The mayor of Sarnia, Ont., is rallying opposition to Ontario Power Generation's plan to store nuclear waste underground on the shores of Lake Huron.

The proposed site in Kincardine, Ont., would not contain high-level nuclear waste, such as spent fuel.

Instead, it would contain low-level waste, such as protective clothing worn by workers or mops and towels used to wipe up spills of contaminated water.

According to Ontario Power Generation, the "deep geologic repository" would be located 680 metres below ground, "in stable rock formations over 450 million years old."

The CN Tower stands 553 metres tall.

The site is to be located 1.6 kilometres from Lake Huron.

"You know, the reality is that this material is being stored at that site now above ground. But the concern is, do we really want to take the risk of putting it in a hole in the ground, so close to Lake Huron?" Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley asked.

According to Ontario Power Generation, the repository is "the responsible choice and reflects international best practice."

"A team of geologists, engineers, hydrologists and many others have studied the project for many years. Studies show no significant adverse impact to the environment or the public will occur," Ontario Power Generation claims on its website.

Bradley said he fears what could happen if there was an earthquake, for example. The site is located on the shores of a water system he claims supplies fresh water to 40 million people on both sides of the border.

Michigan worried

In Michigan, lawmakers worry that the facility might affect the Great Lakes, and they want Congress to help ensure Michigan's concerns are fully resolved.

A state Senate resolution that was introduced by Democratic Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood of Taylor passed last week.


According to Ontario Power Generation, the deep geologic repository would be located 680 metres below ground, in stable rock formations over 450 million years old. (Ontario Power Generation)

"Lake Huron and the Great Lakes are some of Michigan's most vital natural resources, containing 95 per cent of North America's surface fresh water and providing drinking water to tens of millions of people," Hopgood said in a statement. "This type of nuclear waste repository, planned within water-soluble limestone, is unprecedented and could present a danger to our lakes and our environment."

According to Hopgood, Michigan law already strictly prohibits the disposal of radioactive waste of any site within 16 kilometres (10 miles) of the Great Lakes and certain other major bodies of water connected to them.

Resolution 58, introduced by Hopgood and passed last week, urges Canada to consider similar criteria.

However, Ontario Power Generation spokesperson Neal Kelly said the project does comply with Michigan law. He said Michigan laws state nuclear waste can't be buried within 16 kilometres of the Great Lakes basin, unless it's buried on the site of nuclear facility.

Kelly said OPG had "extensive engagement" with officials in Michigan. Ontario Power Generation also had a number of Ontario mayors, including Bradley, tour the Bruce nuclear facility two weeks ago.

"We're happy to meet with him more," Kelly said of Bradley.

The public review period for the project's environmental assessment, which began on Feb. 3, 2012, ended May 24. There are federal review panel hearings later this year.

Bradley claims more than 1,000 groups and individuals have already asked to be heard at the hearing later this year.

"This has very much been a public process," Kelly said.

The group Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump has been opposing the project for six months. It bought billboard space on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto to make its point.

"Burying radioactive nuclear waste beside the Great Lakes — 21 per cent of the world's surface fresh water, and the supply of fresh drinking water for 40 million people in two countries — defies common sense," said Beverly Fernandez.

With File From the Associated Press