First Nations citizen groups call for auditor general to investigate nuclear waste

first_imgTodd Lamirande and Lucy ScholeyAPTN NewsFirst Nations communities and citizen groups are sounding the alarm on what they call the federal government’s “ill-advised” approach to handling nuclear waste.The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne said a planned nuclear disposal waste facility in Chalk River poses future environmental and health risks.“The age of nuclear waste has no end in sight as it stretches into eternity, posing serious unresolved problems for countless generations of Canadians to come,” said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, during a press conference on Tuesday.The Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is the consortium of companies tasked with dismantling several nuclear facilities in Canada, including the Chalk River site.Once completed, the facility will bury one million cubic metres of nuclear waste underground near the Ottawa River, but critics have said the plan does not conform to international standards.The groups are also calling on the auditor general to hold an inquiry into the costs of nuclear reactor decommissioning and whether the federal government is sustainably handling nuclear waste.Further, critics said the CNL has not been adequately consulting with First Nations groups and the Canadian public on its Chalk River plan.“Several federal reactors are located on unceded aboriginal traditional territory,” said Akwesasne Chief April Adams-Phillips of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in a press release. “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.”The CNL argued its method is safe, designed to protect the Ottawa River and poses “the lowest risk” to the public, the environment and its workers. It will only accept “low-level” nuclear waste, including contaminated soil and discarded materials like mops and gloves. Further, CNL workers will continue monitoring the facility for the next 200 years.Interest groups have suggested Canada adopt Finland’s nuclear waste disposal facility, which is built to store the waste in deep geological reserves for 100,000 years.“We’ve looked at all the different types of waste disposal and for this type of material, the hazard of this type of material, it’s the most appropriate to deal with the situation,” said Kurt Kehler, CNL’s vice-president of decommissioning and waste management.As for public engagement, Kehler said CNL has distributed more than 50,000 newsletters, posted updates on social media, hosted open houses and invited Indigenous representatives to consult on the matter.“We’ve been getting the message out for going on two years now,” he said.CNL is still waiting for an environmental assessment, but is hoping to start construction on the $500-million facility by 2020. If all goes according to CNL’s plan, the Chalk River nuclear waste disposal facility will be fully operational by 2023.Edwards said Canada is lacking a meaningful long-term nuclear waste policy.“There is a near-perfect policy vacuum surrounding this question at the federal level,” he said. “Canada’s nuclear waste policy framework … is pathetic.”In an email, Natural Resources Canada stated that Canada has a policy framework for radioactive waste that includes a “clear assignment of the roles and responsibilities of both the federal government and waste owners.”The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is meeting in Ottawa on Wednesday to review the progress on CNL’s nuclear waste plans, including the Chalk River facility and Whiteshell Laboratories on the Winnipeg River in Manitoba.Interest groups plan to protest outside the meeting.last_img

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