Indigenous groups say a plan to dispose of nuclear waste near the Ottawa River in eastern Ontario is "insanity" and want the federal government to intervene.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, a private company, wants a 10-year licence to keep running the Chalk River nuclear labs in eastern Ontario.

In 2014, the federal government gave Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) control over nuclear operations at Chalk River. The government continues to own the nuclear assets.

CNL has plans for a permanent nuclear waste disposal site at Chalk River, plans that have been criticized by a concerned citizen's group as being "cheap, dirty, unsafe and out of alignment with International Atomic Energy Agency guidance."

Nuclear waste in Chalk River will cost billions to deal with and leave a legacy that will last centuries, opponents say.

"Trying to build this giant mound of radioactive waste … is insanity," said Patrick Madahbee, grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation, which advocates for around 40 communities representing around 65,000 people across Ontario.

He said CNL has an obligation under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to consult Indigenous people about storing hazardous materials in their territory, but CNL hasn't talked to them about it.

The waste facility could be operational by 2020.

"We understand this is a complex file, but clearly the risks here are to people's drinking waters and traditional territories," said Patrick Nadeau, executive director of the Ottawa Riverkeeper.

chalk river nuclear map

CNL's licence to run the Chalk River labs expires on March 31 and the consortium has asked the regulator, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, for a 10-year licence agreement, rather than the usual five-year term.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will hold public hearings in Pembroke, Ont., from Jan. 23 to 25 to consider CNL's licence.

Dozens of delegations have registered to comment at the hearings.

But Mark Lesinski, president of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories said among those posed to present submissions at the hearings, there are a number of "misunderstandings."