By Douglas Lonsdale, Saugeen Field Naturalists
As Ontario Power Generation (OPG) moves forward with plans to expand the Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) at the Bruce Power site on the shores of Lake Huron, the concurrent Deep Geologic Repository Proposal brings the reality of long-term nuclear waste storage to Bruce County.
The WWMF, covering approximately 19 hectares (47 acres), has been been in operation since 1976. Currently, the facility stores low-and intermediate-level radioactive waste generated by the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations (the latter two on the north shore of Lake Ontario east of Toronto). With major refurbishments scheduled at all of Ontario’s nuclear stations, increased waste storage space is required. In addition, two new waste forms – steam generators and reactor components – will be stored in steel and concrete in-ground containers. The Refurbishment Waste Storage Project (RWS) triggers a federal environmental assessment, which will continue through most of 2005. With approval anticipated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the expanded site will be in operation by late 2006.
The Deep Geologic Repository Proposal would place a nuclear waste repository 660 metres (2,165 feet) below ground level in what is termed low-permeability limestone. In a rather unique hosting agreement between OPG and the municipality of Kincardine, OPG will provide Kincardine and adjacent communities with $35 million over 30 years – but only if the communities remain supportive of the project.The first installments are about to be disbursed.
In the midst of these proposals, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (representing producers of nuclear power, including OPG) continues its studies, charged by Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste Act with solving the problem of long-term storage of high-level radioactive waste. This report will be presented to the Canadian government by November 15 of this year. Is the storage of high-level waste at the Bruce site a possibility? OPG says no, and their hosting agreement specifically rules out this eventuality. Still, the transportation of mediumlevel waste has unnerved several local groups and questions remain as to the capacity and security of these sites. Recent documents released by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment indicate the continued release into the groundwater of heavy metals and contaminants from landfill sites and waste dumps at the Bruce site.
If these dumps cannot be secured, there remain serious concerns about placing nuclear waste disposal sites on the shores of Lake Huron.
Local groups, including the Saugeen Field Naturalists, will continue to monitor the process as it moves forward. At the local open house presentations, in many cases the OPG presenters have outnumbered the attendees. Concerned local groups like the Saugeen Field Naturalists are dealing with a combination of complacency and cynicism surrounding this issue, in the face of a genuine lack of alternatives in dealing with the whole problem of nuclear waste. These unanswered questions remain as the legacy of our commitment to and reliance on nuclear power generation in Ontario.
For information on the nuclear waste storage in Bruce County, visit OPG’s website at www.opg.com/ops/RWS1.asp. To keep in touch with the Saugeen Field Naturalists, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.