Canadian nuclear legacy liabilities: Cleanup costs for Chalk River Laboratories

Petition: 405

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

Petitioner(s): Canadian organization

Petitioner Location(s): Ottawa, Ontario

Date Received: 20 June 2017

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: This petition raises concerns about the new approach planned for reducing the federal government’s nuclear legacy liabilities at Chalk River Laboratories, and about the Government-owned, Contractor-operated (GoCo) model now being used to run the facility. It suggests that the proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility is an inadequate and unsound replacement for the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program, which ended in 2015. The petition also asserts that annual expenditures for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited have more than doubled since the GoCo model was implemented.

The petition seeks responses from Natural Resources Canada regarding the federal government’s nuclear legacy liabilities. These responses would include information on funding amounts for decommissioning, remediation, and waste management activities to address the liabilities. They would also provide information on whether sufficient financing is being appropriately allocated toward safely and efficiently meeting the risks of these liabilities to health, safety, security, and the environment.

The petition suggests that Natural Resources Canada may have insufficient oversight of the nuclear waste disposal and cleanup program. It also expresses concerns about the speed at which the approval process for the Near Surface Disposal Facility is progressing.

The petition includes several questions related to the 2013 decision to move to a GoCo model, noting that a 2011 evaluation of the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program cited the need for Natural Resources Canada to have enhanced oversight of the program. The petition also asks several questions about the tendering process that led to the Canadian National Energy Alliance’s being chosen to operate the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories facility set up in 2014 in Chalk River. The petition notes that the current president and chief executive officer of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited previously worked in senior positions at two companies that belonged to the Canadian National Energy Alliance consortium, which was awarded the GoCo contract for the Chalk River facility.

The petition also asserts that the proposed engineered containment mound for nuclear waste at the Chalk River site does not conform to International Atomic Energy Agency standards. It suggests that the proposed location of this mound is too close to sensitive wetlands and the Ottawa River, and it expresses concern about potential leakage of contaminated waste into the watershed.

Federal departments responsible for reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada