Pontiac mayors visit proposed nuclear disposal site near Ottawa River

Added: Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:04pm
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Peter L. Smith

CHALK RIVER – Mayors, councillors, MRC employees, and local media met at Chalk River's Nuclear Laboratories, July 11, for a tour of the site and information about the proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) and the decommissioning of the Nuclear Power Demonstration Reactor (NPD). 
Safety concerns of the long-term disposal site were foremost. Mark Lesinski, President and CEO of CNL, acknowledged these concerns of Pontiac residents: “The NSDF is a proactive initiative that will enable us to safely and securely clean up our site and dispose of waste that has been generated and stored here over the past 65 years.”  Some waste from other radioactive sites across Canada will also be stored here, with its transportation under the oversight of Transport Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, he added. 
Jim Buckley, responsible for the project, said high-level waste like used fuel will not be stored here; demolition waste from over 100 old buildings, contaminated soils, waste already on site, and commercial waste from hospitals, universities, and other sites will make up most of the waste. All of it is radioactive at varying levels. He said the Ottawa River and other waterways will be monitored. Plumes of discharge from Chalk River into the river are already being measured. Mr Buckley did not discuss the earthquake fracture running nearby.
The nuclear waste site is a 33-hectare landfill-type dump, on East Mattawa Road, about one kilometer from the Ottawa River, on higher elevation. It adjoins a marsh and creek. The mound will be about 16 hectares in size, about five storeys high; the toxic waste will be protected by a technical membrane. All discharge will be purified. According to CNL, if the disposal site is not built, waste will remain where it is, defying CNL's mandate to clean-up and protect the environment.
“Results from many scientific studies prove this site will not be harmful
to the environment. Our website provides many details on the project,” said Kurt Kehler, Vice-President, Decommissioning and Waste Management.  Retired Chalk River scientists and community activists dispute this claim, noting that a landfill-type site has never been used for radioactive waste, which can remain toxic for
thousands of years, nor has any membrane been shown to remain intact for these time-spans. 
The group was then bused to the Nuclear Power Demonstration Reactor, which is being decommissioned. The Reactor hasn't been operational since 1998, but the site still houses structures, including the main reactor building. Decommissioning is expected to be complete by 2020. The ventilation stack structure, used by Chimney Swifts, will remain in place.
(See also, Dispatches from the 148, by Fred Ryan, page 23)