Chalk River Reactor Pollutes Ottawa River with Radioactive Water

Sierra Club Canada, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County

Ottawa – Environmental groups are calling for a public investigation including full disclosure of the details surrounding recent nuclear accidents at AECL's Chalk River Labs. The Canadian Nuclear and Safety Commission (CNSC) and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) failed to inform the public about a December 5 spill of highly radioactive heavy water from the NRU Reactor, and a continuing leak of as much as 7,000 litres daily.  CSNC has not responded to a request from the Sierra Club Canada for details on these radioactive leaks.

“The latest incident at Chalk River has further eroded the public trust in CNSC as a regulator.  Radioactive pollution from nuclear reactors poses a serious threat to our health and the environment, and it is clear that the public is not being informed about the dangers,” said Mike Buckthought of Sierra Club Canada.

“The CNSC is failing to carry out its mandate to limit the risks to health, safety and the environment from nuclear energy and production of radioisotopes,” said Dr. Ole Hendrickson, a researcher with Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County.  “The CNSC is creating a very dangerous situation by allowing the leaking 51-year-old NRU reactor to continue to operate at full speed for isotope production.”

Information on the December 5 accident surfaced weeks later in the media via a leaked AECL memo. At the time of the accident, AECL put out a press release attributing the shutdown of the NRU reactor to “unanticipated technical challenges.”

Environmental groups are calling on the CNSC and AECL to create a publicly accessible web site with weekly updates on radioactive releases from Chalk River.  

Canadian reactors routinely release radioactive tritium into the atmosphere and nearby bodies of water. All radiation releases increase risks of birth defects, cancer and other diseases. Tritium – radioactive hydrogen – is particularly dangerous because it can move readily as water to any cell in the body and accumulate in DNA; and it has just the right decay energy to damage DNA without killing the cell.

“Canada’s nuclear reactors pollute the air, rivers and ocean with radioactive water. The public needs to be informed about the threats to our health, and the government should stop supporting nuclear energy – there are environmentally sound alternatives, such as wind and solar power,” said Buckthought.  “Instead, the latest Harper budget continues to prop up the nuclear industry with funding of $351 million.”

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For more information, contact:

Mike Buckthought, Sierra Club Canada, 613-241-4611 x235
Ole Hendrickson, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County, 613-735-4876


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