Growing questions about OPG plan for nuclear waste
Published Tuesday, September 3, 2013 6:23PM EDT
Nuclear waste is not a popular topic, but this fall it will take centre stage in one of the most important public hearings in Canadian history.
Ontario Power Generation has plans to bury warehouses full of radioactive waste within two kilometres of Lake Huron.
OPG says it's the safest option possible, but a growing number of people are questioning the plan.
While it doesn't look like much right now, in a decade’s time, an area on the Bruce Power site could be home to Canada's first underground nuclear waste storage facility.
Dylan Luhowy is a senior engineer with the Deep Geological Repository project and has been studying the rock under his feet at the site for over four years now.
Five kilometres of rock samples suggest that there is little to no danger in burying nearly 200,000 cubic metres of low and intermediate level nuclear waste currently stored above ground - 680 metres underground.
"The rock we have here at this site is basically is on par or better than any geology we have elsewhere in the world," he says. “The water wouldn't be able to flow through it, so any movement of any contaminants would be extremely slow – taking in the order of 1000 years for one metre."
OPG says 80 per cent of the waste they plan to bury here will decay to non-harmful radiation levels in 300 years, but some of it will stay radioactive for thousands of years.
That’s enough to cause big concerns for Beverly Fernandez. The Southampton resident and spokesperson for the ‘Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump’ group, says burying the waste within 1.2 kilometres of Lake Huron is insanity.
“The source of fresh water for 40 million people in two countries – [it] defies common sense."
Michigan Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood is leading the voice of opposition to the project in the U.S.
World-wide, 26,000 people have signed a petition asking the project be stopped before it starts. Public hearings into the project start September 16th in Kincardine and will last four weeks.
If it's approved the project will take five to seven years to build, so it wouldn't be taking waste underground until at least 2020.
The OPG plans to operate and monitor the facility for approximately 300 years and then plans on capping it, and abandoning it.
Fernandez worries “You will never know if it’s leaking or not until it’s too late."