How would the Chalk River Mound leak? Let us count some of the ways

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) – run by a consortium of profit-making multinational companies – is proposing to build a giant mound that it misleadingly calls a “Near Surface Disposal Facility” for a million cubic meters of radioactive waste at its Chalk River facility along the Ottawa River.

CNL’s high cost ad campaign (paid for with Canadian tax dollars) says the dump is safe and uses “proven technology”. Ads say the dump will protect the public and the environment.

However, CNL’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) describes several ways that contents of the proposed “engineered containment mound” of radioactive waste could leak into the Ottawa River. Here are some of the ways:

During operation (while the dump is being filled)…

1. Wastes being added to the mound would be exposed to the elements. 

Rain and melting snow would leach radioactive contents down through the mound. The liquid would be collected and pumped uphill to a water treatment plant. Some but not all radioactive contaminants would be removed prior to releasing the treated leachate into wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River. (Table 3.5.3-1 on page 3-23 of the draft EIS) 

2. Radioactive water (tritium) would leach in very large amounts from the mound. 

Tritium is part of the water molecule and cannot be removed by water treatment. The draft EIS suggests the very high tritium content will be reduced but does not say how. Untreated tritium would be discharged to wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River where it would get incorporated into fish and enter drinking water supplies Large quantities of tritium would also be released from the dump as water vapour. 

3. Other toxic substances such as PCBs leaching from the mound would be only partially removed by water treatment.. 

Table 3.5.3-2 on page 3-25 shows that treatment would only partly remove non-radioactive toxic compounds in the wastes such as lead, PCBs and dioxin. Measurable amounts would be released to the environment. 

4. Heavy storm events would erode the mound’s surface and wash toxic substances into low areas. 

Highly contaminated water washing off active dumping areas would be pumped to the water treatment plant. Less contaminated water would be pumped to three storm-water management ponds around the perimeter of the facility and be discharged to adjacent wetlands. Ponds would provide only “basic” containment of sediments before their contents were released (draft EIS explains this on page 3-57) 

5. The capacity of storm-water ponds would be exceeded during extreme rainfall events or snowmelts. 

The draft EIS (page 9-2) says that pond overflow “would be conveyed by inlet and emergency outlet structures adjacent to the surface water management ponds,” presumably to be released directly into adjacent wetlands. 

6. Other possible ways the facility might leak during operations (not described in detail the EIS) include tornado damage, pump failures during extreme storm events with loss of electrical power, improper installation of the base liners, puncture of the base liners by heavy or sharp materials, melting of liners by radioactively hot materials, and blockage of the leachate collection system. 

After closure…

1. Wastes in the mound would be re-exposed to the elements when the top cover fails. 

After waste dumping ended the leachate collection system and water treatment plant would be shut down, and a top cover placed over the wastes. The draft EIS acknowledges that the top cover would fail with “normal evolution” through forces such as erosion, extreme storms, burrowing animals, root penetration, etc. 

2. Failure of the top cover while the base liners remain intact would initiate the “bathtub scenario”. 

Rain and melting snow would again leach the radioactive wastes, 

but the leachate collection and pumping system would no longer be operational. Contaminated leachate would be trapped by the bottom liner and accumulate in the space between the mound and the surrounding berm. Leachate levels would rise and spill over along the low point of the 

berm. 

Long-lived radioactive elements such as plutonium and uranium, exposed to wind and water erosion, would flow into the river for thousands to millions of years. Eventual failure of the bottom liners would also allow radionuclides to move into groundwater. The Ottawa River would be permanently contaminated by radioactive wastes. Countless generations of people drinking its water would be exposed to increased cancer risks.

Majority of federal candidates surveyed oppose radioactive waste mound at Chalk River

Ottawa, October 9, 2019 – The Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River and Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area announce the results of a federal election candidate survey on nuclear waste policy and management by the federal government.

Candidates were contacted in 14 ridings in Ottawa, Eastern Ontario and West Québec.

The NDP, Green Party and People’s Party of Canada candidates who replied were virtually unanimous in opposing the construction of a permanent aboveground radioactive waste mound at Chalk River by the federal government through its multi-billion-dollar contract with SNC-Lavalin and two American corporations. All NDP candidates and the Green Party respondents were opposed; however, two PPC candidates, Mario Belec of Pontiac and Azim Hooda of Nepean, disagreed.

No responses were received from Liberal or Conservative candidates. The survey was also sent to all members of the Liberal Cabinet, with zero responses.

The ridings surveyed were Ottawa Centre, Ottawa South, Ottawa Vanier, Orleans, Ottawa West Nepean, Carleton Kanata, Renfrew Nipissing Pembroke, Glengarry Prescott Russell, Carleton, Nepean, Argenteuil-La Petite-Nation, Gatineau, Hull-Aylmer, and Pontiac.

The NDP, Green Party and PPC candidates who responded were unanimous in agreeing that:

  • “Small” nuclear reactors should NOT be exempted from federal impact assessment.  Reactors under 200 MW were exempted from impact/environmental assessment under Bill C-69 in regulations announced by the Liberal government at the end of August. The nuclear industry, supported by Natural Resources Canada, proposes to build “small modular” nuclear reactors (SMRs) in Indigenous and remote northern communities.
  • The House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts should examine whether federal funding of nuclear waste management through the multi-billion-dollar contract with SNC-Lavalin and its American partners is providing “value for money” to taxpayers;
  • Canada should develop policies and strategies for long-term radioactive waste management before approving permanent disposal facilities;
  • There should be full public disclosure, environmental assessment, and federal oversight of the plan to consolidate federal radioactive wastes at Chalk River;
  • They would work with their House of Commons colleagues to initiate reform of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Canada’s nuclear legislation to address long-term management of radioactive wastes;

·    They would advocate for a large, scientifically valid Canadian study into the health effects of exposure to ionizing radiation.

In 2015, the Harper government privatized the management of its contaminated nuclear sites and nuclear wastes to a consortium of SNC-Lavalin and U.S. companies, and gave them ownership of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). CNL plans to consolidate 1,000,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste in an aboveground mound at Chalk River near the Ottawa River. It also plans to entomb two defunct reactors near the Ottawa River and the Winnipeg River by filling them with cement and abandoning them in place, instead of restoring the sites.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has received hundreds of submissions from groups and citizens objecting to the proposals.

The federal government’s radioactive waste, at sites such as Chalk River laboratories in Ontario, Gentilly-1 in Québec, and Whiteshell Laboratories in Manitoba, represents an $8 billion liability for the Government of Canada. Decisions about it will affect the health and safety of Canadians and our environment – now and for thousands of years to come.

– 30 –

Greens talk radioactive waste, Chalk River and SNC-Lavalin

September 5, 2019, Ottawa Citizen, TAYLOR BLEWETT

Leveraging one of the year’s top political controversies, federal Green party candidates staged an event Thursday to highlight their concerns about potential contamination of the Ottawa River and a government they describe as too cosy with SNC-Lavalin to care.

Standing in the sand on Westboro Beach, Ottawa Centre Green party candidate Angela Keller-Herzog gave the assembled crowd a quick refresher on the nuclear situation at Chalk River, 200 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

On the eve of the 2015 federal election, former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government selected a consortium of companies, including engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, as its preferred proponent to manage and operate Canadian Nuclear Laboratories — the organization proposing a “near surface disposal facility” for radioactive waste at Chalk River.

It’s a plan, now under review, that’s been in the works for several years, and CNL is adamant about its safety. “It will actually take waste out of areas with very little containment, and put it into an area that is engineered and contained away from the environment,” said Sandra Faught, manager of regulatory approvals for the facility at CNL.

Despite such assurances, the proposed facility has generated fierce criticism from community, Indigenous and environmental advocates for as long as it’s been in the public eye.

At Thursday’s press conference, the Greens breathed fresh life into these concerns by emphasizing the involvement of one of the most controversial names in politics right now: SNC-Lavalin.

“Poor nuclear waste decisions have fallout for millennia — this is too important a job to be handed to SNC and corner-cutting, profit-seeking foreign corporations with dubious ethical background,” said Keller-Herzog.

As an MP, she said, she would champion the creation of a federal policy guiding the management of non-fuel radioactive waste (the kind the Chalk River disposal facility would deal with.)

She also raised a new concern — that the Liberal government, including Environment Minister and Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna, have created an exemption that would allow small modular nuclear reactors to skip the new environmental review process they introduced in Bill C-69.

Both CNL and the federal government are focused on the opportunities presented by these portable, less powerful reactors.

“Canada is well positioned to become a global leader in the development and deployment of SMR technology,” reads a Natural Resources Canada webpage, while CNL envisions itself as a “global hub” for small modular reactor innovation.

In the spring of 2018, CNL invited SMR proposals to develop a “demonstration project” at one of its sites. This would be the first small modular reactor in Canada.

“I ask you: If experimental, unproven nuclear reactors don’t have to undergo impact assessment, then what’s the point?” said Keller-Herzog. “In other words, the Liberal government, Minister McKenna and senior public servants are lining up their ducks to pave the way for the plans of SNC-Lavalin and its American partners. Does that sound familiar?”

This newspaper contacted McKenna’s ministerial office about the decision to exempt small nuclear reactors — under 200 thermal megawatts —  from the list of projects that would require environmental assessment under Bill C-69.

“Previously all nuclear reactors would have been designated projects, regardless of size and location,” according to the Canada Gazette entry regarding the exemption.

In response, spokesperson Caroline Thériault sent a statement: 

“A robust project list ensures good projects can move forward in a timely and transparent way that protects the environment, rebuilds public trust and strengthens our economy. This list covers all major projects within federal jurisdiction those pose significant environmental risk.”

Even without a spot on the Bill C-69 project list, small modular reactor would still be subject to scrutiny.

According to a statement from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, “New nuclear projects below the 200 MW thermal‎ threshold are subject to licensing and assessment processes by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.”

Alexandre Deslongchamps, spokesperson for the minster of natural resources, noted that the CNSC “is peer-reviewed and world-renowned” and “will only approve projects if it concludes that they are safe for people and the environment, both now and in the future.”

With files from the Financial Post

Comment from Mark Mackenzie: I am flabbergasted as to how a facility can get away with calling a 7 storey high dump a ‘Near Surface Disposal Facility’. At 7 stories high, I invite any Chalk River executive to jump off and tell us how close they were to the surface…. There is no reason to jeopardize the incredible value of the Ottawa River for a nuclear dump within 1 kilometre. The CNSC is hardly an effective regulatory body as they merely rubber stamp whatever the profit oriented nuclear industry wants. SNC Lavelin ‘anything for a buck’ is the Canadian partner. Great group today bringing awareness to the importance of this issue. Three Green Party candidates – Angela Keller-Herzog, Lorraine Rekmans and Claude Bertrand were highly articulate about how the Ottawa River needs to be protected.

Comment from Lynn Jones: Someone should tell the NRCan spokesperson that CNSC was outed long ago as a “captured regulator” that is world renowned for nothing other than promoting the industry and the projects it is supposed to regulate. Even the international nuclear industry refers to Canada’s “benign regulatory environment” when touting Canada as the place to come and tap into the public purse to develop small nuclear reactors.

Photos from the protest flotilla on July 27th

IN THIS PHOTO GREEN PARTY CANDIDATE IN PONTIAC (CLAUDE BERTRAND) IS RELEASING MOCK RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPES INTO THE RIVER – A SYMBOLIC GESTURE (THESE BALLS WERE REMOVED FROM THE WATER A LITTLE LATER)


Morning meeting: (room was full – approximately 80 people coming from Pontiac, Gatineau, Ottawa and Montreal)  From left to right: Jason Phelps, MC (OFWCA), Elssa Martinez (OFWCA), Ole Hendrickson (Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area), Patrick Nadeau (Executive Director, Ottawa Riverkeeper)Photo taken by: Eva Schacherl, Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River (CANDOR)

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

English version follows

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Actions proposées:

 

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

 

Ten Things to Know About Radioactive Waste Management in Canada

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Ontario town slams proposal for nuclear-waste facility, citing safety issues

A sign marks the entrance to the Chalk River Laboratories in Chalk River, Ont., in 2012. The nearby town of Deep River has opposed a proposal to build a nuclear-waste facility at the location.SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

SHAWN MCCARTHYGLOBAL ENERGY REPORTERPUBLISHED AUGUST 23, 2017UPDATED AUGUST 23, 2017FOR SUBSCRIBERS 5 COMMENTS

The Town of Deep River, Ont. – home to Canada’s nuclear pioneers for 60 years – has slammed a proposal to build a near-surface nuclear-waste facility at the nearby Chalk River laboratories, saying the company appears to put its scheduling issues ahead of safety.

Government-owned, private-sector-managed Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) proposes to build a $325-million facility to dispose of a large quantity of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste generated at the historic research centre, and to bring some waste material from other sites that it manages.

CNL is responding to widespread criticism of the project among local, pro-nuclear residents by revisiting its plan to include a small amount of intermediate-level waste at the site, Kurt Kehler, vice-president for decommissioning and waste management, said in an interview on Wednesday.

In a submission to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the Town of Deep River argued the company’s plan is flawed and that the draft environmental-impact statement that was submitted to the regulator is missing key information.

However, in an accompanying letter, Mayor Joan Lougheed said the town supports CNL’s effort to provide for the safe storage and disposal of nuclear waste. Deep River is home for many of the lab’s current and retired employees; it has a population of roughly 4,000 people, situated on the Ottawa River some 200 kilometres northwest of the national capital.

“We’re doing our due diligence and responsibility as representatives of the Town of Deep River,” Ms. Lougheed said in an interview on Wednesday. “We all have a responsibility to deal with waste and waste management.”

She said town supports the storage of low-level radioactive waste at such a near-surface site, but has concerns about the intermediate-level radioactive material that requires isolation and containment for more than several hundred years.

In 2015, the Canadian National Energy Alliance consortium won a contract from the former Conservative government to manage the former Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. research facilities, now known as Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. The group – which includes SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., and American engineering giant CH2M Hill Inc. and Fluor Corp. – was tasked with bringing private-sector efficiency to AECL operations.

In its submission, Deep River says CNL failed to engage the municipality and its residents, offering a presentation rather than meaningful consultation. It suggests the consortium appears to be more focused on timely and profitable execution of the project than on safety and long-term management of the waste.

Particularly in the consideration of alternative options, “at times it appears the project schedule and costs were the driving forces influencing the assessment rather than public health, safety and the environment,” it said.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The town and CNL are in negotiations over what compensation will be paid to the municipality as the host community, and Mr. Kehler described Deep River’s demands as “pretty lofty.”

As well, several First Nations groups either oppose the proposal outright, or say that they have not been properly consulted even though the research facilities are located on unceded traditional territory that is subject to land-claim negotiations.

CNL’s proposal – which aims to have the waste facility operational in 2021 – is running into fierce opposition from some AECL retirees. Several scientists who worked at facility say the CNL plan fails to meet international standards for safely dealing with intermediate-level waste (ILW).

“We’ve heard those comments and we’re taking that under serious advisement,” Mr. Kehler said. “And so we’ll be coming out with a recommendations shortly to the commission. … We are taking ILW issue seriously and I think we’ll come up with an appropriate resolution that will make just about everybody happy.”

The plan currently calls for 1 per cent of the total volume to be intermediate-level waste, and the company says that material would be on the lower end of the intermediate range. CNL is separately developing plans for the more dangerous intermediate-level waste that exists on the site.

Mr. Kehler also rejected the suggestion that CNL is compromising safety for financial reasons, saying the company is proceeding according to a schedule laid out by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the nuclear-safety commission.