U.S. Water News Online
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- A Canadian energy company's
proposal to bury waste from nuclear power plants near the Lake Huron
shore in Ontario is drawing protests from a member of the U.S.
Congress and environmental activists on both sides of the border.
Ontario Power Generation Inc. wants to develop an underground
storage facility at the Bruce Nuclear Site in Kincardine, about 140
miles northwest of Toronto and about 50 miles east of the tip of
Michigan's Thumb area.
The waste wouldn't be the most potent, or "high-level" variety --
spent nuclear fuel.
Instead, it would consist of "low-level" waste -- slightly tainted
rags, mops, clothing and bits of trash swept from floors -- and
"intermediate-level" waste, which typically means used reactor parts
and resins and filters that purify reactor water systems.
The waste would come from the company's three nuclear power
plants, including the Bruce station.
Ontario Power Generation, owned by the provincial government, says
the waste would be housed in sedimentary rock 550 to 700 yards below
the surface. The company says it's a safer long-term option than
above-ground storage, the temporary method now used by Ontario's
"Deep geological repositories have been operating safely
internationally for many years," a company statement said.
But critics say the location -- less than a mile from Lake Huron
--- is a poor choice for waste that will stay radioactive for
thousands of years.
U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said his staff was asking the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and the International Joint
Commission, a binational agency that deals with Great Lakes issues,
to investigate the plan.
"You don't put any kind of dump, let alone a radioactive dump,
less than a mile from the Great Lakes," Stupak said.
Michael Keegan, chairman of the Coalition for a Nuclear Free Great
Lakes, said he feared the facility wouldn't always be limited to low-
or intermediate-level waste.
"I think this is the camel's nose under the tent," said Keegan, of
Monroe. "Once they get this deed done, look for the high-level
Company spokesman John Earl said the project is still in the
planning stages and the public will have ample opportunity to voice
concerns. It won't be approved unless Ontario Power Generation can
convince the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission it will be safe, he
said. The commission is a federal agency that oversees Canada's
"We need to show there will be no effect, or negligible effect (on
the environment), to the satisfaction of the regulator," Earl said.
Dave Martin, energy coordinator for Greenpeace Canada, said many
environmentalists consider the commission too cozy with the nuclear
His group is among a coalition of activists pushing for Ontario's
environment minister to appoint an independent panel to analyze the
project. The other option is for the commission and its staff to
conduct the environmental assessment.
The commission has scheduled a public hearing to discuss which
alternative to recommend to the environment minister.
If the assessment concluded the project wasn't likely to do
significant harm, the nuclear commission would begin the licensing
process, which would take several years. The company hopes to start
building the underground storage facility in 2012 and begin filling
it with waste around 2017.
In a letter to the commission, more than a dozen environmental
groups said there were unanswered questions about waste
transportation, economic costs and Canada's lack of federal policy on
long-term nuclear waste management.
Return to the
U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.