The Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area were upbeat last Thursday after a news conference and Parliament Hill rally to protest Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL)’s plan to store nuclear waste at its Chalk River site on the Ottawa River.
The proposed disposal facility is “cheap, dirty, unsafe, and out of alignment with International Atomic Energy Agency guidance,” the group stated. “Trying to build this giant mound of radioactive waste…is insanity,” agreed Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee.
He added that CNL has not fulfilled its obligation under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to consult local First Nations about its intention to store hazardous materials on their territory.
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings on CNL’s request for a 10-year operating licence at Chalk River will take place this Tuesday through Thursday in Pembroke.
CCRCA’s Lynn Jones said she was thrilled with the turnout and media coverage for an event that included stops at the offices of Mayor Jim Watson and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who’s also the federal MP for Ottawa Centre. “It was incredibly successful,” she told the Daily Observer. “I couldn’t imagine this in our wildest dreams.” That impact mattered, she added, because “until there are a lot of people jumping up and down, the government is going to ignore it.”
Jones sees decades of job security for Chalk River in the C$7.6-billion in radioactive cleanup liabilities at the lab site, which has been in operation since 1944. The community’s plan “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,” the Observer notes.
“If we can get the federal government to commit to taking care of things properly, that is what we are trying to accomplish,” Jones said. But if Ottawa accepts CNL’s current plan for its Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF), “we’re just going to end up with a big mess.” The plan calls for the NSDF to open in 2020 and accept up to a million cubic metres of radioactive waste before it closes in 2070, CBC reported last year.
“I understand that we definitely need to take care of the waste that’s been building up at that site. But of course we have some concerns,” Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown said at the time. “It’s really a landfill. It’s a landfill for hazardous waste. Those landfills are made to last up to about 500 years, and intermediate level waste will last for thousands of years.”
CNL President Mark Lesinski told CBC there are a number of “misunderstandings” among project opponents. Last year, CNL’s vice president of decommissioning and waste management, Kurt Kehler, said the facility would be built to last…for a while.
“People are commonly using the word dump. It’s not a dump. It’s a very engineered facility. It is engineered to last for 500 years, and so the science is there,” he told CBC.