Underground storage of nuclear waste isn’t the answer, speaker argues (February 2013)

February 11, 2013

HEATHER BOA Bullet News CLINTON – Underground storage is not the long-term solution for more than 50,000 tonnes of high-level radioactive waste stockpiled at nuclear electricity generating facilities across the country, says a member of a coalition on environmental issues.


“There are known uncertainties with geological repositories,” Brennain Lloyd of North Watch told about 50 gathered at REACH Huron in Clinton for an information session hosted by Huron National Farmers Union, Local 335 in co-operation with the Huron District of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. More than 20 communities, including the Municipality of Central Huron, have expressed an interest in learning more about hosting a deep geologic site to store the country’s high-level radioactive waste from nuclear electricity generation. Feb. 19, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization will deliver to Central Huron Council an independent consultant’s initial screening report, which is a desktop study to determine whether there are any red flags that would rule out the municipality as a potential site.

Lloyd said after looking at proposals from around the world for underground storage and considering how they have evolved in Canada over the past 25 years, “we have no confidence those uncertainties are going to be resolved in the near future to a level of reasonable satisfaction.”

She said uncertainties include that the copper or steel containers could corrode more quickly than expected, heat from radioactive decay could impair the backfill material from trapping radioactive isotopes, built up gas pressure could escape through crystalline rock fractures, future generations could accidentally dig a shaft into the rock around the repository or a well into contaminated groundwater, and earthquakes could damage the containers.

The underground repository requires a subsurface area of about 930 acres at a depth of approximately 500 metres.

Instead, she said they should get on with the job of dealing with the spent fuel cells from nuclear reactions that are currently placed in dry storage after seven to 10 years of cooling and lowering radioactivity levels in pools of water. In Ontario, the bundles are stored on an interim basis.

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