By Debora Van Brenk, The London Free Press
Wednesday, January 9, 2013 9:56:05 EST PM
A group opposed to burying nuclear waste near Lake Huron is taking its fight to the country’s biggest energy users: Toronto commuters.
A billboard, shown below, along the mega-city’s Gardiner Expressway shouts out “bad idea” to a plan that would involve construction of an underground nuclear waste site a short distance from Lake Huron, at Kincardine.
Ontario Power Generation is looking for the federal government to approve what’s called a deep geological repository for the nuclear waste, about one kilometre from shore.
Opponents worry the plan might be approved as early as this year.
“A decision of this magnitude should have the input of more than the people in the small town that wants to house a deep geological repository,” said Beverly Fernandez, a spokesperson for Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump Inc.
Fernandez, who lives in nearby Southampton, said it’s not a local issue but one that affects the 40 million people who rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water. “We feel this is a national issue and an international issue.” she said.
The billboard, on one of Canada’s busiest commuter strips, could be seen by up to one million people a week, she said.
OPG proposes to place low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste in the site from the nearby Bruce Nuclear plant and the Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations.
The proposal began in 2004, but opponents say they became aware of the plans only last summer.
Construction would take five to seven years. The site could begin receiving waste as early as 2019.
The OPG says the material – not including used-up nuclear fuel, but including reactor components, filters, contaminated protective clothing and clean-up materials – would be placed in limestone nearly 700 metres below ground.
Measures would be taken to make sure there’d be a significant buffer between the waste and any surface water or drinking water, the OPG insists.
Fernandez said that’s a promise impossible to keep, given the waste’s lifespan.
“No scientist or geologist can provide us with a 100,000-year guarantee that this lethal waste will stay buried and will stay safe for that length of time,” she said.
The group also has launched an online petition intended for federal Environment Minister Peter Kent, at stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.com
She said it’s not her group’s job to suggest where else such nuclear waste might go. Instead, it insists the material belongs nowhere near the Great Lakes basin.
“This is not an issue where Torontonians can say, “We don’t need to get involved with this.”
The group operates on something more of a shoestring budget than OPG’s, Fernandez admitted.
Opponents’ campaign costs are “not millions. It’s not hundreds of thousands. It’s thousands (of dollars).”
She said one next step is to galvanize support among Americans living near the lakes.
Opponents already have an ally in Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who’s urged a bi-national group of Great Lakes communities to call for an international discussion and debate about the plan.