News Local

Bloc joins the fight against NSDF

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

The people opposed to Canadian Nuclear Laboratories' (CNL) near surface disposal facility project have gained a political ally.

 

Martine Ouellet, leader of the Bloc Québécois who sits as an independent member of Quebec's National Assembly, has been on a fact finding tour of the area, meeting with Outaouais environmental groups, the mayor of Gatineau and the Old Fort William Cottagers Association, and touring the Chalk River site.

She wrote the Water Protection Charter for the Parti Quebecois and was Environment Minister in Quebec for two years. She is also a mechanical engineer by trade and before entering politics worked for Hydro Quebec for 20 years.

Ouellet was the guest speaker at the Nuclear Guardianship Picnic, held Tuesday at Pembroke's Riverside Park, hosted by the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area. She came out strongly against the idea of the NSDF project, which if approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will be used to dispose of mainly low-level radioactive materials, most of which is generated or already stored on-site for the next 50 years.

She said it didn't make sense to build such a mound a kilometre away from the Ottawa River, which supplies water for millions. Any leakage which may occur on land will end up in the river, following the flow of groundwater.

“You don't play with radioactivity,” Ouellet said. “I don't understand how people would have something like that so close to the river. How can they think about that and put people at risk? It is nonsense. It is basic. One plus one equals two.”

The MNA said if the NSDF was constructed, it would have an impact on the other side of the Ottawa River as well as the Ontario side. She said Quebec municipalities are being mobilized to register their objections with the project, and she encouraged opponents in Ontario to do the same.

“The power of people is a lot stronger,” Ouellet said. “When we work together, we can stop anything.”

CNL has maintained the site will be engineered to be safe, complete with layers of liners to contain the material and a water treatment facility on site to deal with water that trickles through the mound, but doesn't get out.

The company said the NSDF will be used to dispose of mostly low-level waste and a small amount of intermediate-level waste, mainly contaminated soil and building debris resulting from the decommissioning and demolition of more than 100 buildings and structures at the Chalk River site – a necessary part of revitalizing the site. Some 10 per cent of the material will come from off-site sources such as hospitals and universities, and from AECL facilities like Whiteshell, Manitoba.

It is designed to also provide a safe and permanent disposal for waste from 65 years of science and technology and the laboratories’ continuing operations.

Opponents have criticized its location, the containment mound's design and the fact waste from other Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. sites outside the area will be allowed to be transported to it.

Lynn Jones of the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, said Canada has to do a lot better job of disposing its radioactive waste.

“No country anywhere else in the world would consider piling one million cubic metres of long-lived radioactive wastes in a giant mound beside a river that flows past the Houses of Parliament and provides drinking water for millions of its citizens,” she said.

Jones said there are better ways to deal with this material than this “cheap and dirty” proposal, such as a more fully engineered site done to international standards located further away from the river.

She said while this multi-million dollar project looks impressive, if CNL did it the way the Concerned Citizens have been pushing for, the money invested in the area could be in the billions.

The deadline for comments on CNL’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) regarding the disposal facility is Aug. 16. If it is approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, with public hearings likely to start in mid-2018, construction would begin later that same year.

SUhler@postmedia.com