Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

World Awaiting Canada Decision on Nuclear Waste Burial Plan near Lake Huron Has Implications for Industry

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

World Awaiting Canada Decision on Nuclear Waste Burial Plan near Lake Huron Has Implications for Industry

Article excerpt

Though delayed for at least another two months, Canada's eventual decision over the fate of a 15-year-old proposal to build a deep underground repository for low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste a mile from Lake Huron is being watched on both sides of border.

Many people believe the decision has broader implications for the U.S. and the global nuclear industry at large, as well as future management of the Great Lakes, which hold a fifth of the world's fresh surface water.

Catherine McKenna, Canadian minister of environment and climate change,said days after taking office in November she planned to issue a decision March 1Tuesday, but announced Feb. 18Thursday that it is being put off indefinitely.

The announcement stated she is giving Ontario Power Generation, the utility behind the project, until April 18 to submit more information. OPG said it has already produced 12,500 pages.

Even if it's a few months from now, the decision will likely come during heightened sensitivity over the Great Lakes because of the Flint, Mich., water crisis.

Flint someday hopes to draw its own water from Lake Huron. Detroit draws raw water from that lake to make the tap water it supplies to itself, Flint and other communities.

Groups representing more than 22 million people in the United States and Canada are imploring Ms. McKenna to stop the highly controversial project in its tracks.

Ms. McKenna has been in her position since Nov. 4, the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his other Cabinet members were sworn into office.

OPG maintains the project can be done safely, with waste sent down a shaft that will be nearly a half-mile deep into hard rock that geologists believe hasn't shifted for 450 million years.

The Great Lakes region has 40 million residents - 30 million in the U.S. and 10 million in Canada.

Of 184 resolutions against it, many have come from municipalities and governmental organizations in the U.S., including Ohio but especially the closest state to the site, Michigan.

In Ohio, Toledo, Oregon and Port Clinton are opposed, joining a block of opposition throughout southwest Ontario and the eastern half of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

That opposition also includes heavy-hitters such as Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Rochester, N.Y., as well as the Washington, D.C.- based National Association of Counties and the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus.

A Nov. 5 letter of opposition was signed by 32 members of Congress and sent to Mr. Trudeau.

"Given the critical importance of these shared waters to our countries, and the potentially catastrophic damages to the Lakes from a nuclear accident, we urge your administration not to approve this repository and consider alternative locations outside the Great Lakes Basin," according to the letter, which included signatures from U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Gary Peters, D-Mich.; and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, as well as U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D- Toledo, and Debbie Dingell, D-Mich.Dearborn

Mr. Brown told The Blade he's opposed because storing radioactive waste "so close to drinking water creates an unnecessary risk."

Likewise, Mr. Peters said the project "puts this treasured resource in jeopardy."

"This is an issue of binational concern," Miss Kaptur agreed.

Longtime anti-nuclear activist Kevin Kamps of Maryland-based Beyond Nuclear said he's been fighting the project since its inception 15 years ago.

In a recent essay published on counterpunch.org, Mr. Kamps drew parallels between the Flint water crisis and the Ontario nuclear project in terms of government accountability and oversight.

"What it boils down to is maximum convenience for Ontario Power Generation," Mr. Kamps said.

The project is planned on the massive eight-reactor Bruce nuclear complex in tiny Kincardine, Ont., about a four-hour drive north of Toledo.

OPG spokesman Neal Kelly said the cost estimate for construction remains $1 billion. …

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