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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20 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.

  9. Dan Sullivan says:

    My name is Dan Sullivan; I’m the manager of the Ethics & Business Conduct Office at CNL. My role is to receive and investigate allegations of wrongdoing related to the organization. I’m concerned by the allegations I’m reading on this forum regarding bribery. I would encourage anyone with these concerns to contact my office directly at, or use our anonymous reporting hotline at, so that they can be properly investigated.

  10. Mr. Sullivan you should be concerned, darn concerned, so are citizens about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans swirling around the NSDF, but instead of climbing on your moral high-horse with your concerns about bribery, which we know is taking place, and for that matter, pretending for a moment you can actually investigate Mr. Riccoboni, who will destroy your career the moment you even look at him the wrong way, let me implore you to not drag this discussion into the dark corners outside of view of the general public with your offline reporting gimmicks, lets address some of these issues in the public, let’s air out our dirty laundry in the spirit of transparency, and as well, in the spirit of Blogs, you have to commit to a discussion and stay engaged, please don’t disappear after a few dime-store lines and make believe processes. In July 2014, someone named Lou Riccoboni showed up on the door steps of the Deep River Science Academy with a cheque for $15,000 dollars on behalf of CH2M Hill and the Canadian National Energy Alliance, this of course was before his consortium won the contract to run CNL. The DRSA didn’t know him from Adam, but he came with one condition for the money, media coverage, and indeed a photo of Mr. Riccoboni holding a giant-sized cheque replete with a beaming smile and shiny white teeth were splashed across newspapers with banal lines about supporting science, this from a guy who served as a lobbyist for the financial services sector, lobbying the government to reduce regulation of private equity and commission structures for Bay street raiders making it easier for them to fleece small investors; or serving as a lobbyist for the auto parts sector, lobbying the government to cut corners on onerous safety requirements for Canadian destined trucks from the US; or a lobbyist for the softwood lumber industry, here lobbying the government to fund an already heavily subsidized industry and to open up more virgin forests for commercial exploitation in the face of protest by natives and environmentalists. Just Google “Lou Riccoboni lobbyist”, for a list of this man’s carpet bagging. Incidentally, I have it on good word that a former board member of the DRSA advised against taking the money, in fact they advised to tell Mr. Riccoboni to take his lobbying tactics elsewhere. Now answer this question, if someone approached you in the middle of the street with a cheque for 15 grand, what would you think? Wouldn’t you wonder “hey so what do you want me to do for this money, and is it right that you offer it with expectations?” Was this completely above board? particularly since 2 years later in 2016 Lou Riccoboni and CNL would cancel support for the DRSA altogether citing the insurance liability of young students on campus. But that’s just the beginning of this, and when you answer this question, I will address the real ethical conundrum when I reveal Lou Ricconboni’s less than noble work for the Liberal Part of Canada, and this is where it gets really bad, since impartiality of the regulator has been called into question at the NSDF becomes a Liberal project taking place in a policy vacuum. Mr. Sullivan any comments on my remarks? Since you are an ethics expert, what do you make of Mr. Riccoboni’s DRSA dance? Mr. Sullivan, your silence is deafening.

  11. Roger says:

    I saw a really good post here by a member of the public that was forwarded to me that challenged Mr. Sullivan of CNL to define what I confirmed to be true and the post has been removed. The writer of the post simply asked Mr. Sullivan to define what a CNL executive and industry lobbyist Lou Riccoboni did when he gave a $15,000 dollar donation to the Deep River Science Academy that is run out of my former home town, which did receive a suspension in funding by CNL after they got the contract to run CNL. The donation was given in the summer of 2014 compliments of CH2M Hill and I think it merits an answer by CNL and Mr. Sullivan. The writer simply asked is this a form of a bribe? Did it come with conditions and expectations? I think this is an important and fair question Mr. Sullivan of CNL should answer as there are other allegations of payments being made to municipalities by CNL. I actually would prefer to hear from Mr. Riccoboni himself as the intersection of politics and industry are of heightened concern, particularly as the public looks at the CNSC to provide guidance and independence from government and the Liberal Party as we go forward. I do believe that Mr. Riccoboni’s lobbying background should have been disclosed to the public through the Environmental Impact Statement as well.


    This story about CNL not disclosing contamination in Port Hope to residents is despicable. There are serious problems at CNL and I hope the government revisits this privatization.

  13. Grace Psabi says:

    Several engineers on site have expressed concern not only about how poorly managed CNL is generally, but they reminded management that the NSDF does not conform to international nuclear standards for a Near Surface Disposal Facility and they produced a lengthy environmental impact statement insisting it be termed that way. I have also heard that Mr. Lesinski turned a blind eye to internal employee misconduct by the company spokesman mentioned above and has not been very cognizant of the corporation’s requirements under the Canada Labour Code. I would agree with the nature of some of these comments on this blog.

  14. Dan Sullivan says:

    Hi folks, Dan Sullivan here again. Please don’t read too much into my “silence” for a couple days since my post, Michelle. I’m not in the habit of regularly checking in on this blog; apologies.
    For those of you who are concerned- I did have a chance to look into that Science Academy issue. As a non-profit, part of the DRSA’s mandate was to reach out to companies and agencies who might be interested in the promotion of science(including AECL/CNL and associated entities) to solicit funding to support their programming, with the general objective of promoting science to young people. Apparently, in 2014, the DRSA had proactively approached CH2M Hill, and many other companies, organizations and govt bursary programs, to ask for their support of the program. CH2M Hill generously gave some money, and the whole thing was published in the North Renfrew Times (yes, including a photo op, which those of us who are avid readers of the NRT all saw).
    From what I’ve gathered about this transaction, I’ve not seen any evidence or indication that this was “attempted bribery.” Rather, it appears to have been a non-profit organization asking for and receiving support from a company interested in the promotion of science to high school students.
    Roger, I spoke with the Executive Director of the DRSA at the time of this donation, and no, there do not appear to have been any nefarious “strings attached” to this generous donation, other than that it be used to promote science to youth.

    If anyone wishes to discuss this further, or any other ethics concerns regarding CNL’s business practices, please feel free to contact me directly (contact info in previous post).

    Dan Sullivan
    CNL Ethics & Business Conduct Office

  15. Mr. Sullivan, I do thank you for commenting , really I do. However, I find you having to answer for Mr. Riccoboni rather subservient and lacking transparency. Surely he can tap out a few lines no? I mean it’s kinda like getting into a hockey fight and asking the goalie to do all the punching for you, hard to respect no? Before I address Mr. Riccoboni , who on second thought might not be faulted for standing in the shawdows, have you heard of the high ethical bar CNL has demonstrated in Port Hope where it did a very poor job at notifying residents about very high levels of lead in the ground –10 times the provincial limit in fact, which is very harmful to human health, particularly children? Arsenic, up to 7 times the provincial limit. This is the grim prospect that awaits residents of the Ottawa Valley not long after the NSDF is completed, and we all know it. Any comment? I ask because I’d like an ethics expert to try explain how and why this happened? You put Minister Carr in a position to deflect, he seems to think the public should advise you on how to communicate such hazards better. Or was this lapse at Port Hope also the work of the “Director of Interference,” as Lou Riccoboni is known in Ottawa for ensuring Freedom of Information and privacy requests are not fulfilled to the letter of the law?
    Dan, if supporting science was so near and dear to his heart and he wanted to give money on behalf of CH to “promote science”, and if in fact the DRSA reached out the CH2M Hill, why didn’t he answer the call in 2013? Where was he? Or for that matter in 2012, or 2011, or 2010? Surely, the DRSA could have used some of that money in any of the aforementioned years? He was nowhere to be found good heavens? I wonder why, could it be that there was no need to be found, there was nothing to gain? But with a contract to pursue, there he was in 2014 racing to an Ottawa Valley photo op, replete with visible signs of perspiration still on his brow, a dashing countenance , if plastic smile, and let’s not forget, a cheque.
    But you are missing the important point about the money Dan with simplistic talk of “nefarious” actions in the context of what is now a Liberal Party project with no real independent party at the table, other than the voices of dissent. Respond and I will elaborate.

  16. Dan, since you are spokesperson for CH2M Hill, more breaking news, please take a read of this article, the Justice Department has charged your parent company with defrauding the public for millions of dollars. Since you’ve committed to blogging, any comment? This will be the norm going forward, both in the Pontiac, the Valley, and nationally as the truth of the NSDF comes out to the public.

  17. Dan Sullivan says:

    Well, Michelle, I’m always happy to be part of productive discussion, especially if it relates to CNL’s ethics & business conduct program, which I’ve been proud to be part of building over the years and which I now have the privilege of managing. However, when you start calling me a spokesperson for CH2M hill, which I’m clearly not, start attacking the physical appearance of a CNL executive (“plastic smile” comment), and start insinuating that legal & compliance issues related to CH2M Hill from 10-20 years ago are somehow a reflection on the CNL ethics program, I’m afraid we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns in our discussion.

    Again, I’m more than happy to discuss this issue, or any issues related to CNL’s ethics program, with you or any other readers of this blog. Again, you can find my coordinates in my first posting.

    Dan Sullivan
    Ethics & Business Conduct Manager, CNL

  18. Mr. Sullivan, the ‘plastic smile’ is not a comment on Mr. Riccoboni’s appearance at all, it’s suggests an artificial demeanor, in huckster,used car salesman kind of way. If that’s an insult, might I suggest you toughen up a little in the spirit of animated discourse. I think he looks great in that NRT photo, great teeth, great smile. If Mr Riccoboni was offended, I do apologize.

    But Mr. Sullivan the situation in Port Hope is right now, as we speak, and it is very serious, why have you not addressed this irresponsible and egregious conduct about not proactively disclosing the dangerous levels of lead right in front of your environmental monitoring program? Is this what can we expect when the NSDF is operational?

    As well, when Mr. Riccoboni was fired from Member of Parliament Jim Petersen’s office for conduct that is a clear offense to Canadians, do you think he met a high ethical bar? Isn’t that something to get angry about?

  19. Rick says:

    Mr. Dan . I am from Port Hope with a property that received a letter with a table indentifying non-radioactive waste but alot of details omitted. Now my daughter is worried her mommie and dad is going to die because we have talked about it a lot in my home. You are on this blog not answering questions, and frankly getting “butt hurt” over someone making a harmless comment about a million dollar executive who needs to make his millions at my daughter’s expense. Boy, I have the strongest words for you and this Roccoboni dude, but don’t come on here crying about your buddy’s feelings, come on here and answer questions about the corruption at your company and how your company is concealing information about your work. And do yourself a favour, don’t come walking through my town unless you are here to fix the mess you started.

  20. Erin Weir says:

    I do find some of the comments on this blog of concern, I think citizens and members of the public have seized on something about the privatization of Chalk River and how that might impact the commissioning and operation of the NSDF that should cause us to pause. Particularly given how former Liberal Party officials have been placed in the corporation to essentially ‘double dip’, advancing political ends and political careers and all the while gaining financially and keeping opposition officials in Ottawa confused and at bay. The assault on the Freedom of Information protocal, which Mr. Riccoboni is an expert a detrailing, is dangerous for us all.

    I am particularly perturbed at how dismissive the CNL gentlemen Dan Sullivan who calls himself an “ethics manager” and yet did not respond to a single substantive question posed by citizens who expressed concerns about members running Chalk River , and the irresponsible conduct at Port Hope.

    It is a completely legitimate question for the public to ask “who are these people who want to build this dump at our national lab?” “What is their background?” ” Have they built and maintained the public trust, if not, should they not be subjected to scrutiny?” By the looks of it, I would they have not maintained the public trust. I will remind Mr. Riccoboni and Mr. Sullivan, Chalk River is a publicly paid for organization, we pay your salary, and in return you answer our questions.

    If the public feels they are not getting answers, they should take the counsel of a Pontiac Councillor and contact the CEO’s of Rolls Royce, who is Warren East, or CH2M Hill CEO, Jacqueline Hinman, Flour CEO David Seaton, SNC Lavalin CEO Neil Bruce, and ask them your questions, share your concerns.