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Citizens call for underground nuclear waste plan to be scrapped

Citizens concerned about plans to bury Canada’s most radioactive nuclear waste in a massive underground facility said it’s time the Nuclear Waste Management Organization went back to the drawing board.

“There is a viable alternative to the transportation and burial of high level radioactive wastes. Nuclear fuel waste should be managed at the point of generation, by making on site storage more robust, and adopting a program of rolling stewardship,” explained Charles Faust of We the Nuclear Free North during a Queen’s Park media conference on Tuesday.

Three million used nuclear fuel bundles that once powered Ontario nuclear plants are currently stored at those plants, in near ground and above ground facilities. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), tasked with finding a home for Canada’s mounting volume of nuclear waste, said that’s not a long term solution.

“This repository would contain that fuel in an underground vault surrounded by rock. And, that rock would protect that material for the many years to come, many decades, and millennia, in which we need to protect that material,” said NWMO VP of Site Selection, Lise Morton.

Bill Noll, who lives near one of the proposed sites for the underground waste repository, argues that keeping the waste where it is also eliminate the very contentious site selection process currently underway.

“You have those that are supporting, and those that are not. Neighbours don’t talk to one another, but that’s what the process has done,” said Noll, who also represents Protect our Waterway - No Nuclear Waste, from the Municipality of South Bruce.

Example of used nuclear fuel bundle in Teeswater from March 2019. (Scott Miller / CTV News)

“There will be uncertainties where we employ the proximity principle. But, those are uncertainties that can be managed, and monitored, and remediated. That is where we will get greater certainty, by keep the waste at the reactor site,” said Brennain Lloyd, of NorthWatch.

“There’s only ever been one option considered, that is to create a cavern underground, bury it, and seal it, and walk away,” said Faust.

While the NWMO does have in their proposal a plan to close the facility around 2159, after 40 years of operation, and 60 years of extended monitoring, Morton said that decision will ultimately be made by people not even born yet.

“It will be future generations who decide that they have enough data, that they’ve monitored enough, and that they feel comfortable closing the repository,” she said.

We the Nuclear Free North and Protect our Waterways - No Nuclear Waste presented an 1,140 signature petition to Queen’s Park this week urging the provincial government to employ the proximity principle, and keep Canada’s high level nuclear waste above ground.

By the end of next year, the NWMO will decide if a site near Ignace in Northern Ontario, or a site near Teeswater, in Bruce County, will host Canada’s high level nuclear waste forever. Both communities will vote on their willingness to host the project, as will the Indigenous communities surrounding both areas.

The project will cost approximately $25 billion to construct, and will lead to approximately 700 operational jobs. Top Stories

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