2019-09-05 Greens talk radioactive waste, Chalk River and SNC-Lavalin – and why Ottawans should care, Ottawa Citizen.
(I dunno – – Is this a “Public-Private-Partnership“? The Government hands the thing over to a Consortium of Transnational Corporations; tax-payers just provide the money. We become the bankers. Does that automatically make us partners? )
Background to the Ottawa Citizen article below, by Gordon Edwards:
Covered for the first time in Canada’s national press, the SNC-Lavalin scandal involving charges of criminal corruption and federal government collusion has been directly linked to charges of mismanagement of radioactive waste at Chalk River.
In 2013, SNC-Lavalin was found guilty of a pattern of bribery and corruption in several countries by the World Bank, and the corporation was banned for 10 years from bidding on any contracts funded by the Bank. Despite this fact, in 2015 the Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper put SNC-Lavalin and its corporate partners (also accused of corruption) in charge of Canada’s eight-billion-dollar radioactive waste liability as well as all federally-owned nuclear facilities.
Receiving almost a billion dollars per year of federal taxpayers’ money, the consortium of multinational corporations (including SNC-Lavalin) has proposed permanent storage of a million cubic metres of mixed radioactive wastes on the surface at Chalk River, right beside the Ottawa River – a plan that has been opposed by 140 municipalities in the area as well as by NGOs and nuclear experts, including a number of scientists who worked for decades at Chalk River in senior positions.
It appears that the federal government, under both of Canada’s major political parties, has chosen to abdicate responsibility to private corporations when it comes to the long-term management of radioactive wastes. There is a complete policy vacuum at the federal level regarding what is allowed and what is not allowed when it comes to fission-generated radioactive wastes other than spent nuclear fuel.
Moreover, the same consortium of private companies is actively working — with federal government cooperation and approval — to build, test and deploy a whole new generation of “Small Modular Nuclear Reactors” (SMNRs) using federally-owned lands and facilities to do so. Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has actively lobbied the government to exempt most of these new reactors from any independent environmental assessment under the newly enacted Impact Assessment Act. That exemption is now a fait accompli.
CNSC reports to the Minister of Natural Resources (NRCan), whose mandate includes promoting nuclear power. Last November (2018) NRCan published a “Road Map” for SMNRs, which envisages hundreds of such nuclear reactors deployed widely in Canada.
In July 2012, Japan’s Parliament (the Diet) published a massive report stating that the primary cause of the Fukushima triple meltdown in 2011 was a pattern of inappropriate collusion between the nuclear industry, the regulator, and the government. Such collusion proved to be at the expense of public safety and environmental protection. There are clear indications that a similar pattern of collusion is now occurring between the private consortium (involving SNC-Lavalin), the CNSC, and Canada’s federal government.
Such collusion involves misallocation of federal funds, and stifling of the rights of First Nations and other Canadians regarding new nuclear developments that will inevitably add to existing inventories of high level, low level, and intermediate level radioactive waste. But more importantly, that collusion may result in adverse health impacts for future generations, and environmental contamination, due to “quick and dirty” approaches to radioactive waste management. These dire consequences are entirely preventable with proper cautionary policies in place following widespread public consultations.
Greens talk radioactive waste,
Chalk River and SNC-Lavalin
– and why Ottawans ahould care
by Taylor Blewett, Ottawa Citizen, September 5, 2019
Leveraging one of the year’s top political controversies, federal Green party candidates staged an event Thursday to highlight their concerns about potential contamination of the Ottawa River and a government they describe as too cosy with SNC-Lavalin to care.
Standing in the sand on Westboro Beach, Ottawa Centre Green party candidate Angela Keller-Herzog gave the assembled crowd a quick refresher on the nuclear situation at Chalk River, 200 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.
On the eve of the 2015 federal election, former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government selected a consortium of companies, including engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, as its preferred proponent to manage and operate Canadian Nuclear Laboratories — the organization proposing a “near surface disposal facility” for radioactive waste at Chalk River.
It’s a plan, now under review, that’s been in the works for several years, and CNL is adamant about its safety. “It will actually take waste out of areas with very little containment, and put it into an area that is engineered and contained away from the environment,” said Sandra Faught, manager of regulatory approvals for the facility at CNL.
Despite such assurances, the proposed facility has generated fierce criticism from community, Indigenous and environmental advocates for as long as it’s been in the public eye.
At Thursday’s press conference, the Greens breathed fresh life into these concerns by emphasizing the involvement of one of the most controversial names in politics right now: SNC-Lavalin.
“Poor nuclear waste decisions have fallout for millennia — this is too important a job to be handed to SNC and corner-cutting, profit-seeking foreign corporations with dubious ethical background,” said Keller-Herzog.
As an MP, she said, she would champion the creation of a federal policy guiding the management of non-fuel radioactive waste (the kind the Chalk River disposal facility would deal with.)
She also raised a new concern — that the Liberal government, including Environment Minister and Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna, have created an exemption that would allow small modular nuclear reactors to skip the new environmental review process they introduced in Bill C-69.
Both CNL and the federal government are focused on the opportunities presented by these portable, less powerful reactors.
“Canada is well positioned to become a global leader in the development and deployment of SMR technology,” reads a Natural Resources Canada webpage, while CNL envisions itself as a “global hub” for small modular reactor innovation.
In the spring of 2018, CNL invited SMR proposals to develop a “demonstration project” at one of its sites. This would be the first small modular reactor in Canada.
“I ask you: If experimental, unproven nuclear reactors don’t have to undergo impact assessment, then what’s the point?” said Keller-Herzog. “In other words, the Liberal government, Minister McKenna and senior public servants are lining up their ducks to pave the way for the plans of SNC-Lavalin and its American partners. Does that sound familiar?”
This newspaper contacted McKenna’s ministerial office about the decision to exempt small nuclear reactors — under 200 thermal megawatts — from the list of projects that would require environmental assessment under Bill C-69.
“Previously all nuclear reactors would have been designated projects, regardless of size and location,” according to the Canada Gazette entry regarding the exemption.
In response, spokesperson Caroline Thériault sent a statement:
“A robust project list ensures good projects can move forward in a timely and transparent way that protects the environment, rebuilds public trust and strengthens our economy. This list covers all major projects within federal jurisdiction those pose significant environmental risk.”
Even without a spot on the Bill C-69 project list, small modular reactor would still be subject to scrutiny.
According to a statement from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, “New nuclear projects below the 200 MW thermal threshold are subject to licensing and assessment processes by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.”
Alexandre Deslongchamps, spokesperson for the minster of natural resources, noted that the CNSC “is peer-reviewed and world-renowned” and “will only approve projects if it concludes that they are safe for people and the environment, both now and in the future.”
With files from the Financial Post