Letters to the editor: CNL responds to Canadian Press story about First Nations and environmental groups warning that Canada is mishandling plans for nuclear waste
The Canadian Press article published on April 24, 2018 contains a number of inaccuracies and misleading comments about Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ (CNL) proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF), the NPD Closure Project in Rolphton, Ontario, and the WR-1 Closure Project in Pinawa, Manitoba, which threaten to undermine public confidence in our waste management practices and commitment to environmental stewardship.
First, CNL is open and transparent about all aspects of the NSDF. Over the past 18 months, we have hosted 60 public engagements throughout Ontario and Quebec, including public information sessions, meetings, discussions, project orientations and site visits with elected officials, media, members of the public, members of the industry and non-governmental organizations. Importantly, this outreach has indeed included engagements with 15 Indigenous communities.
Second, the NSDF is designed to protect the environment, not harm it. CNL employees care deeply about the Ottawa River, and have a shared interest in responsibly addressing this waste. The NSDF will allow us to clean up and isolate areas of historic contamination that are currently present at the site, and dispose of it in a watertight enclosure that has been designed to withstand sabotage, seismic events, including earthquakes, and flooding. This engineered containment mound has been described by Dr. Kerry Rowe, an international expert on these systems, as “the most sophisticated I've seen.”
With respect to the NPD and WR-1 Closure Projects, the in-situ decommissioning approach, while new to Canada, has been successfully demonstrated at many nuclear facilities worldwide. Through this practice, reactor systems are entombed, tens of metres underground with robust engineered safety barriers, ensuring reactor systems are isolated and contained from the environment. Institutional controls will be in place to restrict access and confirm environmental performance for at least a century. Most importantly, this approach poses the lowest risk to workers, the public and the environment.
Finally, all of these projects are subject to a federal government-led, and very public, environmental assessment process. In order to proceed, CNL requires a licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Members of the public are welcome to participate in this assessment, and are encouraged to raise any concerns they have through this formal review process.
Given the nature of this project, it is very important to ensure that the public is well and accurately informed with facts, not speculations. CNL encourages citizens to visit our website at www.cnl.ca for more information on the projects and details on future information sessions, follow us on social media, or contact CNL directly for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vice president, decommissioning and waste management
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories