Nuclear waste seeks a home (September 2012)

Published on Saturday September 01, 2012
John Spears, Toronto Star Business Reporter

Picture this: you’ve lived in the same house for more than half a century, and never taken out the garbage.

Instead, you’ve sorted it carefully into the easy stuff like scrap paper, and the not-so-easy stuff, like the pot of left-over clam chowder you made in 1994.

Then you sealed it all in boxes, labeled them, and locked the stuff in the basement, promising some day to find a better place for it.

Now, picture Canada’s nuclear industry.

Since the 1960s, nuclear power plants have generated more than two million bundles of highly radioactive used fuel. And they’re all still stored on the sites of the plants that produced them.

But the pace of finding a site to store Canada’s most potent radioactive waste permanently is about to pick up.

Twenty Canadian communities have said they’ll consider volunteering to host the storage site.

That list is about to close. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization, whose job it is to find and build the site, will stop taking new names on Sept. 30.

The impending cut-off is ratcheting up the pressure on the technocrats charged with selecting a site; on the boosters who want to snare the multi-billion-dollar repository for their community; on the activists who harbour deep suspicions about safety; and on the aboriginal leaders who say they’ve been cut out of the process.

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