CNL backs down from proposal to include intermediate level radioactive waste

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is backing down from its proposal to include intermediate level radioactive waste (ILW) in its nuclear waste disposal project at Chalk River.

Since day one, Ottawa Riverkeeper and many other groups have pointed out that the inclusion of ILW in this project was not compatible with international standards. This is a good decision – and in our opinion, a reversal that shows the power of strong public involvement and scrutiny. That said, we still have many concerns about the project.

Today’s announcement doesn’t mean any changes to the near-surface technology being proposed, and the site near the Ottawa River is still problematic. Moreover, we are still waiting on more detailed information about the Waste Acceptance Criteria – what exactly will and won’t be accepted as waste – these unknown details are crucial for CNSC to determine whether the project would have significant adverse environmental effects.

We will soon be conducting an on-site visit to further our work on this file. Next steps are the finalization of the environmental impact statement (EIS) by the promoter, then the CNSC’s Environmental Assessment in the spring of 2018 – followed by public hearings in which we’ll of course be participating.

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8 responses to “CNL backs down from proposal to include intermediate level radioactive waste”

  1. CNL has reacted to public outcry and to the 200+ submissions. This is good news that public pressure is beginning to have an effect.

    We are not yet victorious. There is no clear definition of low- and intermediate-level waste. There will still be very long-lived materials in the dump. It is still against International Atomic Energy Agency standards and it is still too close to the river. Our work must continue so that we will be heard fully. This news may make it easier for the dump to get approval as some will think by removing intermediate-level waste there is no longer any danger. They are wrong.

    If we listen to our scientists, we know that removing intermediate-level waste does not solve one of the biggest flaws with this proposal. Scientists tell us that there is a great deal of harmful material, some with long-lived radionuclides, in what CNL calls low-level waste. In Canada, long-lived post fission wastes, such as plutonium, are considered low-level wastes as they do not require shielding for handling. There are also very toxic materials, including heavy metals, involved. In no way should these materials be abandoned in an above-ground mound. Remember too that the International Atomic Energy Agency says that a mound-landfill, which is what the Engineered Containment Mound is, is only suitable for VERY low-level waste. CNL’s proposed facility (even for low-level waste) does not comply with international standards.

    We have made progress but we still have a long row to hoe. We must make sure that people understand that low-level waste includes very dangerous material. CNL must also hear us that we do not accept radioactive waste coming to Chalk River for disposal from other locations. And we must continue to tell CNL that the location beside the river is not acceptable.
    Johanna Echlin, Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association & Lynn Jones, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

  2. I am pleased to hear there has been some progress on this issue and I salute the Riverkeepers and the OFWCA for their efforts to raise the alarm bells. I have always been suspicious about how AECL (now CNL) is going to manage all this nuclear waste which is accumulating year after year, and this project to build a dump on the Ottawa River brings this issue into sharp relief. But what concerns me more is there has been confirmation that CNL is giving out public money to communities in the Pontiac to support this project. This seems to me to usurping the role of the CNSC which is to educate the public about this project, its benefits and risks. It just smacks of bribing and giving kickbacks and strikes me as something out a lobbyist’s playbook and it really makes me more suspicious of this project and to ask for a halt to it in its current form.

  3. Joyce Hardman says:

    Your news about CNL bribery of communities is important to know and let the public know. Would you kindly let us know more details and your source so we can include it in our mailouts to our networks?
    Joyce Hardman
    Water Care team
    First United Church, Ottawa

  4. Roger M. says:

    The proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility is being advanced by an American CEO who does not intend to live in our community very long or to retire here. It is being supported by a lobbyist who in on the CNL executive team and has a track record of lobbying and dishing out money in support of corporate objectives, and he has been criticized by public officials for doing so. On the other side of this project are the hundreds of concerned citizens and organizations like the Ottawa Riverkeepers and the Cottagers Association, just to name a few.These groups have a long term commitment to our environment, they want to raise there children here and they want to retire here. So who ‘s side would you take on this issue? Mark Lesinski of the USA and the lobbyists , or the latter? This project makes no sense. To build up a mound of nuclear wastes on the shores of the Ottawa River is reckless and stupid and will have long term consequences for our communities. The government should not support this project.

  5. Judith says:

    If CNL’s private sector managers from Rolls Royce and Fluor and CH2M Hill and SNC Lavalin are so intent on revitalizing the Chalk River site and the NSDF is the key enabler of this objective, then my suggestion is they should pay for it themselves. Why not? Taxpayers are paying for everything else at Chalk River, including the decommissioning of NPD and the decommissioning of the Whiteshell Labs site in Manitoba, including operational funds and funds for the meager science program. Was not the purpose of restructuring to bring private sector rigour to the management of CNL and does that not include other forms of financing and structuring models to achieve CNL’s objectives? Guess what CNL management would say to that? Let these 100+ buildings crumble, were going to take the money and run.

  6. J.D. Tracy says:

    Storage of such materials and liquids upstream and on sandy soil conditions is of great concern. After the spill or soil gets contaminated usually the fence gets taller and sometimes the company goes bankrupt. CEOs then have to manage and mitigate damage control while passing blame to a poor little contractor. Lets not get to this point. Have those big trucks of contaminants go somewhere else. So many people depend on the Ottawa river for clean drinking water from Pembroke to Ottawa through to Montreal. Garbage was stopped from being brought in from big cities to be buried in an open pit mine. The residents of Bristol , Quebec with the help of concerned citizens similiar to the people of Riverkeeper and small villages fought legally and stopped the foolishness.
    The same can happen here with more public involvement. good info. is leverage to be used to benifit the locals.

  7. Dylan CNL says:

    Inside CNL we are getting exasperated with how poor the public engagement has been on this important and critical project and how disappointed staff are towards management. Our public affairs Director Patrick Quinn keeps putting his foot in his mouth by making ridiculous comments and choices like his statement to the Old Fort William Cottagers Association on July 15 that Cancer is solely a lifestyle choice, among other poor choices like gratuitously rehiring friends to the corporation and violating our own policies creating such a rumour mill among retirees in Deep River. It has also caused a stir internally that public comments have this right in many respects, for example making statements like the NSDF utilizes proven technologies that ensures it will be “robust for 500 years” is another foolish misstep our public affairs department permitted. What basis do we have for such statements, and how do we expect the public to appreciate engineering assumptions under ideal and less than ideal projection scenarios? The amount of errors and ridiculous statements in our NSDF EIS are just the beginning of the distrust being cemented between employees and management and the public and CNL, and instead of holding more public information sessions we are trying to sell this PR campaign that we are going to be forerunners on Small Modular Reactors when this site is shiny and new in 2026, but anyone who works here knows we don’t have any SMR expertise to speak of, and one of our biggest customers outside of the Government called SNC Lavalin, who also happens to own us doesn’t either, they’re still hoping and dreaming for large scale CANDU new builds and pursuing lucrative life extension work, some of which gets kicked back here. We ‘ve been reduced to a spin factory, and instead of spinning off new solutions and technologies, we are spinning lies and propaganda to secure the decommissioning money. And the public sees through this. So much distrust and lack of faith is not serving our critical business and many of us are worried that for the first time, we will be aggressively pursuing projects that do not have the public’s support. That does not bode well for our future.

  8. I am very concerned about pay offs and bribes to communities in exchange for supporting this project to build a nuclear waste dump on the Ottawa River. I am also concerned about the lobbyist who is a CNL executive name Lou Riccoboni as he was sanctioned by the House of Commons in 2010 when MP Baird pointed out he was obstructing Freedom of Information requests for the Liberal Party. This sets the wrong tone for a corporation that seeks to flirt with hazard to us all in the interest of profit. CNL has to honor its commitments on the Waste Acceptance Criteria so no dangerous waste goes into the dump, and it has to enhance its transparency to ensure lobbyists like Mr. Riccoboni are not hiding dangers from the public so they don’t have to incur additional costs of responsibly managing nuclear waste. As well, Lobbyists like Riccoboni should have been disclosed on the EIS as someone who seeks to influence the government decision making process.

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