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OPG nuclear waste site remains on hold, pending more studies

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 4/13/2017 11:38:00 AM

Progress remains stalled on Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) planned underground storage facility for nuclear waste following review of its latest submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). The CEAA has told OPG that the additional information it supplied at the CEAA’s request is not good enough and has asked for more about alternatives to OPG’s preferred site 680 metres below the surface and 1.2 km from the shore of Lake Huron.

The report and recommendation of the Joint Review Panel on the project have been on the desk of the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change since May 2015. Though the report found that, with certain mitigation measures, the project was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, it remains widely unpopular on both sides of the Canada-US border. The minister has so far avoided making a decision by requesting studies on technically and economically feasible alternative sites and an updated analysis of cumulative environmental effects of OPG’s recommended site.

OPG submitted its new analysis in December 2016 but, following a technical review and public comment period, the CEAA has declared it inadequate. The CEAA says that OPG’s selection of alternative locations is based on limited criteria, and that differences among locations have not been clearly described. It also takes issue with OPG’s analysis of cumulative environmental effects and its proposed mitigation measures. It has raised 21 specific issues and asked OPG to report on each.

OPG is proposing a deep geologic repository for low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste in a geologically stable rock formation 680 metres below the site of its Bruce nuclear power plant. According to OPG, the bulk of the waste, which is currently stored aboveground, will decay within 300 years, though a portion will remain radioactive for another 100,000 years. It argues that entombment deep below ground in geologically stable rock is the safest long-term option.

However, opponents argue that a site near the shore of one of the Great Lakes, the source of water for more than 40 million people, is the wrong choice.

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