Plea to Renfrew County elected officials: say NO to Chalk River NSDF

Dear Mayors, Reeves and Councillors of Renfrew County and the City of Pembroke:

Elected officials in the Ottawa Valley have been lobbied to support the “NSDF,” the giant Chalk River nuclear waste landfill for one million tonnes of radioactive and hazardous waste. Above: Near Surface Disposal Facility – Chalk River Laboratories. (Photo Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission)

Chalk River Laboratories has been the second largest employer in Renfrew County for many years. It is understandable that elected officials wish to support Chalk River Laboratories and keep the funding and jobs going. However, supporting the NSDF could be a serious mistake for Renfrew County. Consider the following:

  • The radioactive waste at Chalk River is the largest environmental liability on the books of the Government of Canada. To properly clean it up would cost roughly $16 billion and take several decades.
  • A multinational consortium was contracted in 2015 and given ownership of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). Their contract says they will quickly and cheaply reduce the federal nuclear liabilities.
  • CNL has proposed the NSDF as the way to clean up the Chalk River Laboratories site. CNL is proposing to put materials in the NSDF that should never be put in a landfill such as plutonium
  • If the NSDF is approved, we will get one substandard leaking facility for $750 million, instead of $16 billion spent over many decades. If approved, the leaking radioactive mound will pollute the Ottawa River, adversely affect property values, and pose health risks to current and future generations in the Ottawa Valley.

Surely Ottawa Valley residents deserve world class facilities that we can be proud of and that will keep radioactive wastes out of our air and drinking water such as in-ground concrete vaults and rock caverns on sites further from the Ottawa River.

Costs to Canadian taxpayers have quadrupled since 2015. The consortium is being paid more than $1 billion annually up from the $327 million AECL received in 2015. A 2016 access to information request revealed that nine senior CNL executives were paid an average of $722,000 per person per year and twenty-eight senior contractors were paid an average of $377,000 per year per person. Almost all were non-Canadian.

Recent charitable donations by CNL are tiny drops in the bucket of the more than $1 billion the consortium is receiving annually from Canadian taxpayers, much of it going to foreign shareholders, foreign senior executives and foreign contractors. Should our tax dollars be used by foreign corporations to garner support for the NSDF?

Saying “no” to the NSDF would not mean an end to nuclear industry jobs in the Ottawa Valley. The nuclear waste liability is a multibillion dollar industry. A commitment to world class cleanup would bring more funding over a longer period, more jobs, protection of health and the Ottawa River, greater peace of mind and the respect of our international partners. 

This letter has been edited for brevity. See the full version with active hyperlinks at

Yours sincerely,

Lynn Jones – Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area 

Johanna Echlin – Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association

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