Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna has said the environmental assessment is insufficient.
For opponents of the Deep Geologic Repository proposed by Ontario Power Generation, the news that Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna has “paused the timeline” on the project is not good news enough.
Opposition voices have been crying for an outright “no” from Ottawa, as the deadline loomed for what had been promised as a March 1 decision on the plan to bury 200,000 cubic metres of low and intermediate-level radioactive waste approximately 1.2 km from the Lake Huron shore.
Yet in asking for further studies McKenna has signalled that the Environmental Assessment Report of the joint review panel, four years in the making, is insufficient, a decision that hardly seemed likely in the Stephen Harper era. And her request for additional technical studies and information on potential environmental effects highlights what has always been a fundamental flaw in OPG’s proposal: that no other site was drill-tested and environmentally assessed.
OPG’s plan as is consists of constructing a crypt on the Bruce nuclear power site, plunging 680 metres deep beneath sedimentary rock to a strata of limestone. The DGR would be the first in the world to use limestone as the host rock.
But back up a step. As the joint review panel report makes clear, this journey more than a decade in the making was kick-started by discussions initiated by the municipality of Kincardine, and it was the municipality that subsequently identified a DGR as its preferred option for long-term storage.
In an interview last spring, Jerry Keto, vice-president of nuclear decommissioning at OPG, said this: “We were fortunate that when the municipality approached OPG that the rock that underlies this site met all requirements for a DGR, met all of the safety requirements for a DGR, so there was no compelling reason to go look for another piece of property, if everything we needed was right here, and was completely safe.”
The compelling reason might have been to demonstrate that the proposed site is superior in risk assessment to other options.
Going all the way back to the ’70s, there’s been talk in the province of a deep repository for fuel waste — the spent bundles. “There’s been decades of testing in granite that (Atomic Energy of Canada) did out in Whiteshell labs in granite, there have been countries looking for repositories in their own country, and many of those are in granite,” Keto said. “We are the first to be in this type of rock. And in consultation with those countries and geologists around the world we’re kind of the envy because of the good nature of the rock that we have that underlies this site. It’s as good a rock as you can find. And it’s less complicated than granite because it’s so laterally predictable, stable, whereas granite can present other challenges in terms of fracturing and that sort of thing. You can still find an adequate site in granite but this rock is ideal rock.”
When the review panel agreed with OPG that the Bruce site is the “preferred” site, it did not mean that it was preferred over other assessed sites, but rather preferred over other storage options (i.e., above ground storage) and preferred over any options involving transportation to another location.
So the question becomes: is the Bruce site the optimum location for the disposal of rags and floor sweepings (low-level waste) and reactor core components (medium level) or merely the most expedient?
In that interview, Keto expressed exasperation over U.S. politicians using their opposition to the DGR as a vote-getting foghorn. “Technically, there’s no reason to be concerned for the safety of this site and its proximity to the lake,” he said. “The lake is almost irrelevant in the discussion in how geologically isolated this site is from the lake.”
Technically, the new environment minister clearly needs convincing.
READ FULL STORY
By: Jennifer Wells Business Columnist, Toronto Start, Published on Sun Feb 21 2016, as posted at http://www.thestar.com/business/2016/02/21/kincardine-nuclear-waste-sites-paused-timeline-not-enough-for-opponents.html