Burying nuclear waste deep underground near the Bruce nuclear station is safe and sustainable, Ontario Power Generation says in its final submission to a federal panel.
But part of OPG’s submission is at odds with that of nearby First Nations, who have not yet given their blessing to the project.
OPG wants to entomb low and intermediate level waste in a “deep geologic depository,” or DGR, 680 metres below the surface at the Bruce station, near Kincardine on the shore of Lake Huron.
“The proposed DGR is capable of safely isolating the waste from people and the environment over the hundreds and thousands of years that the waste remains hazardous,” OPG says in its written submission.
The company wants to place 200,000 cubic metres of operating waste in a thick layer of limestone beneath the Bruce.
OPG also plans at a later date to double the size of the facility, to hold waste from the demolition of existing nuclear stations when they are taken out of commission.
The proposal has caused heated debate in Canada and in the U.S. State and federal politicians in Michigan have voiced strong opposition, as have dozens of municipal councils around the Great Lakes – among them Toronto and Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago.
But it has received strong support from Kincardine council, and from business and labour groups in the area.
The federal panel will assess whether there are likely to be significant environmental effects from the project, and recommend whether the environment minister should approve it. It can also recommend conditions.
OPG argues that solving the nuclear waste problem should be done now, rather than leaving it for future generations.
“The DGR Project’s primary contribution to sustainability is that it safely manages the (waste) now instead of leaving it for future generations.”
The waste for the most part is not highly radioactive, it says.
“The total radioactivity in the repository is similar to the total amount of low natural radioactivity in the rock above and around the repository,” the submission says.
The panel’s hearings had to be re-opened this year, in part because of two incidents at an underground waste site in New Mexico, one of which resulted in radiation escaping to the surface.
OPG says it has already considered the possibility of a similar event. Were it to occur, “such an incident would not exceed the regulatory criteria” OPG says.
The company also says it has much more stringent safety procedures than existed at the U.S. site.
OPG has pledged not to proceed with the project without the support of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), in whose territory the Bruce site lies.
OPG says its commitment is no concern of the panel’s: “The presence or absence of support is not a regulatory matter and therefore not properly the subject of a condition of approval.”
That’s directly at odds with the final submission of the SON, which has issues that it says still need to be addressed.
It says OPG’s commitment to SON “must be acknowledged and reflected in the (panel) report and, if the project is recommended for approval, must be made a recommended condition of that approval.”