Breaking News! Chalk River Nuclear Mega-Dump – CNL Announces a revision to their planned multi-story radioactive mound
By: Gordon Edwards
Why? Because the nuclear establishments (including the nuclear regulators) want the freedom to decide, at their convenience, and according to their judgment, which wastes will go into landfills, into the environment, or into articles of commerce (i.e. through blending into scrap metal), without any political “interference” — in other words without public accountability.
The nuclear industry operates like “a state within a state”, without independent governance. Most elected officials and heads of government have not just delegated responsibility to these nuclear establishments, they have in effect abdicated responsibility to them.
In Canada, a consortium of private multinational corporations was hired a couple of years ago (under a six-year contract that is extendable for 2 times 2 years) to “manage” the federal government’s radioactive waste liabilities.
These liabilities include :
- at least one million cubic metres of radium-bearing radon-generating radioactive wastes left over from radium and uranium processing at Port Hope Ontario stretching back for more than 85 years;
- pre-fission and post-fission radioactive wastes at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories accumulated over 73 years, including the remains of several research reactors, leftovers from two reprocessing operations (one to extract plutonium and the other to reprocess irradiated thorium), plus many radioactive laboratories including hot cells and warm cells, over 100 contaminated buildings, 21 tanks of liquid waste, and a great deal of contaminated soil;
- a similar variety of radioactive wastes from the Whiteshell Nuclear Laboratories in Manitoba, including hot cells, many contaminated buildings, and an experimental reactor that used an organic oil as coolant, called the WR-1 reactor;
- the radioactive remains of three prototype electricity-producing power reactors, one on the Ottawa River (the NPD or Nuclear Power Demonstration reactor); one on Lake Huron (the Douglas Point reactor); and one on the St. Lawrence River (the Gentilly-1 reactor).
All these radioactive wastes are the sole responsibility of the Government of Canada, who has however never consulted with indigenous peoples or with the rest of the Canadian population in order to develop a responsible set of federal policies and directives governing the long-term management of radioactive wastes in Canada, other than irradiated nuclear fuel.
Please note that the wastes described above do not include the radioactive wastes from commercial nuclear power plant operations, including the 20 commercial nuclear reactors in Ontario (at Pickering, Bruce and Darlington), as well as one each in Quebec (Gentilly-2) and New Brunswick (Point Lepreau).
Not long ago AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited) had 3000 employees or more, and was pursuing long-term management of radioactive wastes and demolition of radioactive structures following procedures estimated to cost from 7 to 10 billion dollars. But as soon as it was hired, the private consortium (run by people who are for the most part not Canadians) turned previous AECL plans on their ear, changing direction 180 degrees from what had been laid down a few years earlier.
And so we have the equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster — a five-to-seven story mound of radioactive wastes of all kinds, one mone kilometre from the Ottawa River, excluding irradiated nuclear fuel but including most of the radionuclides that are found in irradiated nuclear fuel. As for the NPD and WR-1 reactors, why bother dismantling the highly contaminated and radioactively activated structures? Why carry hundreds of truckloads of radioactive debris to a safer site far away from the riverbanks? Why not just stuff the above-ground radioactive waste down into the sub-basement of the defunct reactor building and then fill it all up with a special million-year grout (not yet available in stores or, in fact, anywhere on the planet)?
Quick and dirty became the modus operandi — segregation of wastes and modular packaging? Forget it. Underground chambers? No way. Dismantling and removing radioactive structures? Ha! Why not just grout them in place and abandon them there? Cut costs. Maximize profit. Minimize inconvenience. Reassure people. Get the whole thing approved in a hurry.
AECL now has fewer than 50 employees. This fiscal year AECL received almost one billion dollars in taxpayer’s money — and turned it over, almost entirely, to the consortium. Same thing last year: almost a billion dollars of public money funnelled through the hollow shell of a once-vital corporation, AECL, into the eager hands of the consortium partners, headed by SNC Lavalin, along with 2 American and 2 British corporate cohorts.
In the five years prior to the consortium taking over, AECL had received five payments of federal money which added up to almost a billion dollars. In the two years since, about 2 billion. So private companies have turned the spigot on the Treasury’s cool-aid tank and drawn off a mighty satisfying draught to quench their pecuniary thirst — at least for now. Next year they may be even thirstier.
And where is this all leading? Well, it turns out that pushing the radioactive waste into a giant mound is just a way of making room for the next chapter : Chalk River’s revitalization! It is the “Son of Frankenstein”, just in time for Hallowe’en!
For there are big plans afoot to offer up the Chalk River site as a Nuclear Sacrifice Area, to be used by the global nuclear industry to test out a whole new generation of nuclear reactors, called Small Modular Reactors. Nuclear manufacturers wanting to sell SMR’s all over the world will have a cheap testing ground, courtesy of Canada — despite the fact there has been no parliamentary debate, no public consultation with indigenous people or the rest of the Canadian population, in fact no legitimate democratic process at all. Just a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the industry and the all-too-compliant Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, who have been fully apprised of these plans for several years.
In the Age of Nuclear Waste, the Canadian and American public have to be more alert and involved than ever before, if they want their grandchildren’s
From: Johanna Echlin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Breaking News! CNL Announces a Revision
Date: October 27, 2017 at 11:51:29 AM EDT
Breaking News! CNL Announces a Revision
CNL announced yesterday that they will not include intermediate-level waste in the Chalk River mega dump. Ole Hendrickson and Craig Robinson brought us this news last night (they attended the regular stewardship council meeting yesterday at CNL). CNL has now also posted this news on their website (link below). CNL has reacted to public outcry and to the 200+ submissions. This is good news that public pressure is beginning to have an effect.
We are not yet victorious. There are no clear definitions of low- and intermediate-level waste. There will still be very long-lived radioactive and non-radioactive toxic materials in the dump. The idea of a multi-story mound of radioactive waste on the surface is still against International Atomic Energy Agency standards and it is still too close to the river. Our work must continue so that we will be heard fully.
This news may make it easier for the dump to get approval as some will be fooled into thinking that by removing intermediate-level waste there is no longer any danger. They are wrong.
If we listen to our scientists, we know that removing intermediate-level waste does not solve one of the biggest flaws with this proposal. Scientists tell us that there is a great deal of harmful material, some involving very long-lived radionuclides, in what CNL calls low-level waste. In Canada, long-lived post fission wastes, such as plutonium, are considered low-level wastes as they do not require shielding for handling but are nevertheless extremely radio-toxic. There are also very toxic chemicals, including heavy metals, involved. In no way should these materials be abandoned in an above-ground mound. Remember too that the International Atomic Energy Agency says that a mound-landfill, which is what the Engineered Containment Mound is, is only suitable for VERY low-level waste — a category of waste that does not even exist in the vocabulary of Canada’s industry-compliant nuclear regulator, CNSC. CNL’s proposed facility (even for low-level waste) does not comply with international standards.
We have made progress but we still have a long road to hoe. We must make sure that people understand that low-level waste includes very dangerous material. CNL must also hear us that we do not accept radioactive waste coming to Chalk River for disposal from other locations. And we must continue to tell CNL that the location beside the river is not acceptable.