Doubling the size of a proposed nuclear waste site near Kincardine is not likely to harm the environment, says staff of Canada’s nuclear safety regulator.
Hearings are already under way before a federal review panel on a proposal by Ontario Power Generation to excavate a disposal site for 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste near Kincardine.
In material filed with the review panel, staff of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says they see little change to the impact of the project despite the doubling in size.
In the jargon of the nuclear industry, the project is referred to as a “deep geologic repository” or DGR.
“The expanded DGR, as currently conceptualized, is expected to remain acceptably safe in the long term,” says a report from safety commission staff.
“There are no likely adverse cumulative effects on the environment from the DGR project,” it concludes.
The waste, to be buried on the grounds of the Bruce nuclear station, would come from the operations of all three of OPG’s nuclear stations in Ontario.
After making the original proposal, OPG said it might expand the site to include “decommissioning waste” from its nuclear stations when they reach the end of their lives.
That’s expected to produce another 135,000 cubic metres of waste. But OPG says for “conceptual” purposes it is planning for up to 200,000 cubic metres of decommissioning waste.
The additional waste would be placed in caverns beside those originally proposed, carved from a limestone formation, 680 metres below the ground, near the Lake Huron shoreline.
OPG would have to get formal permission from the nuclear safety commission if it proceeds with the expansion.
The Pickering nuclear station is likely to be the first to be decommissioned. It will reach the end of its operating life in about 2020. Then it will sit in “safe storage” until it starts to be dismantled in about 2044.
Opponents of the project have questioned whether it should be built so close to Lake Huron.
The federal panel reviewing the proposal ended public hearings last fall. But it then announced further hearings will be held this September after radiation leaked from a nuclear waste site in New Mexico.
That project had been cited by OPG as an example of a successful waste operation.
Michigan’s senate has asked the International Joint Commission (IJC) to review the proposal.
Michigan’s federal senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, have asked secretary of state John Kerry to refer the issue to the IJC, and to do what he can to block the project.
The OPG project is separate from another that’s currently under way to find a home for high-level nuclear waste, which is used fuel.
The high-level project is being conducted by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization. It’s looking at sites near the Bruce nuclear station, as well as in Northern Ontario and Saskatchewan.