Demonstration against proposed Chalk River Radioactive Waste Landfill
“Get Active, not Radioactive” was the catchy call for November 6’s march to Parliament Hill. Some 50 residents of Quebec and Ontario declared their opposition to Chalk River Laboratories’ (CRL’s) proposed 34-hectare nuclear waste landfill.
Representatives from the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, UNIFOR (Canada’s largest private-sector trade union), Green Party of Canada, and Ottawa Riverkeeper participated.
The landfill’s location is the main issue, where Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) proposes to construct the Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) 200 km upstream of Ottawa, alongside the Ottawa River.
CNL’s March 17, 2017 Environmental Impact Statement explains, “CNL is a private-sector company responsible for the management and operation of nuclear sites, facilities and assets owned by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, a federal Crown corporation.”
CNL’s report claims the NSDF is “designed as an engineered containment mound, and built at near-surface level on the CRL property. The facility is expected to be operational for approximately 50 years and is designed to be expandable to receive up to 1,000,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste.”
This NSDF would accept up to 100,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste from what CNL calls “off-site sources (e.g., Whiteshell Laboratories, prototype reactors, commercial sources such as hospitals and universities).” 99% of the waste will be “low-level”, having “limited amounts of long-lived activity”.
However, according to the Government of Canada Environmental Assessment Registry’s website updated on October 16, 2018, the NSDF will accept intermediate-level radioactive waste, not “solely low-level and mixed waste.”
Activist Johanna Echlin represents the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association. She emphasized that “CNL’s proposal includes some very long-lived radioactive materials, which is against International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards for this type of facility. That’s because radioactive waste must be isolated from the biosphere for the duration of its radiological hazard. Plus, this dump is too close to the river.”
Echlin explains an important distinction regarding the demonstrators. “These citizens’ groups are not anti-nuclear. We are calling on the Federal Government to halt CNL’s flawed proposals, to responsibly manage Canada’s radioactive waste in state-of-the-art facilities, and to conduct a proper siting process for a facility that mustn’t be located near a major body of water – and which conforms to IAEA Safety Standards.
UNIFOR’s participation galvanized the crowd. Echlin stated, “UNIFOR represents roughly 310,000 workers, their support is significant.”
According to Eva Schacherl of the Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River, although CRL’s facilities are run by multinational corporations, they are owned and paid for by the federal government. Canadian taxpayers are underwriting the project and will bear costs of future damage to the environment and human health.
This nuclear landfill facility remains under review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.