News Local

Opposed to CNL waste site

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

JEFF BASSETT/QMI AGENCY
A view of the Ottawa River in rural Kanata, which opponents to a new Chalk River radioactive waste disposal site are worried could be contaminated if the project isallowed to go ahead.

JEFF BASSETT/QMI AGENCY A view of the Ottawa River in rural Kanata, which opponents to a new Chalk River radioactive waste disposal site are worried could be contaminated if the project isallowed to go ahead.

Opposition to the Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) at Chalk River has been growing.

The project, the latest from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, is designed to store low level waste on site, primarily demolition waste as the company deals with decommissioning and demolishing more than 100 buildings and structures at Chalk River Laboratories.

It will also contain a small volume of mixed waste from off site sources.

The Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area (CCRCA) and the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association (OFWCA) have both come out opposed to the NSDF, fearing both groundwater contamination and putting the Ottawa River at risk.

In a joint press release, both groups state if approved, the 30–hectare Near Surface Disposal Facility would be used to dispose of up to one million cubic metres of low- and medium-level radioactive waste.

Both the CCRCA and OFWCA state they feel the proposed site is unsuitable for a dump of any kind given its proximity to the Ottawa River, a source of drinking water for millions of Canadians. They also say the site is near a major fault line, and on top of fractured and porous bedrock through which groundwater flows rapidly into the Ottawa River.

Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, from the Sheenboro, Quebec, area, said the proposal has shocked and angered residents, as well as people downstream in Ottawa and Montreal.

“Folks I talk to are outraged at the idea of dumping a million cubic metres of radioactive waste beside the Ottawa River,” she said.

Echlin said OFWCA members understand that CNL must adopt a long-term plan for the radioactive waste that has accumulated on the site for half a century.

“However, our members are very disturbed to learn that CNL also plans to transport radioactive waste and other waste from different areas of the country to Chalk River for disposal. We find it unacceptable to turn this site into a huge area for disposing of radioactive material from other parts of the country,” she said.

The OFWCA also objects to the size of the facility, which they state makes it unacceptable to locate so close to the river.

Added to these fears is the concern the group of multinational corporations now in charge of Chalk River Labs have no stake in the long-term health of the Ottawa River.

Echlin and her fellow cottagers worry that “after making a tidy profit on creation of the dump, they could walk away in 10 years when their contract ends and leave a leaking mess for others to live with.”

Dr. Ole Hendrickson, researcher for Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, hopes that questions raised by local citizens will be addressed in the draft Environmental Impact Statement, which was released March 17.

“We don’t yet have adequate information about the purpose of the proposed facility, such as what commercial activities the proponents have in mind,” said Hendrickson. “A key question is whether wastes from Canada’s nuclear power reactors could be sent to this facility for disposal.”

The public has until May 17 to submit their opinions to the CNSC. Public hearings on the matter are due to be held sometime in January 2018.

The two groups opposing it hope municipalities and all others downstream from Chalk River make their voices heard through resolutions, petitions and appeals to the CNSC.

Pat Quinn, corporate communications director for CNL, said the NSDF site is meant for low level waste, 90 per cent of which would be stored there, is already stored, or would be produced, out of activities at the Chalk River site.

“Approximately five per cent would be waste originating from the Whiteshell Laboratories, in Manitoba and other AECL sites, such as the prototype reactors Douglas Point and Gentilly-1; and less than five per cent would be commercial sourced inventories, for example from Canadian hospitals and universities, a service that has been underway for decades,” Quinn said.

He stressed the site will not be used to dispose of materials such as fuel rods and other such highly radioactive materials.

“All waste to be disposed at the NSDF will be required to meet the waste acceptance criteria established, thus ensuring operational and long-term safety requirements,” he said.

The NSDF Project may accept less than one percent by volume of intermediate-level waste, which are wastes with higher levels of radioactivity that may require shielding for worker protection during handling, and may contain higher concentrations of longer-lived radionuclides. The NSDF will also accept mixed waste, which is radioactive waste that includes hazardous substances.

Written comments can be sent to:

Nicole Frigault

Environmental Assessment Specialist

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

P.O. Box 1046 Station B

280 Slater Street

Ottawa (ON) K1P 5S9

Telephone: 613-995-7948 or 1-800-668-5284

Fax: 613-995-5086

Email: cnsc.ea-ee.ccsn@canada.ca

The draft environmental impact statement, supporting documents and associated links can be viewed at the following link:

http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=118381

SUhler@postmedia.com