Nuke leaks should've been made public immediately:

MayorsPembroke, Petawawa officials say they have a right to know of incidents at Chalk River

Sun Media: SEAN CHASE - January 29, 2009

PEMBROKE - Mayor Ed Jacyno is asking why Atomic Energy of Canada did not inform area municipalities after a radioactive spill at Chalk River in December.

In the wake of Sun Media reports that radioactive tritium and contaminated heavy water leaked from the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor, questions are being raised by municipalities living downstream from the nuclear facility.

Jacyno said Wednesday he believes federal regulators require AECL to tell the public that an incident has taken place.

"As we are living downstream, we do expect to get notification," said Jacyno. "We need to know what's going on when there is an occurrance. Why did it occur six weeks after the fact?"

During the incident on Dec. 5, amounts of tritium were released into the air at the NRU reactor. AECL officials contained another 800 litres of contaminated water. The NRU, which produces 70 per cent of the world's medical isotopes, was shutdown briefly.The leak was revealled in an internal report to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) that was obtained by Sun Media.

The nuclear regulator also said another part of the reactor has been leaking water from a 2.4 inch crack in a weld. Technicians have been pumping water into the unit to replace the estimated 7,000 litres a day that has been spewing from the seam. The CNSC said the water has "a very low level of radioactivity." The water is being dumped into the Ottawa River.

Sitting 16 km south of the Chalk River Laboratories, Petawawa is the first downstream municipality in the vicinity. Mayor Bob Sweet said he is concerned that they were not informed of the spill.

"We should have been made aware of it," said Sweet. "I don't think there was any intent to cover anything up, but I think they had an obligation to tell us."

The internal report stated there was no threat to the health of workers and the tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, released into the air posed no significant danger to the environment.

Jacyno takes AECL at their word that the situation was contained. He noted that the company has maintained good relations with the area and pointed to a protocal in which Chalk River officials meet quarterly with municipal leaders from Pembroke, Petawawa and Pontiac County to keep them apprised of developments at the facility.

The mayor has since fired off a letter to Shaun Cotnam, AECL manager of site and community affairs, seeking an explanation.

"They have been a good neighbour, but we're dealing with a product that could have an impact on those living downstream," he said. "It may have been an oversight, but it's unacceptable."

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