Canadian officials request technical information on nuclear waste site near Lake Huron, again





Critics opposed to Ontario Power Generations plan to build an underground nuclear waste dump on the shore of Lake Huron were encouraged by news that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has requested more comprehensive information.

OPG has repeatedly ignored the questions or danced over them, said Dr. Ellen Dailey, vice-president of the SOS Great Lakes, a bi-national organization opposing the plan, and a surgeon from Erie, Pennsylvania, whose family has a summer home north of the proposed site. CEAAs 15-page letter reflects many of the concerns which we have held about this potentially disastrous project. This letter signals that the Canadian government will not accept superficial responses from Ontario Power Generation, who have been reluctant to provide answers regarding other potential sites. CEAA have clearly asked for additional information and clarification on three major issues: alternate sites, cumulative effects and mitigation, all of which were concerns we highlighted in our 120-page submissions to CEAA opposing the project.

Last February, Canadas Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, asked the OPG for more information including less risky alternatives than near the Great Lakes. The OPG responded with alternate sites that were not only by freshwater lakes and streams but people, sidewalks, and businesses.

When we looked at the GPS coordinates one of them was in a densely populated area of downtown Toronto, said Beverly Fernandez, spokesperson for Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, another citizens group opposing the plan. And probably the most bizarre choice, a spit of land right under the Burlington Skyway Bridge.

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This is the fifth time that OPG has side-stepped a specific government request to study alternative sites, according to SOS Great Lakes director Rod McLeod.

We have yet to digest the full implications of the CEAA directive but this is a positive step in obtaining answers about this project that should have been made public years ago, Dailey said. Certainly the people of the Great Lakes region deserve more substantive answers from the OPG than off-handed quips like the DGR may be geographically close to Lake Huron, but geologically its a million miles away.

The fiercely debated plan to build what is called a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) has been going on for 14 years.

The plan as proposed by the OPG is to construct an underground permanent burial facility for all of Ontarios low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ont.

The site is less than a mile inland from the shores of Lake Huron and about 440 yards below the lake level. Kincardine, a small community about 114 miles upstream from Port Huron, agreed to have the facility in their town but will be financially compensated.

If and when the DGR is in place, an estimated 52 million tons of nuclear waste will be shipped to the site from other nuclear plants around Canada. Some of those discarded materials will remain toxic for more than 100,000 years as they are stored in limestone caverns. Once full, the shafts are to be sealed with sand, clay and concrete.

OPG has assured the residents and the public, Years of scientific research have shown that the geology under the Bruce nuclear site is ideal for a DGR; it is some of the tightest rock in the world, impermeable limestone that has remained intact through 450 million years, multiple ice ages and glaciers.

Great or not, it has never been done before and the only examples in the world that have come close have all failed, opponents point out.

The three sites include the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New Mexico and two German site, Asse II and Morslenben, both former salt mines.

Even if this new location appears safe, Dailey said it is not worth the risk to the largest source of fresh water on the planet.

My hope would be that this time they (OPG) say, We give up, Dailey said. Lets regroup and come up with a different plan. Thats what we all want.

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) would likely agree. Following the statement by the Canadian government, he was among the first to cheer for the request.

There is growing opposition, both in the U.S. and Canada, to this dangerous nuclear waste site, and the public pressure is being heard loud and clear, he said, in a press release. The Canadian governments decision to request more information from OPG, including on alternative sites, is another delay for this dangerous plan. I am hopeful that the Canadian government will reject this site so close to the Great Lakes.

However, Kildee warned citizens not to think the battle has been won.

The fight is not over, he said. People need to continue raising their voices in opposition to this proposed site.