The federal environment minister has put off for three months the hot-button decision about whether a nuclear waste vault can be built beneath the shores of Lake Huron near Kincardine.

Activists lobbying against the site applauded the delay, to March 1, 2016.

“I’m not surprised and I think it’s a good thing to do,” said David Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a group of 119 mayors in Canada and the U.S. that had collectively opposed the plan.

Ontario Power Generation is asking approval to bury dry waste from its nuclear power facilities into a limestone vault 680 metres underground, 1.6 kilometres from Lake Huron near Kincardine.

After months of hearings and examining tens of thousands of pages of documents, a joint review panel recommended the federal environment minister endorse the plan.

A decision was originally to have been made before the federal election in October, then was delayed until the beginning of December.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna sent notice Friday she would take an additional three months to deliberate.

Ullrich said it’s not surprising that the new Liberal government would want to review in depth the “incredibly large and complex file.â€

Ontario Power Generation spokesperson Neal Kelly, meanwhile, said, “we respect the minister’s decision and we await a decision from her.â€

Though the delay itself may not have been surprising, its timing – late on a Friday afternoon, as many decision-makers in Ottawa were preparing for a climate-change summit in France – was unexpected.

Kelly said OPG has been working on the plan for a decade and Kincardine has offered to be a willing host to the deep geologic repository (DGR).

Meanwhile, others who have fought against the repository were pleased to hear the decision is delayed.

“We are hopeful that the minister will act to protect the Great Lakes and will ultimately say no to the OPG plan,” said Beverly Fernandez, who has mobilized opposition to the deep geologic repository.

She said she is pleased that the government is postponing a decision that will have an impact on the Great Lakes for the 100,000 years.

Fernandez said 40 million people rely on Great Lakes water and any leak would be catastrophic.

Almost 200 communities have signed resolutions in opposition to the plan.

Ullrich said the only thing that would make the plan somewhat more acceptable to Great Lakes communities would be cancelling or moving it.

“I think that the farther it gets away from the shores of the Great Lakes, the likelier it would be to get support,†as long as a new location were on a stable foundation, he said.


Deep Geologic Repository:

  • Would take in waste from Ontario’s three nuclear power plants.
  • Would be located at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant, near Kincardine.
  • Would store 200,000 cubic metres (about the volume of a big-box store) of low- and intermediate-level waste from nuclear power plants.
  • Low-level waste includes incinerated ash of work gloves and other material that may have come into contact with nuclear facilities; intermediate-level waste includes resins that were in contact with the reactor or its parts.
  • Would be buried 680 metres below ground, as deep as the CN Tower is tall, in virtually impermeable limestone that hasn’t moved in more than 45 million years.

What next:

  • On March 1, 2016, the federal environment minister will say whether she will recommend to federal cabinet whether or not construction of the repository will go ahead.
  • Cabinet must then decide if it supports her recommendation.
  • The Saugeen Ojibway Nation has the potential to veto the repository, even if the federal government agrees to the plan.

By Debora Van Brenk, The London Free Press, Friday, November 27, 2015 6:44:50 EST PM, as posted at