At the final MRC Pontiac council of mayors meeting for 2021 on December 15, a presentation was given on the near surface disposal facility which has been proposed at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River. Joann McCann, representing the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association, a community organization that has opposed the NSDF since its announcement several years ago, spoke at length on the project, which would result in 1 million cubic metres of low level nuclear waste buried in a mound roughly a kilometre from the Ottawa River. The mound would contain demolition debris from buildings currently at Chalk River, as well as waste from Whiteshell Laboratories in Manitoba and other federal nuclear liabilities.
McCann said that next year is a critical one in the approval process for the site.
She pointed out that the site is operated by a consortium of two American companies and Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. She asserted that there is little oversight in how these companies spend the public funds that they receive and that they have “no incentive to develop safer and more cost-effective approaches.”
McCann added that the organization tasked with government oversight of the facility, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, hasn’t ruled against a single industry proposal.
Last minute resolution passes
Following McCann’s presentation, Pontiac Warden Jane Toller brought forward a resolution that echoed a resolution passed by the Municipality of Sheenboro, which sits directly across the Ottawa River from the Chalk River site. It asks that the federal government move the site away from the Ottawa River and that Director General Bernard Roy write to the Minister of Natural Resources (Jonathan Wilkinson) to ask for a summery of the federal government’s rationale for this action.
Campbell’s Bay Mayor Maurice Beauregard pointed out that while he was in favour of the content of the resolution, he wasn’t in favour of the fact that it hadn’t been presented at the council’s plenary meeting before being placed on the agenda. He added that he didn’t want a precedent being set of resolutions being added to the public meeting without being discussed in plenary.
Toller said that she had originally planned to just support the Sheenboro resolution, but thought that it would be better if the statement came directly from the MRC.
“I don’t think it’s something that needs a lot of discussion,” she said.
Mansfield Mayor and Pro-Warden Sandra Armstrong moved that the resolution be added to the agenda and the motion was approved by a majority of mayors. The resolution itself was passed unanimously. Following the passage, Toller addressed Beauregard’s concerns.
“It’s an excellent point that you bring up and I for one, have made it very clear in the last term that we wouldn’t do this,” she said. “So we made an exception tonight, from now on ... if there’s something to be added to the agenda, we will make it a practice of sending it to the plenary first.”
The full audio of McCann’s presentation is available here.
The full video of the meeting is available on the MRC’s Facebook page.