McKenna requests further information from Ontario Power Generation


By Barb McKay

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna will not be making a decision next month on the proposed plan by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to store low- and intermediate-level waste undergroun

Instead, McKenna has asked OPG for additional information and further studies on the environmental assessment for the proposed deep geologic repository (DGR). The company is expected to present the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) with a timeline to meet the request by Apr. 18. OPG has been asked to provide information on alternative locations for the project, cumulative environmental effects of the project and an updated list of commitments to mitigate adverse effects that have been identified.

The process to develop the plan for the DGR has been in the works for more than a decade and has included extensive studies and consultations. In 2013 and 2014, a Joint Review Panel, appointed by the federal government, held hearings in Kincardine and Port Elgin to review OPG’s environmental assessment. In May 2015, the Panel concluded that the DGR would not likely cause adverse environmental effects and should proceed sooner than later. The DGR, if approved, will store 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste - everything from clothing and mop heads to filters and reactor components, but not used nuclear fuel - 680 metres underground on the Bruce Power site.

The request for additional information effectively puts the decision on hold and McKenna is expected to ask for a further extension on the timeline.

OPG released a statement Thursday indicating that it is committed to continuing technical, economic and environmental studies.

“OPG understands the sensitivity of decisions around nuclear waste and respects the Minister's request for further information to inform a science-based decision,” the statement read. “OPG maintains that a deep geologic repository is the right answer for Ontario's low and intermediate level waste, and that the Bruce site is the right location. OPG is confident that further studies will confirm this.”

Municipality of Kincardine mayor Anne Eadie said she understands the reasoning behind the request.

“I am fine with it,” she said. “(Minister McKenna) was just elected into federal government in the fall. If she needs more time to verify the science that is fine. Due diligence is good.”

Eadie said the municipality has been involved in the process, as the host community, since 2004, and has witnessed the extensive public consultations and rigorous assessment process that has accompanied the project.

“We live here, we live by the lake and taking care of our lake is paramount. But we believe the science is there and we will continue to support it.”

OPG postponed its annual hosting payment of $600,000 to the municipality this year pending a decision from the federal government and the payment for 2017 could be deferred as well, depending on the timeline. Eadie said there is little impact to the municipality because it no longer includes the payment in its operating budget.

“If we had it we could do more; build another bridge, pave another road,” she said, but added that it is more important to continue the process that she believes will confirm the current recommendation to proceed with the project.

“For us, the Municipality of Kincardine, people have to realize that safety is number one and maybe that is a message that we haven’t gotten out well. Lake Huron is important to us. We believe the science is there to support the safety case.

Beyond Nuclear, a U.S.-based nuclear watchdog that has been vocally opposed to the plan, praised McKenna’s decision to seek further information on the pla“While we had hoped the Canadian federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, would have outright rejected Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) insane scheme to bury radioactive waste on the Great Lakes shore, we are nonetheless thankful she is taking a more careful, hard look at this unacceptable proposal,” Kevin Kamps, a spokesperson for the group, said in a statement.

“Minister McKenna’s request for more information on alternate locations for the project is most sensible. Canada is the second largest country in the world, in terms of geographic land area. OPG’s choice to target a water-soluble limestone formation on the Lake Huron shore makes no sense.”