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The following letter appeared in the Ottawa Citizen.

AECL routinely fails to report waste disposal

The Ottawa Citizen
Friday, January 28, 2005

Re: AECL disposes of all its wastes openly, safely, Jan. 21.

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited president Robert Van Adel says AECL's reputation has been unfairly tarnished by the news story about the "secret" dumping of radioactive wastes at the company's Chalk River laboratories.

During the past decade, AECL has repeatedly failed to fully, openly and proactively report its waste practices and inventories to the public, the federal auditor general and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. In 1997, the Citizen reported that for more than 20 years AECL had looked the other way as 4,000 litres of radioactive water a day leaked into the Ottawa River.

In 2001, the CNSC reported that AECL had concealed several test failures of the emergency shutdown system for one of the Maple reactors it was building at Chalk River.

From 1992 to 1999, AECL defied the demands of the auditor general to report its full financial liabilities for cleaning up the Chalk River site.

In 2003, AECL finally admitted to the nuclear safety commission that the cost of cleaning up Chalk River would be $2 billion. But with no transparent cleanup plan, Canadians have no way of determining whether this multibillion-dollar price tag is trustworthy.

Staff told the nuclear safety commission last September that "(o)ne of the prime uncertainties associated with the Chalk River Laboratories is a lack of complete information on the waste (hazardous and nuclear) inventory of the site, including the nature and extent of existing site contamination ..."

The Citizen's recent story, that AECL has continued to dump radioactive waste in ditches in spite of a commitment to the federal regulator to stop, confirms this assessment.

The public will ultimately pay for the cleanup of Chalk River. The federal government should make AECL reveal how much it will cost by establishing an independent and public audit of the contamination at Chalk River.

Shawn Patrick Stensil, Ottawa
Director, Atmosphere and Energy
Sierra Club of Canada


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