Algonquin Chiefs oppose proposed nuclear dump near Ottawa River

(Left to right) Chief Lance Haymond, Chief Dylan Whiteduck, Grand Chief Savanna McGregor and MP and Green Party co-leader Elizabeth May voicing concerns at a press conference in Ottawa about a proposed nuclear waste site near the Ottawa River.

Greg Newing

OTTAWA – Algonquin leaders expressed their concerns about a proposed nuclear waste site (NSDF) near the Ottawa River at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ (CNL) Chalk River facility at a press conference in Ottawa, June 20. The leaders spoke about harmful environmental impacts and stated that Algonquin communities had not been adequately consulted about building the facility on unceded Algonquin territory.

Chiefs Dylan Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi and Lance Haymond of Kebaowek First Nations, Grand Chief Lisa Robinson of Algonquin Nation Secretariat and Wolf Lake First Nation and Grand Chief Savanna McGregor of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council (AANTC) unanimously voiced their opposition to the proposed project citing long-term environmental risks for the river and surrounding areas identified in an Algonquin-led impact assessment study.

“No Algonquin communities were ever consulted about the construction of the Chalk River nuclear site; now our communities are expected to accept the waste this facility has generated,” said Grand Chief McGregor.

The proposed project is a Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) which will house radioactive waste in underground storage units.  The proposed site is located approximately 1km from the Ottawa River on the Ontario side across from the MRC Pontiac.   While CNL claims that the storage units will protect against radioactive contaminants leaking into the surrounding area, the chiefs say the site is too close to the river and other environmentally sensitive areas to be a viable long-term solution for waste storage.

“We have received no satisfactory explanation why other sites well away from the river were not considered.  In our view a landfill doesn’t make sense for radioactive material that will be hazardous for thousands of years” said Chief Whiteduck. He said that the issue should not only worry Algonquin communities but all residents living along the Ottawa river, “The river is on both shores of Quebec and Ontario and municipalities along the Quebec side aren’t being included in any dialogue …that side of the river is going to be impacted greatly and so will the city of Gatineau. I don’t think people in Quebec are sufficiently aware of this issue.”

While the Algonquin leaders oppose the current proposal, they share CNL’s concern for a long-term solution to the waste which is currently located in above-ground facilities deemed inadequate for continued storage, “If [the facility] were to be moved to an area with less impact we would most certainly want to look at that; we believe we all have the responsibility to manage this waste. We just don’t believe it should be buried less than a kilometre away from the Ottawa River,” said Chief Haymond.

The final hearing for public consultations will be held on August 10. The Journal will be providing further updates as the story develops.