Questions remain - Nuclear agencies give reassurance on dump plan

Added: Wed, 05/10/2017 - 11:12pm
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Peter L. Smith
& Lionel Tessier

SHEENBORO – Agents from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) held a public information session, April 27, at the Sheenboro Parish Hall --
to answer questions about Canadian Nuclear Laboratories' (CNL) Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) proposed for Chalk River.
Sheenboro Mayor Doris Ranger participated, as did  Mayors Donald Gagnon (Chichester), David Rochon (Waltham), Jim Gibson (Rapides des Joachims), Director-General Fern Roy (Waltham, Sheenboro), MRC-Pontiac Warden Raymond Durocher, members of the Fort-William Cottagers' Association and councillors from Pontiac’s municipalities; many business people also attended.  
A video of the NSDF's Environmental Impact Statement was presented and information pamphlets were available. The Commission acts as a watchdog for the nuclear sector. Its self-described mandate is to ensure the safety of the nuclear
industry in protecting health, safety, security and the environment. The Commission has also been criticized for being Canada’s salesman for its nuclear industry.
According to the CNSC, the schedule for the project is not fixed, since CNL is able to store radioactive waste “safely” in various buildings on site now. However, construction could begin as early as January, 2018, although the CNSC website lists January, 2018, as the target to finish only the public meetings.
Some residents said they favour storing wastes within the project’s surface
membrane rather than in less-secure depots; others remained concerned with the project's  proximity to the Ottawa River and the possibility of leaks due to natural disasters or the aging of the site's equipment, especially the membrane itself.
No spent nuclear rods or Level One wastes
The Chalk River labs also held public meetings on the same subject in Rapides-
des-Joachims, April 26, and Sheenboro, May 2.
In the Sheenboro session, CNL information agents (including F. Patrick Quinn, a communications director) explained the project individually to residents.
According to CNL, NSDFs have been used without
incident in many countries for many years, and “have been proven to be safe for the environment and the population”; a similar installation is used in Lachute, near Montreal, but for household waste.
To create the NSDF, the ground will be excavated and a waterproof membrane installed. Low and medium-risk radioactive wastes will then be transported there and covered by “other materials” to ensure wastes are not in contact with the elements. To handle leaching, a treatment plant will remove all contaminants before the effluents are released. The website also notes that no high-risk radioactive materials -- such as used reactor rods -- will go to this site, although long-term uses are questioned by opponents.
As explained, contaminated building materials, equipment, and soil from Chalk River Laboratories (CRL), including waste from a nuclear reactor,  buried beside Perch Lake in 1952, will be in the membrane, plus material transported from Whiteshell Laboratories (Manitoba) and Gentilly (Quebec).
CNL (now a private corporation) is proposing the facility, one agent explained, to consolidate low-level radioactive waste generated by CRL and other Canadian research stations into one installation which can be better managed and monitored for leaks. The facility is not proposed further from residential areas, or from the Ottawa River, because this would require a much longer and complicated process of finding a site, getting it approved, and then transporting the toxic material off AECL grounds.
Another information session, mainly designed for local cottagers, will be held July 25, in Sheenboro.
Impact statement not translated
Following at least one complaint, the “consultation period” for the facility’s Environmental Impact Statement may be extended -- to allow time for the 900-page document to be translated to French. (More, see
letters, page 5).