Ottawa Valley radioactive mega-dump accepted by regulators

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Allyson Beauregard

CHALK RIVER – The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has accepted Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ (CNL) Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a giant radioactive waste disposal mound project in Chalk River, called the Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF), CNL announced on July 12.
The project has been undergoing a federal environmental assessment process since 2016. In December 2020, CNL
submitted the final EIS to CNSC to verify information requests from the Federal-Provincial Review Team were incorporated. CNSC said more content about the NSDF project’s engagement with Indigenous groups was needed. The revised version was resubmitted on May 28, 2021.
The next step in the environmental assessment process is for CNSC to prepare an environmental assessment report on the NSDF. It will be available for Indigenous and public review prior to a public Commission hearing.
CNSC claims CNL’s application has met regulatory requirements, so their Commission Secretariat
will move forward with scheduling public hearing dates. “Further details on how to participate will
be provided once the Secretariat has announced the two-part hearing dates,” said CNL in a press release.
Opposition continues
Many citizens, community groups and municipalities have opposed the project from the get-go.
The main reason for the solid front of opposition is the danger of leaks and of a wholesale break in the fabric holding the massive dump, proposed to be built between a pond and creek which flows into the Ottawa River, and the Ottawa River itself. Over six million people depend on the Ottawa River for drinking water, and many claim the risk of contamination outweighs any benefits the untested and experimental fabric-enclosed stockpile offers.
In April 2021, the City of Ottawa passed a resolution of concern about the Chalk River and Rolphton radioactive waste disposal projects. It calls on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to initiate a regional assessment of radioactive disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley, under the Impact Assessment Act of 2019. It also urges CNL and its regulator, CNSC, to stop current and future imports of radioactive waste to Chalk River from other provinces and to prevent precipitation from entering the NSDF.
In April 2018, the 82 member cities of the Montreal metropolitan community unanimously adopted a resolution in favour of supporting MRC Pontiac and Gatineau’s opposition to the radioactive dump.
According to Johanna Echlin of the Old
Fort William Cottagers Association, one of the local community groups opposing the project, the news of the final EIS’ acceptance came when many people were on holidays, so they haven’t had time to review it fully.
“It will be important to see what information on the characteristics of the waste is included in this
final document. Dr. Ole Hendrickson (Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area) is particularly interested in what it says about alternative ways of managing wastes that would go in the NSDF. When the last EIS was submitted, CNSC sent it back to CNL citing lack of information about indigenous engagement. We’d like to know what the obstacles were and how they were overcome,” explained Echlin.
The 2021 Final EIS for the NSDF is available, along with the Federal-Provincial Review Team and Public and Indigenous Groups’ comment tables, on the Impact Assessment Agency website. The Final EIS
can also be found on CNL’s website.