CCRCA Comments on Canada’s radioactive waste policy review

Concerned Citizens call for an independent waste authority; no import, reprocessing, or abandonment; transparency and traceability.

Updated July 14, 2021

Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area 

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan 

Minister of Natural Resources 

House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6 

Via e-mail:

May 31, 2021

Re: Canada’s Radioactive Waste Policy Review

Dear Minister O’Regan:

Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area (CCRCA) is an incorporated, non-profit organization that has been working for the clean-up and prevention of radioactive pollution from the nuclear industry in the Ottawa Valley for 40+ years. Our current focus is nuclear waste, in particular the proposed giant mound for one million cubic meters of radioactive waste at the federally owned Chalk River Laboratories, and the proposed “entombment” of the federal Nuclear Power Demonstration reactor at Rolphton, Ontario.

A modernized radioactive waste policy should state Canada’s intent to fully meet its obligations pursuant to international legal instruments developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), specifically the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.  

The modernized policy should explicitly state Canada’s intent to meet its obligations under Article 4 (Implementing Measures) and Article 5 (Reporting) of the Convention on Nuclear Safety, and under Article 12 (Existing Facilities and Past Practices) and Article 32 (Reporting) of the Joint Convention

With regard to Article 32, Canada should require that all owners and generators of radioactive waste maintain full inventories of waste volume or mass, activity and specific radionuclides.  Where only estimates of volume or mass, activity and specific radionuclides are available, the methods and assumptions used in preparing these radioactive waste inventory estimates should be described in sufficient detail that an independent body can verify the estimates.  

Radioactive waste inventories should be updated regularly and be made publicly available on an ongoing (e.g., annual) basis. 

A national body – a national radioactive waste authority – should be established with a legislated mandate to maintain records, knowledge and memory of radioactive waste.  The authority should be charged with maintaining a national radioactive waste inventory..  It should have a capacity and legal mandate to inspect nuclear facilities and independently verify inventory information provided by waste generators and owners.  The national authority should be independent of other bodies — whether government or private sector — that regulate, utilize or promote nuclear energy.

The radioactive waste authority should ensure traceability of radioactive waste, including any transfers of waste for processing, storage, or disposal.  Responsibility for traceability and maintenance of records, knowledge and memory related to radioactive waste should not rest with Canada’s nuclear regulator.  

When any proposal is submitted to Canada’s nuclear regulator for a new nuclear facility or activity (such as decommissioning) that would generate, store, dispose of, or transfer wastes, the proponent should also be required to submit estimates of the volume or mass, activity and specific radionuclides in the radioactive wastes associated with that facility or activity to Canada’s national radioactive waste authority.  

In the case of any proposed new nuclear reactors – such as “small modular reactors” – this should include a full accounting of activation products created by neutron bombardment of reactor components, fission products and transuranics in the fuel, and wastes associated with fuel fabrication, processing, and reprocessing.  

The proponent of a new nuclear facility or activity (such as decommissioning) should also be required to submit a detailed management plan for wastes arising to the national authority.   Acceptance of the waste estimates and the management plan by Canada’s national radioactive waste authority should be required prior to approval of any new facility or activity by Canada’s nuclear regulator.

Canada’s modernized radioactive waste policy should state explicitly that the protection of human health by avoiding radiological exposure shall be given the highest priority in radioactive waste management, and cannot be compromised by economic considerations of “cost-effectiveness”.  It should state explicitly that radioactive waste generation shall be minimized.  It should state explicitly that every effort shall be made to minimize the waste burden imposed on future generations.   

Canada’s modernized policy should state explicitly that radioactive waste shall be contained and isolated from the biosphere.

Canada’s modernized policy should state explicitly that the public shall have full access to information about radioactive waste.  

Canada’s modernized policy should state explicitly the principle of justification as described in the IAEA Fundamental Safety Principles:  that “facilities and activities that give rise to radiation risks must yield an overall benefit,” and that the benefit must “outweigh the radiation risks to which they give rise.”

The national radioactive waste authority should be given the mandate to ensure that generators and owners of radioactive waste adhere to these principles.

At present, Canada’s 143-word “Radioactive Waste Policy Framework” (RWPF) – in calling only for “waste disposal plans” – ignores the internationally agreed pre-disposal requirements for radioactive waste found in the IAEA General Safety Requirements (GSR) Part 5, Predisposal Management of Radioactive Waste.  Requirements of GSR Part 5 that are not addressed in the RWPF include 2 on “National policy and strategy on radioactive waste management,” 8 on “Radioactive waste generation and control,” 9 on “Characterization and classification of radioactive waste,” 11 on “Storage of radioactive waste”, and 20 on “Shutdown and decommissioning of facilities.” 

Canada is currently on a slippery slope to radioactive waste abandonment, with risks of undocumented waste transfers and illegal dumping, exposing future generations to unknown radiological hazards.  The emphasis on disposal in the RWPF creates an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.  

Much of Canada’s current radioactive waste legacy has been created by the Government of Canada itself.  The federal government has failed to acknowledge its own responsibilities as waste generator and owner.  It remains an active promoter of nuclear energy under a Nuclear Energy Act that gives the Minister of Natural Resources powers to “utilize, cause to be utilized and prepare for the utilization of nuclear energy.”   

The RWPF, in stating the “polluter pays” principle, is fundamentally at odds with Government of Canada assertions that nuclear energy is “clean”.  

A national radioactive waste authority that is accountable to elected public officials but independent of government or industry bodies that promote or utilize nuclear energy is an essential complement to a modernized radioactive waste policy.

As owner of Canada’s only licensed commercial radioactive waste storage facility at the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL), the federal government has assumed ownership of significant inventories of industrial, hospital, and university wastes. 

Some industrial wastes stored at CRL are imports from foreign countries.  Canadian companies are major manufacturers of cobalt-60 “sealed sources”.  Canada’s Seventh National Report to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management says “Canada remains a global leader in the production and export of Category 1 cobalt-60 radioactive sealed sources, supplying approximately 95 percent of the global demand.”

Article 28 of the Joint Convention says 

A Contracting Party shall allow for re-entry into its territory of disused sealed sources if, in the framework of its national law, it has accepted that they be returned to a manufacturer qualified to receive and possess the disused sealed sources.

Canada has not to our knowledge accepted the return of sealed sources in the framework of its national law; nonetheless, Canadian companies such as Nordion, Best Theratronics, and SRB Technologies are doing a brisk trade in waste imports in the form of disused sealed sources and expired self-luminous tritium devices..  

These companies do not necessarily limit their imports to devices of their own manufacture.  Imported radioactive wastes are being sent to CRL, where they become the property of the Government of Canada.

Canada’s modernized radioactive waste policy should ban radioactive waste imports.

A national radioactive waste authority should have the mandate to track the inventory of private sector waste transferred to Government of Canada ownership.  The authority should collect payments that are adequate for the long-term management of transferred wastes.  It should assume the management of the fund currently overseen by the federal crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. It should be responsible for developing appropriate management strategies for federal nuclear wastes.  

Responsibility for management of wastes owned by the Government of Canada should not be in the hands of a body with a mandate to promote and utilize nuclear energy 

With regard to Canada’s obligations under Article 12 (Existing Facilities and Past Practices) of the Joint Convention, the national radioactive waste authority should be responsible for remediation of areas contaminated by past practices.  Canada’s obligations in this regard are described in requirement 49 (“Responsibilities for remediation of areas with residual radioactive material”) of the IAEA GSR Part 3, Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources.  

Areas with “residual radioactive material” include those contaminated by uranium mines and processing facilities formerly owned by the Government of Canada (including those in the Port Hope area) as well as federally-owned nuclear facilities (such as the Chalk River Laboratories).   

GSR Part 3 requirements for areas contaminated by past practices include a remedial action plan, appropriate record keeping, a strategy for managing wastes arising, and public involvement in planning, implementation and verification of remedial actions.  

These requirements should be met by a national radioactive waste authority – a body that does not have a mandate to promote and utilize nuclear energy.  

The federal crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Limited is not the appropriate body to meet these requirements.

Of particular concern to our group is that Atomic Energy of Canada Limited is allowing private companies under contract to transfer radioactive and other hazardous wastes from federal nuclear facilities in Manitoba, southern Ontario, and Quebec to the Chalk River Laboratories.  This is being done under an unapproved “Integrated Waste Strategy”.  There is no long-term management plan for the transferred wastes, nor is there a remedial action plan for the Chalk River Laboratories.

We submit that Atomic Energy of Canada Limited is acting in a non-transparent and unaccountable manner and showing disrespect for the Government of Canada’s obligations to Indigenous rights holders and to the public at large.

With regard to lack of transparency of activities related to radioactive waste transport, processing and storage, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited is allowing Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, a private company owned by a consortium of multinational engineering firms, to make its own determinations regarding a range of activities at the Chalk River Laboratories that may have significant adverse environmental impacts but are not being adequately disclosed or reviewed under the Impact Assessment Act.  

During the period November 2020 to March 2021, numerous “section 82” waste-related
projects were posted on the Impact Assessment Registry with essentially no information other than the following headings:

81139 Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Cask Facility Project
81177 Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Intermediate Level Waste Storage Area
81178 Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Bulk Storage Laydown Area
81209 Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Material Pit Expansion Project
81375 Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Building Demolition Project
81389 Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Waste Management Area Modification Project
81403 Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Heel Storage Removal Project
81424 Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Effluent Monitoring Stations Upgrade Project
81443 Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Multi-Purpose Waste Handling Facility

For each of these projects, a “Notice of Determination” has now been issued.  All have been similar to the one for project 81443:

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) has determined that the proposedMulti-Purpose Waste Handling Facility Project at AECL’s Chalk River site is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects… Therefore, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada may carry out the project, exercise any power, perform any duty or function, or provide financial assistance to enable the project to be carried out in whole or in part.

Beginning on April 1, 2021, our group sent repeated e-mails asking for information on these projects to the contact person listed in the Impact Assessment Registry: Patrick Quinn, Director, Corporate Communications, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.  Mr. Quinn has sent e-mails in reply promising to provide information, but no information has been forthcoming to date.  In the meantime, the 30-day deadlines for public comments on all these projects have passed.  

We question the acceptability of a process by which Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, a privately-owned company, makes its own determinations that its projects, carried out on federal land, are not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.  

We brought this to the attention of Nana Kwamena, Ph.D., Director, Environmental Assessment Division, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, on April 8th.  She replied:

The projects listed below are activities that CNL is authorized to conduct under its current licence.  No additional authorization or assessment is required by CNSC.  Therefore, I recommend reaching out directly to CNL to receive additional information about these projects.

We also brought this to the attention of Mr. David McGovern, President of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC), We asked “Is Canadian Nuclear Laboratories a federal authority for the purposes of section 81 of the [Impact Assessment] Act?  If so, how should we proceed in obtaining information that will allow us to submit comments on this company’s projects?” 

On April 16th the IAAC replied that AECL “is the federal authority responsible for making the environmental effects determination required by section 82 of the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) as it is a Crown corporation,” and AECL “indicated that they work with the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) in implementing their obligations.”  IAAC added that “we have been assured that AECL or CNL will be in touch with you shortly to provide answers to any questions you may have on these projects” However, neither AECL nor CNL provided details on the projects prior to the date of this submission. 

Lack of transparency and lack of opportunities for public input related to radioactive waste-related activities on federal lands is unacceptable.  Full transparency must be a foundational principle of Canada’s radioactive waste policy.  It is particularly troubling that the Government of Canada itself is violating this principle.

We note that the Government of Canada has provided $50.5 million to Moltex Energy Canada Inc., to develop a process to “recycle” – extract plutonium from — used nuclear fuel.  Moltex has announced that it is partnering with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories to “design, build and optimize the test apparatus used to process the used fuel.”  

Waste and nuclear weapons proliferation issues related to reprocessing used fuel to extract plutonium for use in small modular reactors have received considerable media attention in recent days.  Our group is very concerned that research on this process will be carried out at Chalk River Laboratories, very likely without transparency. 

Canada’s radioactive waste policy should prohibit reprocessing of nuclear fuel waste.

Problems identified in this submission — non-transparency, lack of full waste accounting, undocumented waste transport, lack of waste traceability, waste imports from foreign countries, the slippery slope toward waste abandonment, nuclear weapons proliferation risks of plutonium reprocessing, lack of remedial action plans for areas contaminated through past practices, avoidance of environmental assessment – should be addressed in a modernized policy, and through creation of a national radioactive waste authority, independent and arms-length from any government department, crown corporation or agency whose mandate includes the utilization or promotion of nuclear energy.

Five good reasons to support the City of Ottawa’s call for an assessment of Ottawa Valley radioactive disposal projects

On April 14, 2021 the City of Ottawa council passed a resolution of concern about the Chalk River and Rolphton radioactive waste disposal projects, joining more than 140 municipalities, the Anishinabek Nation and Iroquois Caucus, and the Assembly of First Nations.

Prior to being passed by the full Ottawa City Council, the resolution was studied and passed unanimously by the City’s environment committee after an eight hour meeting on March 30, 2021 which can be viewed here. Among other things, the resolution calls on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to initiate a regional assessment of Ottawa Valley radioactive disposal projects under the Impact Assessment Act of 2019.  (See Mayor Jim Watson’s letter to Minister Wilkinson here.)

Here are five reasons to support the City of Ottawa’s call to Minister Jonathan Wilkinson:

1. Radioactive waste in the Ottawa Valley is a very large and complex problem. It makes up the lion’s share of federally-owned “legacy” radioactive wastes, an $8 billion liability for the citizens of Canada.

The radioactive wastes currently on site at the Chalk River Laboratories, upstream of Ottawa-Gatineau, make up most of the Government of Canada’s eight billion dollar nuclear liability. This federal radioactive cleanup liability exceeds the sum total of 2000 other federal environmental liabilities . As Canada’s largest and most complex federal environmental liability, this challenge is worthy of the best and most thorough assessment available under the new Impact Assessment Act.

2. Proposed Ottawa Valley radioactive disposal projects are substandard, highly controversial, and would NOT address many parts of the needed cleanup.

The proposed Chalk River Mound (“Near Surface Disposal Facility”) and Rolphton Reactor Tomb (“NPD Closure Project”) are low budget, inadequate proposals meant to quickly and cheaply reduce Canada’s federal nuclear liabilities. The two projects were proposed five years ago by a consortium of private companies contracted by the Harper government in 2015. The proposals ignore safety standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency and have been found wanting in thousands of critical comments submitted by Indigenous communities, municipalities, former AECL scientists and managers, NGOs, citizens’ groups and individuals.

The projects are expected to leak radioactive contaminants into the Ottawa River for millennia, according to Environmental Impact Statements produced by the proponent. The giant Chalk River Mound is expected to disintegrate as part of a process of “normal evolution” according to the proponent’s “performance assessment” study.

The vast majority of radioactive wastes in the Ottawa Valley would NOT be addressed by these two projects.

3. Environmental assessments of the giant mound and reactor tomb are being badly fumbled.

The environmental assessments of the NSDF and NPD closure projects were initiated in 2016 by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Numerous problems with the CNSC’s handling of the EAs were identified in Environmental Petition 413 to the Auditor General of Canada in January 2018. Problems have continued to arise including lack of opportunity for public input, lack of transparency, and lack of firm deadlines for completion of the assessments. The EAs have been ongoing for far longer than is normal or reasonable for such assessments.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has been identified as a captured regulator that promotes the projects it is supposed to regulate. The CNSC is therefore not an ideal agency to be overseeing assessments of radioactive disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley.

4. The complex challenge of nuclear waste in the Ottawa Valley is NOT addressed by the assessments that are currently ongoing.

Again, the eight billion dollar federal radioactive cleanup liability is the biggest and most expensive federal environmental challenge by far. The vast majority of the wastes comprising this liability are already in the Ottawa Valley at the Chalk River Laboratories. For an indication of the complexity of this challenge at Chalk River see the Ottawa Citizen article by Ian McLeod, Chalk River’s Toxic Legacy. Radioactive wastes not addressed by the mound and the tomb proposals include the three reactor cores dumped in the sand at Chalk River (including one from the 1952 NRX partial meltdown), the highly radioactive solidified medical isotope production wastes (including weapons-grade uranium-235), the tanks of intermediate- and high-activity liquid wastes at the ‘Waste Tank Farm”, the spent fuel from the NRX, NRU and NPD reactors, and the NRX and NRU reactors themselves.

The private sector consortium running Canadian Nuclear Laboratories plans to consolidate the federal governments’s radioactive waste from across Canada in the Ottawa Valley and is already shipping radioactive wastes from Manitoba, Quebec and elsewhere in Ontario to Chalk River. There are serious concerns about consolidating federal nuclear wastes at the Chalk River site, in a seismically-active area, beside a major river (The Kitchissippi/ Ottawa) that provides drinking water for millions of Canadians. Serious concerns about long term storage of radioactive waste in close proximity to water bodies are noted in the Joint Declaration of the Anishinabek Nation Iroquois Caucus on transport and abandonment of radioactive waste. Consolidation of federal government nuclear wastes in the Ottawa Valley and First Nations’ guidance to store waste away from major water bodies are not addressed by the current NSDF and NPD environmental assessments.

CCRCA recently learned that the consortium is going ahead with radioactive waste projects such as a new cask facility to receive shipments of highly-radioactive spent fuel from the Whiteshell (MB) and Gentilly-1 (QC) reactors, and a new intermediate-level waste storage facility that would likely contain dangerous commercial wastes. The consortium is making determinations about the significance of the impacts of these projects on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) with no transparency or public input. Assessment of the risks and implications of these projects should be done through a transparent public process. AECL, which has been reduced from thousands of employees to around 40, appears to be shirking its role of overseeing its contract with the consortium. 

The cumulative impacts of all wastes and all current and future projects need to be considered together. A regional assessment could do this.

5. A regional assessment of radioactive waste disposal in the Ottawa Valley could address all problems noted above.

A regional assessment could:

  • make existing baseline data publicly accessible and produce a broad-based analysis of the problem
  • look at cumulative impacts of all the current and proposed management strategies for Ottawa Valley radioactive wastes, and transport of wastes from Manitoba, southern Ontario and Quebec to Chalk River.
  • address leaking waste management areas at the Chalk River Labs, radioactive waste imports to the Ottawa Valley and the potential creation of new wastes associated with the proposed new “small modular” reactor research and development
  • incorporate Indigenous knowledge and priorities
  • look at the big picture including the need to protect drinking water, property values and tourism and provide secure long-term employment opportunities for Ottawa Valley communities.
  • provide assurance to the federal government and other levels of government that the largest federal environmental cleanup liability is being properly addressed.

To support the City of Ottawa’s call, please consider writing to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada  For your reference, Mayor Jim Watson’s letter to Minister Wilkinson is available for download here.

Letters should be sent to The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson <>

with cc to: OttawaValley-ValleeOutaouais (IAAC/AEIC) <> Please be sure to state that you letter is Re: Canadian Impact Assessment Registry reference number 81624, “Potential regional assessment of radioactive waste disposal in the Ottawa Valley”

and: your member of parliament. Please forward a copy of your letter to us at <>

The Minister is required to respond to Ottawa’s request by July 31, 2021, so send your letters as soon as possible. But don’t hesitate to send them after July 31st too, as this issue is not going away any time soon.

Updated list of First Nations and Municipal Resolutions against the CNL’s current plans for nuclear waste dumps

May 27, 2021

Assembly of First Nations resolution is here:

Example resolution in English:

Montreal Municipal Council’s unanimous resolution (press release and full resolution):

City of Ottawa requests a regional assessment of radioactive waste disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley

The City of Ottawa is requesting a regional assessment of radioactive waste disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley under Canada’s new Impact Assessment Act. This review, if undertaken as requested, would address cumulative impacts of radioactive waste projects planned for the Ottawa Valley. It would be conducted by a committee appointed for the task by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change or by the Impact Assessment Agency.

Trudeau’s got to walk the talk on nuclear waste (Hill Times op-ed by Michael Harris)

The Hill Times
By MICHAEL HARRIS       APRIL 26, 2021

If the Trudeau government is doing more than virtue signalling in its most recent budget, if it is truly committed to making environmental issues top of agenda goals, there are two things that it should be leading on. 
Photo: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pictured March 3, 2021, walking down Wellington Street in Ottawa to the Sir John A. Macdonald Building for that day’s press conference. The government should have condemned Japan’s nuclear dump into the Pacific Ocean—as both bad practice, and dangerous precedent, writes Michael Harris.

HALIFAX—Holding the Tokyo Olympics during a pandemic was always a bad idea.

Sending a national team to compete in Japan, which has just declared a third state of emergency for the Tokyo, Osaka region, is simply insanity.

With more than three million people dead worldwide, vaccine shortages, and several countries like India, Pakistan, and Brazil struggling with a third wave of this constantly mutating killer-virus, why would you?  In COVID Times, travelling and congregating are the new Russian Roulette.

With Earth Day fresh in everyone’s mind, there is another reason not to attend the Olympic Games in Japan. As I have recently reported in The Hill Times, after seven years of handwringing, Japan’s government has decided to dump radioactive waste water from the doomed Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean. The toilet of last resort. The shit-show is set to begin in 2023, and go on for decades.

Three neighbours are glow-in-the-dark furious about Japan’s decision. Taiwan is livid. China called the announced nuclear dump into fishing grounds “unilateral” and “extremely irresponsible.” South Korea, a huge fish-consuming nation, said the move was “totally unacceptable.”

Don’t be surprised if these countries take counter-measures, including reconsidering their attendance at the Olympics. (North Korea has already opted out because of COVID).

There is another group profoundly impacted by this crime against the planet.

Japanese fishermen devastated by the March 11, 2011, nuclear disaster at Fukushima, remain adamantly opposed to their government’s plan. They have struggled for eight years to rebuild their fishery.

That appears to have been the death march of futility. The market for Fukushima fish will be about as brisk as the demand for Chernobyl potatoes, or vacation packages to Montserrat, after the volcano erupted on the Caribbean Island.

What country that is truly committed to rescuing the environment from damage inflicted by humans, hopefully before Earth morphs into Mars, could attend an athletic contest hosted by a government that is deliberately poisoning the ocean with nuclear waste?

And not just a little radioactive water—a million tonnes worth. The now contaminated water was once used to cool the Daiichi nuclear facility at Fukushima. That was before an earthquake and 15-metre tsunami triggered a triple meltdown at the installation. This caused hydrogen explosions, widespread contamination of land in and around the reactor site, and a huge public evacuation.

Now that contaminated water sits in a thousand storage tanks on the wrecked site. Every day, 170 tonnes of freshly contaminated ground water flowing into the installation is added to this dread inventory of nuclear sewage.

The Japanese government argues that it is not just dumping nuclear waste into the Pacific, but treated radioactive waste. It will only be somewhat contaminated.

And even though it won’t be able to remove any of the tritium in the treated toxic stew from Fukushima, tritium is the least harmful of all the radioactive elements. That’s because it’s only a mildly radioactive isotope of hydrogen, you see, trivial really. And besides it will be diluted, and it will meet global standards of practice, blah, blah, blah.

And who will be in charge of this operation? The Tokyo Electric Power Company, the same company that built and operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and is now in charge of the 40-year recovery plan for this catastrophic property.

Feel comforted? Who will ever know if they “treat” and remove all the radioactive iodine and strontium 90 from the ocean-bound contaminated water? The fish I guess.

The International Atomic Energy Agency clearly doesn’t seem concerned. Rafael Grossi, the agency’s Director-General, tweeted this endorsement: “I welcome Japan’s announcement on how it will dispose of the treated water stored at Fukushima nuclear power plant. @IAEA will work with Japan before, during, and after the discharge of the water to help ensure this is carried out without an adverse impact on health and environment.”

A further statement from the IAEA reinforced the director general’s glad-handing.

“Today’s decision by the government of Japan is a milestone that will help pave the way for continued progress in the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.”

The United States gave its own PR pat on the back to Japan’s mind-numbing decision, claiming that the approach being taken appeared to be in line with global standards, “without an adverse impact on human health and the environment.”

Not a thing to worry about. Whenever something truly awful happens involving the nuclear industry, or a terrible decision is made by government, the watch words of the day are “downplay,” “minimize,” and “deny.”

The plain fact is that energy produced from nuclear plants has a fundamental flaw that no one in the nuclear industry has been able to solve: there is still no safe, long-term way to dispose of the nuclear waste that these plants produce.

The U.S., for example, still doesn’t have a deep depository dump for all the radioactive waste from 70 years of being in the nuclear weapons business.

They tried for decades to sell Nevada on making Yucca Mountain the permanent storage site for America’s nuclear waste. They failed because no rational population wants a product that retains its chemical toxicity for millennia to be stored in their backyard.

That might have something to do with what happened at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico in 2014. A drum containing radioactive plutonium and americium waste blew up deep in the mine.  Plumes of radioactive foam contaminated 35 per cent of the installation.

The radioactive waste had been packaged at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Not the boys in shipping and receiving. The best in the business. And it still ended in catastrophe.

If the Trudeau government is doing more than virtue signalling in its most recent budget, if it is truly committed to making environmental issues top of agenda goals, there are two things that it should be leading on.

First, the government should have condemned Japan’s nuclear dump into the Pacific Ocean—as both bad practice, and dangerous precedent.

Second, before investing any more public money in the nuclear route to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, including small modular reactors, they have to have a safe, long-term option for handling Canada’s growing heap of nuclear waste.

Having that contaminated waste stored at nuclear reactor sites in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick is merely an “interim” solution. Those sites are rapidly running out of space. Besides, the dry containers that hold the nuclear waste are designed to work for fifty years. The contamination persists for 250,000 years.

Japan wants the world to come to the Tokyo Olympics in the middle of a deadly pandemic, despite its dreadful decision to dump nuclear waste into the ocean, and a COVID emergency in that country. For both of these reasons, Canada should not attend.

Who wants to spread a plague to watch someone win a hundred-yard dash? And who wants a Radioactive Earth Day somewhere down the road?

Michael Harris is an award-winning author and journalist. 

City of Ottawa passes resolution of concern about CNL’s radioactive waste activities



That Council: 

1. Approve that the City of Ottawa urge the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and its regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, to take action on the City of Ottawa’s concerns related to the proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF), Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) and related activities, including: 

a. stopping current and future import or transfer of external Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) waste from other provinces (e.g. Manitoba); 

b. increasing safeguards to protect the river during site demolition and waste transfer activities; 

c. preventing precipitation from entering the NSDF; 

d. providing the City of Ottawa with timely access to ongoing environmental monitoring data on the Ottawa River; and 

e. committing to prompt notification of spill/release events to City of Ottawa, and; 

2. Direct the Public Works and Environmental Services Department to provide an update to the Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management on City concerns being submitted through the NSDF Environmental Assessment process, and provide an annual update on radioactivity as part of the Drinking Water Summary Report that is issued to Council in fulfillment of the Safe Drinking Water Act 2002, and;

3. Request that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change initiate a regional assessment of radioactive disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley under the Impact Assessment Act, as amended in 2019, and; 

4. Direct the Mayor to write to the Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, Infrastructure and Crown-Indigenous Relations, as well as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories to express the City of Ottawa’s concerns and call for action; and, 

5. Direct the City Clerk to share Council’s position and call to action with the Iroquois Anishinabek Nuclear Alliance as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

Passed at


Hill Times letter ~ No, not all nuclear materials and by-products are safely stored in a highly regulated environment

The Hill Times, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021
Letters / opinions
No, not all nuclear materials and by-products are safely stored in a highly regulated environment, says letter writer (

Re: “We cannot afford to be naive about climate change—renewables and nuclear must work together,” by John Gorman, The Hill Times, Dec. 14, 2020.

Mr. Gorman states “the nuclear industry is the only energy industry that can account for all its by-products. While fossil-fuel emissions go into the atmosphere and other industrial waste goes to landfill, all nuclear materials and by-products are safely stored, managed, and monitored in a highly regulated environment.”

Mr. Gorman appears to be unaware that all CANDU nuclear reactors routinely emit large volumes of radioactive water vapour and other radioactive gases into the atmosphere. CANDU reactors also routinely emit radioactive materials into water bodies (including drinking water sources) such as tritium, carbon-14 and radioactive cesium, strontium and cobalt.

There are numerous leaking radioactive waste areas on the Chalk River Laboratories site north-west of Ottawa-Gatineau on the Ottawa River. These leaking waste sites were described in detail in an Ottawa Citizen article in 2011 by Ian McLeod, entitled “Chalk River’s Toxic Legacy.”

The multinational consortium running Chalk River Laboratories is planning to build a gigantic above-ground landfill for one million tonnes of radioactive waste including plutonium and other materials that would remain radioactive for more than 100,000 years. This way of dealing with radioactive waste contravenes international safety standards and best practices.

The consortium’s own studies show that the mound would leak during operation and after closure. The mound is expected to eventually disintegrate in a process referred to as “normal evolution” described in a study called the “Performance Assessment,” produced by the proponent as part of a protracted and controversial environmental assessment that is ongoing.

So much for Mr. Gorman’s assertion that “all nuclear materials and by-products are safely stored, managed, and monitored in a highly regulated environment.”

Lynn Jones

Ottawa, Ont.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hill Times Op-Ed: Political opposition growing to new nuclear reactors


The nuclear industry and Liberals have not only been laying the groundwork for government funding. It appears they have been ensuring that the framework for nuclear energy in Canada gets even more accommodating.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan has been hyping so-called next-generation reactors for months, portraying the industry as a future utopia. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Mead.

Many Canadians are anxious to see what our energy future will be. Politically, it’s a question that stirs passions from Alberta’s oil patch to Ontario’s cancelled wind farms.

But political debate is picking up around our nuclear energy future. And with good reason. Government-funded expansion of the nuclear industry, and a simultaneous watering-down of regulations, could be the Liberal government’s toxic legacy.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan has been hyping so-called next-generation reactors for months. A recent nuclear industry summit—hosted with federal funding—portrayed nuclear energy expansion in Canada as a future utopia.

The Green Party caucus, the NDP’s natural resources critic Richard Cannings, and the Bloc Québécois’s environment critic Monique Pauzé have all slammed O’Regan’s expected small modular reactor (SMR) “action plan.” They say it does not belong in a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency, wind, solar, and storage technologies are ready to build, and much cheaper, according to Lazard, a financial advisory and asset management firm. The prototype reactors will take years, if not decades, to develop, and could absorb hundreds of millions, even billions, in taxpayer subsidies, according to Greenpeace Canada.

That would mean opportunities lost for those dollars to build many times the amount of zero-emission energy with renewables and energy-efficiency projects. The latter would not create toxic radioactive waste for future generations to contend with.

Independent research says that a nuclear solution for remote communities (as proposed by the government) is likely to cost 10 times more to build and operate than the alternatives.

It seems inevitable that the Liberal action plan will soon be launched with generous handouts for the nuclear industry, whose aspiring players in Canada today include SNC-Lavalin and U.S. corporations like Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy. Few Canadians are aware that “Canadian” Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is owned by a consortium of SNC-Lavalin and two U.S. firms, Fluor and Jacobs.

In recent years, the nuclear industry and Liberals have not only been laying the groundwork for government funding. It appears they’ve also been ensuring that the framework for nuclear energy in Canada gets even more accommodating.

The biggest step was exempting most new reactors from the Impact Assessment Act, which, in 2019, replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This was deemed so important to the nuclear industry’s future that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) lobbied the Liberal government to exempt small reactors—and won. So much for the CNSC, the regulator that’s supposed to oversee the industry, being seen as objective and “world class.”

The Impact Assessment Act was intended to create “greater public trust in impact assessment and decision-making.”  But there will be no federal assessment of nuclear reactors up to 200 thermal MW in size, nor of new reactors built at existing nuclear plants (up to 900 MWth). Yet new tidal power projects, as well as offshore wind farms with 10 or more turbines, need an assessment under the regulations, as do many new fossil fuel projects. 

Also exempted from federal assessment is the “on-site storage of irradiated nuclear fuel or nuclear waste” associated with small modular reactors. This will make it easier for SMRs’ radioactive waste to be potentially left in the northern, remote, and First Nations communities, where they are proposed to be built.

The nuclear regulator has also been responsible for introducing a suite of “regulatory documents” on reactor decommissioning and radioactive waste that environmental groups have called “sham regulation.”

Meanwhile, the bureaucrats at the CNSC have been busy signing a memorandum of cooperation with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Small Modular Reactors. This agreement means that Canada can recognize U.S. reviews of reactor designs in order to “streamline the review process.”

CNSC has also outlined its plan in a document called Strategy for Readiness to Regulate Advanced Reactor Technologies. In a nutshell, the document says that regulations for new reactor designs will have to be flexible. It notes that CNSC regulated the earlier generation of water-cooled reactors (such as CANDUs) at first based on “objectives” in the 1950s and ‘60s. Then, as experience with these reactors evolved, regulations became more detailed and prescriptive. It says the same may have to happen with the new next-gen reactor designs. 

In the 1950s, there were indeed few “prescriptive requirements” for the newfangled reactors. In 1952, the NRX reactor at Chalk River, Ont., had a meltdown. It was the first large-scale nuclear reactor accident in the world and took two years to clean up—which, by 1950s standards, included pumping 10,000 curies of long-lived fission products into a nearby sandy area. Then in 1958, the NRU reactor at Chalk River—a test bed for developing fuels and materials for the CANDU reactor—had a major accident, a fuel-rod fire that contaminated the building and areas downwind. It took 600 workers and military personnel to do the top-secret clean-up.

Let’s hope today’s regulators and lawmakers can learn from history. Does Canada really need or want to be the “leading-edge” testing ground for new experimental nuclear reactors? Canadians should have their say in a referendum—or at the ballot box.

Eva Schacherl is an Ottawa-based environmentalist. 

Hill Times Op Ed: If we’re going to spend a billion dollars a year managing our nuclear waste, let’s do it right

December 7, 2020

by Lynn Jones

OTTAWA—A contract quietly signed during the 2015 federal election campaign between Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and a multinational consortium is costing Canadians billions of dollars and increasing risks to health from deadly radioactive pollutants. 

The multi-billion dollar contract was an attempt by the former federal Conservative government to reduce Canada’s $7.9-billion nuclear waste liability quickly and cheaply by creating a public-private partnership or GoCo (government-owned, contractor-operated) contract.

The GoCo contractor is called the “Canadian National Energy Alliance” (CNEA) even though the majority of its members are foreign corporations. It currently consists of Fluor and Jacobs, two Texas-based multinationals involved in nuclear weapons production, and SNC-Lavalin. Under the contract, the consortium assumed control over all Canada’s federal nuclear facilities and radioactive wastes.

Since the GoCo contract was signed, costs to Canadian taxpayers appear to have almost quadrupled. According to AECL financial reports, its parliamentary appropriations rose from $327-million in 2015 to $1.3-billion (approved) for the year ending March 31, 2021. AECL’s nuclear waste liabilities have not gone down, but rather appear to have increased by about $200-million.  

The Crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, was supposed to oversee the contract on behalf of the Government of Canada but may not have been in a position to do so. Serious problems at AECL were identified by the Auditor General in a 2017 report. Problems included lack of a board chair, lack of a CEO, no board directors at all for 2016 and most of 2017, failure to hold public meetings and lack of experience with the GoCo model.

Since 2015, it appears that the GoCo contractor has spent hundreds of millions of our tax dollars promoting three radioactive waste facilities that we believe to be quick, cheap, and substandard. They are: a giant, above-ground mound beside the Ottawa River at Chalk River, Ontario, for one million tonnes of mixed radioactive and non-radioactive wastes including plutonium, and entombment in concrete of two old nuclear reactors beside the Ottawa and Winnipeg rivers which provide drinking water to millions of Canadians. 

More than two dozen submissions to the Impact Assessment Agency from ex-AECL nuclear waste experts including senior scientists and senior managers highlight serious concerns about the three projects and point out that they fail to meet international safety standards. 

The consortium’s own studies show that all three facilities would leak radioactive contaminants into the environment and drinking water sources for millennia.

The consortium’s own studies show that all three facilities would leak radioactive contaminants into the environment and drinking water sources for millennia.

According to the consortium’s draft environmental impact statement, it appears that the giant Chalk River mound is expected to eventually disintegrate, in a process referred to as “normal evolution”. At that time, its radioactive and hazardous contents would flow out of the mound into surrounding wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River less than a kilometre away. 

Hundreds of concerns about the three projects have been voiced by federal and provincial government departments, First Nations, civil society groups, 140 Quebec municipalities, nuclear waste experts, and concerned citizens. And yet the projects continue to lumber forward and the consortium continues to receive almost a billion dollars a year from Canadian taxpayers. 

Does anyone in government have their eyes on this ball? Did they notice when AECL renewed the GoCo contract early in the pandemic lockdown, 18 months before expiry, despite the recent conviction of consortium partner SNC-Lavalin on a charge of fraud? Are they concerned by the rapidly rising costs and substandard proposals?

…the giant Chalk River mound is expected to eventually disintegrate, in a process referred to as “normal evolution”. At that time, its radioactive and hazardous contents would flow out of the mound into surrounding wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River less than a kilometre away. 

Are they aware that the consortium is bringing thousands of truckloads of radioactive waste to Chalk River from other federal facilities in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec? The Chalk River Laboratories site is not a good place to consolidate federal nuclear waste either for temporary or for long-term storage. It is seismically active and adjacent to the Ottawa River, source of drinking water for Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, and many other communities.

With all of the problems currently facing the world, one might ask, “Why should Canadians care about this nuclear waste problem?”

Radioactive waste is the deadliest waste on the planet. Nuclear reactors create hundreds of dangerous radioactive substances that remain toxic to all life for hundreds of thousands of years. Exposure can cause serious chronic diseases, birth defects, and genetic damage that is passed on to future generations. According to the U.S. National Research Council, there is no safe level of exposure to ionizing radiationreleased from nuclear reactors and nuclear waste facilities. And yet Canada is pouring billions of dollars into projects that will not keep these poisons out of our environment and drinking water.

The Ottawa River is a Canadian Heritage River that flows past Parliament Hill—surely we don’t want to be the generation responsible for permanently contaminating it with radioactive waste.

Surely we can and must do better. The Ottawa River is a Canadian Heritage River that flows past Parliament Hill—surely we don’t want to be the generation responsible for permanently contaminating it with radioactive waste.

If we are going to spend a billion dollars a year managing our nuclear waste, let’s do it right. Let’s meet or exceed international standards and build secure storage facilities, well away from drinking water sources. Let’s make sure the wastes are carefully packaged and labelled and stored in monitored and retrievable conditions. This approach will create thousands of good, long-lasting careers in the nuclear waste and decommissioning field and show the world what top tier radioactive waste storage facilities look like.

Hill Times photo by Andrew Meade

SMRs are actually DDDs (Dirty Dangerous Distractions)

Commentary by Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

SMRs are really DDDs and should be called such.

A DDD is a Dirty Dangerous Distraction. It is an acronym much more to the point than SMR.

Nuclear proponents are loathe to even use the N in theiracronym (SMR) for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMNRs)because they want to hide the one aspect – the NUCLEAR aspect – that is the source of all the unmentioned problems with these devices. It is the insidious linages to nuclear waste and to nuclear weapons that are precisely what set these machines apart.But the industry hopes that no one will notice if they leave out the N.It may sound silly or trivial, but it is not silly or trivial. It is deliberate.

SMRs (or SMNRs) are Dirty, Dangerous Distractions. They are DDDs.

They are DIRTY because they produce radioactive waste of all categories – low-level, intermediate-level, and high-level. It is by farthe most deadly waste byproduct that any industry has ever created.

Every SMR is DANGEROUS because it is not just a machine for generating electricity, it is also a warehouse of radioactivepoisons that can do tremendous damage for centuries to comeif anything happens to disperse those poisons into the environment, such as an act of warfare (e.g. aerial bombardment) or sabotage, or a plane crash or a violent earthquake. Once released, these poisons will contaminate the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe, and the damage will last for generations.

Some SMRs – those that are called “fast” or “advanced” reactors,those that talk about “reusing” or “recycling” or “reprocessing” irradiated nuclear fuel – pose an even more serious existential danger. Such reactors are predicated upon the extraction of plutonium and other human-made elements that are heavier than uranium to extend the nuclear fuel supply. But plutonium is also the primary nuclear explosive in the world’s nuclear arsenals, and extracting it from irradiated fuel makes plutonium that much more accessible to militaristic regimes, as well as criminals and terrorists, thereby facilitating the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are the greatest human-made threat to the survival of human civilization (and most advanced forms of life on Earth).

SMNRs are also a DISTRACTION because they prevent us from dealing with climate change right now, rather than waiting 10 or 20 years to see is SMRs are even going to prove worthwhile. So much can be done through prompt investments in energy efficiency and renewables, where benefits are enjoyed in just one orTwo building seasons, using technology that is already proven and inherently safe. Can anyone imagine a catastrophic situation arising from the failure of windmills or solar collectors? Energy efficiency and renewables can be implemented faster and cheaper than nuclear power, creating more jobs and providing more sustainability at the same time. 

SMRs also distract us from realizing that we have no solution to the problem of how to safely keep these radioactive poisons out of the environment of living things for millennia to come, and therefore we should stop creating them. As long as the industry distracts the decision-makers by dangling a charm bracelet of pie-in-the-sky miraculous “clean, safe, cheap nuclear reactors”(All those adjective being demonstrable lies) our political representatives are prevented from focussing on the horrendous radioactive waste problems that we have already accumulated and that will constitute a radioactive legacy forever.

Although we have no cure for the coronavirus, we do have effective methods for limiting its spread and preventing the worsening of the situation. So too we have no way to eliminate or neutralize radioactive wastes or to render them harmless, but we do know how to package them well and repackage them when necessary — as long as we don’t abandon them thereby putting these enormously dangerous materials beyond human control (as some people have abandoned their responsibility to control the spread of the coronavirus). As long as we don’t keep multiplying the sources of radioactive waste (by building a whole new fleet of nuclear reactors called SMRs) we would have a chance of addressing the radioactive waste legacy with some degree of responsibility and maturity.

Nuclear power is the ONLY technology that actually creates hundreds of new toxic elements, most of which were never found in nature prior to 1939. Those elements, once created, cannot be destroyed or rendered harmless. There isno non-nuclear method known to science – heat, pressure, combustion, chemical reactions, NOTHING – that can slow down or stop the rate of atomic disintegration, and those disintegrating atoms will give off the subatomic shrapnel that we call‘“atomic radiation” at a predetermined rate defined by the so-called “half-life”.

I have discovered that every category of radioactive waste associated with theNuclear fuel chain (from uranium mining to reactor operation to decommissioning to waste management) has a significant number of radioactive poisons that will remain a hazard for hundreds of thousands of years. That is true of uranium tailings, of low and intermediate level wastes from reactor operations, of the thousands of truckloads of radioactive rubble from decommissioning a reactor, of the so-called “depleted uranium” stored in the back yards of uranium enrichment plants, and of the irradiated nuclear fuel itself.

Keeping radioactive waste out of the environment of living things for hundreds of thousands of years is an unsolved problem of the human race. We should not be adding to this dreadful legacy, or allowing our attention to be distracted away from dealing with the problem properly (i.e. as best we can!).