Follow-up petition on Canada’s nuclear legacy liabilities

Petition: 405B

Issue(s): Environmental assessment, human / environmental health, other, toxic substances, waste management

Petitioner(s): Canadian organization

Petitioner Location(s): Ottawa, Ontario

Date Received: 10 January 2018

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: This petition is a follow‑up to petition 405. The earlier petition sought information on the federal government’s nuclear legacy liabilities and asked questions and expressed concerns about the proposed engineered containment mound for nuclear waste at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario. The follow‑up petition requests additional details about the Government of Canada’s strategy for addressing Canada’s nuclear legacy liabilities, particularly those at the Chalk River site, and the associated costs of doing so. The petition seeks the public release of the 70‑year strategy for handling these liabilities—a strategy that includes the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program that started in 2006—or, alternatively, of any subsequent strategy that replaced the 70‑year strategy. The petition asks about the role that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 should play in assessing nuclear legacy cleanup options and activities, and about further consultations with First Nations and the general public.

The follow-up petition asks whether the costs of the long-term management of waste generated by environmental remediation and decommissioning are included in the government’s cost estimates for nuclear legacy liabilities. The petition seeks to know whether these cost estimates address high-level, intermediate-level, and low‑level waste separately. The petition questions whether these estimates are based on specific technologies for recommended international best practices for low‑level and intermediate-level waste (that is, near-surface disposal and intermediate-depth geological disposal, respectively).

The follow‑up petition also requests more detailed information on liability costs for cleaning up Chalk River Laboratories, particularly older waste management areas where reactor cores have been buried in the sand. The petition asks for more information on federal priorities for the cleanup of legacy radioactive waste at Chalk River and on how the federal government decides on a means for treating, storing, and disposing of the waste. The petition questions whether the government can meet its funding and operational responsibilities for approved waste disposal plans under the Radioactive Waste Policy Framework. The petition also asks why the government has not publicly released information on the dollar values for individual cleanup activities listed in Atomic Energy Canada Limited’s 2013 Basis of Cost Estimate report for the Chalk River Laboratories.

In addition, the follow‑up petition seeks further clarification on the approval process for the proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility for the permanent disposal of radioactive waste at Chalk River. The petition suggests that this facility is not the appropriate method for the permanent disposal of low‑level radioactive waste. The petition asks why this facility is not mentioned in a licence renewal application submitted by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in March 2017 that refers to the decommissioning plan for the Chalk River Laboratories site. The petition questions Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s decision to approve this planned facility prior to a ruling by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that declared the project was safe for Canadians and the environment. Finally, the petition asks the government to examine potential sites for a geological waste management facility on National Defence lands adjacent to the Chalk River Laboratories site. The petition claims that these potential sites are safer locations for the disposal of radioactive waste.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada, National Defence, Natural Resources Canada