First Nations, NGOs condemn federal plans for defunct nuclear reactors

Filed in 2018 Media Releases, Media releases by on August 21, 2018
Ottawa, August 21, 2018 — Forty First Nations, citizen groups and NGOs have asked Canada’s Auditor General to hold an inquiry into spending by Natural Resources Canada, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on nuclear reactor decommissioning.

“The plan to entomb and abandon radioactive carcasses of nuclear reactors next to major rivers is an abomination,” says Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. “Billions of taxpayer dollars are being spent on plans that are clearly designed for the convenience of industry rather than the protection of human health and the environment for hundreds of thousands of years. The Government of Canada must consult First Nations and Canadian citizens to arrive at a meaningful and enforceable policy on how to manage these wastes in the very long term. There is no such policy now.”

“Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) wants to turn reactor sites in Pinawa, Manitoba and Rolphton, Ontario into permanent nuclear disposal facilities that don’t meet international guidelines,” says Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

The groups are worried those plans will set a precedent for other federal reactor sites in Ontario and Quebec. 

CNL is owned by a consortium of multinational corporations that was contracted in 2015 by the previous Conservative government to quickly and cheaply reduce Canada’s $10 billion worth of federal nuclear legacy liabilities. The clean-up costs for Canada’s 70 years’ worth of nuclear waste exceed those for all of Canada’s 2,500 other federal environmental liabilities combined.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is meeting on August 22, 2018 in Ottawa to review progress on CNL’s nuclear waste plans at the Gentilly-1 reactor on the St. Lawrence River, the Douglas Point reactor on Lake Huron, the NPD reactor on the Ottawa River, Whiteshell Laboratories on the Winnipeg River in Manitoba, and in the Port Hope Area, among other topics. Groups will be demonstrating outside the meeting.

“Several federal reactors are located on unceded aboriginal traditional territory,” noted Chief April Adams-Phillips of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. “Now we hear that these defunct reactors may be turned into giant radioactive hulks, covered in cement as a monument to folly. We cannot stand by and let this happen.”

“For decades, the Government of Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have promised that all Canadian nuclear reactors will be dismantled at the end of their useful life and that the land will be returned to its natural state,” says Gilles Provost, spokesperson for the Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive“They must live up to their commitments rather than turn our reactors into perpetual radioactive waste repositories!”

Federal funding for ‘nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management’ has increased 400% in the last three years, since these functions were handed to the consortium of multinational corporations that includes SNC Lavalin.

In the first three fiscal years of the GoCo (government owned – contractor operated) arrangement (2016/17 to 2018/19), Parliamentary appropriations to AECL for “nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management” averaged $547,577,479 per year. This represented a four-fold increase over the $137,800,000 per year appropriated during the 2006/07 to 2015/16 period when decommissioning and waste management was funded by Natural Resources Canada through the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program. 

Canada has no policies restricting how nuclear reactors can be decommissioned or nuclear waste managed. It is up to proponents to suggest how they will decommission or manage wastes and then defend their chosen method to the CNSC.

The groups are asking the Auditor General to investigate whether the federal government is handling nuclear waste and reactor decommissioning in ways that are compatible with sustainable development principles.  

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Contact:  Eva Schacherl, Media Liaison, Concerned Citizens ~ 613-316-9450

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