Scientists decry plan for Ontario nuclear­waste site

Chalk River – Former AECL scientists are condemning a plan to build a nuclear waste facility at the Chalk River site on the Ottawa River, saying it would be ill-equipped to handle the level of radioactive material planned for it.

The government-owned, private sector-operated Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is proposing to build a $325-million facility to dispose of a large quantity of low- and intermediate-level waste generated from the demolition of aging buildings and other contaminated material generated over the past 65 years.

But several former senior scientists who worked there say the CNL proposal is seriously flawed and represents a threat to human health and the environment.

In 2015, the Canadian National Energy Alliance consortium won a contract to manage the Chalk River laboratories. The group includes SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and U.S. engineering giants, CH2M Hill Inc. and Fluor Corp.

The former Conservative government split up the country’s nuclear flagship, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., selling its commercial business to SNC-Lavalin and retaining its research operations, including Chalk River, in CNL.

Ottawa is financing a $1.2-billion, 10-year effort to transform the aging Chalk River site, where the Candu reactor was developed. CNL is constructing some new facilities and demolishing older buildings. The company is also managing the site’s longer-term decommissioning.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is currently reviewing CNL’s plan for the nuclear waste disposal facility that would be a five-storey-high, dome-like structure and would hold one million cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. The material is generated and stored on site, and the new facility is meant to provide permanent disposal.

David Winfield, a former senior scientist in safety management at AECL, said international standards suggest permanent disposal of intermediate-level radioactive waste should be done in vaults built deep underground in impermeable rock.

“The proposed design seems not to be appropriate to handle that level of waste,” Mr. Winfield said in an interview Tuesday. In addition to his role at AECL, Mr. Winfield has done consulting work on safety issues for the International Atomic Energy Agency.

He also worries CNL is locating the disposal facility in a swampy area of the sprawling Chalk River site, which could cause material to leach from it.

Another former AECL senior scientist, William Turner, said the new management appears to be rushing the plan in order to have it operational by 2020, and worries they are driven by financial considerations, including performance bonuses. “If this isn’t done right, they will walk away with pockets full of money and Canadians will be left with an enormous bill,” Mr. Turner said in an interview.

In a submission to the regulator last month, a former AECL director of safety engineering and licensing said CNL’s proposal “employs inadequate technology and is problematically located.”

“The proposal does not meet regulatory requirements with respect to the health and safety of persons and the protection of the environment,” Dr. J.R. Walker said in a lengthy critique of the plan.

CNL president Mark Lesinski defended the company’s proposal, saying the near-surface facility will provide “safe and permanent disposal” of radioactive materials.

In a statement provided to The Globe and Mail, Mr. Lesinski said the company carried out extensive geotechnical and hydro-geological tests to ensure the location was the best place to put it.

The site will primarily contain low-level radioactive waste – which requires no shielding for exposure – while more dangerous intermediate-level waste will represent no more than 1 per cent of the total material, he said.

“As proponent/licensee, CNL must demonstrate to the regulator (CNSC) that inclusion of these limited quantities of [intermediate level
waste] is safe,” Mr. Lesinski said.

Shawn McCarthy ­ GLOBAL ENERGY REPORTER, OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail, Published Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2017 7:18PM EDT, as posted at

Nuclear material on plane could have leaked like ‘cheap ballpoint pen’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Federal regulators are launching an investigation into the improper shipment a week and a half ago of nuclear material from Los Alamos National Laboratory here to other federal labs around the country.

In a statement, National Nuclear Security Administration officials confirmed Friday that New Mexico lab officials informed them that procedures weren’t followed when shipping what was described as small amounts of “special nuclear material” to facilities in California and South Carolina.

The material had been packaged for ground transport. But instead it was shipped via an air cargo service, which federal regulations don’t allow.

The actions mark the latest gaffe from Los Alamos, the lab about 50 miles northeast of Albuquerque that created the atomic bomb. Criticism has been intensifying over the lab’s history of safety lapses as work ramps up to produce key components for the nation’s nuclear weapons cache.

“This failure to follow established procedures is absolutely unacceptable,” Frank Klotz, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in a statement.

“It’s like a cheap ballpoint pen in your shirt pocket. It turned out fine this time, but the deeper problem is why are there so many kinds of errors.”

The agency oversees the lab along with other facilities that make up the U.S. nuclear complex. Klotz said it’s required that contractors who manage the labs, production plants and waste repositories rigorously adhere to what he called the highest safety and security standards as part of their national security work.

Once the investigation of the shipments to California and South Carolina is complete, the federal agency said any responsible parties will be held accountable.

Los Alamos lab officials declined to comment and referred questions to the National Nuclear Safety Administration.

Home to some of the nation’s top nuclear scientists and other researchers, Los Alamos has struggled for years to address management and oversight issues along with more recent safety concerns about the handling of radioactive waste and plutonium.

Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press Published 5:02 a.m. ET June 26, 2017 | As posted at

Los Alamos Lab under Investigation for Improperly Shipping Nuclear Material

( — June 26, 2017) — Los Alamos, New Mexico – the FBI is investigating a New Mexico lab for “absolutely unacceptable” handling of nuclear material, Russia Today reports.

Allegedly, the lab in Los Alamos, the birth place of atomic bombs, shipped nuclear material by air. The cargo was mislabeled and sent by commercial cargo flights to two US laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

It is not clear how much nuclear material was sent, but Los Alamos lab violated every regulation on handling dangerous materials, including nuclear, by shipping it as ‘normal’ cargo.

After analyzing the shipping documents, the Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) stated that the nuclear material to both labs was originally “containerized” for commercial ground cargo transportation. But later, it turned out that the documents were prepared for air shipment, which was in violation of well-defined federal regulations, the NNSA said.

Reportedly, the packaging was not damaged during the transportation and the nuclear material was not compromised, but the NNSA and FBI are probing the laboratory.

“This failure to follow established procedures is absolutely unacceptable,” said NNSA Administrator Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, USAF (Ret).

Klotz said that the contractors who manage and operate hazardous materials are required to “rigorously adhere to the highest safety and security standards” when operating the vitally important, national security type of work.

Although there was no radiation threat, those accountable will be sanctioned for jeopardizing public security. Also, the NNSA pledged to undertake measures to prevent similar indicents in the future.

With 99 working reactors, the US is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power. Also, the US is the world’s largest producer of nuclear waste. Nuclear plants produce nearly 25% of the country’s needs.

But, the plants are old and incidents are not rare. The oldest nuclear plant, Oyster Creek in New Jersey, which was commissioned in 1969, has reported a number of unexpected shutdowns over the past few years over various failures. The power station is set to be permanently shutdown by the end of 2019.

By Boris Djuric June 26, 2017 RSS PDF, Source:

Mayor confirms Central Huron is off NWMO list at Mayor’s Mingle

Clinton – A Mayor’s Mingle in Clinton provided Central Huron residents with a chance to get up close with their political representatives.

The area beneath the Grandstand at the Clinton Raceway provided the opportunity for taxpayers to address members of Central Huron council, Central Huron Mayor & Huron County Warden Jim Ginn, as well as Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb about local issues.

The crowd was larger than expected, and Ginn says the majority of people he talked to were very positive. He felt it shows some of the recent changes they’ve made in the county haven’t made Central Huron residents feel like they’re being left out.

MP Ben Lobb says there’s a lot going on in Central Huron, and the response he received revolved around why Central Huron continues to be a great place to live.

Ginn took the microphone after a barbecue dinner to confirm to residents that an Ontario Provincial Police detachment will be coming to Clinton, as well as a Hospice. Ginn further confirmed that Nuclear Waste Management has informed Central Huron they are off the list as a potential Deep Geologic Repository host, but says council will remain involved in those discussions moving forward.

As posted BY ADAM BELLJUNE 27, 2017 4:22AM at

Citizens ask Auditor-General to probe origins of plan to create a giant mound of radioactive waste beside Ottawa River

(Ottawa, June 26, 2017) A petition to the federal environment commissioner Julie Gelfand, filed on June 20 with the Office of the Auditor-General, seeks the commissioner’s help in probing the origins of the radioactive waste dump proposal that has been ringing alarm bells for citizens’ groups, business owners and residents of Quebec and Ontario since the environmental impact statement for it was released in March, 2017.

According to critics, the proposed radioactive landfill, the so-called “Near Surface Disposal Facility”, is on a fast track to approval despite the fact that it does not meet safety standards established by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Critics of the plan include a number of retired scientists from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).

A former Director of Safety Engineering and Licensing at AECL notes that problems with the plan include an unsuitable location next to wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River and inadequate technology. Other scientists point out that the disposal facility would contain materials such as plutonium that will be radioactive for more than 100,000 years. After a period of “institutional control”, the wastes would be abandoned and the mound would deteriorate, leaking contaminants into the environment and the Ottawa River essentially for eternity.

Citizens groups want to know how such a flawed proposal could have emerged after the federal government spent $1.15 billion between 2006 and 2015 on a program to clean up its “legacy” radioactive wastes. At the time, it was estimated that $10 billion was needed to clean up Canada’s nuclear legacy liabilities, including contaminated waste areas, buildings and plutonium left over from Canada’s role in Cold War nuclear weapons production. A disposal facility was expected to be operational by 2035, reflecting the lengthy process required for characterizing wastes, selecting appropriate technologies, choosing a site, and licensing an environmentally acceptable facility.

Johanna Echlin, of the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, notes that an abrupt U-turn took place when the previous conservative government privatized Canada’s nuclear facilities, set up Canadian Nuclear Labs, and awarded a 6-year contract to a multinational, private-sector consortium to manage Canada’s federally-owned nuclear business and radioactive wastes in September 2015.

“We are very concerned that the contract negotiated with SNC Lavalin and others, emphasizes low cost, disposal of all wastes, and completion of a facility within six years,” Echlin said. “It appears the consortium may have won the bid to manage Canadian Nuclear Labs by proposing a quick and dirty approach to dealing with Canada’s nuclear wastes that reduced the cost of “cleanup” from $10 billion to $600 million. We want to know who said it was okay to ignore over a billion dollars worth of work on the previous cleanup plan.“

Echlin questions the former conservative government’s decision to privatize AECL and says that citizens’ groups see it as an abdication of responsibility by the Government of Canada to look after its radioactive wastes properly.

Dr. Ole Hendrickson, researcher for Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area says “It appears that annual expenditures for AECL more than doubled to almost one billion dollars after privatization. We are asking the Minister of Natural Resources to account for this increase”.

The petition to the environment commissioner was co-signed by Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel for the Canadian Environmental Law Association, notes the petition is aimed at ensuring that funding has been appropriately allocated towards safely and efficiently reducing risks to Canadians. McClenaghan states, “If the proposed facility fails to meet regulatory requirements for health, safety and protection of the environment, a great deal of money, time and effort will have been wasted in a misguided effort to accelerate the reduction of the nuclear legacy liabilities currently on the balance sheet of the Government of Canada”.

The petition presents a series of 15 questions for the Minister of Natural Resources Canada, James Carr. The Minister is required to respond to the questions within 60 days of receiving them from the Office of the Auditor-General.
– 30 –


Dr. Ole Hendrickson, Researcher, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association

Background and references:

PETITIONto the Federal Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development
“Canada’s Nuclear Legacy Liabilities: Clean-up Costs for the Chalk River Laboratories”, from the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

Fact Sheets

Ten things Canadians should know about proposed Chalk River radioactive waste dump

Ten MORE things Canadians should know about the proposed Chalk River megadump

Public commentson the proposed NSDF (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website)

See especially submissions from:

Dr. JR Walker, former Director of Safety Engineering and Licensing at AECL, Document #40

William Turner, former AECL Environmental Assessment Coordinator, Document #97

Excerpts from the contract between Canadian Nuclear Labs and the Government of Canada:

Excerpt from the Environmental Impact Statement – intention to dispose of ALL of the wastes in the mound

As posted at

NWMO News Release: NWMO to Focus Field Studies on Fewer Communities

No more geological studies planned in Central Huron and White River, both to continue to play a role

TORONTO, June 23, 2017 –The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is narrowing its focus to fewer communities as it prepares to further advance the next set of activities in the selection process for a deep geological repository for Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

The Municipality of Central Huron and the Township of White River will no longer be considered a potential host for the project. Both will continue to play a role as activities continue in nearby communities of Huron-Kinloss and South Bruce in the southwest, and to the northwest in the vicinity of Hornepayne and Manitouwadge.

“As we work toward identifying a single preferred site, we need to increasingly focus on specific locations that have strong potential to meet safety requirements and a foundation for sustained interest in exploring the project,” said Dr. Mahrez Ben Belfadhel, Vice-President of Site Selection. “Central Huron and White River have each made a significant contribution on behalf of Canadians to this project, and their continued leadership will be invaluable as we work together to plan next steps in their regions.”

The next activities in the areas of Huron-Kinloss and South Bruce; and Hornepayne and Manitouwadge will involve planning for more geological studies and initial discussions about visioning and partnership. Regional engagement will continue, as the project will only proceed with interested communities, potentially affected First Nation and Métis communities, and surrounding communities working in partnership to implement it.

Studies continue in areas around Ignace, Blind River and Elliot Lake, Ontario, which are also engaged in the process for siting the national infrastructure project. Ongoing field activities and engagement with municipal, First Nation and Métis communities in those regions are not affected by today’s decision.

The NWMO will continue the process of narrowing down potential sites to host the project until it arrives at one preferred safe and socially acceptable site as the focus of more detailed site characterization. The preferred site must have a suitable rock formation in an area with an informed and willing host.

This news release was issued by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization and has been posted without alternation or correction. As posted at

NWMO Takes Central Huron Off DGR Search List

Central Huron is off the list in a search for a deep geologic repository for used nuclear fuel.

Blackburn News | The Nuclear Waste Management Organization made the announcement Friday, narrowing the focus.

South Bruce and Huron-Kinloss are both still on the list as is Hornepayne in the Algoma region and Manitouwadge in the Thunder Bay region.

“As we work toward identifying a single preferred site, we need to increasingly focus on specific locations that have strong potential to meet safety requirements and a foundation for sustained interest in exploring the project,” said Dr. Mahrez Ben Belfadhel, Vice-President of Site Selection. “Central Huron and White River have each made a significant contribution on behalf of Canadians to this project, and their continued leadership will be invaluable as we work together to plan next steps in their regions.”

More geological studies are planned in South Bruce and Huron-Kinloss and regional engagement will continue.

According to NWMO officials, the process will continue the process until one preferred safe and socially acceptable site is the focus of a more detailed site characterization.

The preferred site must have a suitable rock formation in an area with an informed and willing host.

BY STEVE SABOURINJUNE 23, 2017 9:38AM, Blackburn news, as posted at