Great Lake mayors pan deep-burial nuclear waste option (May 2015)

London Free Press – May 14, 2015: Great Lakes mayors have “serious concerns” about a federal review panel’s report green-lighting a proposal by Ontario’s power producer to bury nuclear waste deep below the province’s Bruce Peninsula.

And one mayor, Sarnia’s Mike Bradley, said Thursday he questions whether the federal government has the “moral authority” to decide the issue so late in the game, with a federal election due by October.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, in a written statement, suggested the federal review panel “has more work to do, especially with regard to considering other possible locations.”

The review panel last week recommended the federal environment minister issue a construction permit to Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to store low- and medium-level nuclear waste underground, in a storage vault more than half a km underground near Kincardine, in the shadow of the Bruce nuclear plant.

On both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, the proposal has come under sharp criticism by cities and environmentalists fearful it could menace the drinking water supply in the Great Lakes basin.

“The big issue is whether it makes sense to put it so close to one of the largest bodies of surface fresh water in the world that is the source of drinking water to over 40 million Canadians and Americans without considering other possible locations,” said the coalition of 142 Great Lakes municipalities.

The group stressed “caution and patience” before the government makes a decision, adding “an accident would cause irreparable, if not life-changing damage to fresh water that serves 40 million people.”

The coalition, including Chicago and Toronto, has been vocal in opposing OPG’s proposal to bury 200,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste from Ontario’s Pickering, Darlington and Bruce nuclear plants.

The environment minister has until September to decide whether to issue OPG a construction permit.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, whose community is part of the coalition, said Thursday he’d like to see the deadline extended past the federal election due by October.

He said opposition has been growing since the report was released and “I expect leading up to the election it’s going to be a significant issue.”

The issue is also becoming a political hot potato in the U.S. where Great Lakes communities are asking Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama to talk to the Canadian government.

Sarnia will hold a meeting of the coalition for the first time next month. While the nuclear issue isn’t on the agenda, “it would be impossible for it not to be discussed,” Bradley said.

The group has been effective in the past helping Bradley on issues including stopping the American Coast Guard from firing machine guns on the lakes and in pollution-spills issues.

“We’re an effective organization, but our only mission is to protect the Great Lakes,” he said. “This is like a thumb in the eye,” he said of the environmental review panel’s recommendation.

It was Bradley who took the nuclear issue to the group.

The only opposition was from Kincardine and the nearby area, “but the rest of the Great Lakes communities were appalled we were moving in this direction,” he said.

The radioactive waste that would be buried in the so-called deep geologic repository would not include spent nuclear fuel bundles, which are stored in pools of water at Ontario’s nuclear plants.

Last week’s report, more than 400 pages long, followed hundreds of hours of hearings into the proposal by the review panel, which also sifted through tens of thousands of pages of documents.

Bradley said scientific arguments raised against the proposal during the hearings didn’t seem to matter.

“It was like a mosquito hitting a windshield at 70 miles per hour. It didn’t seem to matter. It was brushed off,” he said.

OPG needs not just federal approval to build the burial site, but approvals to fill and operate it.

The utility has said it would not proceed without the permission of the area First Nation. The Saugeen Ojibway First Nation has already indicated it’s not in support of the plan.

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

DGR Is Preferred Nuclear Waste Solution for Canada, Scary for U.S. (May 2015)

05/09/2015 | Power Magazine: A Canadian joint review panel issued an environmental assessment report on May 6 for a deep geologic repository (DGR) for long-term management of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste (L&ILW), concluding that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) proposed the DGR, intending to locate the facility at the Bruce nuclear power plant. Bruce is located on a 2,300-acre site on the shores of Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario. The station is comprised of eight CANDU reactors, with a combined capacity of 6,300 MW. Bruce was a POWER Top Plant in 2013 after it refurbished and returned Units 14 to service.

The DGR would be used to store L&ILW from the Bruce, Pickering, and Darlington nuclear stations. Currently, the waste is being stored at a surface facility on the Bruce site. As proposed, the DGR would be an underground disposal facility for more than seven million cubic feet of L&ILW.

The DGR would be constructed about 2,230 feet below ground in limestone that is part of the Cobourg Formation. The facility would include two shafts, tunnels, emplacement rooms, and various underground service areas and installations. The total surface footprint, however, is expected to be less than 75 acres.

Material stored at the facility would include low-level waste, such as protective clothing, floor sweepings, mops, and rags; and intermediate-level waste, such as used reactor core components, refurbishment waste, and resins and filters from nuclear reactor operations. Storage would be for the very long term, but no spent nuclear fuel would be allowed in the facility.

One item that has raised concern, not only in Canada but also in the U.S., is the projects proximity to Lake Huron­roughly three-quarters of a mile from shore. In April, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) filed House Resolution 194 and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) filed Senate Resolution 134, both co-authored by Republican-party members, expressing that the President and the Secretary of State should ensure that the Government of Canada does not permanently store nuclear waste in the Great Lakes Basin.

The Canadian joint review panel was established in January 2012 to assess the proposed project, consider the license application, and obtain information about potential adverse effects of the project. The proposed DGR is unique in that it would be the first of its kind in North America. It would also be the first in the world to use limestone as its host rock formation.

The report concludes, the DGR is the preferred solution for the long-term management of L&ILW. Furthermore, it says, the DGR should be built now rather than later, suggesting that removing waste from the current surface storage facility would reduce risk to human health and the environment.

The review panel found the geology at the site to be highly suitable for the DGR. The Cobourg Formation is said to have very low permeability and is underneath more than 650 feet of shale-rich bedrock. The report says the host rocks have remained stable for more than one million years, through nine glaciations, with no evidence that glacial meltwater has been able to reach the Cobourg Formation for at least two and a half million years. The panel found that the area is not prone to frequent or large earthquakes either.

The Canadian government will now review the panels report before issuing a decision on whether the project may proceed.

Nuclear waste disposal has been in the news recently in the U.S. as well. Last week, Holtec International and Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance announced a memorandum of agreement to build an interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in the southeast corner of New Mexico. Previous to that, Valhi Inc. announced that it intends to apply for a license to store used nuclear fuel at a facility in Andrews County, Texas.

­Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine), as posted at

New Mexico Senators Comment on Proposed Interim Nuclear Waste Facility (May 2015)

Friday, May 8, CIBOLA COUNTY – “I don’t think we should be talking about this at all while the state and the federal Department of Energy are still addressing the serious accident and radiation release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, said U.S. Senator Tom Udall last week in a press release. Senators Martin Heinrich and Udall issued a joint statement questioning the concept that New Mexico may become an interim storage site for high-level nuclear waste.

“Several aspects of this proposal concern me. No matter where it’s built, I will not support an interim disposal site without a plan for permanent disposal ­ whether the site is in southeastern New Mexico or anywhere else in the country — because that nuclear waste could be orphaned there indefinitely, said Udall who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. When WIPP opened, New Mexicans understood that we were making our contribution to helping solve the [nuclear waste] storage problem.”

“Southeastern New Mexico should be commended for its leadership in the nuclear industry, including being home to WIPP, the nations only deep geologic repository for transuranic nuclear weapons waste and an integral part of the environmental clean-up of Cold War programs at Department of Energy defense sites,” added Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “But I cannot support establishing an interim storage facility until we are sure there will be a path forward to permanent disposal. There must be an open and transparent process that allows for input on what’s best for our entire state.”

Several area residents comments at the May 1 New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division public hearing echoed that same concern. One Navajo tribal member urged officials to indefinitely delay approval of any uranium mining activities until a permanent storage facility has been developed for non-military nuclear waste.

Read the rest of the story at

Saugeen First Nations Prepared To Fight Proposed Nuclear Waste Repository At Bruce Power (May 2015)

The chief of the Saugeen First Nation says he has Ontario Power Generations word that the planned underground storage for nuclear waste at Bruce Power will not go ahead without his support.

Chief Vernon Roote says there is a potential of a natural disaster creating a leak in the repository, and contaminating the worlds largest source of fresh water for many generations.

“It would go downstream, and pollute the fresh water that people need to sustain themselves,” says Roote. “There are enough problems already with the lack of fresh water, and here we are basically creating a potential issue for the future.”

He says they have treaty rights that need to be addressed, and are prepared for a legal battle

“That’s a fight that we have prepared for if they go ahead with their own proposal without our consent, and of course that’s going to go against the consultation process about duty to consult with our community,” says Roote.

The Joint Review Panel this week recommended approval of a Deep Geologic Repository to store 200,000 cubic metres of dry low-and-intermediate level nuclear waste nearly 700 metres below the Bruce nuclear site.

As posted at By Janice MacKay on May 8, 2015 1:03pm

Michigan congresswoman targets Canadian waste-dump plan near Lake Huron (May 2015)

Ripon Advance News Service | Friday, May 8, 2015 – After a report from a Canadian Joint Review Panel, which recommended that the Canadian government approve Ontario Power Generations proposed plan to build a deep geological repository for nuclear waste near Lake Huron, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) spoke out against the proposal on Thursday.

Millions of peoples social and economic livelihoods are dependent on the Great Lakes and their precious resources, including the fresh drinking water they supply for millions, Miller said. That is why it is so critical we do everything within our means to preserve and protect them for future generations, which includes preventing the storage of nuclear waste in close proximity to Lake Huron, as proposed by the Ontario Power Generation company.

Miller reiterated that she had submitted a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry in February, requesting that he engage the International Joint Commission to encourage the Canadian government to reassess its plans to dump nuclear waste near Lake Huron and suggested that such a move could endanger the Great Lakes, as well as the health of the region’s residents. Miller said she is concerned that the plan is closer to reality, now that the Canadian Joint Review Panel has endorsed it.

Storing radioactive nuclear waste within a mile of Lake Huron unnecessarily puts our magnificent lakes in danger posing a threat to both the U.S. and Canadian residents who rely on them, Miller said. We must act before it is too late, which is why I am calling on Secretary Kerry again to take action. Canada has always been a great neighbor and ally of the U.S., as well as a great steward of the lakes, and I believe that, working through the International Joint Commission, we can come up with a viable alternate site for their proposed nuclear waste facility.

Additionally, instead of just pointing fingers at the Canadians, the U.S. should address its own nuclear storage facility issues and finally advance the long-studied, overdue nuclear waste repository in (Nevada’s) Yucca Mountain that Senate Democrats have blocked, Miller said.

See story at

Benishek opposes nuclear waste storage plan by Lake Huron (May 2015)

May 8, 2015 – MARQUETTE – U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, reaffirmed his opposition Thursday to Canadian storage of nuclear waste from power plants underground, less than a half-mile from Lake Huron.

As posted at

Pavlov: Canadian panel’s decision a staggering mistake (May 2015)

May 7, 2015 – ST. CLAIR TWP. ­ State Sen. Phil Pavlov responded with shock and disappointment after Canadas Deep Geologic Repository Joint Review Panel announced Wednesday it has recommended the construction of a permanent Canadian nuclear waste repository on the shores of Lake Huron.

It is extremely troubling that the Joint Review Panel finds it acceptable to bury seven million cubic feet of radioactive waste less than one mile from the shore of Lake Huron, threatening the health of the entire Great Lakes region, said Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township. More than 75 Michigan communities, along with local government agencies in other U.S. states and Canada, passed official resolutions opposing this project, but this unelected panel has turned a deaf ear.

The JRP has sent a report of their recommendations to Canadian Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq. Aglukkaq has four months to study the report before deciding whether to approve it.

In the 1980s, Canadian officials were rightly concerned about possible nuclear waste 25 miles from their border. They were right to oppose that project then, and they are tragically wrong to let this waste dump project go forward now, Pavlov said.

In 1986, Canadas secretary of state for external affairs expressed opposition to a potential nuclear waste site in Maine. Last September, Pavlov addressed members of the Joint Review Panel and asked them to adhere to the standard their own government set for nuclear waste storage in 1986.

Pavlov sponsored measures last year designed to halt construction of the Kincardine, Ontario, facility while strengthening Michigans protection of natural resources against radioactive waste. The Michigan Senate unanimously approved the legislation in June.

Several key conservation groups had registered their support for the legislative package, including Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Michigan Environmental Council, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Sierra Club Michigan and Michigan League of Conservation Voters. In addition, thousands of citizens signed a petition at demanding that President Obama exercise the United States international rights to stop the project.

With todays decision, the worlds largest supply of fresh water is in peril, said Pavlov, the vice chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. It is a sad day for Michigan, Canada and every state in the Great Lakes basin.

Canada’s Fifth National Report for the Joint Convention on Nuclear Fuel Waste now available (May 2015)

On May 7, 2015, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission posted the fifth annual report for the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. The October 2014 Report (PDF) and May 2014 “ Responses to questions presented to Canada” (PDF) are available on the CNSC web site.

The reports are filed each three years by signator countries, and describes how Canada met its obligations under the terms of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management during the reporting period from April 2011 to March 2014.

“A collaboration of government, industry and the regulatory body, this report focuses specifically on the progress of long-term management initiatives for spent fuel and radioactive waste in Canada, revisions and updates to Canadas fourth national report, and comments and issues raised at the Fourth Review Meeting, which took place in May 2012.”

The report includes discussion of continued implementation and ongoing funding of the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program (NLLP), the status of the Nuclear Waste Management Organizations (NWMO) site selection process for a deep geological repository for the long-term management of Canadas spent fuel, and the status of Ontario Power Generations (OPG) Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for its lowand intermediate-level radioactive waste (L&ILW) site preparation and construction licence application, as of mid 2014.

Nuclear waste: 5 things to know about the Lake Huron bunker project (May 2015)

Environment minister to make final decision by September

CBC News Posted: May 07, 2015

A federal panel has just given its OK to Ontario Power Generation’s plan to store nuclear waste in a deep underground bunker near Kincardine, Ont., near the shore of Lake Huron. The joint review panel said “the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.”

As one might expect, that decision did not sit well with those who say the project will pose a threat to the Great Lakes, especially Lake Huron, which lies just 1.2 kilometres from the proposed disposal site. The major concern is that radioactivity might eventually leak into the main source of drinking water for 40 million Canadians and Americans.

While the panel’s favourable review does not amount to a final green light for the project, it is a victory for the plan’s supporters.

Here are some key questions about what the storage project is all about: