Ontario Power Generation ordered to resubmit DGR safety case after former OPG scientist discovered the radioactivity of materials was grossly underestimated (March 2014)

By Steven Goetz, Kincardine News – Thursday, March 27, 20144:05:20 EDT PM
A conceptual computer model of Ontario Power Generation's Deep
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) must resubmit the safety case for its proposal to bury nuclear waste at the Bruce nuclear site after a retired OPG chemist and research scientist discovered the radioactivity level of the waste material was grossly underestimated.

Recent correspondence between Dr. Frank Greening and the [Nuclear Waste
Management Organization] has raised questions regarding the accuracy of OPGs [inventory of nuclear waste], the independent federal panel reviewing the proposal wrote in a letter on Mar. 21. The concentrations of some radioisotopes appear to have been significantly underestimated or not estimated at all.

The joint review panel (JRP) — which will recommend to the federal environment minister whether the project should be approved — ordered OPG to submit a new safety assessment and a plan to improve the accuracy of its inventory of waste slated to be buried.

If approved, the project — known as the deep geologic repository (DGR) for low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste — will see waste from Ontarios nuclear fleet buried in vaults carved out of limestone 680 metres beneath the ground, about 1.2 kilometres from the shores of Lake Huron on OPG-owned land near the village of Tiverton, Ont.

While not including the spent reactor fuel, some of the waste material will stay dangerously radioactive for over 100,000 years.

Greening first raised the alarm over OPGs faulty estimates in a letter to the NWMO in January.

The NWMO acknowledged in writing on Feb. 20 that OPGs estimates were low, noting the radioactivity of pressure-tube waste is significantly underestimated by a factor of 2,300.

After re-running computer models with the new data, the NWMO wrote that it had concluded the revised estimates do not change the safety case.

(The NWMO is providing technical support to OPG on the project and is currently looking for a site to locate a similar facility for spent fuel from Canadas nuclear reactor fleet.)

OPG is asked to include plans for an independent expert evaluation of its methods and verification procedures in its response, and the panel has asked the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to conduct its own review in light of Greenings findings.

With a PhD in chemistry, Greening worked for Ontario Hydro, and then OPG, for more than 30 years. He was a specialist studying the pressure tubes that surround the uranium fuel inside nuclear reactors, which are some of the most radioactive material to be buried if the DGR receives regulatory approval.

In a telephone interview, Greening told the Kincardine News he decided to look at OPGs estimates for the radioactivity of pressure tubes and discovered they were very low given the data that is readily available.

I reached the conclusion their numbers were suspect so I wrote to tell them they were getting it wrong, Greening said.

Despite having real-world measurements from nuclear facilities in Canada, OPG decided to use theoretical models to present the potential radioactivity of the material, Greening said.

I asked them why they relied on calculations instead of data from real measurements and they have basically ignored the question, he said. It is not as if this data is not available to them.

In its letter to Greening, the NWMO acknowledged his complaint that OPG did not include the radiation from garter springs – round coils that wrap around the pressure tubes — in their calculations. Although small in size, the springs are in the running for most radioactive material to come out of the reactors after spent fuel.

The panel also requested OPG and the CNSC report on a radiation leak at a nuclear waste site in New Mexico, which OPG cited in regulatory filings as an example of a successful facility.

In February, monitors began detecting radiation in underground vaults below the waste isolation pilot plant (WIPP) outside Carlsbad.

Thirteen aboveground workers later tested positive for radiological contamination and the facility was closed to personnel. An independent agency detected airborne radiation — within government safety standards but higher than previously recorded — about a kilometre from the facility.

The panel told OPG and the CNSC to report on the relevance of the WIPP leak to worker and public health and safety at the proposed DGR and how such an incident was accounted for in OPGs models for accidents, malfunctions, and malevolent acts.

The WIPP is operated by the U.S. Department of Energy and is used to store radioactive materials from the U.S. nuclear weapons program in vaults carved into salt deposits. It is one of only a few underground nuclear storage facilities anywhere in the world and was visited by members of the federal panel so they could better understand OPGs proposed facility in Kincardine.

In its filings, OPG cited the WIPP — and facilities in Sweden and Finland — for a proven track record internationally in the safe management of low and intermediate nuclear waste.

The panel has promised to hold additional days of public hearings after OPG makes new submissions, promising to delay any final recommendation. Hearings had originally ended in the fall.


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Final Meeting of Wawa CAC (March 2014)

Written by Wawa Community Advisory Committee for Council and NWMO
Monday, 24 March 2014 07:59


The Municipality of Wawa Community Advisory Committee (Wawa CAC) has now finished its tasks. It was formed to liaise with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) and Council through an investigation into the possibility that Wawa could become the site for a future deep geological repository (DGR) for the long term storage of the spent fuel from the Canadian nuclear energy industry. The community received word late last year that despite the fact that we were a potential site for this repository, overall, due to a number of factors with respect to the geology and location surrounded by special ecological and recreation areas, we did not have "high potential" for moving forward in the process. We were notified that we would no longer be considered as a site for the DGR

NWMO is an organization created by federal law to identify a future site for a DGR. It brought to its task a slate of highly skilled and responsible professionals who used their knowledge and sensitivity to evaluate a large number of communities for the potential future site. Not only do they need to find a geologically acceptable site but of primary importance are the concerns, safety, health, and economic impacts on the local communities in their studies. It was also their mandate to ensure that the community was fully engaged in the process through their Adaptive Phased Management of their Learn More Program. Representatives from NWMO have visited Wawa on a monthly basis. They have sponsored events in Wawa and participated in some of the recreational opportunities of the North. They led open houses and brought a mobile transport exhibit for the community to study. They spoke with hundreds of members of our community and became friends with many.

The members of the Wawa CAC know that the process for our community was thorough, and fair. NWMO came to the best conclusion for our community. We can all feel satisfied the process worked. We should also be content that whichever community is selected in the end, it will have been selected on merit and shall be the safest and best site for the DGR.

Our council made a decision back in 2012 to invite the NWMO to look at our community. It is their responsibility to investigate any and all potential economic possibilities that will increase the economic diversity of our community. Their decisions to investigate with NWMO should be lauded. We should thank them for fulfilling their duties in a commendable manner and despite the initial spot of dissension, they took a decision that our community would become part of the process and we benefitted.

So what have we gained? Knowledge and learning is our first big win. Then we have numerous studies about our community with respect to geology, economy and social well-being. And we have a new strategic plan in its draft form. Finally, we have been given some monetary resources that we can use to fund some of the ideas generated during that strategic planning process.

The Wawa CAC would like to thank the NWMO, our municipal Council and all of the members of our community who learned more about the industry and the social responsibility we all have as Canadians to safely deal with the spent fuel that is currently being stored in numerous sites, above ground, throughout Canada.

The final meeting of the Wawa CAC was held on March 20, 2014 where the members recommended to council that the committee be disbanded.


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Out of sight, out of mind – Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal Editorial (March 2014)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

IT has been 35 years since the governments of Canada and Ontario established the Nuclear Fuel Waste Management Program to develop a concept to safely and permanently dispose of the radioactive byproducts of nuclear energy. We are told it will be 2035 before a repository can be operating. So there is no hurry.

It took authorities just a year, though, to propose deep geological disposal in Northern Ontarios granite as opposed to finding a way to keep the stuff near to where it is produced in southern Ontario.

There is a great deal to be said for geological disposal. Earthquakes are rare here and not violent. What ground movement there is would not be enough to dislodge lead-lined canisters filled with nuclear waste stored 500 metres down in rock caves backfilled with concrete. Groundwater movement is minimal. Still, nuclear waste remains radioactive for a long time.

So there is a risk, however small, no matter where this material is stored. Would the risk be greater in a vault of some description near the reactors in southern Ontario? Would terrorists be more likely to try to steal it there than here or enroute? Would terrorists try to steal spent nuclear fuel rods at all, as suggested as a reason for deep rock security? If the argument is that the longer the material remains in the open, the greater the chance for something to go wrong, is moving it through Northern Ontario by road, rail or ship really advisable?

The fact the material is now stored in canisters in water-filled pools on site at reactors is called temporary and insecure. Deep-rock storage is probably the best option. But if so, why hasnt it been begun?

Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Bruce Hyer wants to hear from northerners who live anywhere near the 14 northern communities that have expressed interest in hosting a repository for the economic spinoffs. Is the North the only place to store this material? Probably. But with time apparently not an issue, lets have more consideration of ways to keep it close to where it is produced rather than use the North because its far away.

Posted at http://www.chroniclejournal.com/editorial/daily_editorial/2014-03-23/out-sight-out-mind

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Reuters: New Mexico cancels permit to expand leaky nuclear waste site (March 2014)

By Laura Zuckerman, Reuters, Fri Mar 21, 2014

(Reuters) – New Mexico on Friday withdrew a temporary permit allowing two new disposal vaults at a U.S. government nuclear waste dump grappling with a release of radiation in February, state regulators said.

Seventeen workers at the Carlsbad-area "Waste Isolation Pilot Project" (WIPP) were exposed to radiation after an accidental leak last month from the site which stores waste from U.S. nuclear labs and weapons production facilities.

State regulators were withdrawing the draft expansion permit, to identify safety issues that may need to be addressed in the aftermath of that accident, New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn told a news conference on Friday afternoon.

"We need to proceed with caution [and] assess any additional risks posed to either workers or the public," Flynn said.

The draft permit would have allowed disposal of machinery, clothing and other items, tainted with radioisotopes like plutonium, in two additional storage vaults — and it granted changes to the way chambers filled to capacity are sealed.

No workers were underground at the U.S. Energy Department’s site when air sensors half a mile below the surface triggered an alarm, indicating unsafe levels of radioactive particles.

The 17 above-ground workers who later tested positive for contamination were not expected to experience any health effects.

But the accident triggered the WIPP’s closure and [its] continuous air testing mechanism which showed elevated levels of radiation — although not enough to be harmful to human health or the environment, Energy Department officials said.

Waste shipments were suspended after February 5, when a truck hauling salt caught fire below ground. No one has re-entered the underground facility since an air-monitoring system detected the radiation release nine days later.

Teams of investigators equipped with self-contained breathing devices are expected to go below ground in coming weeks to determine what caused the leak, an Energy Department official said.

New Mexico regulates hazardous waste facilities under state law and also is granted authority by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue federal permits.

The immediate impacts on the repository, which has received up to 6,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste a year since it opened in 1999, were unclear though waste headed its way from a Los Alamos lab was detoured to Texas.

Federal officials could not say what would happen with above-ground drums at the WIPP that had been expected to be stored below ground.

The site’s contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Online at

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Bruce Hyer pushes nuclear waste group for more consultation (March 2014)

Bruce Hyer pushes nuclear waste group for more consultation

CBC NewsPosted: Mar 21, 2014 11:45 AM ETLast Updated: Mar 21, 2014 11:45 AM ET

A Thunder Bay MP is holding meetings in his riding concerning the possibility of nuclear waste disposal in northwestern Ontario.

Bruce Hyer, the MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, said the organization responsible for nuclear waste should consult more widely before choosing a site.

"To be blunt about it, I really hope it will light a fire under the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, he said.

Green Party MP Bruce Hyer is touring his riding this week, trying to find out what people think about having a nuclear disposal site in their neighbourhood.

The Green party member has organized meetings, trying to find out what people in places like Terrace Bay and Marathon think about having a nuclear disposal site in their neighbourhood.

The NWMO has narrowed down its list of 21 "willing host communities" to 15, including several in northwestern Ontario.

"But there’s no definition of a willing host community, and there are no geographical parameters around it, Hyer noted.

Hyer said the organization should be consulting with people in all communities that might be affected by a waste disposal site, including towns along transportation routes and neighbouring communities.

NWMO spokesman Mike Krizanc told the CBC that’s part of the plan, but "We’re very early in a very long process."
Mike Krizanc

Nuclear Waste Management spokesperson Mike Krizanc says any future nuclear waste disposal site will not be operational until at least 2035. (Supplied)

Krizanc said the waste disposal project will not be operational until at least 2035.

"There has been no potential site anywhere identified … So there is no transportation route, or mode of transportation yet been identified."

Both Hyer and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization will have the ear of municipal leaders from across the Thunder Bay district today. Hyer is addressing a meeting of the municipal league in Schreiber, and an official with Nuclear Waste Management will speak to the same group later in the day.

Hyer wraps up his series of community meetings in Nipigon tonight. Additional meetings are planned for Thunder Bay and Greenstone.

He is also gathering input through a published survey.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/bruce-hyer-pushes-nuclear-waste-group-for-more-consultation-1.2581562

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 | www.northwatch.org

U.S. delays moving armed convoys carrying nuclear waste through eastern Ontario (March 2014)

Lethal liquid from Chalk River to be moved to South Carolina facility

by Ian MacLeod, Ottawa Citizen, March 20, 2014

OTTAWA Armed convoys of trucks ferrying intensely radioactive liquid through eastern Ontario to the United States will be delayed for at least another 17 months, according to the U.S. government.

The Department of Energy, in its 2015 budget request to Congress released Wednesday, says the controversial shipments are not expected to begin moving to a U.S. nuclear reprocessing plant until September 2015, two years later than originally planned.

No reason was given, but the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) has slowed the anticipated approval process with extended questioning about the design of the steel casks to carry the 23,000 litres of toxic cargo to the Savanah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, South Carolina. A USNRC container certification decision is anticipated in June.

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13 workers exposed to radiation at New Mexico disposal plant (March 2014)

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 – 11:27am

Nearly two weeks after a radiation leak was reported at the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad, New Mexico, 13 employees have been notified that preliminary test results show they were exposed to radiation, officials said.

"It is important to note that these are initial sample results," DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and Nuclear Waste Partnership, its contractor, said in a statement Wednesday. "These employees, both federal and contractor, will be asked to provide additional samples in order to fully determine the extent of any exposure."

The release did not quantify the initial estimates of the exposure. "We can’t release that information," said Nuclear Waste Partnership spokesman Donavan Mager, who cited the HIPAA privacy rule. But, he added, the preliminary results indicate that the employees were exposed to americium, a man-made, radioactive metal.

He said a news conference would be held at 4 p.m. ET Thursday.

On Monday, DOE reported that tests on samples collected from numerous areas in the plant three and four days after the February 14 incident had found "slightly elevated" levels of airborne radioactivity.

"These concentrations remain well below a level of public or environmental hazard," the department said.

Dose assessment modeling of the leak "showed a potential dose of less than one millirem at each of the environmental sampling locations," about a tenth of the amount a person would receive from a chest X-ray, the DOE statement said.

"The average person living in the United States receives an annual dose of about 620 millirem from exposure to naturally occurring and other sources of radiation," it said.

According to its website, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) "safely disposes" of the nation’s defense-related radioactive waste.

Waste shipped to WIPP, which is 26 miles outside of Carlsbad, is "permanently" disposed of in rooms mined out of a salt formation 2,150 feet (0.4 miles) below the surface of the desert.

The waste generally consists of clothing, tools, equipment, sludge, soil or other materials contaminated with man-made radioactive elements that are heavier than uranium.

An alarm late on February 14 indicated higher than usual levels of airborne radiation and led to a first-of-its-kind response since the nuclear disposal facility began accepting waste in 1999.

An air monitor at the plant detected the spike in an isolated area below ground, which prompted the shutoff of filtered air from the facility into the environment around it.

"This is the first time we had to close off air filtered by the facility to the outside," Energy Department spokesman Gregory Sahd told CNN last week.

The radiation was first detected at 11:30 p.m., according to Sahd. He said the facility’s ventilation system, which monitors air quality, automatically switched to "filtration mode" when the leak was discovered.

Because of the location of the incident, Sahd said, there was little risk to employees. Those who were inside the above-ground area of the facility were quarantined until radiological control technicians cleared them to go home.

"No one was underground when the alarm went off," Sahd said. "And everyone that was in the facility (at the time), we know where they are and we’ve tested them."

Since the incident, access to the site has been limited to "essential personnel," and employees are checked for any external contamination when they leave.

& © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Posted at http://www.kwkt.com/news/13-workers-exposed-radiation-new-mexico-disposal-plant-0

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Monitors indicate 2nd, small radiation release from troubled nuclear waste dump in New Mexico (March 2014)

The Canadian Press – ONLINE EDITION By: The Associated Press – Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2014 at 7:56 PM

CARLSBAD, N.M. – New air sampling data from southeastern New Mexico’s troubled nuclear waste dump indicates there has been another small radiation release.

Department of Energy officials say a monitoring station picked up elevated radiation readings around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad on March 11. That’s nearly a month after a Valentine’s Day leak contaminated 17 workers and shut the only repository for toxic waste from the nation’s nuclear bomb-building program.

Engineers say they believe the contamination is from previous deposits on the inner surface of exhaust ductwork.

Officials say occasional low-level releases are anticipated, but they should be well within safe limits.

The plant has been shuttered since early February. Shipments were halted after a truck hauling salt through the repository’s tunnels caught fire. Nine days later, the plant’s alarms were triggered by the radiation release.


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U.S. Seeks Nuclear Waste-Research Revival in light of WIPP nuclear accident (March 2014)

By Jeff Tollefson and Nature magazine, March 4, 2014

A radiation leak has raised questions about the safety of the United States only deep nuclear-waste repository, and has given fresh voice to scientists calling for more research into underground waste storage.

On 14 February, radioactive plutonium and americium leaked out of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico, where thousands of drums of contaminated material from the US nuclear-weapons program are stored in salt beds more than half a kilometer below the surface. The health and environmental impacts seem to be minor, but 13 employees have tested positive for low-level contamination. The Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors are still working on a plan to re-enter the WIPP and find out what caused the leak.

The incident also brings renewed attention to a problem that policy-makers have been avoiding: what to do with a mounting stockpile of spent fuel from commercial reactors, which is currently stored at reactor sites. In 2010, the DOE mothballed plans to develop Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which since 1987 had been designated as the future site of an underground repository (see Nature 473, 266267; 2011). Researchers at the DOE and universities want to explore a variety of alternatives. But they say that they have been hobbled by small budgets and the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which prevents the DOE from investigating any specific site apart from Yucca Mountain.
Basically, all of the old ideas have come back out of the woodwork, says Michael Driscoll, a nuclear engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. But the first thing we need is Congress to wrestle with this and revise the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

For now, researchers are pursuing generic repository science that does not conflict with the law. In one large proposed experiment, DOE scientists wanted to assess whether salt beds at the WIPP could store radioactive waste that is hotter than the material they currently hold. In 2011, the team began developing a $31-million experiment that would have tested how the salt deforms when it is heated, and how water moves through it.

Other researchers are investigating the concept of dropping cylinders of nuclear waste into 5-kilometer-deep boreholes in hard rock such as granite. Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico is leading a consortium of researchers and companies seeking to drill an experimental borehole costing approximately $25 million. The hot-salt and borehole proposals are now competing for funding within the DOEs relatively small $15-million annual budget for this kind of research. Big tests like either of those would completely overwhelm the current budget, says Peter Swift, who heads the DOEs nuclear-waste science program at Sandia.
In Europe, scientists have developed expertise with other types of rock. Finland and France have homed in on proposed underground repositories in granite and shale, respectively. Germany has buried low- and medium-level wastes in underground domes of salt, and it is evaluating the terrain for a controversial high-level waste repository.
International collaboration gives researchers access to the basic science on all of these environments, says Jacques Delay, secretary-general of the Implementing Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste Technology Platform in Bure, France, a consortium that guides a roughly 10-million (US$14-million) joint research program under the European Commission. What is tricky is to make the link between the academic science and our projects, he says.

But basic research can go only so far, because the scientific assessment of repository safety is specific to local geology. After choosing a site, researchers must study the density, porosity and heat conductance of the rock there, and characterize any fractures and groundwater movement. Modeling and experiments help to determine how the rock will respond to the heat generated by the nuclear waste.

The United States spent more than $15 billion on Yucca Mountain before then-energy secretary Steven Chu pulled the plug, saying that the site was not a workable option broadly interpreted to mean that it was doomed politically, if not technically. The United States has evaluated few alternatives. The city of Carlsbad, which hosts the WIPP, is politically inclined to expand its nuclear-waste portfolio. But few other communities have shown interest in storing nuclear waste.
Some DOE researchers favor a serious exploration of borehole disposal, in part because no one has tested the idea, which dates back to the 1970s. Swift estimates that just 800 boreholes would take care of the existing US waste stockpile, as well as spent fuel from current reactors until about 2050. There is suitable rock at various depths across the country. You could spread these things out, and you wouldnt have to put all of your money on one site, says Patrick Brady, a geochemist at Sandia who is part of the labs borehole consortium.

Drilling constraints might limit these boreholes to less than 50 centimeters in diameter, so spent fuel rods, currently stored in large canisters, would need to be repackaged. However, a hole that size would be perfect for a major source of waste that the DOE is trying to dispose of: 2,000 highly radioactive capsules containing caesium and strontium from the Hanford Site, a decommissioned plutonium-production facility in Washington state. These capsules are 5256 centimeters long and up to 9 centimeters in diameter, and they contain 38% of Hanfords radioactivity. Swift says that they could all fit into a single borehole.
With research worldwide concentrating on underground repositories, Swift says that it is time to try a new concept: If we make a borehole, it will be the one that the rest of the world comes and looks at.

The article was first published on March 4, 2014 in the magazine Nature.
Online at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/us-seeks-nuclear-waste-research-revival1/

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Used fuel DGR open houses in Lucknow

By Don Crosby, Owen Sound Sun Times

Monday, March 3, 2014 11:14:12 EST AM



The Nuclear Waste Management Organization will hold a two-

day open house in Lucknow this week to talk to residents of Huron-Kinloss about what would be involved in becoming the storage sit

e for Canada’s high-level nuclear waste.

Huron-Kinloss is one of 15 communities across Canada still interested in being host to a deep geologic repository for the waste.

Last week the NWMO held a similar two-day event in Walkerton answering questions and sharing information with Brockton residents.

The week before that officials were in South Bruce, where NWMO officials met with members of several interested community groups including first responders, members of the local business community and residents seeking more information.

Huron-Kinloss, South Bruce and Brockton are still considering their options while Saugeen Shores and Arran-Elderslie have been eliminated as potential host communities in Bruce County.

Read more