Media Release

Eighty-seven groups call for inquiry into federal nuclear waste management; recent strong tornadoes in Ottawa-Gatineau underline their concerns

Sep 26 2018

(Ottawa, September 25, 2018) Two Grand Chiefs of Canadian First Nations are among 43 new co-signers who added their voices on September 21 to an official call for an inquiry by Auditor General Michael Ferguson into the handling of highly toxic, long-lived radioactive materials by the Government of Canada.

The request for an inquiry, first sent to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada on August 21, has now been signed by 87 First Nations, NGOs, and citizens groups from across Canada. Grand Chiefs Glen Hare of the Anishinabek Nation and Joseph Tokwiro Norton of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, are among five aboriginal co-signers.

Concerns focus on disposal of large quantities of long-lived, highly toxic nuclear waste beside the Ottawa and Winnipeg Rivers. Plans to create a giant above-ground mound of nuclear waste (other than used nuclear fuel) at the federally-owned Chalk River Laboratories, and to “entomb” two federally-owned defunct nuclear reactors in concrete, conflict with guidance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN body of which Canada is a Member State.

On Friday September 21, the same day that the revised letter was sent to the Auditor General, the region of Ottawa-Gatineau was hit by two strong tornadoes that caused widespread severe damage to homes and electricity infrastructure. Four additional lower-strength tornadoes caused significant damage to the west and to the north of Ottawa-Gatineau around the same time.

Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers' Association, one of the groups appealing to the Auditor General, suggested that the tornadoes are a wake up call to the Government of Canada that should cause it to rethink plans to create a giant above-ground mound for disposal of long-lived radioactive waste beside the Ottawa River.

"One look at the horrific destruction that took place in Ottawa-Gatineau last week, should make it clear that you can't put long-lived radioactive waste in a giant pile on top of the ground" said Echlin. "There are very good reasons why the IAEA says to put it below ground and the Government of Canada needs to start paying attention", she added.

Ole Hendrickson, researcher with Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, notes that there is scientific evidence that tornadoes are becoming stronger in our changing climate. Extreme rainfall and severe flooding such as that which occurred in the Ottawa Valley last year are also characteristic of a changing climate. “This emphasizes that leaving radioactive waste exposed in an above-ground mound or abandoning it next to waterways that provide drinking water for millions of people is unacceptable,” he said.

One hundred and thirty-five Quebec municipalities have passed resolutions against federal nuclear waste disposal plans that would contaminate the Ottawa River.

The letter to Auditor General Michael Ferguson describes serious issues such as grossly deficient national radioactive waste policies, rapidly increasing expenditures under a privatization arrangement, regulatory capture of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and bungled environmental assessments. These problems are further detailed in a series of environmental petitions to the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development, who works for the Auditor General.

“These failures and inappropriate expenditures of public funds create serious risks to the health of current and future generations of Canadians and our environment,” according to Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel for the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “We believe that money is being spent without due regard for economy, efficiency, and environmental protection,” she added.

Duties of the Auditor General include bringing to the attention of Parliament instances of expenditures of money without due regard to economy, efficiency and environmental effects of those expenditures in the context of sustainable development.

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Media Contact: Lynn Jones, 613-293-6065, hendrickson.jones@gmail.com

Full text of the letter to Auditor General Michael Ferguson in English and French is available here: https://concernedcitizens.net/2018/09/22/letter-to-auditor-general-michael-ferguson-from-87-first-nations-ngos-and-citizens-groups-requesting-an-inquiry-into-federal-nuclear-waste-management/