Day of action says ‘NO!’ to Near Surface Disposal Facility
Peter L. Smith
The Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, Petawawa Point Cottagers Association, and Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County (CCRC) organized their second annual Day of Action, July 27, to protest Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ (CNL) proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) project in Chalk River and the entombment of an old reactor (NDP) in Rolphton.
About 35 boats departed from Hotel Pontiac in Fort William and travelled to Chalk River waving signs expressing their opposition. Claude Bertrand, federal green party candidate, released balloons in the river to symbolize radioactive isotopes. “The balloons you can see, the isotopes you will not,” he stressed.
Prior to the flotilla departure, many speakers including Ole Hendrickson and Lyn Jones from the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, Patrick Nadeau, Executive Director of the Ottawa Riverkeeper, and Elssa Martinez from the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, spoke about why opposition must continue against the NSDF.
“We are not opposed to CNL cleaning up their site. It’s the manner in which they propose to do so and where they plan to build their facility that’s the problem,” stressed the speakers. The NSDF will store low-level radioactive waste in an above-ground mound protected with a liner system about a kilometer away from the Ottawa River. “In the end, it’s our water system that will be contaminated; the effects will be far reaching and will devastate future generations,” they added.
Handouts from the CCRC explained the facts and misconceptions about low-level waste. According to Hendrickson, low-level waste is labelled so because it can be handled without using robots or special equipment, but it can still contain very hazardous and toxic materials like plutonium, neptunium, and americium that have extremely long half-lives that long outlive the NSDF’s protective liner.
Transporting the radioactive waste along highways was also seen as a major public risk.
Where’s the NSDF project at?
CNL is currently in the process of responding to federal, provincial, public and Indigenous group comments and updating the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that was submitted in March 2017. Six main themes were identified where changes to the project or more detailed information is needed: waste inventory, protection of the Ottawa River, design and engineering, long-term accountability, alternative means, and environmental events (earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding, etc.).
Many municipalities and cities on both sides of the river, including Montreal, have adopted resolutions opposing CNL’s proposals. A petition urging the government to protect the Ottawa and Winnipeg rivers by stopping three of CNL’s “irresponsible proposals that do not comply with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines on the management of radioactive waste” has garnered 1,662 online signatures to date.