Casework: Chalk River, Ontario - Nuclear Waste and Decommissioning Proposals

CELA represents and works alongside First Nations, citizen groups, and public interest NGOs on nuclear safety matters at Chalk River Laboratories, a large complex of nuclear facilities located 180 km northwest of Ottawa. Our clients and allies strenuously oppose plans by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Ltd. (responsible for management and operation of Chalk River Laboratories) to “entomb” and abandon nuclear reactors at its facilities alongside the Ottawa River. Proposals are proceeding in the absence of meaningful and enforceable policy on how to manage wastes that will be highly toxic for hundreds of thousands of years (see also: Nuclear Waste Management in Canada). Canada’s nuclear safety regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has authority for these licensing and federal environmental assessment (EA) matters. Four of our interventions, focused on watershed impacts, are profiled below. 

Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) Closure Proposal

 Environmental Assessment of “in situ” decommissioning of the Nuclear Power Demonstration prototype reactor on the south bank of the Ottawa River

CELA is intervening in this federal EA that is proceeding under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) proposes a decommissioning of a former nuclear power prototype reactor that operated until 1987. The facility is located in Renfrew County, Ontario, on the south bank of the Ottawa River, northwest of Ottawa. Onsite facilities that are subject to this EA include the main reactor building, two landfills, and miscellaneous additional structures. Shortcomings in this matter include a failure to critically assess the containment of long-lived radioactive waste in multiple respects including: environmental effects, sustainability, and health protection standards. Indeed, the reactor entombment proposal is contrary to international best practices. Due to information deficiencies in the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories draft Environmental Impact Statement, the regulator (CNSC) has requested further information before continuing the EA process. See also CELA’s intervention in the ongoing decommissioning of the Whiteshell Reactor complex in Manitoba, a similar proposal for reactor “entombment.” 

Summary materials and legal submissions

Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF)

Environmental Assessment of facility to dispose of low-level (and intermediate level?) nuclear waste

CELA is intervening in this federal environmental assessment (EA) that is proceeding under the Impact Assessment Act. The Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) proposal is for an engineered landfill to accept low-level radioactive waste at the Chalk River Laboratories site (CRL). However, CELA is concerned about the possibility of this facility also accepting intermediate level waste (i.e., waste with a higher level of radioactivity). An operating life of at least 50 years is anticipated. The proposal consists of an engineered mound built near the surface composed of a liner and final cover system, multiple disposal cells, leachate collection, and leak detection and environmental monitoring systems, along with related infrastructure. A wastewater treatment plant is also proposed. The volume of waste planned for this site is very large – 500,000 cubic metres, expandable to one million cubic metres. While it would accept local waste, including the hospital and university waste already on site, future commercial opportunities are “not precluded” thus creating a disposal site for low level radioactive waste from elsewhere. 


Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) License Renewal

CELA represents clients on two aspects of this license renewal application. We represent the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area regarding….

CELA is also intervening in this license renewal in collaboration with Northwatch.

Petition – part of this case or separate??  

 application to amend its nuclear research and test establishment licence for the Chalk River Laboratories site for a proposed period of ten years. According to the notice, CNL is seeking approval to continue operation until March 31, 2028, during which it will “modernize and consolidate its CRL operations, including the shutdown of the National Research Universal reactor and various infrastructure and site improvements

Plutonium Tower Decommissioning at Chalk River Laboratories