Canadian Environmental Law Association opposes radioactive waste disposal project

The group raised alarm about placing radioactive waste in a mound adjacent to the Ottawa River

Canadian Environmental Law Association opposes radioactive waste disposal project
Theresa McClenaghan

The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) has issued a statement expressing regret over the decision of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to accept a proposal to put radioactive waste in a mound adjacent to the Ottawa River near Chalk River, Ontario.

Founded in 1970, CELA is a legal aid clinic dedicated to environmental equity, justice, and health. It has actively participated in the review process since the initial public notice of the proposal. The group has consistently voiced apprehension regarding the possibility of radioactive contaminants migrating into the surrounding wetlands and the nearby Ottawa River. The organization has also raised alarms about Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories' intentions to include highly hazardous sources of radioactivity in the mound, such as medical sources containing Carbon-14.

Moreover, CELA has criticized the plans to import additional waste for placement in the mound and deposit poorly classified waste from past activities at the Chalk River site. This encompasses waste from prior experiments, research, and decommissioning buildings used in nuclear activities over the decades.

CELA contended that a near-surface facility mound is inappropriate for permanently disposing of radioactive waste, contrary to international guidance. Despite these concerns, the CNSC has issued a decision allowing the project to proceed. CELA has expressed extreme disappointment with the CNSC's decision, raising concerns over protecting the environment and human health, including the ecosystems and people who rely on the Ottawa River system.

"In CELA's view, the design of this facility is tantamount to an ordinary domestic landfill, and we know that such facilities always eventually leak to the surrounding environment," CELA executive director Theresa McClenaghan said. "Given that this facility is proposed to contain radioactive contaminants that would remain hazardous for thousands of years, CELA is highly concerned that this project has been given the go-ahead to proceed by the nuclear regulator."

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