Chalk River: Un Projet Très Inquiétant / A Project of Great Concern

UN PROJET TRÈS INQUIÉTANT: LE PROJET DE DÉPOTOIR DE DÉCHETS NUCLÉAIRES DE CHALK RIVER

Ci-dessus: Chalk River LNC, vu de la rivière des Outaouais. Photo grâce à Padraic Ryan via Wikimedia Commons.

[English version below]

Les Laboratoires Nucléaires Canadiens (LNC) ont proposé récemment aux gouvernements du Canada, de l’Ontario, et à la Commission Canadienne de Sécurité Nucléaire (CCSN) de construire un gigantesque dépotoir de déchets nucléaires à Chalk River en Ontario. Nous croyons qu’il faut absolument s’opposer à ce projet. Voici pourquoi.

Ce dépotoir de déchets radioactifs serait le plus grand jamais construit au monde. Il aurait une superficie de 11 hectares et 25 mètres de hauteur. Il contiendrait un million de mètres cubes de déchets radioactifs de faible et moyenne activité. S’il est approuvé, ce dépotoir serait créé sur les berges de la rivière des Outaouais aux Laboratoires Nucléaires Canadiens de Chalk River, à 100 Km en amont de Ottawa.

Le site proposé, pratiquement entouré d’eau, se trouve dans un marécage qui s’écoule vers de nombreuses municipalités du Québec et de l’Ontario. Les fuites provenant de cette installation pourraient contaminer de façon importante l’eau potable en aval. D’ailleurs dans le projet proposé, la surface du site sera constamment exposée à la pluie et à la neige jusqu’en 2070, date de la fermeture prévue. On prévoit que l’eau qui y en ruissellera sera partiellement récupérée et renvoyée dans le dépotoir, mais le tritium sera libéré dans la rivière. Il est pertinent de souligner que tous les projets d’enfouissement de tels déchets actuellement sont conçus dans des régions désertiques, avec sarcophage de béton autour des déchets. C’est évidemment loin d’être le cas à Chalk River.

Le site de Chalk River est situé dans la zone sismique de l’ouest du Québec. Selon Ressources naturelles Canada, un petit tremblement de terre survient à tous les cinq jours en moyenne dans cette zone. Le plus grand de ces séismes peut avoir une magnitude de 6 sur l’échelle de Richter. Dans les années 90, les élus de 50 municipalités québécoises et ontariennes avaient adopté des résolutions contre un projet de stockage des déchets radioactifs à Chalk River en raison de ces caractéristiques.

En plus des déchets accumulés pendant plus de 50 ans d’exploitation des laboratoires nucléaires de Chalk River (débris de démolition, sols contaminés, déchets entreposés), des déchets radioactifs pourraient être transportés de partout à travers le Canada vers ce site. Les déchets dits «mixtes» (qui peuvent inclure des BPC, de l’arsenic et du mercure) pourraient également être stockés dans cette installation. 

Les déchets radioactifs seraient entreposés au-dessus de deux revêtements en plastique comme ceux utilisés dans les dépotoirs municipaux. Ces «géomembranes», ne sont pas étanches. Les causes de fuites pourraient être nombreuses et liées à une installation incorrecte, une détérioration physique, des perforations par des objets tranchants ou lourds, une détérioration chimique, l’activité sismique, les inondations ou le sabotage. D’ailleurs l’entreposage est si superficiel que l’on pourra avoir accès aux déchets au moyen d’une simple pelle (voir graphique ci-dessous).

Le dépotoir proposé à une durée de vie de 50 ans, tandis que les déchets radioactifs de moyenne activité restent radioactifs pour des dizaines de milliers d’années. Durant la période de 50 ans et plus, les déchets seraient donc exposés à la pluie et la neige. L’échec ou un bris de fonctionnement de la station d’épuration proposée pourrait entraîner une contamination rapide de la rivière des Outaouais. On prévoit remplir ce dépotoir jusqu’en 2070, mais on précise aussi que toute activité de surveillance cessera dès 2100, ce qui est un non-sens lorsque l’on sait que la radioactivité sur ce site durera pendant des milliers d’années. Il faut souligner ici que le consortium est arrivé à la solution actuelle car il estimait que toutes les autres solutions plus sécuritaires coûteraient des dizaines voire des centaines de fois plus cher.

POURQUOI IL EST IMPORTANT D’AGIR MAINTENANT

La CCSN, organisme non élu, est seule responsable de l’approbation des projets. La commission a démontré une incapacité à protéger l’environnement et une tendance à favoriser les intérêts de l’industrie nucléaire par rapport à la sécurité publique. À la suite d’une demande de plusieurs citoyens et groupes, la CCSN a finalement permis au public de commenter l’évaluation environnementale du IGDPS jusqu’au 16 août 2017. Nous vous encourageons à offrir vos commentaires sur leur site web ou par courriel à Nicole Frigault, Agente de l’évaluation environnementale, cnsc.ea-ee.ccsn@canada.ca

Nous demandons l’annulation pure et simple du projet et croyons que le consortium doit repenser de fond en comble son concept de gestion des déchets. Il est certainement préférable de les stocker de façon temporaire que d’avoir l’illusion de les enfouir de façon sécuritaire pour les siècles à venir. Nous avons écrit récemment à la Ministre de l’Environnement, Mme McKenna afin qu’elle se saisisse de cette question. Nous en sommes actuellement à définir la meilleure stratégie afin de bloquer ce projet, avec plusieurs autres organismes canadiens, et groupes des Premières Nations.

 

Préparé par Dr Éric Notebaert, membre du conseil d’administration de l’ACME

 


A PROJECT OF GREAT CONCERN: CHALK RIVER’S PROPOSED NUCLEAR WASTE SITE

Top: Chalk River CNL, seen from the Ottawa River. Photo courtesy of Padraic Ryan via Wikimedia Commons.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) recently proposed to the Federal Government, Ontario, and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) that it would build a giant nuclear waste site in Chalk River, Ontario. We strongly believe that this proposal must be opposed. Here’s why.

This radioactive waste site would be the largest ever built in the world. It would have an area of ​​11 hectares and be 25 meters in height. It would be build to contain one million cubic meters of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. If approved, this site would be built on the banks of the Ottawa River at the Chalk River CNL, 100 km upstream from Ottawa.

The proposed site is located in a swamp that flows to many municipalities in Quebec and Ontario. Leaks from this facility could significantly contaminate drinking water downstream. The surface of the site would be constantly exposed to rain and snow until 2070, the date of the planned closure. It is expected that the water would be partially recovered, and returned to the dump, but the tritium would be released into the river. It is pertinent to point out that all landfill projects of this type are currently planned for desert areas and designed with concrete enclosures around the waste. This is not the case at Chalk River.

The Chalk River site is located in the seismic zone of western Quebec. According to Natural Resources Canada, a small earthquake occurs, on average, every five days in this area. The largest of these earthquakes can have a magnitude of 6 on the Richter scale. In the 1990s, elected officials from 50 municipalities in Quebec and Ontario adopted resolutions opposing a radioactive waste storage project in Chalk River because of these characteristics.

In addition to the waste accumulated over more than 50 years of operation of the Chalk River CNL such as demolition debris and contaminated soil, radioactive waste could be transported from across Canada to this site. Mixed waste, which may include PCBs, arsenic and mercury, could also be stored in this facility.

Radioactive waste would be stored over two plastic liners such as those used in municipal dumps. These “geomembranes” are not waterproof. The causes of leakage could be numerous and related to incorrect installation, physical deterioration, perforations by sharp or heavy objects, chemical deterioration, seismic activity, flooding or sabotage. Moreover, the storage is so superficial that one can access the waste by means of a simple shovel (see image below).

The proposed dump has a planned life time of 50 years, while radioactive waste of medium activity remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years. During the 50+ years, the waste would be exposed to rain and snow. Failure of the proposed waste site would result in rapid contamination of the Ottawa River. This waste site is scheduled to be used until 2070, but it is also stated that any monitoring activity will cease in 2100, which makes no sense when it is known that the radioactivity at this site will last for thousands of years. It should be emphasized here that the CNL has arrived at the current solution because it believed that all other safer solutions would be tens or even hundreds of times more expensive.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO ACT NOW

The non-elected CNSC is solely responsible for approving such projects. The CNSC has demonstrated in the past a tendency to favor the interests of the nuclear industry over public safety. Following a request from several citizens and groups, the CNSC has finally agreed to receive public comments until August 16, 2017. We encourage you to offer your comments on their website or by email to Nicole Frigault, Environmental Assessment Officer, at cnsc.ea-ee.ccsn@canada.ca

In summary, CAPE is calling for the cancellation of this proposed project. We believe that the CNL must totally rethink its concept of nuclear waste management. We believe that it is better to store the waste temporarily, rather than creating the illusion of burying them safely for centuries to come. We recently wrote to the Minister of the Environment asking her to intervene. We are currently working with several other Canadian organizations and First Nations groups to try to stop this project from proceeding.

 

Prepared by Dr. Éric Notebaert, CAPE Board Member

Prescribing Active Travel for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet: A Toolkit for Health Professionals

As health professionals, we know how important it is for our patients to be physically active. After all, physical activity is known to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such heart disease and diabetes. It also improves mental health and provides some relief from arthritis. But we also know that many people have difficulty finding the time to get the levels of physically activity needed to maintain good health. Studies bear this out; the number one barrier to physical activity is time. This is particularly true for women with young children. This is where active modes of transportation (such as walking and cycling) and transit use come in. Research has demonstrated that many people can fold physical activity into their lives if they combine it with other activities such as errands, commuting to work, or taking the kids to school.

As health professionals, we are well positioned to encourage our patients to think about active transportation as a way to get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. When we use the phrase “active transportation”, we mean any activity used to get people from one destination to another that involves physical activity. It can include skate boarding or in-line skating, but usually involves walking or cycling. When we use the phrase “active travel”, we are referring to transit use as well as active transportation because many trips on transit begin or end with walking or cycling.

Unfortunately, many communities across Canada have not been designed to encourage and foster active modes of transportation or transit. Many were built during a time when it was considered wise to separate homes and schools from workplaces and amenities. This led to communities designed around cars; sprawling neighbourhoods with winding roads and cul-de-sacs separated from shopping malls that grouped all amenities into one place. Experience and research has demonstrated the problem with this thinking. We now understand the need for compact neighbourhoods that have enough people in them to support efficient transit service and attract restaurants, stores, and other services. We know that streets built on a grid encourage people to walk and cycle to nearby amenities. We know that streets lined with sidewalks encourage walking by making it safer and easier to do. And we know that busy streets with separated bike lanes are safer for cyclists and encourage more people to ride their bicycles.

But changing the design of communities and streets can be difficult. Resistance can come from a number of different sources. As health professionals, we can play an important role in community decisions. We can help educate the public and decision-makers about the many health benefits of community and street designs that support and foster a healthy lifestyle.

CAPE has produced a new toolkitPrescribing Active Travel for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet: A Toolkit for Health Professionals—to help health professionals become advocates of active transportation and transit with their patients and in their communities. The toolkit is designed with five stand-alone modules so people can focus on the ones of most interest to them. Module 1 describes the health, environmental and social benefits of active travel. Module 2 provides strategies to motivate patients to use active travel. Module 3 explains the links between active transportation and community design. Module 4, designed for health professionals in southern Ontario, focuses on Ontario’s Growth Plan and how it impacts active travel. Module 5 provides strategies for promoting change in one’s community. The toolkit also includes two factsheets and brochures that health professionals can give to their patients, two backgrounders that can be used in meetings with the public or decision-makers, and a series of memes that can be used on Twitter or Facebook to make people think about the many benefits of walking, cycling, and transit for society as a whole.

The toolkit and its various supporting documents can be found at https://cape.ca/active-travel-toolkit/

Prepared by Kim Perrotta, Executive Director, CAPE, March 20, 2017