Planned Nuke Dump Near Great Lakes Gets Pushback
The deep storage in stable rock is safe, say regulators, but critics don't like the proximity to a major freshwater source.
A Canadian utility company's proposal to store nuclear waste in a deep hole a short distance from Lake Huron has turned into a politically tricky problem for Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
The proposed Deep Geologic Repository Project, would be used to store waste from three nuclear power plants operated by Ontario Power Generation, according to a 2015 government environmental report. The facility would consist of man-made caverns and tunnels with about 7 million cubic feet of storage space, carved into a limestone formation 2,230 feet under the ground.
The low-level waste that the utility wants to store deep in the ground includes materials such as protective clothing, floor sweepings, mops and rags, which can be stored safely without special protective measures, according to the report. But the site also would be a burial place for "intermediate" materials such as used reactor components, resins and filters from nuclear reactor operations. At present, the waste is being stored above-ground at one of the plants.
In the report, Canadian regulators touted the project as a breakthrough in the safe storage of nuclear waste. "The proposed DGR is an important, unique, precedent-setting project. It would be the first of its kind in North America, and it is the first of its kind in the world to propose using limestone as the host rock formation," they wrote Nevertheless, the project - which has been in the works for more than a decade - remains controversial, in large part because the site would be about three quarters of a mile from the shores of Lake Huron.
While the repository got approval from Ontario officials last year, in February Trudeau's new environment minister, Catherine McKenna, delayed approval of the project by asking the utility for more information.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), told Trudeau at a meeting in Washington in March that she wanted to see the project cancelled outright, according to accounts in the Detroit Free Press and the Washington Post. Trudeau reportedly declined to give her a definite answer.
"All he said was that he truly cares about the environment," she told the Post.
Dingell told the Post that the Canadian plan is more problematic than another long-delayed U.S. proposal to bury nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
"We've got to find a location that doesn't impact large populations of people," she told the newspaper. "A mountain that is in an isolated place is a better place than water that is 20 percent of the freshwater in the world."
In January, a Canadian organization, Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, sent McKenna a petition with 90.000 signatures opposing the repository.
Canada gets about 15 percent of its electricity from nuclear power.
Here’s Lake Huron, seen from the shoreline of a provincial park in Ontario, a few miles from the site of a proposed nuclear waste facility.
Each year American Rivers names 10 of the most threatened waterways in the United States. This year the river flowing through one of America's most iconic landmarks tops the list. A current and proposed dam for the Pearl River (pictured), which runs through Louisiana and Mississippi, puts healthy wetlands and wildlife habitat at risk, the group argues.
The Harpeth River in Tennessee faces sewage pollution and excessive water withdrawals, according to the group.
A copper-nickel sulfide mine is proposed near Minnesota's St. Louis River, which American Rivers said "threatens drinking water, wildlife, and the treaty-protected hunting, fishing, and gathering rights of the Ojibwe people."
The Wild and Scenic Illinois Rogue, in Oregon, and the Smith in parts of Oregon and California, are threatened by strip mining, said the group.
An open-pit coal strip mine is at odds with clean water, the group suggests, and healthy salmon runs in Alaska's Chuitna River.
South Carolina's Edisto River is a popular recreation spot, but is in high demand for irrigation and agriculture.
The Smith River in Montana is at risk due to a proposed copper mine, American Rivers said, which could affect water quality and animal habitats.
The Holston River in Tennessee provides freshwater to residents but the proximity of a Army ammunition plant creates a dangerous situation, American Rivers said.
Columbia River dams provide clean power and irrigation, but they create barriers to salmon and steelhead runs.
The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon in Arizona faces a host of threats including radioactive pollution from uranium mining, proposed construction projects and increased groundwater pumping that could deplete freshwater supplies, according to the group.