Monday, December 10, 2012 12:32:18 EST PM
This is the third of my five-part letter explaining why I am opposed to the building of a high-level, deep geological repository (HL-DGR) in Bruce County for the disposal of exhausted fuel rods from nuclear reactors.
In parts 1 and 2, I argued that Bruce County is a completely inappropriate location for a HL-DGR because: (1) it is in the midst of an agricultural and recreation/tourist region, (2) the stigma associated with nuclear waste might depress the county’s economy and also reduce land values, (3) a HL-DGR would create an imbalanced and boom-bust economy and (4) deeply buried nuclear waste has the potential for contaminating the environment and endangering human health.
In this, Part 3, I discuss the transportation risks associated with a HL-DGR and also the flawed site selection process in Bruce County.
A HL-DGR in Bruce County would be a centralized repository, serving the nuclear industry in all of Canada. Thus, it would draw an estimated 53 road shipments per MONTH of highly dangerous radioactive material into the region from reactors and research laboratories in Manitoba, southern and eastern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. Under the NAFTA agreement, the HL-DGR might also receive shipments from the United States which does not have a DGR.
Shipments to Bruce County from the west would have to be transported around Lake Superior and northern Lake Huron/Georgian Bay by rail or truck – alternatively, by ship across the lakes.
Shipments from eastern Canada would have to be transported along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River and through the Greater Toronto Area, if not also through the St. Lawrence Seaway which traverses the densest populated regions of the country and is also adjacent to the border with the United States, raising (as does the use of the Great Lakes Waterway) international issues.
A centralized HL-DGR, no matter where located, involves extensive transportation of highly dangerous radioactive material. And regardless of assurances about safety, accidents happen. Locating a DGR in Bruce County creates an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, as well as to the people living in their vicinity.
Flawed site selection process in Bruce County.
I believe that the search to find a location for the HL-DGR by Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is flawed in Bruce County because payments made to municipalities surrounding the Bruce generating station for their support for a low- and medium-level DGR at the Bruce generating station are a possible incentive for municipal interest in a high-level DGR.
Four of the five municipalities in the county that have expressed an interest in learning more about the HL-DGR have received, are currently receiving and have been promised, under the terms of the hosting agreement for the LM-DGR mentioned above, substantial sums of money (two one-time lump sum payments, in 2005 and 2013, and annual payments of smaller amounts through 2034) for supporting that facility at the Bruce generating station. These municipalities stand to lose that money if they do not: “… in good faith, [exercise] best efforts to achieve any of … the milestones … to permit the construction and operation of the … [low- and medium-level DGR].” This places municipal councils in an awkward position, if not a potential conflict of interest situation, with respect to the proposed HL-DGR. Ontario Power Generation insists that the two projects are separate and distinct. However, the hosting agreement for the LM-DGR may have influenced the decisions of local councils to express an interest in the HL-DGR – councils being unwilling perhaps to jeopardize the hosting agreement by not also supporting NWMO’s search process for a HL-DGR and, simultaneously, also risk being left out of a potential future agreement (and financial benefits) for that repository.
Council’s response to criticism, at least in the case of Saugeen Shores, that it took action without prior consultation with the public for a project that is beyond the scope of the official municipal plan, is that the NWMO process incorporates an “Out option” at any time during steps 1 through 5 of the ten-step process, although council has not also suggested when or how that option might be triggered. Thus, in Saugeen Shores at least, council seems interested in the potential financial benefits of a HL-DGR but appears to have no other considerations on behalf of the municipality; nor does it appear willing to take a leadership role in organizing community discussions, or even a referendum, independent of NWMO.
Lots to think about.
In Part 4 of my five-part letter explaining why I oppose a HL-DGR in Bruce County, I will discuss corporate convenience and scientific issues.
Peter L. Storck