Getting the message out
Patrick Nadeau, Executive Director of Ottawa Riverkeeper speaks as he stands with Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee, Grand Council Chief Anishinabek Nation, left, and Lynn Jones, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, join a group as they hold a press conference to express their concerns over the proposed 10-year relicensing of Chalk River Laboratories during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ont., on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018.
OTTAWA – The Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area believe they may have gotten the ear of the federal government.
In the wake of a press conference held this morning in Ottawa, followed by a nuclear safety march complete with a red canoe held aloft and protest signs made of paddles to Parliament Hill with stops to Mayor Jim Watson's office and the office of Natural Resources Minister Catherine Mary McKenna, Lynn Jones and Ole Hendrickson of the CCRCA are hopeful they have spread the word out about the plans Canadian Nuclear Laboratories has to store radioactive waste at the Chalk River site.
They also hope to shine a spotlight on the licence hearings happening in Pembroke next week.
“It was incredibly successful,” Jones said. “I couldn't imagine this in our wildest dreams.”
Press coverage was heavy and cameras were everywhere, she said, which helps make up for the fact it seems no one in the government was listening to the concerns and those of other groups living along the Ottawa River.
“Until there are a lot of people jumping up and down, the government is going to ignore it,” Jones said.
The press conference was held by representatives from First Nations, the Ottawa Riverkeeper and citizens’s groups including the CCRCA to draw attention to next week's Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearing being held in Pembroke. It deal with the proposed 10-year operating licence for CNL's Chalk River Laboratories.
All are opposed to CNL plans to create the Near Surface Disposal Facility as the place to take care of some of its legacy waste, mainly demolition debris and contaminated soils from older laboratory buildings. The engineered mound would be lined and have facilities to treat any leachate which may seep from it. The groups feel it is too close to the river and is not secure enough to prevent leaking into the environment.
Hendrickson said the fear is if the application goes forward unopposed, it would lead to the swift approval of a licence for the NSDF, which he and others described as a cheap, dirty, unsafe and out of alignment with International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines as a way of disposing of waste.
Jones said the CCRCA isn't against Chalk River Labs, and in fact sees a lifetime of jobs being generated by its clean-up activities. There is an estimated $7.6 billion dollars of radioactive clean-up liabilities to deal with, which does provide job security for decades to come.
But, she stressed, this waste disposal has to be done properly, or there may be big problems coming up in the future.
“If we can get the federal government to commit to taking care of things properly, that is what we are trying to accomplish,” she said. This would include relocating the proposed waste disposal site further inland away from the river and spending the money to create an underground facility which would keep the material secure.
“If they go the route of the NSDF, we're just going to end up with a big mess,” Jones said, which could include contaminating the Ottawa River and destroying property values along its length.
The proposed 10-year license will be considered at a three-day Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission public hearing in Pembroke, from Jan. 23 to 25. There are more than 80 interventions for the hearing, with two-thirds of them expressing serious concerns. These are available online at: http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/thecommission/hearings/cmd/index.cfm
The hearing starts Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. at the Best Western Inn and Conference Centre, close to the intersection of Highway 17 and 41.