KINCARDINE – In huge water pools and in reinforced concrete canisters at Ontario’s nuclear power plants lie 2.6 million bundles of hot rods.
Tonnes and tonnes of them — enough to fill seven hockey rinks to the half-boards with all of Canada’s spent nuclear fuel,radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
For those already worried about plans to bury Ontario’s low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste in Southwestern Ontario, at the bottom of a shaft deeper than the CN Tower is tall, all those spent fuel rods loom as an issue several magnitudes greater: where, or whether, to bury them all.
Borehole drilling may start as early as next year at three rural communities near Lake Huron that have asked to be part of the process.
Six northern Ontario communities are also on the shortlist for further study.
Like it or not, the fuel rods aren’t going away — and their number is growing at a rate of 90,00 bundles a year.
“Our generation, which has benefited from this (nuclear power), must take action now,” said Michael Krizanc, spokesperson for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, which is responsible for developing a plan to for the fuel rods.
“We have an ethical responsibility to manage the waste that we have produced, and not leave it to our children and grandchildren to deal with.”
The solution, NWMO believes, is a giant, deep repository to safeguard the rods through ice ages and the long march of time for up to a million years.
Enter the nine shortlisted communities, one of which is likely to be chosen as host of all Canada’s spent nuclear fuel.
Tuesday, during a tour and technical briefing at the Bruce Nuclear Power plant, the world’s largest operating nuclear complex, officials emphasized that the existing storage is secure but temporary.
Spent rods are now housed at each of Ontario’s nuclear power plants. They spend about 10 years cooling down in large pools before they’re encased in 73-tonne steel-and-concrete canisters designed to last for more than a century.
“We have responsibility” to find a permanent home for them, said Krizanc. “We can’t leave this at the surface forever and ever.”
A safe, deep vault is just wishful thinking, say some opponents.
“It is not a robust design specific to the long-term task of safeguarding highly radioactive nuclear waste,” says Brennain Lloyd of the group Northwatch in Northern Ontario. Instead, she said, the answer is to continue to improve storage on site in bunker-ized facilities with engineered barriers so their performance can be measured over time.
By Debora Van Brenk, The London Free Press, Tuesday, April 5, 2016 7:28:23 EDT PM, as posted at http://www.lfpress.com/2016/04/05/officials-are-looking-for-a-new-home-for-26-million-highly-radioactive-fuel-rods-from-nuclear-plants