Prov­ince nar­rows sites for nu­clear fuel rods

Three com­mu­ni­ties in north­ern On­tario still in run­ning for un­der­ground fa­cil­ity

Windsor Star - - CITY+REGION - The Cana­dian Press

Waste man­age­ment au­thor­i­ties have ruled out one part of north­ern On­tario as a suit­able site for a bunker to store used, but highly ra­dioac­tive, nu­clear-re­ac­tor fuel rods.

In a state­ment on Wed­nes­day, the Nu­clear Waste Man­age­ment Or­ga­ni­za­tion said the El­liot Lake and Blind River area be­tween the cities of Sud­bury and Sault Ste. Marie are out of the run­ning.

“Tech­ni­cal stud­ies and en­gage­ment with peo­ple in the area iden­ti­fied a num­ber of fac­tors that would pose chal­lenges in sit­ing a repos­i­tory,” the or­ga­ni­za­tion said. “These in­clude com­plex­i­ties as­so­ci­ated with the ge­ol­ogy, limited ac­cess and rugged ter­rain, and low po­ten­tial to de­velop the breadth of part­ner­ships needed to im­ple­ment the project.”

Three other com­mu­ni­ties in north­ern On­tario re­main as po­ten­tial sites: Ig­nace about 250 kilo­me­tres north­west of Thun­der Bay, Man­i­touwadge, about 395 kilo­me­tres east of Thun­der Bay, and Horne­payne, about 480 kilo­me­tres east of Thun­der Bay.

The other two re­main­ing po­ten­tial sites — South Bruce and Huron-Kin­loss — are close to the Bruce nu­clear re­ac­tor on the Lake Huron shore­line near Kin­car­dine, site of a long and on­go­ing bat­tle by On­tario Power Gen­er­a­tion to win ap­proval for a deep ge­o­logic repos­i­tory for low and in­ter­me­di­ate level ra­dioac­tive waste.

Dan Marchisella, mayor of El­liot Lake, ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment at the ex­clu­sion of his com­mu­nity af­ter five years, call­ing it a “huge po­ten­tial loss” for the en­tire district.

The for­mer min­ing town, once known as the ura­nium cap­i­tal of the world, felt that putting it­self for­ward was the re­spon­si­ble thing to do given the vex­ing ques­tion of how best to safely store waste that re­mains toxic for thou­sands of years, he said. “The foot­print of that ge­ol­ogy they were look­ing for is not large enough,” Marchisella said in an in­ter­view. “It’s very dif­fi­cult to ac­cess that area.”

The hunt for a place to per­ma­nently store used nu­clear fuel rods — about 2.7 mil­lion bun­dles cur­rently ex­ist — be­gan in earnest in 2010, with 22 com­mu­ni­ties ex­press­ing in­ter­est. The dan­ger­ous ma­te­rial is cur­rently stored in pools of water or in vaults on site at re­ac­tors in On­tario, Que­bec, New Brunswick and Man­i­toba. The en­vis­aged repos­i­tory would be about 500 me­tres un­der­ground.

“The de­ci­sion to nar­row our fo­cus is part of an on­go­ing, rig­or­ous process to iden­tify a sin­gle, safe site in an area with an in­formed and will­ing host and strong po­ten­tial for the part­ner­ships that will be re­quired to im­ple­ment the project,” said Mahrez Ben Belfad­hel, a vice-pres­i­dent with the waste­m­an­age­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion.

While the or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­pects to be able to choose its pre­ferred site by about 2023, win­ning any ap­proval for an un­der­ground bunker is likely to go years beyond that date if On­tario Power Gen­er­a­tion’s odyssey is any­thing to go by.

The util­ity took years to win ten­ta­tive ap­proval in 2015 to build a bunker at the Bruce site near Lake Huron for ma­te­rial that is far less toxic than nu­clear fuel rods but has made lit­tle progress since.

Fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Catherine McKenna is now wait­ing for Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in the area to weigh in — a process likely to take at least an­other year. In ad­di­tion, scores of com­mu­ni­ties around the Great Lakes have de­cried any sug­ges­tion the site so close to the lake is suit­able — paving the way for what could be years of court bat­tles.

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