Canadians in Eastern Canada are waking up to the specter of a gargantuan mound of radioactive waste beside the Ottawa River that could threaten their drinking water.
Canadians in Eastern Canada are waking up to the specter of a gargantuan mound of radioactive waste beside the Ottawa River that could threaten their drinking water. On March 25, the Radio Canada TV science program “Découverte” featured a one-hour long, in-depth look at the proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) in Chalk River, a giant radioactive waste dump close to the Ottawa River. According to the program:
• Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, operated since 2015 by SNC-Lavalin and four
Anglo-American multinationals, is the project proponent.
• Up to one million cubic metres of radioactive waste would be placed on the slopes of a hill in an 18-metre-high, 16-hectare facility, less than one kilometre from the Ottawa River, a drinking water source for millions of Canadians downstream.
• During construction and filling of the mound, a process that could last up to 50 years, the wastes would not be protected from rain, snow and extreme weather events.
• The mound will contain radioactive toxins including strontium, cesium and tritium and some very long-lived radioactive materials such as plutonium.
A French nuclear physicist, David Boilley, interviewed for the Découverte program, was surprised the site is surrounded by water. He said water is the enemy of radioactive waste and the worst thing that can happen to
radioactive waste is for it to “bathe” in water, since water migrates everywhere. He was surprised that a roof will not cover the proposed facility as is done in France, and noted that the lessons they learned through mistakes had unfortunately not been transmitted to Canada.
The proposed giant nuclear waste dump has been largely flying under the radar in terms of public awareness since the proposal was announced in June of 2016. There is an environmental assessment underway under the authority of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Critics point out that the CNSC is perceived to be a “captured agency”, as noted by the recent report of the Expert Panel on Reform of Environmental Assessment, and should therefore not be in charge of the assessment.
The CNSC’s release limits for radioactive substances are very permissive and are not designed to protect health.
Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association
Dr. Ole Hendrickson, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area