OPINION: Take your dump and stuff it – elsewhere

The Bruce Nuclear generating station near Kincardine is currently the largest nuclear generating station in the world.The Bruce Nuclear generating station near Kincardine is currently the largest nuclear generating station in the world.

George Mathewson

Ontario’s plan to stuff radioactive nuclear waste into an underground cavern less than 200 kilometres from Sarnia has run into so much opposition that, with a little luck, might soon itself be buried.

One of the latest to join the chorus of voices calling for a halt to Ontario Power Generation’s plan to build the dump less than a mile from Lake Huron near Kincardine is the City of Chicago.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a man with more than a little political clout, said last month the proposal threatens the environment and public health of the entire Great Lakes basin, which holds 84% of North America’s fresh water.

Sarnia, which is directly downstream from the proposed Deep Geological Repository, has formally denounced the plan. So has Lambton County. Scores of towns, counties and First Nations representing nearly 18 million people in Canada and the U.S. have also said ‘no’ to the dump.

OPG has a history of bungling its communication with the public and this latest controversy is no exception.

It said initially, for example, the repository would take waste with relatively low levels of radioactivity, like workers’ rubber gloves. But last fall it changed its tune, telling the surprised members holding federal hearings that it wants to double the size of the dump to take waste from decommissioned nuclear plants, stuff that could stay radioactive for 100,000 years.

Worse still, OPG acknowledged it never considered any other location but the one that now has millions of people up in arms.

OPG is owned by the Ontario government, which owns 87% of the landmass of Ontario. Surely there are better alternatives out there.

The proposal does have a willing host and a powerful backer. Many residents in Bruce County make their living from the Bruce Power nuclear plant, which is currently the largest nuclear power station in the world. Local municipalities will be handsomely rewarded for their support.

OPG also has the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in its corner, the body that just happens to regulate the atomic industry.

But given the size and spread of the public backlash, that may not be enough.

The federal Joint Review Panel is expected to file its report in May, with the federal government making a decision later this year.

The eight-unit Bruce Power complex provides 30% of Ontario’s power, at low cost, with relatively few problems, and zero carbon emissions.

But it defies common sense to bury the toxic waste it produces and which will be dangerous for the next 100,000 years so close to Lake Huron.

Yes, it needs to go somewhere. It needs to go somewhere else.