Ottawa Riverkeeper calls out gaps in Chalk River nuclear site plan

The choice to open a new nuclear waste disposal site along the Ottawa River could have devastating consequences, according a report released by the Ottawa Riverkeeper.

Riverkeeper joins naysayers of new waste disposal site

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories wants to construct a "Near Surface Disposal Facility" for the disposal of radioactive waste from the Chalk River facility. (Canadian Nuclear Laboratories)

A new nuclear waste disposal site along the Ottawa River could have devastating consequences, according a report released by Ottawa Riverkeeper. 

The environmental watchdog says it pored over the environmental impact statement for the new disposal site in Chalk River, Ont. 

After identifying what they call holes in the proposal, Ottawa Riverkeeper released a report on Thursday saying operating the facility as it is currently would cause significant damage to the river, if it continues. 

"Often times the devil is in the details," said Patrick Nadeau, executive director of Ottawa Riverkeeper. 

"It's not a matter of if, but it's a matter of when the radioactive waste from this facility would make its way to the Ottawa River."

The new laboratory cost $113 million to build. Atomic Energy Limited Canada (AECL), which owns the facility, hired Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to build and run the nuclear plant. The new waste site would complement the existing buildings. 

CNL conducted an initial review and environmental assessment, but Nadeau says they missed important information — despite their best intentions. 

Ottawa Riverkeeper's report found two problem areas with the proposal. 

First, the site's geography and proximity would almost guarantee chemicals would leech into the Ottawa River at some point. 

The group also determined the technology proposed to regulate the nuclear waste was inadequate to contain the radioactive material for a long period of time. 

"We need to have a permanent plan in place to monitor the site," said Nadeau. "We need to make sure humans and animals aren't wandering onto this site even two and three hundred years from now."

'Zero risk is impossible'

Ottawa Riverkeeper has asked the site managers and executives to review their findings and make the necessary changes. 

Nadeau said recommendations in the report include asking CNL to revise its report, moving the proposed disposal facility and investing in alternate storage technologies. 

"We recognize that something needs to be done at Chalk River, but it has to be the best solution not the cheapest and quickest — which we believe in on the table right now," Nadeau added. 

"Zero risk is impossible, but we believe there are many ways to reduce the risk on this project."