OPG welcomes federal seal of approval on Kincardine nuclear waste site (May 2015)

12 May 2015 – CLARINGTON — Ontario Power Generation has welcomed a decision which gives an overall seal of approval to the controversial nuclear waste disposal site proposed for a subterranean crypt below the Bruce nuclear station near Kincardine.

Were pleased that the panel has given its approval, said OPGs Neal Kelly, who called the Kincardine project a permanent safe solution for nuclear waste disposal. Were very confident that you can store this material in rock 450 million years old and at a depth of 600 metres.

Its deeper than the CN Tower is tall.

He said OPG has been operating nuclear power plants like the Darlington plant in Clarington safely since the 1970s and multiple studies pointed to the Kincardine project being safe.

Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster had no safety concerns about the project itself or its proximity to the Great Lakes, adding that some criticism stemmed from people who had formed opinions before studies were finished.

An awful lot of work was done scientifically; theres a lot of science backing it up, said Mayor Foster. Regardless of the science some people are going to be opposed to it.

The panels favourable view of the project overcomes a major regulatory hurdle in the construction of the deep geologic repository, or DGR in industry jargon, which would see nuclear waste buried hundreds of metres underground near the shore of Lake Huron.

The Panel concludes that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects given the measures contemplated to curb them, says the report by the Joint Review Panel.

Supporters and opponents — there are 152 communities opposed to the project, including Toronto and Chicago — were poring over the report after it was released May 6, examining closely the conditions that the panel says should be imposed before the project can proceed.

OPG released a brief statement saying it is generally pleased with the report.

OPG developed the DGR with one goal in mind: to create permanent, safe storage for Ontarios low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste, said senior vice-president Laurie Swami. We are pleased with the Panels conclusion that the project will safely protect the environment.

However, environmentalists in Canada and the U.S. are likely to step up their opposition. Dozens of municipal councils around the Great Lakes are on record as being against it. Resolutions have also been presented in both houses of the U.S. Congress.

Beverly Fernandez, of Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, said that based on a perusal of the reports executive summary, she was deeply disappointed by its recommendations.

The last place to bury and abandon radioactive nuclear waste is beside the largest body of fresh water in the world, she said.

OPG proposes to bury 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from its nuclear power plants in a thick layer of limestone 680 metres below ground, about a kilometre from Lake Huron. The company says the rock is so solid and stable it will contain any possible leakage of harmful radioactivity.

The panel, which filed its report with federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, held hearings in the Kincardine area last year. Interveners who participated in those hearings have 120 days to file further comment, at which point the minister can approve the project and ask the panel to write detailed conditions for a construction licence.

OPG figures shovels could go in the ground by 2018 at the earliest, with the $1-billion facility opening no sooner than 2025.

Environmental approval is not all the project needs, however. OPG says it will not go ahead with the project over the objections of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, in whose traditional territory the site lies. Talks are continuing, but Saugeen has not yet given its agreement.

Kevin Kamps, a spokesman for Beyond Nuclear — a Maryland-based organization opposed to nuclear power — has yet to read the report, but he expressed concern that the project is still moving forward.

In our opinion, there are still a lot of half-baked aspects to this proposal, so its very disconcerting that its this deep into the decision-making process, he said.

He raised several concerns, including the risk of transport accidents involving vehicles shipping materials to the DGR, and potential leaks from the crypt into the environment, including the Great Lakes.

The drinking water supplies 40 million people in two countries, yes, and thats going to continue on for generations into the future … these wastes are hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years, if not longer, he said.

The panel report dismisses many of the fears raised by opponents at last years hearings, saying there would be no significant adverse effects on Lake Huron or the other Great Lakes.

Any release of radiation, it says, would be extremely low relative to current radiation levels in Lake Huron and negligible relative to dose limits for the protection of the public.

It agrees that the rock in which the DGR would be located is extremely stable. And fluids contained in the rock would travel at a snails pace, even in geological terms, so any radioactivity that might escape would decay before reaching the lake.

Though OPG decided to construct the waste storage facility at the Bruce site without thoroughly investigating alternative sites, the panel said the Bruce was a good choice.

The relative environmental effects of constructing a DGR on an undeveloped site would be higher than on the already disturbed Bruce nuclear site, it concludes.

There would be socio-economic challenges at an undeveloped site … In addition, the Bruce nuclear site is highly secure; thus, the risk of malevolent acts is already managed and low.

The panels proceedings were jolted in February, 2014, when an underground nuclear waste site in Carlsbad, N.M., leaked radiation to the surface, exposing a dozen workers to low doses of radioactivity.

The panel made several recommendations stemming from a review of that accident, but concluded that over all any accidents or malevolent acts are not likely to damage humans or other life forms.

Speaking to the Star after the release of the report, New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns, the partys energy critic, questioned whether the project is being modelled on that New Mexico facility.

One has to ask about that technology, and if its being modelled on a project that failed, Tabuns said.

Overall, the report says, the risk posed by a nuclear waste site is much less of a threat to the Great Lakes than numerous other factors, including invasive species, climate change and other forms of pollution.

The Panel is of the view that the relative position of the proposed project within the spectrum of risks to the Great Lakes is a minor one, albeit one that demands strict attention and regulation, it said.

Kincardine Mayor Anne Eadie said the project has always had the consistent support of her municipality.

What Ive been saying all along is we need the experts to decide, and they have put forward their recommendation, she said.

I want to stress that it was an objective assessment. The Joint Review Panel even opened up another session for public input last fall, just to make sure that everything was covered off I feel its been quite an extensive investigation in many different areas, not just the geology of the site.

Some critics say that storing the waste on the surface — as it is stored now — is better than burying it in deep caverns, which would be difficult to reach should radiation start leaking.

The panel disagreed, saying deep burial is safer than surface storage.

The Panel is of the view that the sooner the waste is isolated from the surface environment the better.

Clarington This Week, By Brad Andrews, read story at http://www.durhamregion.com/news-story/5612649-opg-welcomes-federal-seal-of-approval-on-kincardine-nuclear-waste-site/

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