenty-three civil society groups and a First Nations alliance published a joint statement in the Hill Times expressing concerns about the alarming manner in which federally-owned radioactive waste is being handled by a multinational consortium of SNC-Lavalin and two US-based corporations.

It is disturbing that the President of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), himself an American and former executive from one of SNC-Lavalin’s original consortium partners, now accuses the authors of spreading “inaccuracies” – “misleading and incorrect” information that “distorts” the truth – without citing a single example. (Letter, Hill Times, May 13)

The endorsing organizations stand behind every point raised in their joint statement. Any one of those concerns provides enough reason for the Prime Minister, Parliament and the Federal Government to change the current approach to the handling of long-lived radioactive wastes in Canada – a toxic liability estimated at $7.9 billion by the Auditor General. Each concern is legitimate, well-founded and echoed by many others: independent scientists, municipalities and concerned citizens, including fifteen former AECL managers and scientists

AECL has received over $3 billion of taxpayers’ money in the past three federal budgets, handing most of that money over to the private consortium.The 2019-2020 budget alone has $737 million earmarked for radioactive waste management and decommissioning at federally-owned sites, a significant increase since the 2015 Government-owned, Contractor-operated (“GoCo”) private contracting model was brought in by the Harper government. 

We call on Parliament to investigate whether this funding has translated into significant reductions in federal radioactive waste liabilities, and whether taxpayers are receiving real long-term value for the money being spent.

The consortium’s plan to erect a gigantic surface mound containing over one million tonnes of mixed radioactive wastes, seven stories high and 11 hectares in area, just one kilometre from the Ottawa River, is shocking. This proposal flouts international guidance and is opposed by 140 downstream municipalities that use the river for drinking water, including Gatineau and the Montreal Metropolitan Community. 

Equally troubling is the consortium’s plan to “entomb” two contaminated nuclear reactors in cement right beside the Ottawa and Winnipeg Rivers. Far from being a “modern solution”, as the AECL head claims, the International Atomic Energy Agency states that “entombment is not considered an acceptable strategy” unless exceptional circumstances prevail, such as a core meltdown – and even then alternatives should be explored.

We are concerned by the absence of any adequate federal policy or regulations specifically for reactor decommissioning and radioactive waste management (other than irradiated nuclear fuel). Canada’s sole policy document, a 143-word “Radioactive Waste Policy Framework” lacks substantive content and fails to meet minimal international requirements. Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr wrote in July 2018, “Canada does not yet have a federal policy for the long-term management of non-fuel radioactive waste.”

These wastes are the sole responsibility of the government of Canada. Roughly half of them were generated during the development of the atomic bomb and the subsequent Cold War buildup of American nuclear weapons. Now is the time for our government to take a serious, direct proprietary interest in these wastes, to ensure the protection of current and future generations of Canadians from the health risks of exposure to dangerous long-lived radioactive materials, risks that include genetic damage, chronic diseases, birth defects and cancer.

Canada’s radioactive waste legacy has been growing for over 70 years; the hazard will last for tens of thousands of years; the problem cannot be dealt with “quickly and cheaply”.

We repeat our call to end the “Go-Co” contract with SNC-Lavalin and its partners, and to consult First Nations and other Canadians with a view to formulating exemplary polices and projects for radioactive waste that meet and exceed our international obligations. We believe these wastes must be safely secured in state-of-the art facilities well away from sources of drinking water, packaged and labeled in such a way as to enable future generations to monitor, retrieve, repair, and repackage such wastes if and when the need arises. We urge that the import, export and transport of radioactive waste not be allowed without full consultation with affected communities and careful consideration of alternatives. 

Such actions will begin to re-establish Canadian leadership in the nuclear field by addressing the growing global radioactive waste problem in a responsible manner while creating many long-term, well-paying Canadian jobs.

Gordon Edwards, President,

Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

Des groupes citoyens dénoncent le projet d’exempter certains réacteurs nucléaires de l’évaluation d’impact du projet de loi C-69

Ottawa, le 7 mai 2019 – Le gouvernement du Canada veut exclure plusieurs réacteurs nucléaires de la « liste des projets désignés » qui devront subir une évaluation environnementale en vertu du projet de loi C-69, la Loi sur l’évaluation d’impact. Des groupes de la société civile dénoncent cette exemption et exigent que tous les nouveaux réacteurs nucléaires subissent une évaluation environnementale formelle, comme c’est déjà le cas maintenant.

Le document de travail du gouvernement fédéral, publié le 1er mai, propose de soustraire à la Loi sur l’évaluation d’impact tous les réacteurs nucléaires qui produiraient moins de 200 mégawatts de puissance thermique, de même que les réacteurs nucléaires qui produiraient jusqu’à 900 mégawatts de puissance thermique, et qui seraient construits sur des sites nucléaires existants. 

« Ces exclusions de l’évaluation d’impact signifient qu’il n’y aurait aucune évaluation préalable crédible, dans une perspective de développement durable, des impacts environnementaux, sanitaires, économiques ou sociaux des projets d’énergie nucléaire, qu’ils soient nouveaux, agrandis ou en réfection », déclare Theresa McClenaghan, directrice exécutive et conseillère pour l’Association canadienne du droit de l’environnement. « À notre avis, donner à l’industrie nucléaire le droit de contourner les dispositions de la Loi sur l’évaluation d’impact est l’antithèse d’une planification environnementale judicieuse et prudente, et le Parlement ne devrait jamais approuver cela. » 

 « Il est choquant de constater que le gouvernement fédéral prévoit que les projets nucléaires se feront sans évaluation d’impact », déclare Ole Hendrickson, scientifique à la retraite d’Environnement Canada et membre du conseil d’administration de la Fondation Sierra Club Canada. Cela pourrait profiter à l’industrie nucléaire, mais aux dépens de l’environnement, de la santé, de la sécurité publique et des droits des communautés autochtones. »

Dans le cadre d’une conférence de l’industrie nucléaire qui se tenait à Ottawa en novembre dernier, le ministre fédéral des Ressources naturelles, Amarjeet Sohi, a présenté une « feuille de route » qui prévoyait la construction de petits réacteurs modulaires (PRM) dans les communautés autochtones et nordiques ainsi que dans des sites miniers isolés au Canada. Les recommandations de la feuille de route incluaient des commentaires à l’effet que les PRM devraient être exemptés du projet de loi C-69.

Le document de travail sur le règlement d’application du projet de loi C-69 affirme que les effets des PRM sont « bien connus » car ils « partagent certaines des caractéristiques principales de la technologie des réacteurs classiques ». Cependant, tous les PRM proposés utiliseraient de nouvelles conceptions et des technologies non testées, parfois avec des réfrigérants à base de métaux liquides et de sels fondus qui ont provoqué des accidents graves dans les premiers réacteurs prototypes; certains PRM seraient alimentés avec des combustibles controversés jamais autorisés commercialement ou avec du plutonium, du thorium ou de l’uranium enrichi.

« Les personnes qui vivent dans les communautés nordiques et autochtones, où l’industrie nucléaire veut construire ces réacteurs, ont le droit de connaître les risques », déclare Ole Hendrickson. « Il est essentiel d’avoir une évaluation d’impact formelle, avec accès public à l’information, pour identifier ces risques, notamment les émissions radioactives et la contamination à long terme du sol et des eaux souterraines, causées entre autres par un mauvais fonctionnement ou par des accidents ».

L’évaluation d’impact des PRM a attiré l’attention des médias en novembre dernier quand ils ont révélé que la Commission canadienne de la sûreté nucléaire (CCSN), l’organisme de réglementation nucléaire du Canada, faisait secrètement pression pour que le gouvernement exempte les PRM de toute évaluation environnementale. Le Globe and Mail a dévoilé que la CCSN avait incité le gouvernement à exclure les PRM de la liste des projets désignés (voir Federal nuclear regulator urges Liberals to exempt smaller reactors from full panel review, le 6 novembre 2018).

Le document de travail exclut aussi la démolition des réacteurs et des installations nucléaires de la liste des projets désignés en vertu du projet de loi C-69. Cette démolition inclut le nettoyage, le démantèlement et l’enlèvement des installations nucléaires contaminées, le stockage des déchets radioactifs qui en résultent et la restauration des sites nucléaires pour en permettre un usage public. On le fait sans égard aux risques environnementaux de ces activités ni aux demandes des communautés hôtes.  

La réhabilitation des sites nucléaires contaminés, les nouvelles installations de stockage de déchets radioactifs sur les sites nucléaires existants et le transport des déchets nucléaires ne sont pas non plus désignés pour une évaluation d’impact dans le document de travail.

Le gouvernement fédéral donne aux Canadiens jusqu’au 31 mai pour soumettre leurs commentaires sur le document de travail concernant la liste des projets désignés dans le projet de loi C-69. Se référer à l’adresse web suivante :

À propos de la Fondation Sierra Club Canada 

La Fondation Sierra Club Canada est une organisation nationale ouverte à tous, à but non lucratif, qui a pour mission de donner aux gens les moyens de protéger, de restaurer et de profiter d’une planète saine et sûre.

À propos du Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive (RCPR)

Le RCPR a comme mission d’agir bénévolement et collectivement pour favoriser des solutions responsables de gestion des déchets radioactifs qui soient sans risque pour l’environnement et pour la santé de la population.

À propos des Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area (CCRCA)

Le regroupement CCRCA a été fondé en 1978 pour faire des investigations et intervenir concernant les déchets nucléaires et d’autres problèmes de pollution dans l’Est de l’Ontario et dans le bassin versant de la rivière des Outaouais. Le groupe travaille avec d’autres groupes de la société civile pour promouvoir une gestion responsable des déchets radioactifs et la protection de l’environnement.

À propos du Regroupement pour la surveillance du nucléaire (RSN) 

Le RSN est un organisme sans but lucratif, incorporé auprès du gouvernement fédéral en 1978. Il est voué à l’éducation et à la recherche concernant toutes les questions qui touchent à l’énergie nucléaire, qu’elles soient civiles ou militaires, et tout particulièrement celles concernant le Canada.

À propos de l’Association canadienne du droit de l’environnement (CELA)

CELA est un groupe de droit d’intérêt public créé en 1970 dans le but d’utiliser et d’améliorer les lois existantes pour préserver l’environnement et protéger la santé humaine. Les avocats de CELA plaident pour les communautés vulnérables à faible revenu devant les cours de justice et les tribunaux pour adresser une grande variété de problèmes liés à l’environnement et à la santé publique.

– 30 –

Contacts pour les médias

Theresa McClenaghan
Directrice exécutive et conseillère pour l’Association canadienne du droit de l’environnement

416-960-2284 ext.7219

Lynn Jones
Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area 


Ginette Charbonneau 

Porte-parole du Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive

Civil society groups condemn plan to exempt nuclear reactors from Bill C-69 impact assessment


Ottawa, May 7, 2019 — The Government of Canada is proposing that the “project list” for Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, exempt many nuclear reactors from any environmental assessment.  Civil society groups are condemning the exemption from environmental assessment under Bill C-69 and demanding that all new nuclear reactors be subjected to formal environmental assessment, as is now the case.

The federal government’s discussion paper, released on May 1, proposes that all nuclear reactors that produce less than 200 megawatts of thermal power be excluded from the Impact Assessment Act, as well as nuclear reactors built on existing nuclear sites that produce up to 900 megawatts of thermal power. 

“Excluding nuclear energy projects from impact assessment means there will be no credible sustainability-based assessment of the environmental, health, economic or social impacts of new, expanded or refurbished nuclear energy projects before they proceed,” says Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel for the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “In our view, giving the nuclear power industry a free pass under the Impact Assessment Act is the antithesis of sound and precautionary environmental planning, and should not be countenanced by Parliament.” 

“It is shocking that the federal government expects nuclear projects to go ahead with no impact assessment,” says Dr. Ole Hendrickson, a retired Environment Canada scientist and board member of Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “This may benefit the nuclear industry, but at the expense of the environment, public health and safety and the rights of Indigenous communities.”

In November, federal Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi launched a “roadmap” at a nuclear industry conference in Ottawa that outlines plans to build Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in Indigenous and northern communities and at remote mining sites across Canada. The Roadmap’s recommendations included comments suggesting that SMRs should be exempted from Bill C-69. 

The discussion paper for Bill C-69 regulations says that the effects from SMRs are “well known” and “share core characteristics” with existing conventional reactor technology. However, all proposed SMRs would employ new and untested designs, or technologies, some involving liquid metal and molten salt coolants that caused serious accidents in early prototype reactors, and some using controversial fuels never commercially allowed in Canada before, based on plutonium, thorium, or enriched uranium. 

“People in northern and Indigenous communities where the nuclear industry wants to build these reactors have a right to know what the risks are,” says Hendrickson. “A formal impact assessment with public disclosure is essential to identify these risks, including radioactive emissions and long-lasting contamination of soil and groundwater, especially due to malfunctions or accidents.”

Impact assessment of SMRs became a focus of media attention last November when it was revealed that Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), had been secretly lobbying the Government for the reactors to be exempted from environmental assessment. The Globe and Mail reported that CNSC encouraged the government to exempt small modular reactors from the list of designated projects (see Federal nuclear regulator urges Liberals to exempt smaller reactors from full panel review – November 6, 2018).

The discussion paper also does not include decommissioning of nuclear reactors and facilities on the project list for Bill C-69.   Decommissioning includes cleaning up, dismantling and removing contaminated nuclear facilities; storing the resulting radioactive waste; and returning the nuclear sites back to public use. This is despite the environmental risks of these activities and direct requests from host communities.  

Remediation of contaminated nuclear sites, new radioactive waste storage facilities at existing nuclear sites, and nuclear waste transport are also not identified for impact assessment in the discussion paper.

The federal government is giving Canadians until May 31 to submit comments on the discussion paper regarding the Bill C-69 Project List at the following address:    


The Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County 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 civil society groups to promote responsible management of radioactive wastes and protection of the environment.

The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility is a not-for-profit organization, federally incorporated since 1978, dedicated to education and research on all issues related to nuclear energy, whether civilian or military, especially those pertaining to Canada.


Sierra Club Canada Foundation is a national and grassroots non-profit organization committed to empowering people to protect, restore and enjoy a healthy and safe planet.


The mission of the Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive (RCPR) is to act voluntarily and collectively to promote responsible solutions for the management of radioactive waste that are safe for the environment and for the health of the population.


The Canadian Environmental Law Association is a public interest law group founded in 1970 for the purposes of using and enhancing environmental laws to protect the environment and safeguard human health. CELA lawyers represent low-income and vulnerable communities in the courts and before tribunals on a wide variety of environmental and public health issues.   

– 30 –

Media contacts:

Theresa McClenaghan
Executive Director and Counsel, 

Canadian Environmental Law Association

416-960-2284 ext.7219

Lynn Jones 

(to arrange an interview with Dr. Ole Hendrickson of SCCF or Dr. Gordon Edwards of CCNR)
Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area 

Ginette Charbonneau

Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive


2000 nuclear waste shipments planned, from Pinawa Manitoba to Chalk River, Ontario

This is page 41 of the application for renewal of the Whiteshell Labs license. The CNSC hearing for this license renewal is scheduled for October 2-3, 2019. This page outlines CNL’s plans for transport of low, intermediate and high level radioactive waste from Pinawa, Manitoba to Chalk River, Ontario. The full license application can be viewed at

A total of 2,000 shipments are described in this excerpt, including shipments of liquid waste and irradiated nuclear fuel rods. Shipments are already underway as of March, 2019.

Chalk River Nuclear Waste ~ Full-page statement in the Hill-Times newspaper (April 29, 2019)

To the Prime Minister, Parliament and the Federal Government

The undersigned organizations have grave concerns about the handling of Canada’s federally-owned nuclear waste by a multinational consortium that includes SNC-Lavalin and corporate partners, some of which have faced criminal charges and/or entered into deferred prosecution agreements.*

●      Canada has no adequate federal policies and strategies for the long-term management of radioactive wastes and the consortium has been given a free hand to advocate and implement proposals that, in our view, are unequal to the task of protecting people’s health and the environment.

●       Under its 10-year federal contract with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited the consortium intends to spend nearly seven billion of our tax dollars on nuclear waste disposal and reactor decommissioning projects that fail to meet even existing international safety guidelines.

●      Its current plans include entombing the radioactive remains of nuclear reactors in cement next to the Ottawa and Winnipeg Rivers, against the explicit advice of international bodies and independent nuclear scientists; these “entombed reactors” would leak radioactivity into the rivers for thousands of years and contaminate drinking water for millions of Canadians.

●     The consortium also plans to erect a massive above-ground mound, 5 to 7 stories high, holding more than one million tons of mixed radioactive waste, including very long-lived materials such as PCBs, arsenic, plutonium-239,  and radioactive asbestos in a swampy area that drains into the Ottawa River.

●     Its plans include transporting thousands of tons of radioactive waste (including extremely toxic irradiated nuclear fuel) along public roads from Pinawa, Manitoba, from Douglas Point, Ontario, and from Gentilly, Quebec, all the way to Chalk River, situated upstream from our nation’s Capital. A program of two thousand truck shipments of radioactive material from Manitoba is planned and may already be underway.

We request that the Federal Government end its “Government-owned Contractor-operated/GoCo” contract with SNC-Lavalin and its corporate partners at the earliest opportunity.

We further request formulation of exemplary policies and projects for Canada’s radioactive waste that meet or exceed international obligations and which would:

●      be managed by independent Canadian experts, in consultation with First Nations and the public 

●      create many long-term, well-paying Canadian jobs

●      safely secure nuclear waste in state-of-the art facilities away from sources of drinking water

●      re-establish Canadian leadership in the nuclear field with world-class science-based solutions to address the growing global radioactive waste problems 

Membership in the consortium, known as Canadian National Energy Alliance, has changed more than once since the consortium assumed control of Canada’s federally-owned nuclear waste in 2015, when it received all shares of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, a wholly owned subsidiary of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.  Current consortium members include  SNC-Lavalin, which is debarred by the World Bank for 10 years and facing charges in Canada of fraud, bribery and corruptionTexas-based Fluor Corporation, which paid $4 million to resolve allegations of  financial fraud related to nuclear waste cleanup work at a U.S. site; and Texas-based Jacobs Engineering, which recently acquired CH2M, an original consortium member that agreed to pay $18.5 million to settle federal criminal charges at a nuclear cleanup site in the U.S.


Alliance of the Anishinabek Nation and the Iroquois Caucus, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Ecology Ottawa, Friends of the Earth Canada, Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital, Northwatch, Provincial Council of Women of Ontario, Quebec Council of Women, National Council of Women of Canada, Concerned Citizens Committee of Manitoba, Prevent Cancer Now, Watershed Sentinel Educational Society, Action Climat Outaouais, Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive, Concerned Citizens Renfrew County,  and Area, Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, Petawawa Point Cottagers Association, Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River,  Esprit Whitewater, Durham Nuclear Awareness, Bonnechere River Watershed Project

As it appeared in the Hill Times on April 29, 2019…

Boat flotilla protest planned for July 27, 2019

Protect the Ottawa River! ~Join us for this peaceful protest in opposition to Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ proposed radioactive waste dump on the shores of the Ottawa River

This photo is from Chalk River Boat Flotilla Protest V1 in July 2017


Morning conference: 10:00 – 11:30 am on July 27 at Hotel Pontiac, Fort William (all invited)Several speakers will discuss CNL’s proposals for radioactive waste mound at Chalk River, entombment of NPD reactor at Rolphton, and the transport of nuclear waste to Chalk River from other locations. There will be networking and refreshments.
Media will be invited for conference and flotilla
Following the morning conference, there will be two boating options. Motor boats will leave Fort William Dock at 12:00 noon to arrive in the water in front of Chalk River Laboratories by 1:00 pm

Canoes and kayaks will go for a guided scenic tour of the shoreline and nearby islands.

If you’d like to help promote this event, you can download the poster here.

Critical comments from former AECL officials and scientists on CNL Disposal projects

Fifteen former AECL officials and scientists have submitted critical comments on the CNL nuclear waste disposal projects. These people point out many serious flaws in the proposals and the environmental impact statements.

These comments were all submitted to CNSC/CEAA. Links are to the CEAA pages for the environmental assessments for the disposal projects
Most of these former AECL employees identify themselves as “residents of Deep River” or “residents of Pinawa” and do not refer to their employment at AECL in their submissions (but see Michael Stephens’ second NSDF submission).   All are retired, but their former job titles or responsibilities – found through internet searching – are shown in parentheses, below.

Comments from AECL officials and scientists on the Near Surface Disposal Facility Project:

Michael Stephens (Manager, Business Operations, Liability Management Unit; Manager, Strategic Planning, Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program, AECL)

Michael Stephens (2nd submission)

William Turner (Quality Assurance Specialist and Environmental Assessment Coordinator/Strategic Planner, AECL)

William Turner (2nd submission)

William Turner (3rd submission)

William Turner (4th submission)

William Turner (5th submission)

John Hilborn (Nuclear physicist, AECL)

J.R. Walker (Director, Safety Engineering & Licensing; Champion, NLLP Protocol, AECL)

J.R. Walker (2nd submission)

J.R. Walker (3rd submission)

Peter Baumgartner, Dennis Bilinsky, Edward T. Kozak, Tjalle T. Vandergraaf, Grant Koroll, Jude McMurry, Alfred G. Wikjord (all retired AECL Whiteshell Laboratories employees)

Pravin Shah (Manager, Site Landlord Services, AECL)

Greg Csullog (Manager, Waste Identification Program, AECL)

Greg Csullog (2nd submission)

David J. Winfield (30 years’ experience, research reactors and nuclear facilities, AECL)

Comments from AECL officials and scientists on the Nuclear Power Demonstration Closure Project:

William Turner  (Quality Assurance Specialist and Environmental Assessment Coordinator/Strategic Planner, AECL)

William Turner (2nd submission)

William Turner (3rd submission)

Michael Stephens (Manager, Business Operations, Liability Management Unit; Manager, Strategic Planning, Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program, AECL)

J.R. Walker (Director, Safety Engineering & Licensing; Champion, NLLP Protocol, AECL)

Comments from AECL officials and scientists on the In Situ Decommissioning of the Whiteshell  Reactor #1 Project

William Turner  (Quality Assurance Specialist and Environmental Assessment Coordinator/Strategic Planner, AECL)

William Turner (2nd submission)

William Turner (3rd submission)

Michael Stephens (Manager, Business Operations, Liability Management Unit; Manager, Strategic Planning, Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program, AECL)

Michael Stephens (2nd submission)

Peter Baumgartner (AECL Whiteshell Laboratories employee)

Peter Baumgartner (2nd submission)

Peter Baumgartner, Dennis Bilinsky, Edward T. Kozak, Tjalle T. Vandergraaf, Grant Koroll, Jude McMurry, Alfred G. Wikjord (all retired AECL Whiteshell Laboratories employees)

Peter Baumgartner, Dennis Bilinsky, Edward T. Kozak, Tjalle T. Vandergraaf, Grant Koroll, Jude McMurry, Alfred G. Wikjord  (2ndsubmission)

Leonard Simpson (Director of Reactor Safety Research, AECL)

J.R. Walker (Director, Safety Engineering & Licensing; Champion, NLLP Protocol, AECL)

Two nuclear waste dumps threaten the Ottawa River

A multinational consortium wants to build two nuclear waste dumps alongside the Ottawa River upstream of Ottawa-Gatineau, one at Chalk River, Ontario and the other at Rolphton, Ontario. Both dumps disregard international safety guidelines and would leak radioactive materials into the Ottawa River, endangering drinking water for millions of Canadians living downstream.


In 1944 Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) were established to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Starting in 1952 the Labs were operated by “Atomic Energy of Canada Limited” (AECL).  Besides producing plutonium, the labs established a prototype nuclear power reactor (NPD) upstream of Chalk River at Rolphton, and extracted “medical isotopes” from irradiated fuel. These activities and two serious accidents created large quantities of dangerous radioactive wastes. Cleanup costs are estimated at $8 billion.

The Harper government radically restructured AECL in 2015, creating a subsidiary called Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and contracting a multinational consortium including SNC Lavalin, to operate the subsidiary and reduce the federal government’s nuclear cleanup liabilities quickly and cheaply. All four consortium members face or have faced criminal charges for fraud and corruption*. Annual costs to taxpayers tripled shortly after restructuring.

In 2016, CNL proposed to construct a giant, above-ground mound of radioactive waste (NSDF) at Chalk River and to entomb in concrete the NPD reactor at Rolphton. Both proposals disregard International Atomic Energy Agency safety standards and would permanently contaminate the Ottawa River with radioactive materials such as plutonium, caesium, strontium and tritium, some of which will be remain hazardous for over 100,000 years.  CNL is also moving to bring thousands of shipments of radioactive waste (including highly toxic used fuel rods) to Chalk River from other federal sites in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

Independent experts, retired AECL scientists, Citizens’ groups, NGOs, 140 Quebec municipalities and several First Nations have been sounding alarm bells about the projects via written comments, resolutions, press conferences, and protests including a boat flotilla on the Ottawa River in August 2017 and a Red Canoe March for Nuclear Safety through the streets of downtown Ottawa in January of 2018.

In April 2018, CNL was granted a 10-year license despite widespread concern over license changes that would make it easier for the consortium to get its nuclear waste projects approved. Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), granted the new license.  The CNSC is also in charge of environmental assessment (EA) and licensing for nuclear waste projects. The CNSC is perceived to be a “captured” regulator that promotes projects it is charged with regulating, according to Canada’s Expert Panel on EA reform. The CNSC’s mishandling of EAs for the consortium’s nuclear waste projects is described in Environmental Petition 413 to the Auditor General of Canada.

* The consortium, known as Canadian National Energy Alliance, includes: SNC-Lavalin,debarred by the World Bank for 10 years and facing charges in Canada of fraud, bribery and corruption; CH2M agreed to pay $18.5 million to settle federal criminal charges at a nuclear cleanup site in the U.S.; Fluor paid $4 million to resolve allegations of  financial fraud related to nuclear waste cleanup work at a U.S. site; Rolls-Royce PLC,  parent company of consortium member Rolls-Royce Civil Nuclear Canada Ltd., recently agreed to pay more than CAN$1 billion in fines for bribery and corruptionin the U.K., U.S. and Brazil. **NB** since this post was first published, membership in the consortium has changed. Rolls Royce is no longer listed as a consortium member on the CNEA website and Texas based Jacobs Engineering has recently acquired CH2M.

ACTION ALERT ~ tell the federal government that nuclear energy is not “clean”

ACTION ALERT ~ Tell the federal government that nuclear energy is not clean

The government of Canada is asking for comments on its “sustainable development” strategy. The deadline for comments is Tuesday April 2, 2019.
In its glossary of terms, the strategy includes the following definition:
“Clean energy: Renewable, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage technologies, as well as demand reduction through energy efficiency”

Can you help get the message across to our government that nuclear energy is not clean? It only takes a minute to send a comment using the comment box on this page:

If you prefer, you can submit your comment by email to this address:

Nuclear energy produces hazardous radioactive waste that must be isolated from the biosphere for hundreds of thousands of years. This is the main reason, we don’t think it should be called “clean”. See below for further information on why we think it is wrong to include nuclear in the definition of “clean energy”.

If you agree with us, please consider sending a simple message in the comment box (access through the link above). You should first enter “clean energy” the subject line and then add your comment for example, “Please remove “nuclear” from the definition of “clean energy” in your glossary of terms”. or “I object to the inclusion on “nuclear” in the definition of clean energy in your glossary of terms in the sustainable development strategy”. Of course you could say much more if you have time.

See environmental petition 419 to the Auditor General of Canada for background on why nuclear energy is not clean. Here is a link to the petition:

Here are some excerpts from the petition:
…Nuclear reactors release a wide variety of air and water pollutants. Nuclear reactors routinely emit radioactive gases to the atmosphere during operation. These include fission and activation products such as tritium (the radioactive form of hydrogen); radioactive carbon-14; radioactive noble gases such as argon, krypton and xenon; radioactive halogens such as iodine-131; and a wide variety of radioactive aerosols. Fuel reprocessing facilities, spent fuel storage facilities and other radioactive waste facilities also release radioactive gases. (7) (8)
…The principal radionuclide in liquid effluents from nuclear reactors is tritium. Other liquid reactor effluents include radioactive isotopes of carbon, sulfur, chromium, manganese, iron, cobalt, zinc, strontium, zirconium, niobium and cesium. Radioactive effluents from fuel reprocessing facilities, spent fuel storage facilities and other radioactive waste facilities can greatly exceed those from nuclear reactors during normal operation.
…Liquid and gaseous effluents from nuclear reactors contain a wide variety of radioactive substances thatpose health risks to people living near reactors. These risks vary according to ingestion and absorption pathways, sites of accumulation in the body, and residence times for different radioactive substances.
…Radioactive wastes (spent fuel, resins, filters, chemical sludges, fuel cladding, contaminated metal and concrete reactor components, etc.) steadily accumulate during reactor operations. Most reactor wastes cannot be reused or recycled. Artificial radioactive substances produced by nuclear reactors can have half-lives of thousands to millions of years. Health risks associated with exposure to these substances may impose serious burdens upon future generations if these risks are not promptly addressed by the present generation that benefits from nuclear power.

Dix choses à savoir sur la gestion des déchets radioactifs au Canada

English version follows

(Fiche d’information préparée par les associations Old Fort William Cottager’s Association, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and area, le Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive et la Coalition contre le dépotoir nucléaire sur la rivière des Outaouais.)

Trois projets pour gérer l’héritage radioactif du Canada menacent de contaminer de matières radioactives l’eau potable de millions de Canadiens :

  • Le projet de dépotoir nucléaire à Chalk River, en Ontario
  • Le projet de mise en tombeau du réacteur nucléaire de Rolphton, en Ontario
  • Le projet de mise en tombeau du réacteur nucléaire de Whiteshell, au Manitoba


  1. Le projet de dépotoir nucléaire abandonnerait un million de mètres cube de déchets radioactifs de faible activité – à moins d’un kilomètre de la rivière des Outaouais- source d’eau potable pour des millions de Québécois.
  • Le site choisi pour le dépotoir nucléaire se trouve à flanc de colline, à moins d’un kilomètre de la rivière des Outaouais, le principal affluent du fleuve Saint-Laurent et la source d’eau potable de millions de Québécois.
  • Il se draine dans une zone marécageuse vers le lac Perch et son ruisseau qui se déverse directement dans la rivière des Outaouais.


  1. Le méga-dépotoir aurait une superficie équivalente à la taille de 70 patinoires de hockey de la LNH.
  • Cette installation s’étendrait sur 16 hectares et s’élèverait jusqu’à 18 mètres de hauteur.


  1. Le site pour le dépotoir nucléaire se trouve sur une ligne de faille sismique majeure, au-dessus d’un substrat rocheux poreux et fracturé.
  • Des études, menées dans les années 90, ont déterminé que les couches rocheuses sous-jacentes au site étaient poreuses et fracturées, et que les eaux souterraines affluaient vers la rivière des Outaouais.
  • Le site se trouve dans la zone sismique de l’Ouest du Québec. Selon Ressources naturelles Canada, un tremblement de terre peut y atteindre une magnitude de 6 sur l’échelle de Richter.


  1. Le méga-dépotoir va contenir des déchets radioactifs de longues durées de vie
  • Les normes de sécurité établies par l’Agence internationale d’énergie atomique (AIEA) prévoient que seuls des déchets radioactifs de « très faible activité » peuvent être enfouis dans une telle instal Selon ces normes, les déchets doivent devenir inoffensifs avant que les revêtements perdent leur intégrité et leur étanchéité.
  • Cependant, certains des déchets faussement classés comme étant de « faible activité» que proposent d’enfouir les Laboratoires nucléaires canadiens ont une demi-vie radioactive de plusieurs dizaines de milliers d’années, alors que les membranes géotextiles du dépotoir ont une durée de vie de 500 ans, selon les promoteur


  1. Les déchets radioactifs seront exposés à la pluie, à la neige et aux autres intempéries de plus en plus imprévisibles avec les changements climatiques en plus d’interagir entre eux à cause de la radioactivité
  • Durant les cinquante années requises pour remplir le dépotoir, les déchets radioactifs seraient exposés aux précipitations de pluie, de neige et à d’autres intempéries (tornades, etc.).
  • Les promoteurs ont prévu une station de traitement pour les eaux contaminées, mais il n’existe aucun moyen d’éliminer le tritium qui rend l’eau radioactive. De plus, plusieurs substances radioactives peuvent être présentes dans l’eau sans qu’il soit possible de les mesurer.
  • Les interactions critiques et dangereuses entre toutes les substances radioactives contenues dans le dépotoir sont inconnus, surtout à cause des radiations, de la chaleur et de l’humidité.


  1. Les projets de mise en tombeau des réacteurs nucléaires de Rolphton (Ontario) et de Whiteshell (Manitoba) vont également contaminer des sources d’eau potable
  • La mise en tombeau des réacteurs nucléaires de Rolphton et de Whiteshell consiste à laisser les réacteurs en place et à les remplir d’un coulis de béton, alors qu’ils sont situés à quelques dizaines de mètres de la rivière des Outaouais, en Ontario et de la rivière Winnipeg, au Manitoba.
  • Les projets contreviennent aux normes de sécurité établies par l’AIEA qui déconseille la mise en tombeau, sauf quand on ne peut faire autrement, à cause d’un accident grave.


  1. Ces trois projets dangereux sont présentés par un consortium d’entreprises privées
  • En 2015, le gouvernement Harper a transféré l’exploitation et la gestion des Laboratoires nucléaires canadiens à un consortium de sociétés multinationales à but lucratif basées aux États-Unis, au Royaume-Uni et au Canada, selon un modèle de partenariat public-privé. Bien que le dépotoir serait administré par le consortium, le site de Chalk River et son méga-dépotoir, tout comme les réacteurs nucléaires cimentés sur place demeurent la propriété du Gouvernement du Canada.


  1. Le processus d’évaluation environnementale en vue de l’approbation de ces trois projets est sous la responsabilité de la même agence qui fait la promotion de l’industrie nucléaire.
  • Depuis les modifications apportées par le gouvernement Harper en 2012 à la Loi canadienne sur l’évaluation environnementale, la Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire (CCSN), un organisme non élu, a la responsabilité exclusive de l’approbation des projets nucléaires. Les modifications de la loi, ont notamment aboli l’obligation d’obtenir l’avis d’une commission indépendante pour les projets nucléaires et ont exclu le ministre de l’Environnement de la prise de dé
  • La CCSN a démontré par le passé son incapacité à protéger l’environnement et une tendance à favoriser d’avantage les intérêts de l’industrie nucléaire que la sécurité publique.


  1. 9. Les municipalités en aval ont vivement exprimé leur objection contre le dépotoir nucléaire de Chalk River
  • 135 municipalités et MRC québécoises ont adopté des résolutions contre le projet de méga-dépotoir à Chalk River parce que le site et la technologie proposés leur semblent inadéquats.


  1. Il faut agir maintenant: citoyens, gouvernements municipaux, provinciaux et Premières Nations doivent concerter leurs actions pour s’opposer aux projets et protéger la rivière des Outaouais et la rivière Winnipeg- sources d’eau potable de millions de Canadiens.

Actions proposées:


Fiche d’information préparée par les associations Old Fort William Cottager’s Association, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and area, le Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive et la Coalition contre le dépotoir nucléaire sur la rivière des Outaouais.


Ten Things to Know About Radioactive Waste Management in Canada


Three projects to manage Canada’s radioactive waste heritage threaten to radioactively contaminate the drinking water of millions of Canadians:
• The radioactive waste dump on the Ottawa River in Chalk River, Ontario
• The entombment of the nuclear reactor on the Ottawa River in Rolphton, Ontario
• The entombment of the Whiteshell nuclear reactor on the Winnipeg River in Pinawa, Manitoba


1. The radioactive waste dump project would abandon one million cubic metres of radioactive waste – less than one kilometre from the Ottawa River – a source of drinking water for millions of Quebecers.
• The site chosen for the nuclear dump will be located on a hillside, less than one kilometre from the Ottawa River, the main tributary of the St. Lawrence River and the source of drinking water for millions of Quebecers.
• The site is surrounded by a swamp which drains into Perch Lake and Perch creek, which flow directly into the Ottawa River.


2. The mega-dump would be about the size of 70 NHL hockey rinks.
• This facility would span 16 hectares and be 18 metres in height.


3. The site for the nuclear dump is located on a major seismic fault, above porous and fractured bedrock.
• Studies in the 1990s determined that the underlying rock layers at the site are porous and fractured, and that groundwater flows into the Ottawa River.
• The site is in the seismic zone of western Quebec. According to Natural Resources Canada, an earthquake in this area can reach a magnitude of 6 on the Richter scale.


4. The mega-dump will contain long-lived radionuclides.
• The safety standards established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicate that only “very low-level” radioactive waste can be buried in such an installation. According to these standards, the waste must become harmless before the geotextile membrane cover loses its integrity and watertightness.
• However, some of the waste that is falsely classified as “low activity” that is proposed to be included in this dump by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories has a radioactive half-life of several tens of thousands of years, while the geotextile membrane has a duration of 500 years, according to the promoters.


5. Radioactive waste will be exposed to rain, snow and all weather conditions that are increasingly unpredictable with climate change and the wastes will interact with each other due to radioactivity.
• During the fifty years required to fill the dump, radioactive waste would be exposed to rain, snow and other inclement weather (tornadoes, etc.).
• Proponents include a water treatment plant for contaminated water, but there is no way to remove the tritium that makes the water radioactive. In addition, several radioactive substances may be present in the water without it being possible to measure them.
• The critical and dangerous interactions between all radioactive substances in the dump are unknown, mainly because of radiation, heat and humidity.


6. Reactor entombment projects at Rolphton, Ontario, and Pinawa, Manitoba will also contaminate drinking water sources.
• The entombment of the Rolphton and Whiteshell nuclear reactors consists in leaving the reactors in place and filling them with concrete grout.  These reactors are located  only several hundred metres from the Ottawa River, in Ontario and the Winnipeg River, in Manitoba.
• Entombment contravenes IAEA safety standards except in the case of a serious accident.


7. These three dangerous projects are presented by a consortium of private companies.
• In 2015, the Harper Government transferred the operation and management of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories to a consortium of for-profit multinational corporations based in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, using a public-private partnership model.  Although the dump would be administered by the consortium, the Chalk River site and its mega-dump, just like the cemented on-site nuclear reactors, remain the property of the Government of Canada.


8. The environmental assessment process for approval of these three projects is the responsibility of the same agency that promotes the nuclear industry.
• Since the Harper Government’s 2012 amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), an unelected body, has sole responsibility for the approval of nuclear projects. The amendments to the act, in particular, abolished the requirement to obtain the opinion of an independent commission for nuclear projects and excluded the Minister of the Environment from the decision-making process.
• The CNSC has demonstrated in the past its inability to protect the environment and a tendency to favour the interests of the nuclear industry more than public safety.


9. Downstream Municipalities Strongly Oppose the Chalk River Nuclear Dump.
• 135 Quebec municipalities and MRCs passed resolutions against the Chalk River mega-dump project because the proposed site and technology seem inadequate.


10. We must act now: citizens, municipal, provincial and First Nations governments must work together to oppose projects and protect the Ottawa River and the Winnipeg River – sources of drinking water for millions of Canadians.
Proposed actions:
• Communicate with elected municipal officials, members of Parliament, deputies of the National Assembly to express your opposition to projects.
• Contact the media and environmental, civic, social and labor groups in your area to raise awareness of the situation and ask them to oppose these foolish projects.
• Demand that radioactive waste be safely managed for future generations.
• Request a deep geological site for medium and high activity radioactive waste.
• Follow us on Facebook and take part in our actions ( and and Citizens of Renfrew County and Area).


Fact sheet prepared by the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area,  Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive and the Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River.