Nuclear waste repository is a serious threat to the Great Lakes, warns Council of Canadians

Media Release
May 16, 2011

The Council of Canadians is warning of the risks from a proposed nuclear waste repository on Lake Huron. The Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has submitted a proposal for a deep geologic disposal facility on the Bruce Nuclear site in Kincardine, Ontario. The facility will be 680 metres underground and only one mile away from Lake Huron.

"Extreme caution is needed when nuclear waste and freshwater are involved," says Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow. "Water breaches from deep geological repositories have occurred in the past and we don't want to see that happening on the shores of Lake Huron."

A network of tunnels and storage caverns, in which up to 200,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste would be buried, are planned for the site. Organizations and residents in both the US and Canada have expressed concerns over risks of leaks.

“While Japan is still dealing with the Fukushima nuclear disaster, governments need to be prudent in their decisions on nuclear materials,” says Emma Lui, national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “The Canadian government needs to uphold the precautionary principle in international law and stop the plan in order to protect our Great Lakes Commons.”

The Council of Canadians is calling for the Great Lakes to be declared a Commons, Public Trust and Protected Bioregion. In a report entitled Our Great Lakes Commons: A People’s Plan to Protect the Great Lakes Forever, Barlow highlights the threat that nuclear power poses to the Great Lakes.

Public hearings in Canada are expected to be held in 2012. However, residents in the US will not be given an opportunity to comment on the facility even though the US coast is approximately 90 kilometres from the proposed facility. The facility could open in 2013 and start receiving waste by 2018.

OPG states that the repository will hold low-level and intermediate-level waste. However, there are growing concerns that once the facility is approved, high-level waste will also be deposited at the site posing an even larger threat to the Great Lakes.

As another means of dealing with radioactive waste, NEWGreen Legacy Services Inc. is planning to open a decontamination facility in Perry Township near Cleveland, Ohio. The Council of Canadians also cautions against the facility that will threaten Lake Erie and release millions of pounds of decontaminated metal to be reused by manufacturing companies.

“The risks of these plans show the dangers of nuclear energy,” adds Lui. “The least harmful alternative is leaving the waste on-site. It’s not an ideal solution but given the choices we have, it’s the best answer until we transition away from nuclear power.”

The Council of Canadians rejects nuclear power because it poses an unacceptable risk to people and the environment. Council of Canadians rejects any new nuclear facilities and supports a just transition away from a nuclear dependent society. The Council is currently campaigning against the proposed shipments of nuclear waste from the Bruce Power nuclear plant on the Great Lakes.

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