For 90 years there has been nuclear activity on the shores of the Ottawa River, with no solutions in place for permanently safeguarding the radioactive waste that is continuously generated at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) in Chalk River, Ontario.
That may soon change. Ottawa Riverkeeper has received intervenor funding to take part in the federal environmental assessment related to CNL’s proposal to create a permanent “Near Surface Disposal Facility” for nuclear waste on crown land, near the small town of Chalk River.
As part of our involvement in this process, Ottawa Riverkeeper has hired two independent experts to review and provide comments on the project’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which was released Friday, March 17, 2017.
The proposed plan has left our Riverkeeper, Meredith Brown, with a few important questions.
“What is the probability that radionuclides will make their way into groundwater at the site or into the Ottawa River? And if there is contamination of our waters, what are the implications for the aquatic ecosystem and for the million Canadians who swim, drink, fish the Ottawa River?”
Our experts will be looking to see if the project proponent (Canadian Nuclear Laboratories) has adequately identified local and regional ecosystem impacts, with a focus on water quality, as well as whether or not appropriate mitigation measures have been proposed.
“We have concerns about this proposal and will be closely reviewing the Environmental Impact Statement when it is released,” Brown said. “There are potential implications for our river and the communities that rely on the river for drinking water and recreation. As far as we are aware, there is no technology that can prevent radioactive materials from leaking into the river. However, I am painfully aware of the need to find responsible ways to safely deal with the radioactive wastes that have been accumulating at the site over the last 90 years.”
Ottawa Riverkeeper has also been communicating regularly with citizens’ groups in the vicinity of the proposed project. Many of them have grave concerns about this project. These groups include the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and the Old Fort William Cottagers Association. Together they have put together an informative background document that you can find here.
The disposal facility is on a fast track to approval, with the final decision being made by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). They will conduct the Environmental Assessment of the project to determine if it will cause “significant adverse environmental effects, and will make their decision after a licensing hearing in January 2018.
Once Ottawa Riverkeeper and our experts review the EIS that was released today, we will share our findings and comments with you. We will also intervene at the CNSC hearing, acting in the interest of the general public and the Ottawa River.
We want to hear from you! Please send us your thoughts, questions or concerns. We also encourage you to participate in the approval process by providing the CNSC with your comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The comment period is open for 60 days; you have until May 17, 2017 to have your voice heard.
The project is complex and the information surrounding it is abundant.
Looking to dive deeper? We encourage you to read the documents provided on the website of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, particularly the project description for the Near Surface Disposal Facility Project.
Pressed for time? Take a look at our infographic below.