Thursday, July 17, 2014


Ontario Power Generation, one of North America's largest producers of electricity has been at work for fifteen years to obtain approval to build an underground site near the Great Lakes to store its nuclear waste.

Hey, why not.  Sounds good.  Nuclear waste, Great Lakes.  Swell thinking.

For some strange reason the people of the region think, really, not such a good idea.  You know it just seems wrong to dump radioactive materials into the ground less then a half mile from Lake Huron (or anywhere else for that matter, I might add).  Groups such as Stop The Great Lakes Nuclear Dump argue that if radioactive nuclear waste leaked into the water, 40 million Canadians and Americans who depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, would find themselves without access to a source of clean freshwater.

But then California may not have any water either soon.  Oh but wait, that's a whole other story.

Back to this one.

William Fyfe, a retired University of Western Ontario professor who worked as an international consultant on nuclear waste before he passed away last fall, voiced his concerns about the project due to the site’s close proximity to water said,

It is universally acknowledged that nuclear waste must be kept away from water circulating through the environment of living things since water is seen as the main vehicle for eventual dissolution and dissemination of radiotoxic pollutants.

Concerns regarding contaminated water have prompted more than 50 cities and towns in Ontario and in the U.S. states bordering the Great Lakes to pass resolutions opposing the DGR.
Beverly Fernandez, spokesperson for Stop The Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, an opposition group formed last year, says the project “defies common sense.”
“Would you bury poison beside your well?” she asked rhetorically.
Nuclear scientist Frank Greening who once worked for Ontario Power Generation says some of the materials that would be stored underground are hundreds of times more radioactive than what was told to Canadian government officials who are considering the site.    "My first feeling was, look, you messed up the most basic first step in establishing the safety of this facility, namely, how much radioactive waste they're going to be putting in the ground, you admit you got that wrong, but now you're telling me that everything else is okay," Greening told Michigan Radio, according to Huffington Post. "You can't just fluff off this error as one error. It raises too many questions about all your other numbers. And I'm sorry, I now have lost faith in what you're doing."

Ah, they wouldn't lie (or fluff off), not these big corporations, would they?   But, wait, what am I saying, this isn't some private corporation.
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is a public company totally owned by the province of Ontario. The company was established in 1999 under the Ontario Progressive Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris. OPG is currently the largest owner of nuclear power plants in Canada.


Earlier this month   Blue Mountains Mayor Ellen Anderson told an Ontario Power Generation official that she can never be convinced that creating a deep geological repository for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste near the Great Lakes is a good idea.    She said,   “No matter how good the source is, history has shown there is always a chance of accidents.” 

Can't really argue with that.

Have I remembered to mention that Lake Huron is connected to all the other Great Lakes via waterways?  This  has also drawn concern, since the five bodies of water make up the largest collection of freshwater lakes on the Earth and provide drinking supplies to tens of millions of Americans and Canadians.

“Burying nuclear waste a quarter-mile from the Great Lakes is a shockingly bad idea — it poses a serious threat to people, fish, wildlife, and the lakes themselves,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, in a statement to the Detroit News.

Anyway, the following is from Eco Watch.

A Nuclear Waste Dump on the Shore of the Great Lakes?

Is dilution really the solution to pollution—especially when it’snuclear waste that can stay radioactive for 100,000 years? A four-member expert group told a federal joint review panel it is.
The panel is examining an Ontario Power Generation proposal to bury low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste from the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce nuclear plants in limestone at the Bruce site in Kincardine, beside Lake Huron. According to the Toronto Star, the experts reported that 1,000 cubic meters of contaminated water could leak from the site, although it’s “highly improbable.” But even if it did leak, they argued, the amount is small compared to Lake Huron’s water volume and the quantity of rain that falls into it.
This “out of sight, out of mind” mentality must end. We can’t continue to dump garbage into the oceans, waterways and air or bury it in the ground and hope it will disappear.
If the materials were instead buried in Canadian Shield granite, any leaking waste would be diluted by active streams and marshes, the experts claimed: “Hence, the volumes of the bodies of water available for dilution at the surface are either immense (Great Lakes) or actively flowing … so the dilution capacity is significant.” 
Others aren’t convinced. The Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump group has more than 62,000 signatures on a petition opposing the dump. Many communities around the Great Lakes, home to 40-million people, have passed resolutions against the project, including Canadian cities Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor and more, and local governments in the states of Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Ohio. The United Tribes of Michigan, representing 12 First Nations, is also opposed.
Michigan’s Senate recently adopted resolutions to urge President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Congress to intervene, and for the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Commission and all Great Lakes States and Ontario and Quebec to get involved.
According to Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, burying such highly toxic wastes in limestone next to 21 percent of the world’s fresh water “defies common sense.” The group’s website notes, “There are no precedents anywhere in the world for burying radioactive nuclear waste in limestone. The repository must function to safely contain the nuclear wastes for over 100,000 years. No scientist or geologist can provide a 100,000 year guarantee.” The Great Lakes are only 12,000 years old!
On top of that, retired Ontario Power Generation research scientist and chemist Frank R. Greening wrote to the review panel stating that OPG has “seriously underestimated, sometimes by factors of more than 100” the radioactivity of material to be buried.
Greening says the company acknowledged his criticism but downplayed its seriousness, which he believes raises doubts about the credibility of OPG’s research justifying the project. “Their response has been, ‘Oops we made a mistake but it isn’t a problem’ and that really bothers me as a scientist,” he told Kincardine News. “It is rationalizing after the fact.”
According to the newspaper, “a radiation leak at a nuclear waste site in New Mexico—cited by OPG as an example of a successful facility—is further fueling criticism of the project.” In February, radiation was detected in vaults and in the air a kilometre from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, where radioactive materials from the nuclear weapons program are stored. The facility, the world’s only deep geologic repository, had only been in use for 15 years and is closed for now. The cause of the leak isn’t yet known.
Those and other factors led the joint review panel to re-open hearings beginning September 9. They initially ended October 30, 2013. A federal cabinet decision is expected sometime next year.
This “out of sight, out of mind” mentality must end. We can’t continue to dump garbage into the oceans, waterways and air or bury it in the ground and hope it will disappear. If we can’t find better ways to use or at least reduce waste products, we must stop producing them.
In the meantime, this project must be halted. The Great Lakes are already threatened by pollution, agricultural runoff, invasive species, climate change and more. We can’t afford to add the risk of radioactive contamination to one of the world’s largest sources of fresh water.
Written with Contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

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