May 24, 2004

Environmentalists Challenge Radioactive Waste Plan

Toronto -- Canadian environmental groups say that a draft recommendation released today by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has ignored a primary concern of Canadians -- as a first priority, no more high level radioactive waste should be produced.

“They refuse to consider waste reduction by shifting electricity production from nuclear power to cleaner, safer options. Nobody wants a radioactive waste dump in their backyard” said Dave Martin, Energy Coordinator for Greenpeace Canada.

In 2002 the federal government gave NWMO a three-year mandate to choose between three radioactive waste management alternatives: “deep geological disposal in the Canadian Shield”; “storage at nuclear sites”; or “centralized storage”. However, as NWMO admits, all of these options have serious problems.

NWMO has released a draft recommendation combining all three flawed options in a 300-year, $24 billion  “phased” approach moving from storage at nuclear plants, to centralized storage, and finally to deep rock disposal. It says the high-level radioactive waste dump should be located in either Quebec, Ontario, or Saskatchewan, and will make a final recommendation to the federal government by November 15, 2005.

“The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is leading the public down a radioactive garden path. This is just a re-packaged version of the standard nuclear industry options” said Brennain Lloyd, Coordinator for Northwatch, a coalition of groups in north-eastern Ontario. “The phased approach is the worst of all worlds – it combines all the problems of site-storage, centralized storage and deep-rock disposal.”

“There’s no way to contain poisons that last a million years. The first priority should be the phase-out of nuclear power not the phase-in of a radioactive waste dump” said. Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsility. Agreement on a nuclear waste strategy, environmentalists say, depends on waste reduction through the phase-out of Canada’s 22 nuclear reactors by 2020, at the end of their operational lives. NWMO says it has “not examined  nor [made] a judgment about the appropriate role of nuclear power”. However, NWMO’s board members – Ontario Power Generation, New Brunswick Power and Hydro-Quebec – are all rebuilding or planning to rebuild their aging reactors, potentially doubling the amount of Canada’s radioactive waste.

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For more information, contact:

    Dave Martin, Greenpeace Canada, office 416-597-8408 X 3050 cell 416-627-5004
    Brennain Lloyd, Northwatch, 705-497-0373
    Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, cell 514-839-7214

Background and Summary: NWMO Radioactive Waste Plan

WHAT DOES NUCLEAR WASTE WATCH SUPPORT? For the foreseeable future, radioactive waste management should be based on surface and/or near-surface monitored and retrievable storage -- at least until a nuclear power phaseout has been achieved, the technical case for an alternative option (or options) has been thoroughly reviewed, and a social consensus has been achieved. Nuclear Waste Watch is also calling for a joint federal/provincial environmental assessment panel on the full range of waste options following the NWMO recommendation in November 2005. The federal government should also guarantee a full parliamentary debate and free vote on the recommendations of the NWMO and the environmental assessment panel.