And You Thought Asian Carp Were Scary – Nuclear Waste Below Lake Huron?

by Carol Moncrieff Rose, Contributing Editor

As are nearly all Canadians, we’re just sure that the residents of Kincardine, Ontario are wonderful people and deeply love their community. We also recognize that the Canadian view of natural resource management tends to be more utilitarian than it is here in the United States.

Having said that, calling the proposal to bury radioactive nuclear waste below ground along the shore of Lake Huron a “bad idea” seems like an understatement of well, nuclear proportions. KincardineNukeSitePix2B

Public comment is currently being received on a  plan being advanced by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to construct a nuclear waste disposal site within one kilometer of the shores of Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario.  To put this into perspective, the proposed site is 50 miles east of the tip of Michigan’s thumb, 90 miles from Alpena and some 100 miles from Lake St. Clair.  To further put the environmental and human health risks into perspective, this proposed nuclear waste site would be placed near the edge the same Great Lakes which represent over 20% of the earth’s surface fresh water.

This proposal has been in the works by OPG for over a decade and claims “strong consistent support” for the project, yet seemingly few beyond Ontario’s Bruce County have even heard of the proposal. In truth, the “strong consistent support” for the plan has been coming from the communities of Kincardine and those in the immediate vicinity who are receiving substantial financial incentives from OPG for their support. The Bruce Nuclear plant, the largest nuclear facility in the world, is also located in Kincardine and employs some 3,800 people.

A grass roots organization called Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump (STGLND) was formed in November of 2012 in an effort to build opposition to the project throughout Canada and the United States.  Financed by small donations from largely family members and friends, this fledgling organization is waging a David-sized battle against the Goliath that is OPG. Over 34,000 people from around the world have already signed their petition to stop the project.

The OPG plan is to construct what is called a  Deep Geological Repository (DGR), or Nuclear Waste Dump.  In this case, the DGR will include 31 burial caverns 680 meters below the ground carved out of limestone, and will extend to approximately 400 meters from Lake Huron.  The DGR will store low and intermediate level nuclear wastes which can remain radioactive for over 100,000 years.  The DGR will cover approximately 37 acres on the surface and twice that size underground, and will accommodate radioactive wastes generated during the operating life and refurbishment of Ontario’s 20 nuclear reactors.

OPG’s most recent estimate is that 200,000 cubic meters (7.1 million cubic feet) of nuclear waste in 53,000 containers will be buried in the DGR over 35-40 years. The Dump will eventually be sealed with a sand/clay mixture and concrete, and the plan is that within a decade of closure it will no longer be monitored for radioactive leaks. Ten years of pre-closure monitoring will be followed by potentially 300 years of institutional control, and then abandonment. OPG calls the period following institutional control the “Long Term.” OPG suggests that the Nuclear Waste Dump will safely hold its radioactive contents for 100,000 years. KincardineNukeSiteB

Testimony and public comments are currently being heard by the Joint Review Panel in Canada. Among those who have spoken out in opposition are noted broadcaster and scientist, Dr. David Suzuki, author Farley Mowat, Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman, a former Deputy Minister of the Environment, the president of  the American Academy of Environmental Medicine and Beverly Fernandez, Spokesperson for the previously mentioned STGLND.  Others on record opposing the plan include the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative representing mayors of 103 cities with a total population of 16,000,000. Michigan’s own State Senate passed Resolution 58 on May 22 of this year, showing unanimous opposition to this plan.   Michigan State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood and Michigan State Representative Sarah Roberts have both made videos expressing their concerns about the proposal and both will be testifying at the hearings this weekend.

These Environmental Assessment Public hearings will end October 11.  Within 90 days thereafter, the Joint Review Panel will issue a report with recommendations to the Canadian Federal Minister of the Environment, who in turn will pass this to the Federal Cabinet for a decision.

There’s an Iroquois saying that says that “in our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”  This issue has the potential of affecting  the next 7,000 generations.

Information on the OPG plan and process was provided by Beverly Fernandez, Spokesperson for the Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump organization. – C.M.R.


About Northern Michigan Conservation Network

The mission of the Northern Michigan Conservation Network is to "connect conservation-minded hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts to those issues affecting Michigan's forests, waters, and wildlife."

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