A call for World-class Cleanup at Chalk River Laboratories

April 2022

Canada’s $16 billion nuclear waste legacy is in danger of being abandoned in substandard facilities and allowed to leak into our rivers and drinking water. Instead, let’s use our expertise  to turn Canada into a world leader in the cleanup and safe storage of  radioactive waste.  

WORLD-CLASS NUCLEAR WASTE CLEANUP would protect  health, drinking water, property values and peace of mind.    

What do experts say is needed?  

The International Atomic Energy Agency says that radioactive waste  facilities must be carefully sited and waste placed below ground to keep  radioactive materials out of air and water and protect current and future  generations. The IAEA says that siting is a fundamentally important activity in the disposal of radioactive waste. Location of a disposal facility in a “stable geological formation” provides protection from processes such as erosion and glaciation.  It says that  nuclear reactor entombment should only be used in the case of a “severe accident”, such as a meltdown.

Retired AECL scientists say that IAEA guidance must be followed, that  Canada has an obligation to follow the guidelines as a signatory to the  Joint Convention on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.  

First Nations, in a Joint Declaration, endorsed by resolution at the  Assembly of First Nations, say that nuclear waste should be managed  according to five principles: 1) no abandonment, 2) monitored and  retrievable storage 3) better containment, more packaging, 2) away from  drinking water and major water bodies and 5) no unnecessary transport  (exports and imports) 

The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility says radioactive  waste should be carefully managed in monitored and retrievable condition  so that repairs to packaging can be made as needed, to keep the contents  out of the biosphere, our air, soil and drinking water. The CCNR suggests  that a “rolling stewardship” strategy whereby each generation teaches  each subsequent generation how to look after the wastes and keep them  out of the biosphere.

Some countries such as Finland have made good progress building  facilities to keep radioactive waste out of the biosphere. Finland puts  low- and intermediate-level radioactive wastes produced by its four nuclear reactors in bedrock  geological facilities 100 meters deep. It has over 25 years of experience  with these facilities. They will also house the radioactive remains of the  reactors when they are shut down and dismantled. 

WORLD-CLASS NUCLEAR WASTE CLEANUP would bring  money into the Ottawa Valley economy and support good  careers for generations of valley residents.  

WORLD-CLASS NUCLEAR WASTE CLEANUP would involve: 

Thoroughly characterizing all wastes

Establishing an impeccable record-keeping system for use by current and future generations.

Careful packaging and labelling of the wastes. Repairing packages  when they fail and improving them if safer packaging materials become  available. 

Regional mapping to locate a site with stable bedrock 

Construction and operation of an in ground or underground storage facility. Materials that will be radioactive and  hazardous for thousands of years cannot be safely stored on the surface.

While waiting for all of the above steps to be completed, wastes should  be stored in above ground monitored and reinforced (and shielded if  necessary) concrete warehouses; such facilities were pioneered by  Atomic Energy of Canada Limited in the 1990s.  

WORLD-CLASS NUCLEAR WASTE STORAGE FACILITIES  would protect the Ottawa River and future generations.  

Inadequate siting process for the NSDF

April 14, 2022 (Updated May 13, 2022)

IAEA Safety Guide SSG-29, Appendix 1, Siting of Near Surface Disposal Facilities, says siting is a “fundamentally important activity in the disposal of radioactive waste.” (Ref: https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub1637_web.pdf, p. 83)

SSG-29 says the first two stages in the siting process are a “conceptual and planning stage,” during which “projected waste volumes and activities should be quantified,” and an “area survey stage,” involving “regional mapping or investigation.”   

The NSDF facility type and site were selected without quantifying volumes and activities of federal wastes awaiting disposal, and without a regional investigation, thus skipping the first two stages identified in the IAEA Safety Guide.

Proximity to contaminated structures being demolished at the Chalk River Laboratories — not safety or environmental protection — appears to have been the priority is choosing the site of the NSDF. No serious consideration was given to sites other than those on AECL’s 3700-ha Chalk River property,

Alternative sites should be sought to avoid rapid discharge of radioactive and hazardous substances to a major water body and to avoid placing wastes in an area with a high water table (Ref: CMD 22-H7, Section 3.2, Design Options Evaluation). 

Flat, sandy portions of the 30,770-ha Department of National Defence Garrison Petawawa property, adjacent to the Chalk River Laboratories, would accommodate a larger, less expensive, and safer in-ground concrete vault facility.  Vegetation was removed from extensive portions of this property to create a parachute training zone for the Canadian Airborne Regiment, which was disbanded in 1995.

A regional investigation of crown land for geological formations suitable for a shallow rock cavern facility should also be conducted.

IAEA Safety Requirement SSR-5, Disposal of Radioactive Waste, indicates that an in-ground concrete vault or a shallow rock cavern could contain a wider range of waste types than an above ground, landfill-type facility such as the NSDF. (Ref: https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1449_web.pdf)

The southern portion of the site chosen for the NSDF is underlain by a feature categorized in 1994 as a ““high-probability” fracture zone,” ten meters wide and over a kilometer long – a potential groundwater flow pathway with “permeability values several orders of magnitude greater than bulk rock mass.” (Ref: https://www.iaac-aeic.gc.ca/050/evaluations/document/139596, p.5-109).This feature should have eliminated the proposed site from further consideration.

Original site selection criteria announced by the proponent would have excluded any site with more than a 10% slope. This criterion was changed to 25% to allow CNL’s desired site (Ref: Near Surface Disposal Facility Site Selection Report 232-10300-TN-001 Revision 2. Oct. 2016).  .

Site selection criteria were also supposed to exclude known or proposed critical habitats for species listed under the Federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) or by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).”  However, construction of the NSDF would destroy 30 hectares of mature and semi-mature forest that provides high-quality maternity roosting habitat for three endangered bat species (Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis and Tri-colored Bat) and nesting habitat for six at-risk bird species (Canada Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, Whip-poor-will, Wood Thrush).  It would also have adverse impacts on at-risk aquatic species such as the Blanding’s Turtle.

The proposed NSDF site is on a hillside, over fractured rock, with a high water table, surrounded on three sides by wetlands that drain into Perch Lake 50 metres from the base of the hill. Perch Creek flows from Perch Lake into the Ottawa River, one kilometre away.  The entire Chalk River Laboratories property — with its proximity to the Ottawa River, high groundwater table, uneven terrain, and fractured bedrock — is a very poor location for permanent radioactive waste disposal.  The NSDF would destroy habitat for many at-risk species.  Volumes and activities of federal wastes were not quantified prior to selection of a landfill-type disposal facility, so there is no certainty that the NSDF could safely  accommodate a significant portion of these wastes.

This is why concerned citizens say this is the “Wrong Plan” in the “Wrong Place”.  

Chalk River Laboratories

MEDIA RELEASE: Nuclear regulator’s case to approve giant nuclear waste mound is fraught with serious errors and omissions, citizens’ groups say

OTTAWA, February 22, 2022 – Citizens’ groups from Ontario and Quebec provided Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) President Rumina Velshi with a searing critique of CNSC’s case to approve a giant radioactive waste mound alongside the Ottawa River in advance of a February 22nd hearing.

If approved, the giant landfill would stand 60 feet high and hold one million tonnes of mixed radioactive and hazardous wastes. Some of the contents would remain dangerously radioactive for thousands of years, but the mound itself is only expected to last a few hundred years according to studies produced by the proponent, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, owned by a consortium of multinational corporations. International safety standards prohibit disposing of long-lived radioactive wastes in landfills.

The citizens’ critique of key licensing documents found eleven critical flaws ranging from a failure to provide detailed information about what would go into the dump, as required under the Nuclear Safety and Control Regulations, to a failure to note serious deficiencies in the siting process for the facility.

“You couldn’t find a worse site for this dump if you tried,” said Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association, one of the groups that co-authored the citizens’ critique. “The site is on the side of a hill, and is surrounded on three sides by wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River, a kilometre away. The water table is just inches under the surface at that location and the bedrock is highly fractured.” 

The site of the proposed facility is also of concern to downstream communities who take their drinking water from the Ottawa River, including Ottawa, Gatineau and Montreal. The three cities are among the more than 140 municipalities that have passed resolutions of concern about the proposed dump. The Assembly of First Nations has also passed a resolution opposing the facility.

Ole Hendrickson, a scientist and researcher for the group Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area said there are a number of serious errors in the licensing documents including a 1000-fold overestimate of radioactivity in nearby uranium ore bodies. “That gross overestimate is used by the proponent and the regulator to make the case that the giant mound would be less radioactive than surrounding rocks after a few hundred years,” Hendrickson said.  “In fact, high-radioactivity waste containers in the dump would exceed levels in surrounding rocks for thousands of years.”

The Quebec-based Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive contributed a number of findings to the critique. The group is very concerned about the presence of cobalt-60, which alone will provide 98% of the initial radioactivity in the dump, even though its radioactivity will decline rapidly thereafter. Used cobalt-60 sources require lead shielding because they emit intense gamma radiation that endangers workers. 

Physicist Ginette Charbonneau, a spokeswoman for the Ralliement, says that only low-level cobalt-60 sources could be accepted in an above-ground mound and that the criteria for accepting such waste in the dump must be tightened.

“It is also out of the question that long-lived radioactive substances like plutonium be disposed of in a landfill,” Charbonneau said. “This is simply a senseless proposal, which is not in line with international standards at all,” she added.

The citizens’ groups say the case to approve the giant radioactive landfill, called the NSDF by the proponent, is so seriously flawed that CNSC Commissioners cannot make a sound licensing decision based on the contents of the documents. They have asked that the citizens’ critique be distributed to Commissioners at the hearing on Feb 22 and that all of the flaws, errors and omissions be fully addressed before the Commission is asked to make a decision on the license for the dump. 

The licensing hearings for the giant radioactive waste dump will take place in two parts. Part 1 will take place February 22.  Part 2 will start on May 31, but is expected to take several days as it will include presentations from Indigenous communities, municipal representatives, NGOs and members of the public. Requests to intervene in the hearings must be submitted in writing to the CNSC by April 11, 2022.  See Notice of Public Hearing for details.

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Graphic above from Radio Canada Découverte, March 2018, showing the mound overflowing as part of the degradation and erosion process, described by the proponent in its Performance Assessment report.

Plus sécuritaire de manger des déchets radioactifs que des roches ?

21 février 2022

La Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire (CCSN) a commis une erreur massive dans un document qu’elle a préparé pour une audience du 22 février pour autoriser un monticule géant de déchets radioactifs près de la rivière des Outaouais, à 180 km en amont de la capitale du Canada.

La présentation de la CCSN (diapositive 23) montre la radioactivité du monticule tombant sous la radioactivité des roches environnantes entre 10 et 100 ans après la fermeture de l’installation fédérale de gestion des déchets.

Mais la bande grise montrant la radioactivité des roches de la région est fausse – environ 1 000 fois trop élevée.

« C’est très inquiétant, car la Commission est le seul organisme au Canada à superviser l’industrie nucléaire et à contrôler la sécurité de ses activités », a déclaré Ole Hendrickson, PhD, scientifique et chercheur pour Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area. “Les colis dans le monticule seront plus radioactifs que la grande majorité des échantillons de minerai, même dans 10 000 ans.”

La CCSN utilise la « gamme de radioactivité dans les roches » erronée pour conclure que le dépotoir de déchets radioactifs ne poserait pas de risque important à long terme pour la santé du public et recommande d’autoriser sa construction.

L’organisme de réglementation nucléaire du Canada a passé quatre ans à évaluer la proposition pour une « installation de gestion des déchets près de la surface (IGDPS)» des Laboratoires Nucléaires Canadiens (LNC), mais n’a pas réussi à détecter l’erreur de plusieurs ordres de grandeur.

Le monticule comprendra des déchets emballés à vie longue avec jusqu’à 10 000 000 de Becquerels par kilogramme de radioactivité. Cela signifie que 10 millions d’atomes se désintègrent – émettant une rafale de rayonnement – chaque seconde par kilo. Le dépotoir contiendrait plus d’un million de tonnes de déchets.

Dans sa proposition, les LNC ont également calculé une « dose d’ingestion » et ont conclu qu’il serait plus sécuritaire de manger des déchets dans le monticule que de manger du minerai d’uranium local, environ dix ans après la fermeture du dépotoir.

La diapositive de la CCSN fait référence à un rapport de 1981 de la Commission géologique de l’Ontario. Même l’échantillon le plus radioactif du rapport serait beaucoup moins radioactif que la bande grise prétendant montrer une « gamme de radioactivité dans les roches » dans la région de Pembroke-Renfrew. Cet échantillon aberrant (avec 1100 ppm d’uranium) a été trouvé près du lac Merchands, à 100 km de Chalk River.

Le rapport a analysé 74 échantillons et en a trouvé 67 avec de faibles niveaux, de 1 à 100 parties par million, d’uranium.

L’erreur apparaît d’abord dans le dossier de sureté préparé par le promoteur du monticule. Les Laboratoires Nucléaires Canadiens (LNC) sont une société privée engagée par le gouvernement fédéral en 2015 pour exploiter des installations nucléaires appartenant à la société d’État fédérale Énergie atomique du Canada limitée (EACL). Le dossier de sûreté est le principal document utilisé par la CCSN pour prendre une décision de permis.

Hendrickson a ajouté : « La répétition de l’erreur massive des LNC soulève des doutes majeurs quant à la crédibilité de l’évaluation par la CCSN des risques du projet. »

MEDIA RELEASE: MPs and groups oppose hearings to license Canada’s first permanent radioactive waste dump

Le français suit

OTTAWA, February 16, 2022 – Members of Parliament and 50 environmental and citizen groups are opposed to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)’s forthcoming hearings to license Canada’s first permanent “disposal” facility for radioactive waste.

statement calling for suspension of the hearings is signed by three MPs: Laurel Collins, NDP environment critic; Elizabeth May, Parliamentary Leader of the Green Party of Canada; and Monique Pauzé, environment spokesperson for the Bloc Québécois. 

Union signatories of the statement include SCFP Québec, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) and Health, safety and environment committee of Unifor Québec.

Other signatories include Friends of the Earth, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive, National Council of Women of Canada, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, and Quebec’s Front commun pour la transition énergétique. Ottawa Valley groups include Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, Action Climat Outaouais, and Pontiac Environmental Protection, among others.

On January 31, the Kebaowek First Nation asked that the hearings be halted until a consultation framework between them and the CNSC is in place. The hearings are for authorization to build a “Near Surface Disposal Facility” for nuclear waste at Chalk River, Ontario, on unceded Algonquin Anishinaabeg lands alongside the Ottawa River.

The CNSC staff report recommends licensing the construction of the mound for 1 million cubic metres of radioactive and toxic wastes accumulated by the federal government since 1945. The CNSC has scheduled licensing hearings on February 22 and May 31. No separate environmental assessment hearing is scheduled.

The proposed facility would be an aboveground mound a kilometre from the Ottawa River, upstream from Ottawa and Montréal. 140 municipalities have opposed the project and fear contamination of drinking water and the watershed.

In 2017, the CNSC received 400 submissions responding to its environmental impact statement, the overwhelming majority of them opposed to the plan.

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Des députées et des groupes s’opposent aux audiences pour autoriser la première décharge permanente de déchets radioactifs au Canada

OTTAWA, le 16 février 2022 – Des députées et 50 groupes environnementaux et citoyens s’opposent aux prochaines audiences de la Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire (CCSN) pour autoriser la première installation permanente de « gestion » de déchets radioactifs au Canada. 

Trois députées ont signé une déclaration appelant à la suspension des audiences : Laurel Collins, porte-parole du NPD en matière d’environnement; Elizabeth May, Chef parlementaire du Parti vert du Canada; et Monique Pauzé, porte-parole de l’environnement pour le Bloc Québécois. 

Les signataires syndicaux de la déclaration incluent le Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique (SCFP) – Québec, la Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) et le Comité de santé, de sécurité et environnement d’Unifor Québec.

On retrouve, parmi les autres signataires, les Amis de la Terre, le Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive, l’Association canadienne des médecins pour l’environnement, le Conseil national des femmes du Canada, l’Ontario Clean Air Alliance et le Front commun pour la transition énergétique du Québec. Des regroupements de la vallée de l’Outaouais l’ont également signée, dont Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, Action Climat Outaouais, et Protection environnementale de Pontiac, entre autres. 

Le 31 janvier, la Première Nation de Kebaowek a demandé que les audiences soient suspendues jusqu’à ce qu’un cadre de consultation entre elle et la CCSN soit mis en place. Les audiences portent sur l’autorisation de construire une « installation de gestion des déchets près de la surface (IGDPS) » pour les déchets nucléaires à Chalk River, en Ontario, sur les terres algonquines Anishinaabeg non cédées le long de la rivière des Outaouais.

Le rapport du personnel de la CCSN recommande d’autoriser la construction du monticule pour 1 million de mètres cubes de déchets radioactifs et toxiques accumulés par le gouvernement fédéral depuis 1945. La CCSN a prévu des audiences d’autorisation les 22 février et 31 mai. Aucune audience d’évaluation environnementale distincte n’est prévue.

L’installation proposée serait un monticule hors sol situé à un kilomètre de la rivière des Outaouais, en amont d’Ottawa et de Montréal. 140 municipalités se sont opposées au projet, craignant une contamination de l’eau potable et du bassin versant.

En 2017, la CCSN a reçu 400 soumissions en réponse à son étude d’impact environnemental : la grande majorité d’entre elles s’opposent au plan.

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Nuclear waste dump would tip $445b into South Australian ...

Déclaration pour suspendre les audiences d’autorisation d’un monticule de déchets radioactifs au bord de la rivière des Outaouais

le 16 février 2022

Nous nous opposons à la tenue d’audiences d’autorisation pour la construction d’une « installation de gestion des déchets près de la surface » (IGDPS)  à Chalk River, en Ontario, sur les terres algonquines Anishinaabeg non cédées le long de la rivière des Outaouais.

Récemment, le personnel de la Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire (CCSN) a recommandé l’approbation de ce dépotoir controversé pour un million de tonnes de déchets radioactifs et dangereux mixtes. La CCSN a prévu des audiences sur les permis demandés les 22 février et 31 mai 2022.

Nous appuyons la Première Nation de Kebaowek qui a demandé que les audiences soient suspendues jusqu’à ce qu’un cadre de consultation entre elle et la CCSN soit en place. Il s’agit d’une demande de longue date de la Première Nation de Kebaowek, et elle demeure en suspens. La réconciliation et un dialogue significatif doivent être le point de départ de toute décision gouvernementale affectant les terres et les droits autochtones.

Le Comité parlementaire permanent de l’environnement et du développement durable vient d’entreprendre un « examen complet de la gouvernance des déchets radioactifs au Canada et de ses impacts sur l’environnement ». Une vérification sur la gestion des déchets radioactifs est actuellement en cours par le vérificateur général du Canada. Nous exigeons que les deux processus soient terminés avant toute audience d’autorisation pour les installations de gestion des déchets radioactifs.

L’Assemblée des Premières Nations et plus de 140 municipalités en aval, dont la Ville de Gatineau et le Conseil municipal de Montréal, ont adopté des résolutions s’opposant au plan de l’IGDPS.

Des citoyens et des groupes environnementaux ont relevé de graves lacunes et omissions dans le rapport d’évaluation environnementale (EE) de la CCSN. Quand l’installation aura des fuites et commencera à se décomposer, les déchets radioactifs et autres contamineront les eaux souterraines, les terres humides et la rivière des Outaouais, la source d’eau potable de millions de personnes, de la capitale nationale et de la communauté métropolitaine de Montréal.

Le rapport d’EE ne tient pas compte d’autres emplacements ou types d’installations qui protégeraient mieux l’environnement. Le site choisi a une nappe phréatique élevée et un risque d’inondation et est également sujet aux tremblements de terre.

Le rapport néglige les risques pour les travailleurs qui manipuleront des sources de cobalt 60 dans la décharge. De plus, il néglige la pollution par le plomb et par d’autres déchets industriels dangereux qui se déverseraient dans la rivière des Outaouais.

L’installation est proposée par les Laboratoires Nucléaires Canadiens (LNC), exploités par un consortium de SNC-Lavalin et de sociétés multinationales. Ils dirigent les Laboratoires nucléaires du Canada en vertu d’un contrat signé par le gouvernement fédéral Harper en 2015.

En 2021, la Ville d’Ottawa a adopté une résolution exhortant la CCSN et les LNC à cesser de transporter des déchets radioactifs provenant d’autres provinces vers Chalk River, à renforcer les mesures de protection pour la rivière des Outaouais pendant les activités de démolition du site et de transfert des déchets, et à empêcher les précipitations de pénétrer dans l’IGDPS. La ville a également demandé une évaluation régionale des projets de déchets radioactifs dans la vallée de l’Outaouais en vertu de la Loi sur l’évaluation d’impact, mais la demande a été rejetée par le ministre fédéral de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique.

Pour toutes ces raisons, nous demandons au gouvernement du Canada de mettre fin aux audiences pour l’autorisation de licence pour le projet de l’IGDPS et de mettre sur pied un organisme indépendant pour aborder le problème des déchets radioactifs du Canada d’une manière qui soit socialement acceptable et qui ne compromette pas la sécurité des générations futures.

SIGNERS/SIGNATAIRES

Elected representatives

Laurel Collins, MP, Critic for the Environment and Climate Change, New Democratic Party

Elizabeth May, Chef parlementaire du Parti vert du Canada

Monique Pauzé, Députée et porte-parole de l’environnement pour le Bloc Québécois

Theresa Kavanagh, Ottawa City Councillor

Catherine McKenney, Ottawa City Councillor

National organizations

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment     

Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

Friends of the Earth

National Council of Women of Canada

Nuclear Waste Watch

Prevent Cancer Now

Organizations based in Ontario

Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area 

Council of Canadians – Kitchissippi-Ottawa Valley Chapter

Council of Canadians – Ottawa Chapter

Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital        

Integral North

Northwatch

Ontario Clean Air Alliance

Petawawa Point Cottagers’ Association

Pontiac Environment Protection

United Church Water Care Allies

Watershed Sentinel Educational Society

Westboro Beach Community Association         

Organizations based in Québec/N.B.

Action Climat Outaouais 

Action Environnement Basses-Laurentides

AmiEs de la Terre – Québec

Artistes pour la Paix

Association Canadienne des Médecins pour l’Environnement

Association québécoise des médecins pour l’environnement

Association Québécoise de Lutte contre la Pollution Atmosphérique 

Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick

Coalition Verte/Green Coalition

Collectif Femmes pour le climat

Comité de santé, sécurité et environnement d’Unifor Québec

Eau Secours

Extinction Rebellion Québec 

Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ)

Fondation Rivières

Front commun pour la transition énergétique

Lucie Sauvé, professeure émérite, UQAM

Laurence Brière, professeure, UQAM

Mouvement d’éducation populaire et d’action communautaire du Québec

Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association

Oxygène Laval en amont

Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive

Regroupement des citoyens de Saraguay

Regroupement pour la surveillance du nucléaire

Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbures Québec

Réseau québécois des groupes écologistes

Santé Cannabis

Sauvons la falaise

Sierra Club – chapitre Québec

Société pour vaincre la pollution

Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique (SCFP) – Québec

TerraVie

Vigilance OGM

Statement on suspension of licensing hearings for a radioactive waste dump beside the Ottawa River

February 16, 2022

Le français suit

We oppose the holding of licensing hearings for the construction of a Near Surface Disposal Facility for nuclear waste at Chalk River, Ontario, on unceded Algonquin Anishinaabeg lands alongside the Ottawa River.

Recently, staff of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) recommended approval of this controversial above-ground nuclear waste dump for one million tonnes of mixed radioactive and hazardous waste. The CNSC has scheduled licensing hearings on February 22 and May 31, 2022.

We stand with the Kebaowek First Nation who has asked that the hearings be halted until a consultation framework between them and the CNSC is in place. This has been a longstanding request from Kebaowek First Nation, and it remains outstanding. Reconciliation and meaningful dialogue must be a starting point for any government decision affecting Indigenous lands and rights.

The parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has just begun a “comprehensive review of the governance of nuclear waste in Canada and its impacts on the environment.” An audit on nuclear waste management is currently underway by the Auditor General of Canada. We call for both processes to be completed before any licensing hearings for nuclear waste disposal facilities.

The Assembly of First Nations and more than 140 downstream municipalities, including the City of Gatineau and the Montreal Municipal Council, have passed resolutions opposing the NSDF plan.

Citizen and environmental groups have identified serious flaws and omissions in the CNSC’s environmental assessment (EA) report. When the facility leaks and eventually disintegrates, as expected, radioactive and other wastes will contaminate groundwater, wetlands and the Ottawa River, the source of drinking water for millions of people, the National Capital and the metropolitan community of Montreal.

The EA report fails to consider other locations or types of facilities that would better protect the environment. The chosen site has a high water table and risk of flooding and is also earthquake prone.

The report overlooks risks to workers who will handle industrial cobalt-60 devices that will go into the dump. In addition, it neglects pollution by lead and other hazardous industrial wastes that would leak into the Ottawa River.

The facility is proposed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), operated by a consortium of SNC-Lavalin and multinational corporations. They run Canada’s nuclear laboratories under a contract signed by the Harper federal government in 2015.

In 2021, the City of Ottawa passed a resolution urging the CNSC and CNL to stop importing radioactive waste from other provinces to Chalk River, to increase safeguards to protect the Ottawa River during site demolition and waste transfer activities, and to prevent precipitation from entering the NSDF. The city also called for a regional assessment of radioactive disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley under the Impact Assessment Act, but the request was turned down by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

For all of these reasons, we call on the Government of Canada to halt licensing hearings for the NSDF and to set up an independent body to address Canada’s radioactive waste problem in ways that are socially acceptable and will not compromise the safety of future generations.

SIGNERS/SIGNATAIRES

Elected representatives

Laurel Collins, MP, Critic for the Environment and Climate Change, New Democratic Party

Elizabeth May, Parliamentary Leader of the Green Party of Canada

Monique Pauzé, Députée et porte-parole de l’environnement pour le Bloc Québécois

Theresa Kavanagh, Ottawa City Councillor

Catherine McKenney, Ottawa City Councillor

National organizations

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment     

Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

Friends of the Earth

National Council of Women of Canada

Nuclear Waste Watch

Prevent Cancer Now

Organizations based in Ontario

Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area 

Council of Canadians – Kitchissippi-Ottawa Valley Chapter

Council of Canadians – Ottawa Chapter

Greenspace Alliance of Canada’s Capital        

Integral North

Northwatch

Ontario Clean Air Alliance

Petawawa Point Cottagers’ Association

Pontiac Environment Protection

United Church Water Care Allies

Watershed Sentinel Educational Society

Westboro Beach Community Association         

Organizations based in Québec/N.B.

Action Climat Outaouais 

Action Environnement Basses-Laurentides

AmiEs de la Terre – Québec

Artistes pour la Paix

Association Canadienne des Médecins pour l’Environnement

Association québécoise des médecins pour l’environnement

Association Québécoise de Lutte contre la Pollution Atmosphérique 

Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick

Coalition Verte/Green Coalition

Collectif Femmes pour le climat

Comité de santé, sécurité et environnement d’Unifor Québec

Eau Secours

Extinction Rebellion Québec 

Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ)

Fondation Rivières

Front commun pour la transition énergétique

Lucie Sauvé, professeure émérite, UQAM

Laurence Brière, professeure, UQAM

Mouvement d’éducation populaire et d’action communautaire du Québec

Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association

Oxygène Laval en amont

Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive

Regroupement des citoyens de Saraguay

Regroupement pour la surveillance du nucléaire

Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbures Québec

Réseau québécois des groupes écologistes

Santé Cannabis

Sauvons la falaise

Sierra Club – chapitre Québec

Société pour vaincre la pollution

Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique (SCFP) – Québec

TerraVie

Vigilance OGM

Déclaration pour suspendre les audiences d’autorisation d’un monticule de déchets radioactifs au bord de la rivière des Outaouais

Nous nous opposons à la tenue d’audiences d’autorisation pour la construction d’une « installation de gestion des déchets près de la surface » (IGDPS)  à Chalk River, en Ontario, sur les terres algonquines Anishinaabeg non cédées le long de la rivière des Outaouais.

Récemment, le personnel de la Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire (CCSN) a recommandé l’approbation de ce dépotoir controversé pour un million de tonnes de déchets radioactifs et dangereux mixtes. La CCSN a prévu des audiences sur les permis demandés les 22 février et 31 mai 2022.

Nous appuyons la Première Nation de Kebaowek qui a demandé que les audiences soient suspendues jusqu’à ce qu’un cadre de consultation entre elle et la CCSN soit en place. Il s’agit d’une demande de longue date de la Première Nation de Kebaowek, et elle demeure en suspens. La réconciliation et un dialogue significatif doivent être le point de départ de toute décision gouvernementale affectant les terres et les droits autochtones.

Le Comité parlementaire permanent de l’environnement et du développement durable vient d’entreprendre un « examen complet de la gouvernance des déchets radioactifs au Canada et de ses impacts sur l’environnement ». Une vérification sur la gestion des déchets radioactifs est actuellement en cours par le vérificateur général du Canada. Nous exigeons que les deux processus soient terminés avant toute audience d’autorisation pour les installations de gestion des déchets radioactifs.

L’Assemblée des Premières Nations et plus de 140 municipalités en aval, dont la Ville de Gatineau et le Conseil municipal de Montréal, ont adopté des résolutions s’opposant au plan de l’IGDPS.

Des citoyens et des groupes environnementaux ont relevé de graves lacunes et omissions dans le rapport d’évaluation environnementale (EE) de la CCSN. Quand l’installation aura des fuites et commencera à se décomposer, les déchets radioactifs et autres contamineront les eaux souterraines, les terres humides et la rivière des Outaouais, la source d’eau potable de millions de personnes, de la capitale nationale et de la communauté métropolitaine de Montréal.

Le rapport d’EE ne tient pas compte d’autres emplacements ou types d’installations qui protégeraient mieux l’environnement. Le site choisi a une nappe phréatique élevée et un risque d’inondation et est également sujet aux tremblements de terre.

Le rapport néglige les risques pour les travailleurs qui manipuleront des sources de cobalt 60 dans la décharge. De plus, il néglige la pollution par le plomb et par d’autres déchets industriels dangereux qui se déverseraient dans la rivière des Outaouais.

L’installation est proposée par les Laboratoires Nucléaires Canadiens (LNC), exploités par un consortium de SNC-Lavalin et de sociétés multinationales. Ils dirigent les Laboratoires nucléaires du Canada en vertu d’un contrat signé par le gouvernement fédéral Harper en 2015.

En 2021, la Ville d’Ottawa a adopté une résolution exhortant la CCSN et les LNC à cesser de transporter des déchets radioactifs provenant d’autres provinces vers Chalk River, à renforcer les mesures de protection pour la rivière des Outaouais pendant les activités de démolition du site et de transfert des déchets, et à empêcher les précipitations de pénétrer dans l’IGDPS. La ville a également demandé une évaluation régionale des projets de déchets radioactifs dans la vallée de l’Outaouais en vertu de la Loi sur l’évaluation d’impact, mais la demande a été rejetée par le ministre fédéral de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique.

Pour toutes ces raisons, nous demandons au gouvernement du Canada de mettre fin aux audiences pour l’autorisation de licence pour le projet de l’IGDPS et de mettre sur pied un organisme indépendant pour aborder le problème des déchets radioactifs du Canada d’une manière qui soit socialement acceptable et qui ne compromette pas la sécurité des générations futures.

MEDIA RELEASE: Nuclear regulator recommends approval of giant radioactive waste dump beside the Ottawa River; citizens’ groups say report is flawed and recommendation to approve dump is irresponsible

OTTAWA, February 3, 2022 – Staff of Canada’s nuclear regulatory agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), have recommended approval of a controversial giant above-ground nuclear waste dump for one million tonnes of mixed radioactive and hazardous waste alongside the Ottawa River. The recommendation was contained in a licensing document and environmental assessment report released on January 25. Citizens’ groups say the document is seriously flawed and vow to fight the recommendation in licensing hearings scheduled for February 22 and May 31, 2022.

Ole Hendrickson, scientist and researcher for the group Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, said the CNSC “has failed to assess the project in an objective and scientifically credible manner.”  Hendrickson noted a number of “critical omissions in the document” that he says “make it impossible for the Commission to make a sound decision about whether or not to license the dump.”

“The recommendation to approve this dump, given that it would leak and eventually disintegrate, is reckless and irresponsible on the part of CNSC staff,” said Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association. “The CNSC is supposed to protect Canadians from radioactive pollution created by the nuclear industry, not enable it,” she added.

Some of the critical omissions in the environmental assessment report noted by citizens’ groups include the following:

  • Failure to consider future human exposures to nuclear waste packages containing plutonium and other long-lived substances that will remain dangerously radioactive for tens of thousands of years
  • No identification of the impacts of constructing a pipeline to discharge contaminated effluent into Perch Lake, which drains into the Ottawa River; presented un-ironically as a “mitigation measure”
  • Failure to seriously consider alternative sites that would avoid rapid discharge of radioactive and hazardous substances to a major water body, and avoid placing wastes in an area of high water with risk of flooding
  • Inadequate consideration of alternative facility types that would not expose wastes to rain, wind, and snow; and that would not require unproven water treatment and “weather cover structure” technologies
  • No consideration of risks to workers from accidents involving highly-radioactive industrial cobalt-60 irradiator wastes
  • Failure to consider contamination of groundwater from the hundreds of tonnes of lead required to shield these highly-radioactive commercial wastes
  • Astonishingly, the environmental assessment report contains no references
  • The report fails to address the fact that the mound would degrade and that mixed radioactive and hazardous industrial wastes (arsenic, beryllium, mercury, benzene, dioxins, PCBs, etc.) would leak into the Ottawa River, essentially forever.

Echlin and Hendrickson point to previous studies by the dump proponent that identified many ways the mound would leak, and described the inevitable disintegration of the mound within 400 years through a process of “normal evolution.” Leakage from the dump is expected to flow into surrounding wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River less than a kilometre away, contaminating a drinking water source for millions of Canadians downstream.

(Photo above from Radio Canada Découverte, March 2018, showing the mound overflowing as part of the degradation and erosion process, described by the proponent in its Performance Assessment report.)

According to Hendrickson, “CNSC has outdone itself in promoting the dump project.  This is an object lesson in what happens when government agencies are captured by the industries they are supposed to regulate.”

The release of the environmental assessment report marks the end of a long “underground” phase of the licensing process for the giant radioactive dump, called the “NSDF” by the proponent, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, owned by a consortium of multinational corporations that run Canada’s nuclear laboratories under a contract initiated by the Harper government in 2015.


Opportunities for public comments on the project’s environmental impacts ended in August 2017 after a flood of negative comments and concerns from First Nations communities, civil society groups, municipalities, independent scientists and individuals. 


The Assembly of First Nations, and more than 140 downstream municipalities have passed resolutions opposing the dump plan. Members of the public will have their final opportunity to submit concerns about the proposed project at the “Part 2 licensing hearing” that is scheduled to begin on May 31, 2022.  

“Interventions at that point are very unlikely to influence the Commission’s decision,” says Hendrickson, adding that “it is basically a rubber stamping process.”  A planned environmental assessment hearing that was to have preceded the licensing hearing was canceled by the CNSC.

April 11 is the deadline to apply to “intervene” inn the May 31 public hearing. Interventions can be oral or written.  Information about the intervention process is available here. If you are submitting written comments, your final intervention must be submitted with your application. If you wish to make an oral presentation at the hearing, you need to submit an outline of your presentation by April 11.

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MEDIA RELEASE: Citizens’ groups say licensing hearings for the giant Chalk River nuclear waste dump beside the Ottawa River should be stopped

OTTAWA, November 10, 2021 – The recent announcement of licensing hearings in February and May 2022 for a controversial nuclear waste dump beside the Ottawa River got a strong reaction from citizens’ groups who have been fighting the plan for five years. The groups say the environmental assessment has not been properly conducted and licensing hearings should be stopped because there are so many serious flaws in the plan.

The license would authorize a giant above-ground mound (called NSDF by the proponent) for more than a million tonnes of radioactive waste beside the Ottawa River, upstream of Ottawa-Gatineau.The Chalk River site is right beside a drinking water source for millions of Canadians and underlain with porous and fractured bedrock. 

Many citizens’ groups, along with NGOs, First Nations, and more than 140 downstream municipalities are opposed to the plan. Many say it fails to meet international guidelines for keeping radioactive waste out of the biosphere. As a disposal facility, it will eventually be abandoned.

“The facility would not keep radioactive waste out of the environment,” according to Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area researcher Ole Hendrickson. “The proponent’s own studies identify many ways the mound would leak, and suggest the mound would disintegrate within 400 years and its contents would flow into surrounding wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River less than a kilometre away,” he said. Hendrickson also noted that the groundwater table would be right at the base of the mound, disregarding an Ontario standard for waste disposal sites that protects aquifers. 

fact sheet produced by Concerned Citizens, based on the information prepared by the dump proponent, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, identifies materials that would be disposed of. They include:

  • Radioactive materials such as tritium, carbon-14, strontium-90, four types of plutonium (one of the most dangerous radioactive materials if inhaled or ingested), and several tonnes of uranium and thorium. Twenty-five of 30 radionuclides listed in the reference inventory for the mound are long-lived. This suggests the dump would remain radioactive for 100,000 years. 
  • A very large quantity of cobalt-60 in disused radiation devices used in food irradiation and medical procedures. These materials would give off so much intense gamma radiation that workers would need lead shielding to avoid dangerous radiation exposures while handling them. The International Atomic Energy Agency says high-activity cobalt-60 is “intermediate-level waste” and must be stored underground.
  • Dioxins, PCBs, asbestos, mercury, and up to 13 tonnes of arsenic and 300 tonnes of lead would go into the dump. It would also contain up to 7000 tonnes of copper, 3500 tonnes of iron and 66 tonnes of aluminum, tempting scavengers to dig into the mound after closure.

“The so-called environmental assessment of this project has been a sham from day one,” says Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association (OFWCA) based in Sheenboro, Quebec. 

Echlin says the serious flaws in the assessment process include failure to properly consult Indigenous Peoples, failure to properly consult the public, failure to consider substantive input at the project description and scoping stage, and changing the rules in midstream to benefit the proponent. 

In an August 2020 letter to the Minister of Natural Resources, the Kebaowek First Nation and the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council called for suspension of the environmental assessment, stating that “the CNSC’s approach does not even meet the Government of Canada’s modernized standards of consultation, engagement and reconciliation with First Nations.”

“The fact that dates have now been set for licensing the radioactive waste mound is a sign of failure by the Government of Canada to listen to First Nations and hundreds of intervenors in the environmental assessment. It is past time for the government to step up and stop this licensing process and prevent permanent contamination of the Ottawa River,” Echlin says.

Echlin and others characterize the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), the agency responsible for the assessment and licensing of the dump project, as “a captured regulator” that acts more like a “nuclear industry cheerleader” than a protector of the public and the environment. 

Echlin added that “It’s not just us saying that the CNSC is widely seen to be a captured regulator — the Expert Panel on Environmental Assessment noted the same in its final report to the Trudeau government in 2017.” A document obtained by the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility notes that the CNSC has never refused to grant a license in its 20-year history. 

The import of radioactive waste into the Ottawa Valley from other federal sites to be placed in the facility is a big red flag for citizens’ groups and First Nations.They say the Chalk River site is not suitable for long term storage of nuclear waste. According to a Joint Declaration from the Anishinabek Nation and Iroquois Caucus, “Rivers and lakes are the blood and the lungs of Mother Earth.  When we contaminate our waterways, we are poisoning life itself.  That is why radioactive waste must not be stored beside major water bodies for the long-term.” 

Importation of radioactive waste to the Ottawa Valley was also opposed by a City of Ottawa resolution in April 2021.

The economics of the project are also fraught with problems according to Hendrickson, whose study concluded the facility would not reduce Canada’s $8 billion nuclear waste cleanup liability and could even increase it. 

Citizens’ groups have also called into question the Government-owned Contractor-operated model for Canada’s nuclear facilities brought in by the Harper government in 2015 and renewed by the Trudeau government in 2020. Under the model, costs to the Canadian taxpayer have skyrocketed, and decisions about Canadian nuclear waste are being made by foreign nationals and corporations. The groups have called for cancellation of the contract and creation of a radioactive waste management organization in Canada, independent of the nuclear industry, similar to what exists in a number of European countries. 

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Additional resources:

The environmental assessment registry for the giant mound (NSDF) can be found at this link: https://iaac-aeic.gc.ca/050/evaluations/proj/80122

Open Letter: To Prime Minister Trudeau and members of the federal cabinet ~ Stop the Ottawa River radioactive waste dump

Kitchissippi (Ottawa River) Summer 2021, photo by Frank Style