By Barb McKay
Questions at last week’s Joint Review Panel hearings for OPG’s proposed deep geologic repository focused heavily on public consultation and how much support exists for project.
Joint Review Panel hearings for the deep geologic repository (DGR) for low and intermediate level nuclear waste commenced last Monday at the Kincardine Legion. During the week, representatives from OPG and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, which is managing the project, provided an overview of the project and details about site geology. Approximately 80 per cent of the waste will be low level, such as mops and protective clothing, while 20 per cent will be intermediate level and include used reactor components. The DGR will be designed to store up to 200,000 cubic metres of waste. The waste is currently being stored in above ground containers at the Bruce Power site.
Members of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, a regulatory body for the nuclear industry, were also on hand and gave their opinion of the studies that have been conducted for the project.
“A number of presentations have outlined concerns regarding the proximity of the DGR project to
Along with technical aspects of the DGR project, OPG also highlighted the public consultation process. A number of interveners over the course of the week posed the questions to local mayors and OPG itself, about how surveys were conducted and if a full effort was made to reach all residents in Kincardine, permanent and seasonal.
“We would like to point out that during that polling session there was a long preamble to the specific question, which explained a lot more of the details that it was a nuclear facility, that, you know, all of that detail was in the preamble, and the question was specifically targeted after the preamble,” said Laurie Swami, of OPG. “And that was provided to all members of the public that participated. So that part of it gives us confidence, but not only that, it's our continuing communication and engagement process that we have continued to work with the community. We continue to hear that there is support. We're out in the public.”
Along with mayors of neighbouring communities, including Brockton, Saugeen Shores and South Bruce, who reiterated their support for the project, Huron-Kinloss mayor Mitch Twolan came under fire about payments from OPG that are part of a hosting agreement for the project.
“And as an elected official, if we didn't try to secure funding in any way we could as elected officials for our taxpayers for benefits such as our childcare facilities and that, we would not be doing our job,” he said.
Former Kincardine deputy mayor Laura Haight, who served as clerk for
“I can state for the record at this time I did not receive one phone call, one email, one casual comment at the grocery store from anyone that had a concern with this project,” she said.
Haight added that there has been confusion around the project since the federal government introduced its plan for the long-term storage of used nuclear fuel, some of which is also temporarily stored at Bruce Power. That project, like the DGR for low and intermediate level waste, is also being managed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.
“I do not doubt the concerns and passions of those who oppose a used fuel repository and in fact I may share some of those same concerns. But the distinction between the waste streams is more than significant. For those who seek to stop this project at all costs so as to stop a used fuel repository, I would ask them to remember that these low and intermediate level wastes exist at the site today and that this proposal seeks to not only improve the safety and security of these wastes, but also the safety and security of our environment.”
David Ullrich, chair of the
“Regardless of the suitability of the geology and the engineering of the DGR, it seems unwise to locate radioactive waste that close to the largest source of freshwater in the world, and the drinking water supply for over 40 million people in Canada and the United States,” he said. “This broader Great Lakes and St. Lawrence community has a legitimate concern about this project and about the proper long-term management of radioactive waste, and the outreach by OPG did not sufficiently factor in the more extensive communication to this concerned community.”
Panelist Dr. Jamie Archibald asked why the Cities Initiative was not informed earlier on in the process. Ullrich responded that some members who had been involved longer just recently joined.
“We had had some discussions earlier in the organization about the matter of radioactive waste, but the specifics of the DGR in Kincardine just were not brought forward until just recently,” he said. “We deal with a lot of issues, we have a very small staff and that was part of the reason as well.”
Dr. Stella Swanson, chair of the Joint Review Panel, asked Ullrich if the Cities Initiative conducted its own peer review, given their concerns.
“We do not have the resources to bring in external experts on this, and I guess I would say that it was much more of a common sense approach to it,” he responded. “Mayors are very common sense-oriented people, and I think it was the concern of the proximity, again, the failure to consider any other locations as well, and I guess just a general knowledge that I think limestone is more permeable than
Glenn Sutton, who was mayor of Kincardine when the project was in its early stages and is also retired nuclear engineer, questioned why the
“The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality stated as their feedback,
‘The Department of Environmental Quality reported that it studied the environmental impact statement for the proposed project and related studies and it quote, has no technical objections to the conclusions reached in the many various studies,’” Sutton said.
“It's hard to believe that this organization who recently made comments on the proposed shipment of steam generators from the Bruce site to Sweden would not have come across a proposed low level waste DGR project during the review of that proposed shipment.”
Opponents to the project held an information session in Ripley with guest speakers Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste safety program for the Southwest Research and
Hancock, who has been with the research and information centre for 35 years, said proponents need to ensure that the project isn’t being driven by political timelines. He said his centre closely followed the process for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in
Hancock said WIPP was considered the model of best practices for handling nuclear waste. In some cases, he said, that was accurate, but in others it was not.
“It has lessons for good or ill,” he said. “It doesn’t define whether the DGR will work or not, but there are lessons to be learned.”
Hancock said the best advice he could offer is to take the time to do the project right.
“More time won’t solve all the problems,” he said. “But it will allow us to define the problems and understand them. We don’t really know how to do this. There isn’t an example of a successful DGR yet.”
The public hearings will be held at the Kincardine Legion until Oct. 5 and at the Saugeen Shores Community Complex Rotary Hall in Port Elgin from Oct. 7 to 12.
The public hearings will be webcast live through the CNSC website at www.cnsc-ccsn.gc.ca and written statements will be posted as soon as they become available. As well, copies of the hearing schedule and procedures, along with documents that are submitted or generated as part of the review, will be available on the online public registry at www.ceaa.gc.ca, reference number 17520.