The Port Hope Area Initiative is the most significant low-level radioactive waste cleanup project in North America. Nearly two-million cubic metres of low-level radioactive waste will be collected from sites scattered around Port Hope and consolidated at the proposed Long-Term Waste Management Facility (LTWMF) at the current site of the Welcome Waste Management Facility (WMF). When constructed, the Welcome Waste Management Facility will house up to 1.9 million cubic metres on the 50 ha site; the nearby Port Granby Waste Management Facility will house up to 500-thousand cubic metres, transferred to the new Long-Term Waste Management Facility from the existing facility on the north shore of Lake Ontario. (By contrast, the largest similar facility in the USA accommodates just under 58-thousand cubic metres of low-level radioactive waste.) To date, the Government of Canada has pledged more than 1-billion dollars for the effort.
The Port Hope community is, in effect, a test case for North America: Can low-level radioactive waste be removed from the natural environment? Can it be contained and safely managed for centuries to come? Can decades of environmental challenges be reversed?
While the project is enormously significant in the North American context, it is also deeply and personally important to the people who live and work near Port Hope. Its local significance cannot be overstated. Done well, the Port Hope Project (consolidated waste from the town at the Welcome site), will remove two major impediments to a healthy, vibrant community: the low-level radioactive waste that threatens air and water quality, property values, and quality of life; and, the controversial stigma associated with those environmental concerns that has long divided the community, pitted neighbour against neighbour.
After reviewing submissions by CNSC Staff (CMD 12-H10) and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (CMD 12-H10.1), Lake Ontario Waterkeeper regretfully concludes that the Port Hope Project is not being “done well”. If the Commissioners accept AECL and CNSC staff submissions at face value and issues an operating licence to AECL, then it is very likely that the low-level radioactive waste problem will remain a problem and the controversy within the community will continue. Our concerns are based on two observations:
The Commission is failing to set or enforce standards that will protect human health and the environment; and,
The Commission is failing to ensure this project moves forward in a way that heals the local community.
These issues are described in more detail in the “Analysis” section of this submission. In addition to the comments below, we stand by our 2009 submission on this same matter. Many of the concerns and recommendations we articulated in that submission remain relevant today. We encourage the Commissioners to revisit that comment.
Read our full submission here.