Having A Reason To Worry: Taking a Look at the Plan to Bury Nuclear Waste in Kincardine, Ontario

As even model cases of land use proposals show, it is often unfeasible to eliminate risk and fully pacify public concerns.  A case in point is the current proposed project to bury up to 200,000 m3 of low and intermediate leveled nuclear waste generated by the Ontario Power Generation company (OPG) (CEAA 2012; OPG 2011).  The proposed geologic repository is to be located Kincardine, Ontario—650 meters inland of Lake Huron’s eastern coast and 680 meters underground—, and is meant to be an alternative to expanding the on-land storage of low and intermediate level nuclear wastes (Northwatch 2012; CNSC 2012).


Map of the proposed site.


In order to obtain permission and a license to construct from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the OPG must perform an environmental impact assessment (EIA) under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (OPG 2011; OPG 2012).  An EIA is performed to outline the potential impacts of a proposed land use project, as well as whether impact mitigation efforts would be necessary, to help stakeholders decide whether a proposed project should be pursued or not (CEAA-2 2012).  The environmental assessment had begun in January of 2006, and is currently ongoing (CEAA 2012).

Though the project’s EIA seems to be boding very well for its proponents, as the impacts of burying nuclear wastes in the manners proposed by OPG have been deemed and publicized minimal or not significant as of yet, there seems to always be a reason to worry when dealing with nuclear wastes (OPG 2011; Northwatch 2012).  Concerns such as the durability of waste containers as well as the reliability of surrounding limestone and shale rock to stop radioactive wastes from leaking out of storage—and possibly influencing groundwater—are not completely soothed by the project proposal or assessments (Northwatch 2012). There are no guarantees; stakeholders must either place their faith in the engineering of storage units or not.

While the majority of stakeholders seem to support the project, groups of concerned citizens oppose the project fearing that it is unsafe to simply bury nuclear wastes nearby (COC 2011; Lloyd 2012).  Though public information sessions, websites, and other forms of media were used by the OPG to inquire about public concerns and inform stakeholders, I believe that additional scientific explanations behind the technical aspects of the proposed project—such as the containers and deep-underground environments in which the waste will be stored—could help pacify public inquiry and concern (OPG 2012).  The town of Osthammar in Sweden, for example, obtained overwhelming communal support for the burial of nuclear wastes underneath the community after conducting and publicizing 30 years of scientific research on the matter (Nyberg 2011).

It is important for the public to be given credit where credit is due. Aspects of proposed projects should be made transparent to stakeholders, including preliminary scientific research that is all too often omitted in order to simplify public approval processes. Perhaps the proponents of this proposed project could have followed the lead of the proponents of the nuclear waste burial project in Osthammar, who provided sufficient scientific research to residents and were able to gain widespread support even considering the odd-risk of accidents that is always present where nuclear waste is concerned.


Nuclear Waste Disposal Cartoon



CEAA (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency). 2012. Deep Geologic Repository for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste in Bruce Nuclear Site (Ontario). Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; Environmental Assessment Registry. Available at: http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/details-eng.cfm?evaluation=17520. Retrieved 10/13/2012.

CEAA-2 (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency). 2012. Environmental Assessments. Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; Environmental Assessments. Available at: http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=4F451DCA-1. Retrieved 10/13/2012.

CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission). 2012. Status: Ontario Power Generation Deep Geologic Repository in Kincardine, Ontario. CNSC Webiste: Status on New Nuclear Projects. Available at: http://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/readingroom/newbuilds/opg_dgr/. Retrieved 10/13/2012.

COC (Council of Canadians). 2011, April 27. Opposition forms against nuclear waste dump on Lake Huron.The Council of Canadians Website; Media. Available at: http://www.canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=7685. Retrieved 10/13/2012.

Lloyd, Brennain. 2012, October 5. Getting to ‘Yes’ at International Conference on Nuclear Waste. Bay Today; News Articles. Available at: http://www.baytoday.ca/content/news/details.asp?c=49099. Retrieved 10/15/2012.

Northwatch. 2012. Nuclear Waste Repository Proposed for the Eastern Shore of Lake Huron. Northwatch Website; DGR. Available at: http://www.web.net/~nwatch/DGR/DBR-backgrounder-April2012.pdf. Retrieved: 10/15/2012.

Nyberg, Per. 2011, August 24. The town that wants nuclear waste. CNN World News: Articles. Available at: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-04-24/world/sweden.nuclear.waste_1_swedish-nuclear-fuel-nuclear-waste-nuclear-reactors?_s=PM:WORLD. Retrieved 10/15/2012.

OPG (Ontario Power Generation). 2011. Environmental Impact Statement Summary. Ontario Power Generation Website: OPG’s Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Waste. Available at: http://www.opg.com/power/nuclear/waste/pdf/NWMO%20216%20-%20EIS%20Summary.pdf. Retrieved 10/13/2012.

OPG (Ontario Power Generation). 2012, August 20. Public Review Continues for DGR. Ontario Power Generation Website: Deep Geologic Repository. Available at: http://www.opg.com/power/nuclear/waste/dgr/index.asp. Retrieved 10/13/2012.



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