Nuclear waste site is rock solid, says OPG
Bookmark and Share
Aug 27, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Nuclear waste site is rock solid, says OPG

The geology for a proposed nuclear waste site near Kincardine “doesn’t get much better than this” says Ontario Power Generation


Ontario Power Generation believes it has a rock-solid case for burying nuclear waste at the Bruce nuclear plant near Kincardine. Literally.

“The rock is the coolest thing that we’ve got going,” OPG’s Jerry Keto told reporters Wednesday as the company offered a briefing on upcoming hearings into the waste plan.

OPG plans to entomb low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste in a thick layer of limestone 680 metres underground, at the site of the Bruce nuclear plant on the shores of Lake Huron.

“The beauty of it is, this rock is 450 million years old,” Keto said.

“This rock is extremely stable. Nothing has happened to this rock in 450 million years.”

The rock is the envy of other geologists seeking nuclear waste sites, he said:

“Frankly, it doesn’t get much better than this.”

A federal panel held hearings a year ago into OPG’s proposal. The panel then called two weeks of new hearings on a series of narrowly focused issues, starting Sept. 9.

The panel has asked whether other locations for the site might be better, such as burying the waste in granite in the Canadian Shield.

Critics at the hearings have questioned whether the waste should be buried beside the Great Lakes – a question that is also being raised by Michigan legislators.

But OPG’s Paul Gierszewski said the Bruce site has all the needed characteristics.

Much of the waste is already on site; the town of Kincardine formally gave its support for the project; and the rock at the site is ideal, he said:

“The extent to which you spend time looking for alternative sites, given that all these stars are lined up with one particular site…we felt that we had an appropriate solution here.”

An expert panel went through an exercise comparing the Bruce site with a hypothetical granite site, but Gierszewski said it wasn’t easy: “How can you compare a real site with arbitrary sites?”

“Based on what we knew of the geology of this site, it was going to be pretty hard for most granite sites to be any better,” he said.

Another issue before the renewed hearings is a series of events last winter at an underground nuclear waste storage site in New Mexico, called WIPP, carved from a salt formation.

First, a truck fire broke out underground. Then, in an unrelated incident, a container of waste apparently heated up and released radioactive material, some of which found its way to the surface.

The site has been closed ever since.

Keto insisted that kind of accident won’t happen at the Bruce.

The truck fire was a straightforward case of bad maintenance, he said: A fire suppression system on the truck had been turned off, for one thing.

Once the fire started, smoke was allowed to pass into areas where employees were working. The employees had emergency breathing apparatus, but were poorly trained in using it.

OPG simply doesn’t tolerate lapses like that, Keto said: “It’s not in our culture.”

OPG officials also said the waste destined for its underground repository – which is now stored at the Bruce nuclear site on the surface – is predictable, and well understood, as it comes only from power plants.

The WIPP site receives waste from the U.S. nuclear weapons program, which has varying chemical characteristics, said Gierszewski.

WIPP’s waste also flows in from a wide variety of public and private facilities, making it more difficult to identify and assess, he said.

Toronto Star

Bookmark and Share

(0) Comment

Join The Conversation Sign Up Login

In Your Neighbourhood Today