Government decision on proposed nuclear waste bunker delayed 243 days

LAKE HURON—The federal government has delayed the date on a decision it will make on a proposed nuclear waste bunker near Lake Huron until at least next summer.

“Every day no deep geological repository is not created is a good day,” stated Brennain Lloyd, of North Watch, on the announcement last week by the federal government.

“It is good that the Environment Minister (Catherine McKenna) has told the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to provide the evidence that she required of them to make another attempt to fill the gaps in their proposal. The best news would have been if she had said having the application had been turned down,” said Ms. Lloyd. 

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On December 12, the federal cabinet issued an order allowing another 243 days for the government to decide on the project. There have been several extensions since a review panel in May last year gave its approval to the deep geologic repository, which drew strong opposition from local groups as well as hundreds of Canadian and American communities around the Great Lakes.

“It is interesting that the feds announced a delay in their decision,” said Ms. Lloyd. “The OPG around February of this year had been told that they needed to provide a list of three area locations being looked at for the DGR, the accumulative effects that a DGR would cause if this was approved and the high level DGR waste would cause and third to provide an update list of mitigating measures they would be taking.”

“Then in April the OPG replied that they would get back to the government by the end of the year,” continued Ms. Lloyd.

OPG proposes to construct and operate the underground facility for the long-term management of radioactive waste at the Bruce nuclear site near Kincardine, Ontario. The proposal calls for hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of low and intermediate level nuclear waste to be buried 680 metres underground in the bedrock, explained Ms. Lloyd.

The preliminary approval concluded that the $1 billion repository would be the best way to deal with the waste, and posed only a minor risk to the lake provided several conditions were met, said Ms. Lloyd. From there the government was to make a decision in September 2015, however this deadline was extended to March 1, 2016.

In February Environment Minister Catherine McKenna asked the power utility to provide more details and do further environmental studies of the proposed repository. The information was due this month.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is now considering the data supplied by the utility, and will also be looking for public feedback on the new information before deciding under what conditions the project might be able to proceed, continued Ms. Lloyd.

“OPG was supposed to  provide additional studies by the end of December,” said Ms. Lloyd. “Then there was to be a review for members of the public to comment. With the 243 day extension, we don’t know when this starts or ends,” she stated. “The joint review panel asked questions in the previous public hearings that the OPG couldn’t answer.”

The environmental assessment process has been going on since January 2006 and OPG had hoped it could begin construction in 2018 and be operational by 2025.