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A new long-term agreement between Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation (AOPFN) will serve as the basis for ongoing collaboration and engagement. A proposed low-level radioactive waste facility at the Chalk River site is a key focus of agreement.

(Image: CNL)

The long-term relationship agreement (LTRA) with the AOPFN comes after a consultation and engagement exercise that began in 2020. The agreement - described by the nuclear organisations as "historic" - will establish a working group to serve as the basis for ongoing collaborations, and create a Neya Wabun (Guardian) Program that will establish a regular AOPFN monitoring presence at designated AECL sites, as well as other environmental, cultural and economic protection and promotion activities and programmes.

Built on "mutual respect and understanding", the agreement resolves and addresses key areas of concern identified by the AOPFN, including environmental protection, radioactive waste management, cultural protection and promotion, and the pursuit of collaborative economic and business opportunities.

The Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) project, which would establish a modern engineered disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste at CNL's Chalk River Laboratories campus, is a key focus of the new agreement. The proposed project, which would provide disposal for wastes including legacy wastes from more than 60 years of operations at the Ontario site, is currently under review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and has been undergoing the federal assessment process since 2017.

Extensive engagements between the organisations and AOPFN since 2020 has enabled CNL to make "improvements" to the Near Surface Disposal Facility project to address concerns, the organisations said. "With those changes in place and other AOPFN conditions and commitments met by CNL, the organisations have reached agreement on the NSDF project, and the AOPFN will provide its consent to CNL and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to move forward with the construction of the proposed facility."

AOPFN Chief Greg Sarazin said the Pikwakanagan now has a "significant say" in the nuclear organisations' operations, incorporating traditional knowledge and values while protecting Algonquin rights and the environment. "Responsible and modernised management of existing onsite radioactive waste will be ensured, and importation of low-level radioactive waste will be limited. Given the reality of operations at CNL/AECL, this agreement is the best path forward as we seek to protect mother earth and ensure the safety of future generations," he said.

AECL President and CEO Fred Dermarkar said the long-term relationship agreement was an "historic milestone" in the organisation's relationship with the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan. “Reconciliation is a journey – and the long-term relationship agreement between AOPFN, AECL and CNL is an important step in healing as well as building trust, founded on transparency and mutual respect. We look forward to working collaboratively together in the future."

CNL President and CEO Joe McBrearty said the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge across all its operations "will help to improve the way we do our work, and to build understanding between CNL staff and Indigenous People".

The AOPFN are Algonquin peoples of the Ottawa River (Kichi-Sìbì) Valley and exercise Algonquin aboriginal title and aboriginal rights to, and in all parts of, AOPFN unceded traditional territory, including lands under water. AECL is a federal Crown corporation which owns the Chalk River Laboratories and other sites, and manages the Government of Canada's radioactive waste responsibilities. Nuclear science and technology laboratory CNL works under the direction of AECL and serves as the nexus between government, the nuclear industry, the broader private sector and the academic community.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Wednesday, 14 June 2023
Original article:,-AECL-deepen-relationships-with-First-Nation