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article imageOp-Ed: Lake Huron is not the best place for a nuclear waste dump

By Karen Graham     Jul 16, 2014 in Environment
What would you think if you found out a company was going to build a nuclear waste dump right next to one of the Great Lakes? It seems that this is what has been proposed, but a lot of people are questioning the feasibility of such a project.
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is a public company totally owned by the province of Ontario. The company was established in 1999 under the Ontario Progressive Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris. OPG is currently the largest owner of nuclear power plants in Canada.
At the present time, 60 percent of Ontario's electricity comes from three nuclear power plants owned by OPG. They include the Pickering, Darlington and Bruce nuclear facilities. In 2005, OPG initiated the regulatory approval process for the construction of a deep geologic repository on the Bruce Nuclear site, or in other words, a nuclear waste dump.
Proposed location of nuclear waste dump
Proposed location of nuclear waste dump
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The first part of the regulatory approval process was an assessment of any environmental impacts, positive or negative. In June of 2007, John Baird, the Minister of the Environment sent the assessment to a review panel, saying "I am confident that a review panel is the most appropriate type of environmental assessment for this project. I believe that this public process will help Canadians to understand the potential impacts of this project."
From that review board has come many additional environmental assessment review boards, including those with public participation. In the course of these reviews, in 2012, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was rewritten, and this caused some additional delays with getting the project approved. Then came the accident in New Mexico.
In February, radiation was detected underground and in the air almost one mile from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, where radioactive materials from the nuclear weapons program are stored. The facility, the world’s only deep geologic repository, had only been in use for 15 years and is closed for now. This accident raised concerns with many Canadians, further delaying the approval process.
WIPP Carlsbad N.M. Radiation Leak
Fer. 27 2014.
WIPP Carlsbad,N.M. Radiation Leak Fer. 27,2014.
Carl Anderson
The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station site
The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is the largest nuclear power plant in the world, based on the total number of reactors and the actual number of reactors in operation. Occupying 2,300 acres (932 ha) on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, it derives its name from Bruce County where it is located.
The Bruce facility is also the site of OPG's Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF). The WWMF is used to store all the low and intermediate level radioactive waste generated from the operation of OPG's 20 nuclear reactors, including reactors leased to Bruce Power. As of 2009, there were 11 low level storage buildings on the site. Besides storage of the low and intermediate level waste, the WWMF also stores the dry fuels used in the Bruce reactors at this site.
The proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) would be located next to OPG's Western Waste Management Facility. The DRG would be 2,230 feet below ground, in sedimentary shale and limestone rocks that have remained stable for more than 450 million years, according to OPG. The actual site will be at least one kilometer from Lake Huron.
Opposition to the project
The low and intermediate level nuclear waste is to consist of items such as mop heads, rags, paper towels and protective clothing. Other items, like ion-exchange resins and filters used to purify water systems, and used reactor parts would also be included. With knowing all these facts, a great many people, including medical organizations, scientists and everyday citizens of both Canada and the U.S. joined together in questioning the safety of a nuclear waste dump so close to the Great Lakes and voicing their opposition to the project.
Storage of low level nuclear waste in the ground.
Storage of low level nuclear waste in the ground.
Their fears are justified, especially in light of the New Mexico radiation leak. Now, people living in states and provinces surrounding the Great Lakes are fearful of a radiation leak contaminating the water source for an estimated 40 million people. According to Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, burying such highly toxic wastes in limestone next to 21 percent of the world’s fresh water “defies common sense.”
The group's website also points out “There are no precedents anywhere in the world for burying radioactive nuclear waste in limestone. The repository must function to safely contain the nuclear wastes for over 100,000 years. No scientist or geologist can provide a 100,000 year guarantee.” After all, the Great Lakes are only 12,000 years old.
To date, the Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump group has over 62,000 signatures on a petition to stop the building of the dump. In addition, many cities and communities around the site have signed resolutions opposing the dump. These include the Canadian cities of Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor and more. Local governments in the states of Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Ohio, as well as The United Tribes of Michigan, representing 12 First Nations, is also opposed.
Those in opposition to the construction of a nuclear waste repository also remind us that the Great Lakes are already under threat, from pollution, invasive species, agricultural fertilizer and pesticide run-off, climate change and who knows what else. Adding the waste dump would tip the scales toward the negative, and that is definitely not in human-kinds favor. Hearings on the project are set to re-open on September 9, 2014.c
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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