Decision delayed on lakeside nuclear waste disposal (December 2015)

OTTAWA—For the second time, a decision on whether or not to approve a low-level and intermediate-level waste at the Bruce Nuclear site, the Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) proposed by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), located just a few hundred metres from the waters of Lake Huron, has been delayed.

Over the past two years there have been extensive hearings on the proposed nuclear waste site, with vigorous objections raised by First Nations and state and municipal leaders on both sides of the border. Despite the opposition to the proposal, the Joint Review Panel recommended approval of the project and a decision was expected in early December.

That decision was first delayed by federal election and now the fate of the DGR project lies in the hands of the new federal minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna. On November 27, Minister McKenna announced the decision will be delayed to March 1 of next year. For its part, OPG issued a statement that it respects the minister’s need for more time to review the Joint Review Panel’s recommendation before deciding whether to move forward with the project.


By Michael Erskine, Dec 16, 2015, Manitoulin Expositor, as posted at

Russian to build underground research laboratory for “final disposal” of radioactive waste (December 2015)

Russia’s radioactive waste operator No RAO said today it can apply for a licence to build an underground research laboratory in the Krasnoyarsk region now that documents it prepared for the project have received approval from state environmental agency experts. Earlier this year, public hearings on the plan were held in the city of Zheleznogorsk and “most participants spoke in favour of a unique research center for studies into the possibility of final disposal of Classes 1 and 2 of radioactive waste”, it said. Construction of the laboratory is planned to start next year, it added.

World Nuclear News, December 15, 2015

Japan to consider ocean disposal of nuclear waste (December 2015)

The industry ministry will consider the feasibility of burying high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants under the seabed, which a working panel said Dec. 11 could be a “highly appropriate” solution.

In an interim report on disposal methods of highly contaminated materials from spent nuclear fuel, the panel said such waste could be disposed of in adjacent waters within 20 kilometers of the coastline.

It called the disposal method relatively realistic because the circulation of groundwater at sea is not as strong as on land. The panel said the site should be created in adjacent waters so that nuclear waste can easily be transported by ships.


December 12, 2015,THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, as posted at

Saugeen Nation May Be Final Word in Nuclear Waste Storage Next to Lake Huron (December 2015)

Lots of voices have been heard about whether to dig a deep geological repository for storing low- and medium-level nuclear waste about half a mile down and less than a mile from Lake Huron.

Canadian and U.S. environmental groups and even members of the U.S. Congress have registered protests; some local municipality councils voted support, and a federally appointed joint review panel recommended licensing it. A decision, originally scheduled for mid-December, has been delayed until March 1, when Ontario Power Generation may get a decision from the Ministry of the Environment about proceeding with its multimillion dollar, multi-decade project.

But whether a repository is constructed at that site could come down to just one voice —that of the people of the Saugeen First Nation.

“Ontario Power Generation had given us their commitment that they will not proceed unless they have community support. That’s a letter that we have on file,” Saugeen Chief Vernon Roote told Indian Country Today Media Network. Roote publically expressed his opposition in the November 2015 Saugeen News, and also noted that he was concerned about simply moving the facility near other First Nations. “We might not be the best of friends when we push nuclear waste on our brothers’ and sisters’ territory.”

Saugeen leaders are determining how to gauge the community voice—by vote at public gatherings or perhaps at the polls—and whether they will favor the facility or not. They’ve held engagement sessions on the issue.

“There’s a big gap between now and then in terms of communicating with the community,” Roote said of any final decision. “The community needs to be educated before they can understand. I can’t say what the community will provide for an answer.”

“We will not build this facility without their support. We are on record with that; we’ve been very clear about that,” agreed Ontario Power spokesperson Neal Kelly. “We’re learning about the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, we’re learning about their history, about their way of life. And on the flipside, they’re learning about Ontario Power Generation. Hopefully there will be a positive resolution, but we’re very much in the learning phase.”

Ontario Power is pursuing a permanent storage solution for waste generated in the past 50 years by its three nuclear power operations, including the Bruce Power Plant, where the repository would be located.

“We have a long list of fears, legitimate fears in our community about these facilities, interaction with our rights, our interests and our way of life,” then–Saugeen Ojibwe Nation Chief Randall Kahgee told Indian Country Today Media Network in 2013.

By Konnie LeMay, 12/11/15, as posted in Indian Country


1986 ban on NH nuke waste burial was repealed in 2011 (December 2015)

It’s unclear who took the action or why it was taken

Rep. Renny Cushing was writing 2016 legislation that would charge Seabrook Station $500,000 annually to store high-level radioactive waste onsite when the longtime anti-nuclear activist stumbled across a stunning discovery.

The law that was passed 30 years ago prohibiting an underground radioactive waste dump in New Hampshire had been quietly repealed as part of the 2011 state budget bill.

It was repealed so quietly that it never made the news, unlike the thousands of headlines generated by the 1986 protests that prompted its passage.

“I found out about it almost by accident,” said Cushing, a Hampton Democrat.

Cushing co-founded the anti-nuclear group Clamshell Alliance in 1976 to fight the construction of the nuclear power plant in Seabrook.

“There were town meeting votes taken all over the state in 1986 that were opposed to the siting of a high-level radioactive waste dump here,” Cushing said.

Voters in 100 towns approved a non-binding warrant article that year that opposed “the burial, storage, transportation and production of high-level nuclear waste in New Hampshire.”

“The Legislature got up in arms and decided to be proactive about it” and passed New Hampshire’s High-Level Radioactive Waste Act – the one repealed in 2011, Cushing said.

Cushing quickly rewrote his proposed 2016 legislation, which would charge a fee for storing nuclear waste onsite, so it will now include reactivating the 1986 law banning burial of radioactive nuclear waste.

Cushing had asked the Office of Legislative Services to borrow some definitions from the original language from 1986 after he was notified it had been repealed.

Industry conundrum

When the U.S. Department of Energy listed New Hampshire in 1985 as one of a dozen eastern states under consideration for an underground nuclear waste repository, the protests were loud and many.

The DOE was exploring New Hampshire’s granite, especially in Hillsborough and the surrounding area, for a second repository. Yucca Mountain in Nevada was to be the first such repository and is still the DOE choice, but the project was never funded.

“There were no public hearings on this repeal,” Cushing said. “So New Hampshire has become the first state that’s rescinded its opposition to having a nuclear waste site here.”


NH Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, is filing legislation to reactivate a repealed law that prohibited burying radioactive nuclear waste in the state.

By Nancy West/, Published: December 10, 2015 at

Storing Nuclear Waste In Salt Deposits Isn’t As Secure As You’d Think

Don’t brine the fuel rods just yet

Salt has a hidden dark side, and we’re not talking about high blood pressure or heart disease. Unfortunately for us, it might not be as good at storing nuclear waste as we once thought.

A study published in November in Science Advances finds that we might have to take our assumptions about the mineral deposits with a grain of salt. But let’s start back at the beginning, with why dry-packing nuclear waste in salt became our go-to nuclear storage solution.

For decades, underground salt deposits have been held up as the ideal storage sites for nuclear waste. Currently, the only nuclear waste repository in the United States, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, is situated in a salt deposit 2,000 feet thick. Why? Because salt deposits are remarkably stable.

The deposits at WIPP were formed 250 million years ago when a vast salty sea covered the interior of our continent. As the sea dried up, the evaporating water left behind vast deposits of salt. In the intervening years, the salt has stayed firmly in place, compacted under layers of rock. It flows and deforms a little bit, but without water to evaporate it or earthquakes to create giant cracks in it, the moving salt can ‘heal’ small cracks that might develop. Because of its stable history, the government looks at the formation as a good place to put nuclear waste–any cracks that might allow for leakage would be quickly sealed up without any human intervention, and it’s deep enough (the WIPP facility starts nearly half a mile below the surface). Similar salt deposits are also used to hold some of our oil reserves.

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, in this recent paper, researchers found that some liquids were able to make it through similar layers of salt. Generally, scientists assume that oil can’t make it through salt barriers in the earth–the viscous liquid can’t soak through the dense salt. But in the new research scientists found that in high temperatures and pressures, like those found deep in the earth, salt can become more porous, allowing even fluids like oil (which don’t dissolve salt like water) to leak through. An oil leak is bad enough, but we generally have an even stronger desire to keep nuclear waste where we put it, and if fluid can leak out of a salt barrier, it might also be able to leak in, picking up radioactive material and spreading it around.

So, should we panic? No. The researchers aren’t saying that we’re all doomed, just that waste repositories like the WIPP might need to take the porosity of salt into even greater account when sealing off nuclear waste for millions of years.

Currently, WIPP has more pressing issues to worry about. In February 2014, a fire broke out in the WIPP facility and in another incident, some nuclear waste was released. In the first case, a truck came in contact wit a hot surface, causing the fire, but the cause of the radiation leak is still unknown. WIPP has not accepted any new imports of nuclear waste since that time.

By Mary Beth Griggs Posted 7 December 2015 at 3:12pm, as posted at

Nuclear Waste Burial Sites May Become Leaky (December 2015)

Dec 4, 2015 12:11 PM ET // by Patrick J. Kiger

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Nuclear waste is stored 2,150 feet underground at a federal facility near Carlsbad, N.M.

U.S. Department of Energy

Salt formations, used by the United States and Germany for storage of nuclear waste, might not be as impermeable to groundwater as once believed.

That’s the worrisome conclusion of a new study published in the journal Science by University of Texas at Austin researchers, who warn that nuclear waste might leak if storage vessels fail.

The researchers used field testing and 3-D micro-CT imaging of laboratory experiments to study salt deposits’ ability to stop fluid flow at shallow depths, a quality that allows oil reservoirs to form. Scientists have long suspected that salt becomes permeable at greater depth.

When the researchers studied salt formations in oil and gas wells, however, they discovered that not only was it permeable deep down, but that fluids sometimes flowed through the salt even at shallow depth.

VIDEO: Where Do We Store Nuclear Waste?

The problem may be the plasticity of rock salt. When it deforms, tiny isolated pockets of brine, or salty water, form between salt crystals and link them to a pore network that allows fluids to move. This can happen naturally, even when the salt deposit isn’t disturbed further by humans.

“The critical takeaway is that salt can develop permeability, even in absence of mining activity,” assistant professor Marc A. Hesse of the Jackson School’s Department of Geological Sciences, said in a press release. “Further work is necessary to study the quantity of flow that can occur.”

The research has important implications for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a 26-year-old facility near Carlsbad, N.M., where the government has placed 55-gallon drums containing 91,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste from its nuclear weapons program.


Dec 4, 2015 12:11 PM ET // by Patrick J. Kiger