OTTAWA, September 16, 2021 – Community organizations opposed to the construction of a massive aboveground radioactive waste dump near the Ottawa River are finding support among some federal electoral candidates.The groups asked candidates in the 2021 federal election in 13 ridings in West Quebec, Eastern Ontario and Ottawa if they would initiate a regional assessment under the federal Impact Assessment Act to look into radioactive waste, nuclear decommissioning and the remediation of contaminated lands in the Ottawa Valley. Seven candidates from the NDP and Green Party and one Independent agreed to push for a regional assessment.
In May 2021, the City of Ottawa wrote to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson asking for a regional assessment on nuclear waste in the Ottawa Valley, but the minister declined the request.
Ottawa CentreGreen Party candidate Angela Keller-Herzog said: “The fact that a regional assessment has been requested by the Council of the City of Ottawa and then declined by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change is disturbing. These decisions will affect residents and the environment for thousands of years. I will continue to press for a comprehensive assessment.”
The groups also asked the candidates if they would oppose the current plans for a million-cubic-metre radioactive waste disposal facility at Chalk River and a reactor entombment at Rolphton, Ont., both next to the Ottawa River.
Of the 16 candidates who replied, almost three-quarters (11) said they oppose the current plans or had serious concerns. They included Greens Keller-Herzog, Jennifer Purdy (Kanata-Carleton) and Gordon Kubanek (Nepean), NDPer Konstantine Malakos (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell), independent candidate Stefan Klietsch (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke), the Bloc’s Geneviève Nadeau and PPC’s Mathieu St-Jean (both in Gatineau).
Directly across the Ottawa River from the proposed waste facilities, candidates in the Quebec riding of Pontiac (where former Liberal MP Will Amos is not running) all responded, including:
· NDP candidate Denise Giroux pledged to work tirelessly to oppose these “irresponsible” waste management plans and added she would “refuse to stand idly by, as the former MP did, while these projects forge ahead. Nearly 40 Indigenous groups, along with 6 million people downstream from these projects. . .have tried to voice their opposition to these plans.”
· Bloc Québécois candidate Gabrielle Desjardins said her party is opposed to “any risk for Quebec of contamination with nuclear waste from projects such as the Chalk River dump, along the Ottawa River. . . .The option as proposed at Chalk River is not acceptable and is not sufficiently safe.” [Translated from French]
· “It’s time to rethink the plan to build Canada’s first permanent nuclear waste dump less than one kilometre from the Ottawa River,” said Shaughn McArthur of the Green Party. “The near surface waste mound uses geomembranes and a cover that will disintegrate over time, whereas the waste can be dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.”
· Conservative candidate Michel Gauthier, said he is opposed to the nuclear waste facility at Chalk River: “This project is far from achieving the standard of social acceptability and should not go ahead until a serious study of alternative sites, far from populated regions, has been made and the population has been clearly informed.” [Translated from French]
· Liberal candidate Sophie Chatel did not oppose the waste dump but said she would monitor the project “extremely closely” if elected, and called for it to be “rigorously monitored to ensure that no radioactive materials leach into the Ottawa River.”
The radioactive waste facility and entombment of an old reactor are proposals of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), which is owned by a private-sector consortium of SNC-Lavalin and two Texas corporations under contract to the federal government. The contract was signed in 2015 by the Harper government during the federal election campaign and was renewed last year by the Liberal government.
As shown in Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) annual reports, contractual amounts spent by the federal government on radioactive waste management, nuclear decommissioning and contaminated sites, through the CNL contract, have tripled from $332 million in 2016 to $955 million in 2020.
The questionnaire was organized by the Council of Canadians – Ottawa Chapter, the Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River (CANDOR) and the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association. The candidates’ full responses can be read here on the website of the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.
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Media contact:Eva Schacherl Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River (CANDOR)email@example.com
Certains candidats et candidates s’opposent à la décharge de déchets radioactifs près de la rivière des Outaouais et demandent une évaluation fédérale régionale
OTTAWA, le 16 septembre 2021 – Des groupes communautaires opposés à la construction d’un immense monticule de déchets radioactifs près de la rivière des Outaouais trouvent du soutien chez certains candidats et candidates aux élections fédérales.
Les groupes ont demandé aux candidats et candidates fédéraux dans 13 circonscriptions de l’ouest du Québec, de l’est de l’Ontario et d’Ottawa s’ils entreprendraient une évaluation régionale en vertu de la Loi sur l’évaluation d’impact fédérale pour examiner les déchets radioactifs, le déclassement des installations nucléaires, et l’assainissement des terres contaminées dans la région. Sept candidats du NPD et du Parti vert et un indépendant ont accepté de faire pression pour une évaluation régionale.
En mai 2021, la Ville d’Ottawa a écrit au ministre fédéral de l’Environnement Jonathan Wilkinson pour demander une évaluation régionale des déchets nucléaires dans la vallée de l’Outaouais; le ministre a refusé la demande.
La candidate du Parti vert d’Ottawa-Centre, Angela Keller-Herzog, a déclaré : « Le fait qu’une évaluation régionale ait été demandée par le Conseil de la Ville d’Ottawa puis refusée par le ministre fédéral de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique est inquiétant. Ces décisions affecteront les résidents et l’environnement pour des milliers d’années. Je continuerai à faire pression pour une évaluation complète. »
Les groupes ont également demandé aux candidats s’ils s’opposeraient aux projets actuels d’un dépotoir nucléaire d’un million de mètres cubes à Chalk River et de mise en tombeau d’un réacteur à Rolphton, en Ontario, tous deux aux abords de la rivière des Outaouais.
Sur les 16 candidats qui ont répondu, près des trois quarts (11) ont déclaré qu’ils s’opposaient aux plans actuels ou avaient de sérieuses inquiétudes. Parmi eux, on compte les Verts Keller-Herzog, Jennifer Purdy (Kanata-Carleton) et Gordon Kubanek(Nepean), Konstantine Malakos du NPD (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell), le candidat indépendant Stefan Klietsch (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke), la bloquiste Geneviève Nadeau et Mathieu St-Jean du PPC (tous deux à Gatineau).
De l’autre côté de la rivière des Outaouais, juste en face des projets proposés, les candidats et candidates de la circonscription québécoise de Pontiac (où l’ancien député libéral Will Amos ne se présente pas) ont tous répondu, notamment :
• La candidate du NPD Denise Giroux s’est engagée à travailler sans relâche pour s’opposer à ces plans de gestion de déchets « irresponsables » et a ajouté qu’elle « refuse de rester les bras croisés, comme l’a fait l’ancien député, alors que ces projets vont de l’avant. Près de 40 groupes autochtones, ainsi que 6 millions de personnes en aval de ces projets. . . ont tenté d’exprimer leur opposition à ces plans. »
• La candidate du Bloc québécois Gabrielle Desjardins a déclaré que son parti s’oppose à « tout risque pour le Québec de contamination aux déchets nucléaires qu’impliquent des projets comme le dépotoir de Chalk River, le long de la rivière des Outaouais. . . L’option telle que proposée à Chalk River n’est pas acceptable et n’est pas suffisamment sécuritaire. »
• « Il est temps de repenser le plan de construction du premier dépotoir permanent de déchets nucléaires au Canada à moins d’un kilomètre de la rivière des Outaouais », a déclaré Shaughn McArthur du Parti vert. « Le monticule de déchets en surface utilise des géomembranes et une couverture qui se désintégreront avec le temps, alors que les déchets peuvent être dangereux pendant des centaines de milliers d’années. »
• Le candidat conservateur Michel Gauthier s’est dit opposé à l’installation de déchets nucléaires de Chalk River : « Ce projet est loin d’obtenir la norme de l’acceptabilité sociale et ne doit pas aller de l’avant tant et aussi longtemps qu’une étude sérieuse de sites alternatifs, loin des régions peuplées, n’aura été faite et que la population aura été clairement informée. »
• La candidate libérale Sophie Chatel ne s’est pas opposée au dépotoir, mais a déclaré qu’elle suivrait « de très près » le projet si elle était élue, et a demandé qu’il soit « rigoureusement surveillé pour assurer qu’aucune matière radioactive ne s’infiltre dans la rivière des Outaouais. »
Le dépotoir et la mise en tombeau d’un ancien réacteur sont des propositions des Laboratoires Nucléaires Canadiens (LNC), qui appartiennent à un consortium du secteur privé composé de SNC-Lavalin et de deux sociétés texanes sous contrat avec le gouvernement fédéral. Le contrat a été signé en 2015 par le gouvernement Harper lors de la campagne électorale fédérale et a été renouvelé l’an dernier par le gouvernement libéral.
Selon les rapports annuels d’Énergie atomique du Canada limitée (EACL), les montants dépensés par le gouvernement fédéral pour la gestion des déchets radioactifs, le déclassement nucléaire et les sites contaminés, dans le cadre du contrat des LNC, ont triplé, passant de 332 millions de dollars en 2016 à 955 millions de dollars en 2020.
Le questionnaire a été organisé par le Conseil des Canadiens – Section d’Ottawa, la Coalition contre les décharges nucléaires sur la rivière des Outaouais (CANDOR) et la Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association. Les réponses complètes des candidats se trouvent sur le site Web de Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.
From: Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area
To: Rafael Mariano Grossi
International Atomic Energy Agency
Date: May 31, 2021
We thank the IAEA for organizing the September 2019 Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) Mission to Canada.Recommendation R1 in the report of this Mission is that ““The Government should enhance the existing policy and establish the associated strategy to give effect to the principles stated in the Canadian Radioactive Waste Management Policy Framework.”
2. This report shall also include… (iv) an inventory of radioactive waste that is subject to this Convention that: (a) is being held in storage at radioactive waste management and nuclear fuel cycle facilities; (b) has been disposed of; or (c) has resulted from past practices. This inventory shall contain a description of the material and other appropriate information available, such as volume or mass, activity and specific radionuclides;
Canada’s 7th report says that data are “not available” (N/A) for activity and specific radionuclides in the Government of Canada’s waste at the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL). This is where most federal radioactive waste is stored and is Canada’s only facility for commercial radioactive waste storage. CRL is managed by “Canadian Nuclear Laboratories”, a private company owned by a consortium of multinational engineering firms under a 2015 contract with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).
Table B-2 provides activity values of 1040 TBq beta/gamma, 2.1 TBq alpha, 1070 TBq tritium, and ~ 75 TBq unspecified for a portion of the Chalk River wastes. Data gaps in Table B-2 include CRL’s oldest Waste Management Area, WMA A, and one of its newest, WMA H, where the Shielded Modular Above-Ground Storage (SMAGS) facilities are found. Despite the data gaps in Table B-2, the activity and radionuclide data found therein should be included in Table D.8 of Canada’s 7th report.
Table B-2 also lists additional activity data as being “AVAILABLE” for certain CRL waste areas, including the WMA B circular concrete bunkers, rectangular concrete bunkers, and tile holes; the WMA C extension unlined trenches; the potentially contaminated equipment, materials and drummed liquids in WMA D; and the reprocessing wastes in the Thorium Pit from operation of the 233U extraction facility.
These data should also be reported pursuant to Article 32 of the Joint Convention.
There are major differences between the waste volume data for CRL in Canada’s 7th report and in Table B-2. Table B-2 shows a total volume of all waste types of 235,165 m3, with an additional 380,000 m3 of contaminated soils and slags. These are far higher values than those in Table D.8 of Canada’s 7th report. It gives a total of only 154,858 m3 of all waste types, and only 156,276 m3 of contaminated soils, at CRL.
Comparing data from Table D.8 (p. 48) in Canada’s 7th report to data in the 6th report (Table D.3, p. 27) for CRL, the reported volume of intermediate-level waste (ILW) decreased by 95% – from 19,648 to 1,050 m3.
A footnote to Table D.8 says:
“Prior estimates were based on a conservative assumption that all waste stored within a structure that could contain ILW would be categorized as ILW until better characterization data became available. Between 2016 and 2019, retrieval and processing operations were conducted on selected legacy wastes in storage, and records were verified to extrapolate the current volumes.”
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), the operator of CRL, is not listed as a contributor to Canada’s 7th report. Canada’s 7th report should identify the body that did the “better characterization” of ILW, provide details on how it was done, and specify quantities of ILW that were reclassified as low-level waste (LLW). More generally, clarification is needed as to how the Government of Canada’s ILW and LLW are differentiated.
The disappearance of 18,598 m3 of ILW at CRL can only be partly accounted for by a 12,873 m3 increase in LLW (comparing Table D.8 in Canada’s 7th report to Table D.3 in the 6th report).
This apparent reclassification of federal ILW as LLW has implications for a proposed landfill at CRL, listed in section 3.0 of the 7th report as a “current priority”:
a near surface disposal facility (NSDF) for the disposal of up to 1,000,000 m3 of low-level radioactive waste (LLW) at CRL. Pending regulatory approval, the proposed disposal facility will be constructed, and the forecasted date of operations is 2024.
Although this proposed “NSDF” facility is termed a “near surface disposal facility” in the 7th report, the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this facility says (p. 1-5) that it “would resemble a conventional landfill for municipal or industrial refuse, with measures to cover the waste.”
According to SSR-5, Disposal of Radioactive Waste, such a landfill facility would be suitable only for disposal of very low level radioactive waste (VLLW) – waste with low concentrations or quantities of radioactive content. Plans to put LLW – and possibly ILW reclassified as LLW – in such an above-ground, landfill-type mound are a matter of concern. Again, clarity is needed on how Canada’s wastes are classified.
Note that Canada’s 7th report does not provide data for wastes considered to be VLLW.
The final EIS indicates that CNL intends to put 134,000 m3 of packaged wastes in this proposed disposal facility (Table 3.3.1-1, p. 3-24). The final EIS (p. 3-23) and the NSDF Project Waste Acceptance Criteria (pages 12 and 24) identify as packages intermodal containers (e.g., 20-foot ISO containers), steel waste boxes (e.g., B-25 boxes), drums (e.g., 205-L drums), shielded waste packages, and disused sources.
These packages could contain a variety of long-lived and high-activity radionuclides, possibly not well characterized, and very likely unsuitable for landfill disposal.
An NSDF Project Reference Inventory Report notes that there are data gaps “compared to what would be required for disposal assessment” of packaged wastes to be put in the facility. This report describes assumptions, methods, use of scaling factors, qualitative assessments, etc. used to estimate activities of specific radionuclides in the packaged wastes at CRL. These estimates do not appear in Canada’s 7th report.
Canada’s reduced inventory of contaminated soils also has implications for wastes to be put in the proposed landfill. The April 2017 draft EIS for this facility gave a volume figure of 370,000 m3 for “Soil and Soil‐like Waste” (p. 3-8) – similar to the figures of 380,000 m3 of contaminated soils and slags in WMA F found in Table B-2, and 382,842 m3 in the 6th report. The final EIS has no figure for contaminated soils to be put into the facility – only a combined figure of 866,000 m3 for all types of non-packaged wastes.
An explanation for the change in contaminated soil volume at CRL between Canada’s 6th and 7th reports is needed.
Table D.12 and section 8.1 of Canada’s 7th report indicate that CNL was actively decommissioning various facilities (e.g., the waste water evaporator building, NRX delay tanks, NRX fuel bay, NRX ancillary buildings, plutonium recovery laboratory, plutonium tower) at Chalk River during the April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2020 reporting period. However, whereas the 6th report had separate tables for wastes from “normal operations” (Table D.3) and wastes from “decommissioning activities” (Table D.5), the latter table was omitted from Canada’s 7th report.
An explanation is needed as to why a table describing wastes arising from decommissioning activities has been removed from Canada’s 7th report.
Table D.8 (p.49) in Canada’s 7th report has a row labeled “Decommissioning waste” for CRL. The dates given for this row are January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2016. This would seem to indicate that data for decommissioning waste for Chalk River in the 7th report were not updated from the 6th report, which shows the same time period.
However, the two reports have greatly different volumes – 332 m3 ILW and 16,894 m3 LLW in the 7th report; compared to 125 m3 ILW and 2,876 m3 LLW in the 6th report.
This inconsistency should be addressed.
Of particular concern is the absence of data on activity and specific radionuclides for the Government of Canada’s decommissioning wastes. GSR Part 6, Decommissioning of Facilities, states that
During the preparation and updating of the final decommissioning plan, the extent and type of radioactive material at the facility (e.g. activated and contaminated structures and components) shall be determined by means of a detailed characterization survey and on the basis of records collected during the operational period. (p. 16)
Absence of data on activity and specific radionuclides for federal decommissioning wastes in Canada’s 7th report indicates that final decommissioning plans and detailed characterization surveys may not have been done prior to conduct of decommissioning activities. This would be problematic given that
With the implementation of the government-owned contractor-operated (GoCo) model at AECL sites, CNL continues to significantly accelerate decommissioning and remediation activities. (Canada’s 7th report, p. 2)
The data shown in Table D.8 in Canada’s 7th report for the Government of Canada’s Whiteshell Laboratories, currently undergoing accelerated decommissioning, differ substantially from those found in the 6th report.
The category of “Research reactor waste and decommissioned reactor waste” for the Whiteshell Laboratories, included in the 6th report, is missing from the 7th report. Both LLW and ILW at Whiteshell are now labelled as “Decommissioning waste (January 1, 2005, to December 31, 2016).”
As with the CRL decommissioning waste, this December 31, 2016 date may be an error. A correction or further explanation is needed.
Table D.5 in Canada’s 6th report gave volume and activity data for decommissioning wastes at Whiteshell (22 m3 and 148 TBq ILW, 1598 m3 and 6 TBq LLW); Table D.3 in the 6th report gave volume and activity data (863 m3 and 2,794 TBq ILW, 19,700 m3 and 325 TBq LLW) for Whiteshell operations wastes.
Canada’s 7th report (Table D.8, p. 51) does not provide separate values for Whiteshell decommissioning and operations wastes – both are combined as “Decommissioning waste”. Activity data for these wastes are now listed as “Not Available”.
With regard to the volume of Whiteshell wastes, Table D.8 (p. 51) in Canada’s 7th report provides a figure of 240 m3 of ILW. This represents only 27% of the 885 m3 of Whiteshell ILW in the 6th report (adding together the separately reported volumes of decommissioning and operations waste). The 6th report had a footnote stating that “Volumes for ILW/LLW are based on method of storage and do not necessarily represent the actual breakdown of waste into ILW and LLW”.
Canada’s 6th report listed a total of 21,298 m3 of LLW at Whiteshell, including 19,700 m3 of “operations” LLW (in “above-ground concrete bunkers and trenches”) and 1,598 m3 of “decommissioning” LLW (in “above-ground concrete bunkers”). In Canada’s 7th report, this total volume decreased by 21% to a value of 16,861 m3 of LLW in “above-ground concrete bunkers”.
Canada’s 7th report gives no explanation for these considerable decreases in the ILW and LLW inventories at Whiteshell. One possibility is that decommissioning wastes have already been shipped to Chalk River, even though Canada’s 7th report implies that this would not be done until approval was granted for the proposed CRL landfill:
“For the wastes that are currently on-site, CNL is planning to transport certain LLW and other suitable wastes from Whiteshell to CRL for disposal in the proposed NSDF” (p. 297).
Accurate accounting of volumes and activities for the Whiteshell decommissioning wastes is of particular importance, given that the contract between AECL and the consortium of multinational engineering firms includes a special “target cost” agreement that provides bonuses for decommissioning Whiteshell as quickly as possible.
With regard to Canada’s method of waste classification, the 6th report says:
A definitive numerical boundary between the various categories of radioactive waste – primarily between LLW and ILW – cannot be provided because activity limitations differ between individual radionuclides and radionuclide groups, and will be dependent on short- and long-term safety-management considerations. For example, a contact dose rate of two millisieverts per hour (mSv/h) has been used in some cases to distinguish between LLW and ILW.
A much different waste classification is found in the 7th report:
LLW contains material with radionuclide content above established clearance levels and exemption quantities, but generally has limited amounts of long-lived activity. For orientation purposes only, a limit of 400 Bq/g on average (and up to 4,000 Bq/g for individual waste packages) for long-lived alpha emitting radionuclides can be considered in the classification process. For long-lived beta and/or gamma emitting radionuclides, such as carbon-14, chlorine-36, nickel-63, zirconium-93, niobium-94, technetium-99 and iodine-129, the allowable average activity concentrations can be considerably higher (up to tens of kBq/g) and can be specific to the site and disposal facility. LLW requires isolation and containment for up to a few hundred years.
A similar classification of LLW is found in the NSDF Project Waste Acceptance Criteria (p. 36). Both resemble the description of LLW in IAEA General Safety Guide GSG-1, Classification of Radioactive Waste. However, neither the new LLW classification in Canada’s 7th report, nor CNL’s LLW classification for its “NSDF”, would appear to identify wastes suitable for disposal in a landfill-type facility.
As noted earlier, landfill-type facilities are suitable for disposal only Very Low Level Waste (VLLW) – typically, soil and rubble with low levels of radioactivity and very limited concentrations of longer lived radionuclides. Past activities at CRL related to extraction of isotopes from irradiated fuels and targets (e.g., the plutonium recovery facility, the plutonium tower, the waste water evaporator, the nitrate plant, the thorium pit, the molybdenum-99 processing facility), have left a legacy of long-lived wastes that almost certainly will require management as ILW.
After AECL contracted a consortium of multinational engineering firms to operate the Government of Canada’s nuclear sites in 2015, Canada’s Parliament greatly increased annual appropriations to AECL for decommissioning and waste management. With this increased funding for accelerated decommissioning, and plans for three new disposal facilities for the Government of Canada’s wastes (the CRL landfill, and entombment of the NPD and WR-1 reactors), clear, transparent, accurate and up-to-date data on federal radioactive wastes should be a high priority for Canada.
In summary, Canada’s 7th report could be revised to
include all available data on activity and specific radionuclides for the Government of Canada’s radioactive wastes stored at CRL and Whiteshell;
explain the changes in data for ILW, LLW, and contaminated soils at CRL and Whiteshell in the 7th report relative to the 6th report, including information on the “better characterization” of ILW;
explain why data for wastes arising from decommissioning activities at Chalk River and Whiteshell are shown as not having been updated since 2017;
clarify whether final decommissioning plans and detailed characterization surveys were completed prior to conduct of accelerated decommissioning activities at CRL and Whiteshell;
explain why the separate table of wastes arising from decommissioning activities found in the 6th report was removed from the 7th report;
clarify that the proposed “NSDF” at CRL would resemble a municipal landfill; and
provide evidence that long-term solutions have been developed for remediation of the CRL waste management areas.
Addressing these issues would add rigour and credibility to Canada’s 7th report.
We hope this note can stimulate discussions during the Seventh Review Meeting
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Ole Hendrickson, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Researcher, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area
Table B-2 Summary of Waste Management Areas at CRL and Estimates of Waste Volumes and Radioactivity Content
Source: Chalk River Laboratories Comprehensive Preliminary Decommissioning Plan, CPDP-508300-PDP-001, Revision 2, March 2014
Waste Management Area A
Various drummed and bottled liquids emptied into below-grade concrete structures.
Limited records for drummed and bottled liquids buried prior to 1956
Liquid wastes discharged into trenches in 1953 (4,500 m3), 1954 September (7.2 m3) and 1955 February (50 m3) resulting in contaminated soil. Solid wastes emplaced in unlined trenches and a variety of “special burials”, such as the NRX calandria.
Limited records for solid wastes buried prior to 1955. Source of a groundwater plume.
Liquid Dispersal Area
Reactor Pit #1
Liquid waste discharged to natural depression between 1953 and 1956 resulting in contaminated soil. Lightly contaminated equipment and suspect soils later used to fill depression.
Estimated disposal of 74 TBq 90Sr plus 100 g (Pu equivalent) of alpha-emitters. Source of a groundwater plume.
Aqueous waste from Decontamination Centre and Laundry discharged to engineered pit resulting in contaminated soil.
Small inventory compared with other LDA pits.
Liquid aqueous waste from site labs and chemical operations discharged to a gravel-filled pit resulting in contaminated soil.
β/γ α Tritium
230 0.4 70
Source of a groundwater 90Sr plume. Groundwater from Chemical Pit plume is subject of pump and treat program.
Reactor Pit #2
Lightly contaminated water from Rod Storage Bays, and NRX & NRU operations resulting in contaminated soil.
β/γ α Tritium
500 0.5 1,000
Source of a groundwater plume.
Waste Management Area B
Solid wastes in unlined trenches covered with sand: Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste (ILW) emplaced prior to 1956 August, only Low Level Waste (LLW) emplaced after 1956 September.
Misc. bottled liquids
Mixed LLW and ILW
Use discontinued in favour of engineered structures. Limited inventory data. Source of two separate groundwater plumes.
Intermediate-level solid wastes, i.e., wastes having external fields >100 mR/h at 30 cm, that were emplaced in asphalt-lined and –capped trenches
Misc. bottled liquids
Estimated to contain 0.6 TBq of 239Pu.
Rectangular Concrete bunkers
Low level solid wastes in rectangular concrete bunkers. (Below grade but above the water table)
Various materials including the NRU and the second NRX calandrias.
Estimates are available for individual burials.
Circular concrete bunkers
1979 – present
Low level solid wastes. (Below grade but above the water table)
Tile Holes – Nuclear Reactor Fuels
1956 – present
Reactor fuel high-level wastes in vertical, below-grade facilities.
Estimates available for fissile material quantities. Fuel-bearing structures are the subject of a remediation program. Certain HEU fuels are candidates for return to U.S.
Tile Holes – 99Mo wastes
High-level wastes from 99Mo production
Estimates available for fissile material quantities.
Tile Holes – other wastes
A variety of high level wastes including reactor components.
Cell wastes, reactor components, Rod Bay wastes.
Waste Management Area C
Low level solid waste (external fields <100 mR/h at 30 cm) in unlined trenches. Higher proportion of drummed waste than Area C.
Characterization data available for some radionuclide inventories. Source of groundwater plume.
Low-level solid waste (external fields <100 mR/h at 30 cm) in unlined trenches. Total area is approx. 4.5 ha; impermeable cover installed on entire area in 2013. Waste is half from CRL and half from across Canada including NPD.
Drummed & bottled liquids
Limited characterization data for inventories. Source of a groundwater plume.
Waste Management Area D
1976 – present
Fenced gravel compound used for aboveground storage of potentially contaminated equipment, materials and drummed liquids. Not a burial site. A Mixed Waste Facility used for temporary storage, sampling and bulking is also in WMA D.
Small numbers of transient drums may be stored at any particular time. The drummed liquids (lightly contaminated aqueous wastes and waste oils) are stored in marine containers.
Acid, Chemical and Solvent Pits
Small fenced compound containing three small pits, which as the names imply were used for different non-active liquid wastes and very small quantities of solid wastes.
Used for disposition of lightly contaminated & suspect bulk materials (building debris and soils) from the CRL Controlled Area.
Suspect slightly contaminated
The volume of suspect contaminated materials is believed to be a small fraction of the total volume of materials stored here.
Tank Farm with intermediate to high-level wastes in tanks in concrete vaults with leak-detection systems Intermediate – T-40F (secondary concrete containment), T-40E (empty), T-40D (concrete pad) High level – T-283A, B, C, D (all with secondary concrete containment)
Monitoring & surveillance confirms containment of these wastes and the facility includes emergency transfer lines.
Waste Management Area F
Contaminated soils and slags from Port Hope, Albion Hills, Mono Mills and Ottawa stored above the water table in sand valley. Unsuccessful clay cover.
Approx. 515 GBq Total 226Ra, 4 – 13 Mg Arsenic, 80 Mg U.
Complete inventory data available. Monitoring & surveillance confirms containment within structures.
Waste Management Area H (MAGS and SMAGS)
Prefabricated metal and concrete storage buildings with capability of storing 865 m3and approximately 4,000 m3 each, respectively, of compacted LLW in B-1000 compactor boxes, 45-gallon drums (204 liters), wooden crates, boxes and B-25 containers. Bulk materials and NRX stack pieces are also stored in WMA H.
All waste will be removed by Operations prior to turnover to Decommissioning. Some residual contamination may be present as a result of operational activities.
WMA J Bulk Material Landfill (BML)
Engineered landfill used for the storage of sewage sludge for the CRL sewage treatment plant
Leachate is transferred to the sewage treatment plant.
Discharges of mixed fission products in salt solutions to limed pit following a process accident. Decontaminating solutions also released. Contaminated rubble from Building 233 demolition.
Estimated 60 TBq of β/γ activity (35% 90Sr) in liquid releases – small α inventories. Plant demolished and buried on-site, no data for solid waste inventories.
Reprocessing wastes from operation of the 233U extraction facility.
Nat. Th, 233U and mixed FP
Approximate total of 45 m3 reprocessing solution discharged in separate dispersals to crib containing ammonium carbonate (~4,000 kg of nat. Th, 27 g 233U).
Above Ground Buildings and Structures in Waste Management Areas
Buildings and Structures in WMAs
1953 – present
(1) Activity at time of emplacement – not corrected for decay N/A = no quantitative data available n.a. = not applicable A = quantitative data available
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.
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 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.”
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
with cc to: OttawaValley-ValleeOutaouais (IAAC/AEIC) <email@example.com> 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”
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.
In this letter Mayor Jim Watson urges CNL and the CNSC to take action on Ottawa’s concerns about the giant radioactive waste mound (NSDF) proposed for Chalk River and the entombment of a nuclear reactor beside the Ottawa River at Rolphton.
Specifically the letter and the resolution on which it is based calls on CNL/CNSC to:
stop current and future import or transfer of radioactive waste to Chalk River from other provinces
increase safeguards to protect the Ottawa River
prevent precipitation from entering the Chalk River Mound (NSDF)
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.
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.
OTTAWA CITY COUNCIL 8 AGENDA 51 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14 2021
OTTAWA CITY COUNCIL ACTS ON COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
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.
OTTAWA CITY COUNCIL 9 AGENDA 51 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14 2021
The Ottawa River is a Canadian Heritage River that flows past Parliament Hill. It has untold value as a beautiful natural and historical treasure. The river is sacred for the Algonquin People whose traditional territory it defines.
The Ottawa River is threatened by a giant landfill for one million tonnes of radioactive and other hazardous waste. A multinational consortium (SNC-Lavalin, Fluor and Jacobs) plans to build the seven-story mound on the grounds of the Chalk River Laboratories, northwest of Ottawa, directly across the Ottawa River from the province of Quebec.
Independent scientists and the public have not had a formal opportunity to comment on this project since August 2017 when hundreds of critical comments were submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. CNSC is the “responsible authority” under the old Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and would hold a licensing hearing at an undetermined date in the future. An Expert Panel recommended in 2017 that the CNSC not be in charge of environmental assessment for nuclear projects. The panel also noted that the CNSC is widely perceived to be a captured regulator.
1.The proposed site is unsuitable for a dump of any kind. The site is less than one kilometre from the Ottawa River which forms the border between Ontario and Quebec. The river is a drinking water source for millions of Canadians. After passing the Chalk River Laboratories, it flows downstream through Ottawa-Gatineau, past Parliament Hill, and on to Montreal. The site is tornado and earthquake prone; the Ottawa River itself is a major fault line. The site is partly surrounded by wetlands and the underlying bedrock is porous and fractured.
2.The mound would contain hundreds of radioactive materials, dozens of hazardous chemicals and tonnes of heavy metals. Radioactive materials destined for the dump include tritium, carbon-14, strontium-90, four types of plutonium (one of the most dangerous radioactive materials if inhaled or ingested), and up to 80 tonnes of uranium. Twenty-five out of the 30 radionuclides listed in the reference inventory for the mound are long-lived. This suggests the dump would remain dangerously radioactive for 100,000 years.
A very large quantity of cobalt-60 in the dump would give off so much intense gamma radiation that workers must use lead shielding to avoid dangerous radiation exposures. The International Atomic Energy Agency says high-activity cobalt-60 is “intermediate-level waste” and must be stored underground.
Dioxin, PCBs, asbestos, mercury, up to 13 tonnes of arsenic and hundreds of tonnes of lead would go into the dump. It would also contain thousands of tonnes of copper and iron and 33 tonnes of aluminum, tempting scavengers to dig into the mound after closure.
4. There is no safe level of exposure to the radiation that would leak into the Ottawa River from the Chalk River mound. All of the escaping radioactive materials would increase risks of birth defects, genetic damage, cancer and other chronic diseases. The International Atomic Energy Agency says radioactive wastes must be carefully stored out of the biosphere, not in an above-ground mound.
5.International safety standards do not allow landfills to be used for nuclear waste disposal. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that only Very Low Level Radioactive Waste (VLLW) can be put in an above-ground landfill-type facility. Canada would be shirking its international obligations as a member state of the IAEA and a signatory to an international nuclear waste treaty if it allowed this dump to be licensed.
6.The giant Chalk River mound would not reduce Canada’s $8 billion federal radioactive waste liabilities and could in fact increase them. The giant pile of leaking radioactive waste would be difficult to remediate. Remediation costs could exceed those of managing the wastes had they not been put in the mound.