Nukewatch Quarterly Spring 2015
By Beyond Nuclear
Canada has closed its formal public review of a proposed “Deep Geologic Repository” (DGR), underground dump, for radioactive waste conducted by the federal Joint Review Panel, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. In a November 18 notice, the panel said it will make a recommendation to Canada’s Environment Minister by May 2015. The Minister will then make a recommendation to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, by-passing Parliament.
The DGR is an industry-sponsored plan to save money by burying radioactive wastes next to one of its biggest reactor complexes—Bruce Nuclear Generating Station (NGS)—near the shore of Lake Huron on Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, northwest of Toronto and Detroit—about 50 miles east of the tip of Michigan’s “thumb.” Bruce NGS includes nine reactors altogether, eight still operable (four reactors at Bruce A, and four at Bruce B). It is one of the largest nuclear power sites in the world.
The dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline proposal has made TransCanada Pipelines a household word, but it is not well known that TransCanada is a major shareholder in Bruce NGS. TransCanada and its partners took over operations at Bruce in 2002, after its previous operator, British Energy, went bankrupt.
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) owns Bruce NGS, but TransCanada Pipelines and its partners lease and operate the reactors. Thus, TransCanada has been generating radioactive waste there for over 13 years and plans on decades of additional radioactive waste production.
OPG proposes burying all of Ontario’s so-called “low” and “intermediate” level radioactive wastes in a DGR on the Lake Huron shore at Bruce. Radioactive wastes generated by Bruce’s eight reactors, combined with additional radioactive wastes from a dozen more OPG-owned reactors east of Toronto—eight at Pickering, four at Darlington—would be buried at the DGR. TransCanada’s radioactive waste generated at Bruce would comprise a large fraction of the deadly material to be buried on the Lake Huron shore less than a mile from the water’s edge.
The proposed DGR at Bruce NGS would be for burial of so-called “low-” and “intermediate-level” radioactive wastes, originating from 20 OPG-owned reactors. There is speculation that once approved, the “low” and “intermediate” level waste DGR would simply morph into a catch-all for high-level waste. During public hearings by the Joint Review Panel attended by Nukewatch in September 2014, government witnesses testified that current legislation does not prevent high-level waste from eventually being buried in the “low-level” DGR.
The Great Lakes serve as the drinking water supply for 40 million people in eight US states, two Canadian provinces and a large number of Native North American First Nations. A leak of into the lakes, due to a transport accident, chronic dump failure, or intentional attack could be catastrophic.
Search for High-Level Waste Dump Site Also Underway
By Gordon Edwards
The Canadian government is simultaneously searching for a community to construct a deep dump site for all of the nuclear industry’s high-level radioactive waste (used nuclear reactor fuel) for permanent storage. The used fuel remains highly radiotoxic for millions of years. The waste producers—Ontario Power Generation, TransCanada Pipelines and others—want to bury and eventually abandon it in order to cut their losses, limit their liability—and get a “green light” from decision makers to extend reactor operations and indefinitely continue producing radioactive waste.
Once abandoned, the nuclear waste will no longer be their problem—but a public liability. The nuclear industry’s socialism means private profit now and public risk forevermore.
The waste generators created the Nuclear Waste Management Agency (NWMO) to carry out the site selection process. Originally there were 22 communities—3 in Saskatchewan, the rest in Ontario—that expressed interest in receiving financial compensation in order to find out more about the NWMO’s plans. Each community is given $400,000 for participating, even if it later opts out. However, the list of potential host communities is shrinking and is now down to 9 after two more areas—Creighton, Saskatchewan, and Schreiber, Ontario—were recently taken off the list. Dr. Mahrez Ben Belfadhel, Director of Geoscientific Site Evaluations at the NWMO, said March 3, “[T]here is limited potential in the areas of Creighton or Schreiber to find a site….”
Further site selection studies are ongoing near the nine Ontario communities of Blind River, Central Huron, Elliot Lake, Hornepayne, Huron-Kinloss, Ignace, Manitouwadge, South Bruce and White River.
Mike Krizanc, NWMO’s Manager of Communications, said in a statement March 3 that the agency’s purpose is to develop and implement the management and long-term “care” of Canada’s used nuclear [reactor] fuel that is “socially acceptable, technically sound, environmentally responsible and economically feasible.” It will take several more years before a site can be confirmed.
—Gordon Edwards is the President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
Concerned readers should write or call local, state and federal lawmakers demanding they urge the Canadian government to reject the proposed dump.
On Sept. 18, 2014, US Senators Carl Levin, Debbie Stabenow, Mark Kirk and Tammy Baldwin introduced Senate Res. 565 urging the Canada not to allow a permanent radioactive waste repository to be built in the Great Lakes Basin. The parallel in the US House is HR 716.
For details see: stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.com