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Problems in planned nuclear waste dump at Chalk River

New nuclear waste guidelines could lead to ‘massive dump’ upstream from Ottawa if approved, CapitalCurrent , By Bailey Moreton, 23 July 20,   

New nuclear waste guidelines set to undergo public consultation this fall could clear the way for a much-debated, large, above-ground waste disposal mound to be built at Chalk River, the national nuclear research facility 180 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

The proposed guidelines would frame the way nuclear companies dispose of waste, including the creation of deep ground repositories. Under the guidelines, companies would present waste disposal safety cases — a set of justifications for a planned disposal strategy — which are then assessed by the Canada Nuclear Safety Commission.

But one longtime critic of the Chalk River site says the guidelines would give too much flexibility to operators of nuclear facilities. Ole Hendrickson, a former scientist with Environment Canada and a researcher with the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County Area, says the guidelines need to be more stringent.

“In my view, what they say is, ‘Let’s make these reg docs as flexible as possible and non-prescriptive’ — and the CNSC actually uses those terms, non-prescriptive and flexible, to describe its regulatory approach,” he said. “That may work for industry, but for us members of the public, it raises a lot of concerns.”

In the minutes of a CNSC meeting on June 18, Ramzi Jammal, executive vice-president of the commission, said the safety cases allow for performance-based assessment and for the regulatory documents to be adaptable to future conditions.

“With performance-based you’re always achieving and applying the new standards as they become available. The same thing applies for the new technology,” Jammal said at the meeting. “As you are looking at enhancement for safety, you always take into consideration the new available information.”

But what is defined as low-level waste is flexible and depends on the safety cases presented to the CNSC, said Richard Cannings, NDP MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay and the party’s natural resources critic.

“That’s a problem. That’s not how it’s done elsewhere in the world,” he said. “They did it in Ottawa’s backyard.”

In the June 18 meeting, Karine Glenn, director of the wastes and decommissioning division for the CNSC, said low-level waste would mostly involve medical materials, but each safety case would be reviewed by the CNSC.

In Chalk River’s case, critics such as Eva Schacherl, a volunteer with the Coalition Against Nuclear Dumps on the Ottawa River, say they believe the “massive waste dump” would fail to manage the nuclear waste safely and that operators are failing to meet international standards at the site……….

both Schacherl and Hendrickson said they are concerned the site — which is within a little more than a kilometre of the Ottawa River, according to Hendrickson — could spread contamination.

“Waste has piled up at Chalk River, and there’s no long-term way of dealing with it,” said Hendrickson. “There would be a lot of leaching that would flow back into the Ottawa River.”

“Most countries with large quantities of nuclear waste have an independent federal nuclear waste agency,” said Hendrickson. “It’s not run by the industry like the Nuclear Waste Management Organization. It’s definitely not run by the nuclear regulator.”

Cannings agreed, adding that he was worried what impact having the NWMO responsible for the deep ground repositories could have for safety.

“There’s risks with everything. But the assessment of risks to a project by the proponent, by the industry — they’re going to be much more favourable, they’re going to accept more risk than the public because they’re protecting themselves,” said Cannings.

Two Ontario sites — South Bruce, near London, and Ignace, a three-hour drive northwest of Thunder Bay, are the only two communities still vying for the deep-ground repository project. Both proposals have been met with resistance from local residents………

Critics noted that several organizations and advocacy groups had requested but were denied permission to be present at the June meeting where the regulatory documents were presented via video conference. ………

July 25, 2020 - Posted by | Canada, wastes

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