Federal decision paves way for Chalk River radioactive dump and growing stocks of waste

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Lyn Jones


Lyn Jones

OTTAWA – The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has given Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) a never-before 10-year licence to run the Chalk River site. This could give the multinational corporation free rein to advance its nuclear business at the federally-owned facility, along the Ottawa River, upstream from the Pontiac and the nation’s capital, using
billions of tax dollars. The announcement was made public as the Easter holiday began.
The new license sets the stage for SNC Lavalin and its partners to build and test
a new generation of small nuclear reactors at Chalk River, and to create a giant radioactive dump on the surface that could leach radioactive waste into the Ottawa River, source of drinking water for Ottawa, Gatineau, Laval, Montreal
and other populations downstream.
Canada’s Auditor General has noted that SNC Lavalin and the consortium received $866 million in federal money for “contractual expenses” in 2016–2017; for 2017-2018 it was close to a billion dollars, and over a billion has just been announced.
In 2013, SNC Lavalin was banned from bidding on international engineering projects funded by the World Bank for 10 years because of fraudulent practices. Another consortium member has been convicted of fraud-related charges in the USA.
SNC Lavalin also faces accusations of multi-million dollar bribes in building Montreal’s superhospital.
These questionable past activities, the unprecedented license duration, the elimination of important license conditions, the billions in federal subsidies, and an inevitable exposure of millions of Canadians to radioactive pollutants were  concerns raised by First Nations, citizens’ groups and independent experts at a three-day January 2018 public hearing.
Critics charge that the CNSC disregarded well-documented concerns and recommendations on the license proposal presented by dozens of intervenors, including former Chalk River scientists, at the January hearings. CNSC, charge the groups, shows all the signs of a "captured regulator".
The Chalk River license, signed by CNSC President on the 39th anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, eliminates numerous safety criteria that
were previously part of the license. The CNSC’s new operations handbook replaces previous criteria with standards prepared by the nuclear industry
for itself.  
Dr. Ole Hendrickson of the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area stated, “There is a policy vacuum at the federal level as to long-term
management of highly toxic post-fission radioactive wastes, other than (from) nuclear fuel."
 The federal government is liable for eight billion dollars for waste already generated by Chalk River and other nuclear sites.
The Trudeau government, rather than address the waste problem, launched a
campaign for a new generation of reactors, promoting nuclear power as “clean” – without any public consultation or parliamentary debate.
The new license has no financial guarantee required from the consortium for
possible damages. It states that the federal government, as owner of the Chalk River Laboratories, is responsible for any damages.
“The cozy relationship between the nuclear industry, the CNSC, and the
political class has been hidden from the public,” says Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR).
In the 17-year history of the CNSC, the Commissioners have never refused to grant a license to anyone in the nuclear industry.