Crown corporation says burying nuclear waste near Lake Huron still best option

A new report from Ontario Power Generation says the originally proposed nuclear waste storage facility near Lake Huron is still the preferred option.

Around 200,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste products would be buried 680 metres underground

This Nov. 1, 2013 photo shows rows of chambers holding intermediate-level radioactive waste in shallow pits at the Bruce Power nuclear complex near Kincardine, Ont., on the shores of Lake Huron. (John Flesher/The Associated Press)

A new report prepared by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) says burying low to intermediate radioactive waste from nuclear power plants at a storage facility in Kincardine, Ont. remains the preferred option.

The OPG report is a response to information requests from the federal government, who delayed the project in 2015 by asking the crown corporation to provide alternative sties.

"The answers to the questions we provided don't fundamentally change our analysis or the analysis of the international scientific community," said Kevin Powers, a spokesperson with OPG. "The Bruce Site is the safest, most appropriate site for a Deep Geological Repository (DRG)."

The DRG would see 200,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste products buried 680 metres underground just over a kilometre from the shores of Lake Huron. 

The waste would range from low-level radioactive material such as mops, rags, protective clothing and floor sweepings to intermediate-level radioactive material like used reactor core components, filters and refurbishment waste.

Vocal Opposition

"Burying this nuclear waste anywhere in the great lakes basin is completely inappropriate," said Beverley Fernandez, with the group Stop The Great Lakes Nuclear Dump.

"It's not up to us to decide where this should go, but we know one thing for sure: The last place it should go is right beside our drinking water."

OPG said in a statement that other locations are technically feasible, but "would result in greater environmental effects and higher costs, as well as a project delay of 15 years or more, while offering no additional benefits in safety."

An aerial view of the Bruce Power nuclear generating station in Kincardine, Ont., the shores of Lake Huron. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

OPG said moving to an alternate location would also mean 22,000-24,000 radioactive shipments across public roads.

Fernandez said nearby communities have dealt with nuclear waste being shipped through along their roads for decades.

"If they can transport it up here to the Bruce than they can certainly transport it away from the drinking water of 40 million people in two countries," said Fernandez. 

Indigenous Impacts

OPG has compared the Bruce nuclear site to a crystalline rock location within the Canadian Shield and sedimentary rock location in southern Ontario.

The Bruce nuclear site either has similar effects or fewer effects when compared to the two alternatives in every category except one — Indigenous sties, according to the responses submitted by OPG. 

The report said choosing the site near Lake Huron would increase noise and dust levels at an Indigenous burial site as well as lead to "changed aesthetics," but it will not impact access to the site. 

"There are a number of ways it could impact Indigenous communities," said Powers, adding that the project will not go ahead until they have approval from both the federal government and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.

The NDP's opposition critic for the Great Lakes called the plan a "failed project" from it's beginnings, saying the move would "complicate" Indigenous relationships. 

"It replicates the mistakes that have often been made when dealing with Aboriginal peoples and will further insult the process," said Windsor-Essex MP Brian Masse. 

Masse wants a full analysis of options for treating and storing nuclear waste.