Turnout low for NWMO open house in Arran Elderslie (October 2012)

Arran Elderslie

By Mary Golem

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 3:33:03 EDT PM

CHESLEY – About 40 Arran Elderslie and area residents, including a class of Grades 6-7 students from Kinghurst Community School, attended a two-day open house in Chesley last week to learn more about the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) process for selecting a site for Canada;s deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel.

Arran Elderslie is one of 21 communities involved in the NWMO site selection process and is now in Step 3 of that process, after an initial screening failed to show any reason why the municipality could not continue in the process. The next step in the process, called Adaptive Phased Management, will include a feasibility study, designed to assess the suitability of a community to host such a project.

That means both local officials (municipal council) and the community need to show a continued interest in learning more about the project and to work with surrounding communities and Aboriginal peoples to learn about and explore the project. Such a feasibility study is expected to take a year or more to complete.

Last week’s two-day open house was an opportunity for local residents to learn more about the project through display boards, videos and talking one-on-one with NWMO staff to have their questions and concerns answered.
Mike Krizanc, communications manager for NWMO, said there were a number of questions and concerns brought forth by those in attendance, including questions regarding property values and rights, and possible acquisition of private lands for the project.

If a site is chosen in Bruce County, it would involve private land, Krizanc said, unlike in some others areas where more public/Crown land would be used.

“As we move forward, those are concerns and questions that will need to be discussed and addressed,” he said, “and there is lots of time in which to do that.”

Those attending the open houses also had questions regarding the safety of storing used nuclear fuel, as well as transportation concerns and impacts on the local environment.

“A lot of the questions about environmental impacts came from the class of grade 6-7 students,” he said, adding NWMO staff  “were very impressed with the childrens  interest, questions and exceptionally good behavior.”

NWMO staff did admit there appears to be some public confusion regarding the NWMO process for choosing a site for the Deep Geological Repository and the current regulatory approval process now underway by OPG  for the storage of low and intermediate level waste. The two projects are separate and distinct.

A similar open house was held in Brockton earlier this summer.

Read story

How to put Canada’s nuclear waste to bed (October 2012)

Plan would bury spent nuclear fuel rods deep underground

By Max Paris, CBC News

Last Updated: Oct 17, 2012 8:35 AM ET

(Note:CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)

Canada’s nuclear industry has a problem. And, by extension, so do all Canadians.

Sitting in seven locations across Eastern and Central Canada are more than two million fire-log-sized used nuclear fuel-rod bundles. That’s enough to fill six hockey rinks up to the top of the boards.

Even though the bundles are used, they are still radioactive – dangerously, fatally so. And they are going to be that way for the next few hundred thousand years.

If you want to put that in perspective, think about Homo sapiens.Humans have only existed in our present form for about the last 200,000 years. Most of that time was spent running around hunting other animals and gathering nuts and plants in an effort to keep from starving.

Nuclear power is brand new by comparison – about 70 years old. And yet, the detritus of our quest for electricity with the help of broken atoms will be with us, in our terms, forever.

So what do you do with more than two million bundles of used nuclear fuel that once powered the country’s Candu reactors?

Canada has a plan.

In 2002, the federal government passed the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. The law mandated that Canada’s nuclear energy companies – Ontario Power Generation, New Brunswick Power and Hydro-Quebec – create something called the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.

NWMO’s job is “to study possible approaches, recommend and then implement a plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel in Canada,” according to the organization’s May 2010 document Moving Forward Together.

Warning future generations

Once you get the nuclear waste in the ground, how do you make sure people thousands of years in the future know enough not to dig them up too soon? Some people have done some thinking about that.

The agency considered several options, but the 2002 law specifically required the organization to study three different methods:

  • Deep geological disposal in the Canadian Shield.
  • Storage at nuclear reactor sites.
  • Centralized storage, either above or below ground.

The NWMO liked elements of each method and eventually came up with what it called “adaptive phased management.”

Essentially, this means finding a willing town in or near the Canadian Shield, sink a 500-metre shaft and at the bottom build a network of tunnels where the nuclear fuel bundles – which the NWMO estimates will total about four million by the time Canada’s nuclear reactors are retired, in about 40 years – will live. Forever.

Dangerous bundles will need to be moved

The other wrinkle is getting the waste from reactors and research facilities where it’s resting now, to a deep geological repository hundreds, possibly thousands, of kilometres away. The NWMO says that if the waste is moved by road, there will be at least 53 truck shipments a month to the repository over a period of 30 years or more. Trains and ships might also be used.

The agency admits the odds are there will be some sort of an accident. But even if there is, it is confident there will be no leak of radiation.

The containers for the bundles will be made of 30-centimetre-thick steel, with an even thicker slab for a top that acts as a shock absorber and is secured in place by 32 bolts the length and width of a man’s arm. Each box carries four tonnes of used nuclear fuel and, fully loaded, weighs about 35 tonnes.

In 1984, the U.K.’s Central Electricity Generating Board put on a little demonstration to demonstrate how tough these boxes are. They put one in the middle of a railroad track and ran a locomotive at it. The train exploded into bits. The shipping container needed a new coat of paint.

The NWMO says other countries’ nuclear trash will not be put in our repository. And the only thing that will end up down there is used nuclear fuel – the dirtiest and most dangerous of Canada’s nuclear waste.

That’s the plan. Now all they have to do is find a suitable host town and convince Canadians they can get the bundles there safely

Read story

Nuclear waste bid poses risks and rewards for Ontario town (October 2012)

Hornepayne one of 21 communities considering storing radioactive fuel rods underground

By Max Paris, CBC News
Posted: Oct 16, 2012 5:06 PM ET

The current and former mayors of Hornepayne, Ont., agree on one thing when it comes to the idea of storing nuclear waste in their community: Their town’s location is remote.

“We’ve got fresh air, fresh water. We’re kind of on the edge of the wilderness,” says Art Swanson, who headed up the town council from 2000 to 2003.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere,” says Morley Forster, the current mayor of this town of 1,050 people, located about 300 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont,

Those few words aside, there is a wide gulf between the two men ­ one is pitching hard for his town to become the site of Canada’s first nuclear waste facility, and the other is warning just as strenuously against it.

For Mayor Forster, his town’s isolation is a plus. “What better place place to put a deep geological repository for Canada’s spent nuclear fuel.”

But former mayor Swanson foresees a poisoned inheritance for all who come after. “The risk of ruining that [fresh air, fresh water] to me, it’s something. The problem with this is, this is permanent.”

Hornepayne has another problem, though. Its economy is dying a slow death. Fewer and fewer people are living there and the town’s young residents are moving away.

“Economic opportunities that exist, usually exist in the bright lights of the big city. So they go there and don’t come back,” explains Forster. The chance to host Canada’s deep geological repository for nuclear waste is an opportunity that can’t be ignored, as far as he is concerned.

Choosing a waste site

Hornepayne is one of 21 communities that has approached the Nuclear Waste Management Organization ­ the group charged with managing Canada’s spent nuclear fuel ­ and expressed an interest in hosting an underground storage site known as a deep geological repository. That got Hornepayne started on the NWMO’s nine-step process.

Hornpayne and seven other communities are the furthest along that process ­ at step three, essentially the learning phase. The NWMO is adamant about getting buy-in from the entire community that will eventually be the home of 4 million CANDU nuclear fuel bundles.

“Our approach is to provide information because we are looking for an informed and willing host community,” says Mahrez Ben Belfadhel, NWMO’s director of geoscientific evaluations.

He explains that the NWMO will provide funds for the towns to hire consultants to examine and explain NWMO’s proposal. The organization holds information seminars and open houses in the communities, all in an effort to ensure NWMO eventually finds a willing town.

“We want to make sure that this project will have positive impacts on the communities. And it is up to the communities to decide that for themselves,” explains Belfadhel.

Debate over benefits and dangers

So what are those benefits? For one, the project will cost anywhere from $16 billion to $24 billion. It will take 10 years to build the repository and that will mean 800 construction jobs. There will be spin-offs from that: cafes, groceries, maybe even a McDonald’s, hopes Forster.

“Schools will be built. Houses will be built. Not an endless supply of things, but everything would be increased,” says Forster.

Once the repository is in place, he says, there will be the people who manage and operate the facility: PhDs.

Forster could imagine a theatre troupe setting up shop in Hornepayne because of them.

Art Swanson doesn’t buy it.

“I see that as a used car salesman trying to sell you a car and he will tell you anything,” Swanson says. “What kind of nuclear scientist is going to be in Hornepayne watching it [nuclear waste] go into the ground?”

Swanson points out that CN Rail runs a train through town but all their managers are in Montreal.

“This nuclear scientist isn’t going to live in Hornepayne. I can almost guarantee you. Why would he?”

Read full story

‘Hardened on-site storage’ sought for nuclear waste (October 2012)

Published: Monday, October 15, 2012

By Jim Bloch, Voice Reporter

Anti-nuclear activists like Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch and John Jackson of Great Lakes United, who spoke at St. Clair County Community College earlier this fall, oppose storing nuclear waste in deep geologic repositories like the one proposed by Ontario Power Generation a half-mile inland from Lake Huron near the Bruce Peninsula, 120 miles north-northeast of Port Huron.

They oppose reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods. They are critical of current methods of storing high level nuclear waste in cooling pools and dry casks.

What do they propose to do with the more than 68,000 tons of spent fuel in the U.S. as of 2009, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is growing by 2,000-2,400 tons per year?

The short answer is hardened on-site storage of used fuel rods.

Eternal danger

The problem with high level nuclear waste is that it remains dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of years.

“Spent nuclear fuel is about 95 percent uranium,” said a 2011 AP report. “About 1 percent are other heavy elements such as curium, americium and plutonium-239, best known as fuel for nuclear weapons. Each has an extremely long half-life” – the time it takes to lose half its radioactivity – “(and) some take hundreds of thousands of years to lose all of their radioactive potency. The rest, about 4 percent, is a cocktail of byproducts of fission that break down over much shorter time periods, such as cesium-137 and strontium-90, which break down completely in about 300 years.”

Cesium-137 and strontium-90 are two of the isotopes that blanketed the countryside around the Chernobyl reactor in the Ukraine, which melted down in 1986, creating a zone of exclusion the size of New Jersey for the next three centuries.

Over such a long period of time, even in deep geologic repositories like the one proposed for the Bruce peninsula, any number of occurrences could cause leakage into the environment and Great Lakes, critics say, from container failures to terrorism to earthquakes. Once the repositories are filled to capacity and sealed, monitoring and intervention to fix problems becomes nearly impossible. The Bruce site would accept low and medium level wastes from all over Ontario and critics don’t like the idea of a centralized waste storage site, which involves transportation of the dangerous waste by truck, rail and boat – all notoriously subject to accidents. Centralized sites offer potentially more lethal terrorist targets than decentralized sites.

Critics like Lloyd and Jackson oppose reprocessing used nuclear fuel due to the huge expense involved, the transportation dangers and the new streams of nuclear waste that are generated. Because reprocessing involves extracting plutonium, the key ingredient in nuclear bombs, they fear the proliferation of weapons.

Cooling pools and dry casks

Critics also oppose the current practices involved with storing used nuclear fuel bundles, which are highly radioactive, in deep cooling pools near the reactors. About 75 percent of high level nuclear fuel waste in the U.S. is stored in pools.

“The highly radioactive fuel bundles are taken out of the reactors by robots and placed into swimming pools for six to eight years,” said Jackson.

Because no permanent solution to nuclear waste has been developed, the pools are packed with more fuel rods than they were designed to store, making them especially dangerous in the event that the water system fails, as happened in Fukushima in the wake of the 2011 earthquake. According to a 2011 Time magazine story, in-ground pools are located in buildings next to operating reactors at 73 U.S. sites; attic pools, like the ones at Fukushima, are used at 31 plants. Each pool is a bomb waiting to happen. A 1997 Brookhaven National Laboratory study said a disaster at one spent fuel pool could result in 138,000 deaths and contaminate 2,000 square miles.

When the fuel rods are cool enough, at least five years later, some nuclear power stations are moving the used fuel into giant dry casks for temporary storage. The casks are dry in the sense that the spent fuel is surrounded by gas, often helium, instead of water.

Pools and casks, critics say, are susceptible to natural disaster, failures of the power grid and terrorism. The casks, while inherently stronger than the pools, most often sit on concrete pads in warehouses no stronger than a big box store, said Lloyd. They’re in a very vulnerable state.

Read story

Deep trouble: Nuclear waste burial in the Great Lakes basin (October 2012)

Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012

By Jim Bloch, Voice Reporter

The Blue Water Area sits about 120 miles downstream from the second largest nuclear power facility in the world, the Bruce Power Generating Station, operated by Bruce Power in Kincardine, Ontario, near the base of the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron. Six of the eight reactors on the 2,300 acre site are currently in operation. The company hopes to restart the other two reactors before the end of the year.

An accident at one or more of the Bruce reactors on the scale of Chernobyl in the old Soviet Union in 1986 or Fukushima in Japan last year could be catastrophic to the Great Lakes, which contain about 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. The lakes provide drinking water to about 40 million people and support a $7 billion per year sport and commercial fishing industry.

“There is no acceptable level of exposure to radioactivity,” said Brennain Lloyd, a community organizer for the Ontario anti-nuclear group Northwatch.

Exposure to ionizing radiation can damage cells, tissues and DNA, causing mutations, cancer, birth defects and a host of other disorders.

On Sept. 30 at St. Clair County Community College, Lloyd and John Jackson, interim director of Great Lakes United, discussed the dangers to the lakes posed by nuclear power and nuclear waste. The SC4 Green Team and Blue Water Sierra sponsored the talk, which was attended by about 40 people.

Deep geologic repository

If a reactor accident or meltdown presents a dramatic threat to the Great Lakes, nuclear waste presents dangers of quieter orders of magnitude.

“Nuclear waste is created at every step of the nuclear fuel cycle,” said Lloyd, from uranium mining and milling to fuel enrichment and fabricating and finally to nuclear fission in reactors.

A person can be exposed to radioactivity and not know it. It doesn’t have a smell or a taste. Some forms of nuclear waste will remain toxic essentially forever.

“That’s a mind-boggling thing,” said Jackson.

Ontario Power Generation operates the Western Waste Management Facility, located in Tiverton, next door to the Bruce station. WWMT stores all of the low level and intermediate level nuclear waste from Bruce’s eight reactors, the four reactors at the Darlington station, 20 miles east of Toronto, and the six reactors at the Pickering station, just east of Toronto. The waste from Darlington and Pickering is trucked to the Bruce for storage. The site also stores all of the high level nuclear waste from the Bruce station’s spent fuel rods in dry storage containers. All of the storage is considered temporary until “permanent” solutions are found.

OPG is now proposing what it claims is a permanent solution for low and intermediate nuclear waste – a deep underground repository at WWMF, a half-mile from Lake Huron, in limestone caverns more than 2,000 feet below the earth’s surface. The site is proposed to be about 35 acres on the surface and twice that large underground, said Lloyd.

Public hearings on its environmental impact statement are expected in 2013.

Read whole story

Webcast of NWMO-hosted Conference on Nuclear Waste Burial Now Online (October 2012)

The archived webcast of the recent International Conference on Geological Repositories is now available on-line.  Viewer discretion is advised: this is a promotional event hosted by the nuclear industry.

The videos are available at http://icgr2012.org/conference-proceedings.php.  The conference agenda is available at http://icgr2012.org/conference-programme.php

“Regional collaboration” among Bruce County municipalities in NWMO siting process (October 2012)

In a report prepared for the October 5th meeting of the Council for the Municipality of South Bruce, the Chief Administrator described the recent International Conference on  Geological Repositories which the NWMO had hosted in Toronto October 1st and 2nd, and a meeting held the day after – October 3rd – of the NWMO and representatives of the five municipalities in Bruce County who have signed up to be studied as part of the NWMO’s site selection process.

As described by the CAO, the NWMO used the October 3rd gathering to outline Step 3 of their siting process and to introduce and/or promote the idea of a “regional” approach in Bruce County to the NWMO site selection process, as follows:

 NWMO Meeting – Regional Collaboration

On October 3rd, following the ICGR, NWMO staff met with representatives of five Bruce County Municipalities who were in attendance at the conference. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of regional collaboration for certain activities as Bruce County communities move forward in the site selection process. Currently, Arran- Elderslile is in Step 1, Huron-Kinloss, South Bruce and Saugeen Shores are in Step 2, and Brockton as passed a resolution to enter into Step 3 of the site selection process.

At the meeting, NWMO provided a brief overview of the Feasibility Study process which would be undertaken in Step 3. The Feasibility Study is broken into two phases. Phase I of the Feasibility Study involves a desktop study to determine whether a site in the community has the potential to meet the detailed requirements for the project. This includes a technical evaluation as well as a social, economic and cultural assessment of the community. There may be some opportunity for regional collaboration when conducting the preliminary assessment desktiop studies, as some of the technical information in Phase 2, detailed field investations would be undertaken at one or two sites to continue to assess technical, social, economic and cultural suitability. A regional study is also included in Phase 2.

Establishing Community Liaison Committees (CLC) was also discussed as a positive step for communities to take after entering into Step 3. NWMO funding is available to assist in some CLC expenses, and to provide administrative support to the CLC and to assist municipal staff with the additional workload associated with the community’s participation in the site selection process. It was concluded that each community would be best served by establishing their own CLC because they would be more in tune with the needs of the local people. It was acknowledged that there may be some benefit to establishing a larger regional committee that would consist of one or two members of the local committees. The Regional CLC would provide an opportunity to share information and to collaborate on large events such as public information meetings, open houses and hiring of independent consultants to conduct peer reviews of technical information and to provide unbiased information to the public.

There are many benefits to adoption a regional approach as Bruce counties move forward in the site election process. One such benefit is that it acknowledges that this project will impact not only the host community, but the broader region, and as such, engagement of communities within the region is vital from the outset. Council support for regional co-operation and co-ordination could be stated in the Step 3 resolution, if the Bruce County municipalities decide to continue on in the process.

 Further information on Step 3 activities will be provided by NWMO at an upcoming meeting of South Bruce Council, date to be confirmed. 

Read report (final two pages)