OPG is 'grilled' for answers on second day of Joint Panel Review process

September 17, 2013


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The Joint Panel Review hearing for the proposed deep geologic repository (DGR) continued today, Tuesday September 17 (2013) in Kincardine and it appears that it is going to be a very long process given the number of speakers and those wanting to ask questions.

The three-member joint panel, established by the Federal Minister of the Environment and the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), will review OPG's proposed project to build and operate a facility for the long-term management of low and intermediate level radioactive waste in Ontario after listening to many presentations, community members and those with questions.

For bios of the panel and the first day's proceedings, Click Here

Among the presenters on the second day were OPG's Laurie Swami, Patsy Thompson of the (CNSC),David Ulrich of the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Norman Annetts in addition to the mayors of the local Municipalities of Brockton, Huron-Kinloss, Saugeen Shores and South Bruce.  There were also individual presenters including Laura Haight of Kincardine, John Mann of Saugeen Shores, Glenn Sutton and Barry Schmidt.

The day began with a submission by OPG followed by an intensive and extensive question period. According to the OPG submission, the split for the low and intermediate waste is 80% low level and 20% intermediate level with a total volume of 130,000 cubic metres.  They also explained that it was felt the Bruce Power site with its crystalline sedementary rock and stability and the fact that ground water has not been an issue for millenia made it a good site for a DGR but that additional studies would have to be undertaken.

Laurie Swami of OPG also explained that the low and intermediate waste is appropriate for management and that de-commissioning of the Pickering site would be part of the L & I waste.

The Panel Chair, Dr. Stella Swanson, asked Swami if the simple ranking system used for on-site vs. off-site location was adequate.  Swami said it was suggested that the DGR be located at the Bruce site as the geology was good and therefore safe. In her opinion, the assessment was not biased for on-site vs. off-site and was based on six criteria that included health and safety, the environment and socio-economic factors.

Patsy Thompson of the CNSC also clarified that costs are not considered when it comes to decisions made by the CNSC. "Whatever  project is proposed, we would assess in terms of whether it meets safety or environmental concerns whatever the costs."

John Mann of Saugeen Shores asked why OPG didn't  enquire first about a high level repository and then use it for low and intermediate waste.  Swami explained that OPG was only responsbile for low and intermediate waste and that NWMO was responsible for High level waste.  Peter Elder of CNSC further clarified that the High level repository was a national issue and that producers (OPG) of the low and intermediate waste were responsible for its management.

Ken Robertson of Saugeen Shores then asked if incremental costs for transportation from Pickering were being considered and Swami clarified that they were, in fact, included.  Swami explained that the transportation and security for waste to the Bruce site from Pickering were already established on-site.  "At an off-site location, we would not only have to have the DGR, we would have to implement additional security and transportation with resulting costs."

Robertson went on to say that, "It appears that in 2004, a host agreement was reached and that payments were to be made to the adjacent communities and, therefore, what criteria was used for the agreement before OPG began writing cheques for several million dollars in 2005?"

According to OPG, the hosting agreement between Kincardine and OPG was signed in 2004 with a stipulation that public community consultation and a poll would be held prior to proceeding with licensing.

Intervenor, Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch, drew on the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (2002) which is specific to high level fuel waste but not limited to fuel waste and mentions other waste categories.  "The Act gives the organization of NWMO direction and given the Act and  that it is limited to fuel," she said, "where does the NWMO find its mandate to act as a consultant to OPG and this low and intermediate level DGR?"

The Chair pointed out that NWMO was not even involved in the hearing, but Laurie Swami of OPG replied that NWMO has specialized skills in geo-science and, therefore, OPG entered into a number of studies with NWMO and their set of specialized skills.

Joanne Martin, a seasonal resident, suggested that they (summer residents) had not been contacted but Kevin Powers assured the Panel that all attempts had been made to make seasonal residents aware of the project.

Lloyd then returned to ask how OPG arrived at a shaft-type of access versus a ramp method.  Frank King of OPG explained that although Sweden and Finland use ramps, Switzerland and Germany use the shaft method.  "Ramps are used up to 400 meters deep," he explained, "but it is more economical at 600 metres or more to use shafts.  There have also been significant improvements to the shaft method.  The shaft and hoist method is not new.  It is a proven method internationally in the mining industry and, in fact, the industry is moving more toward this type of operation.  In Finland they didn't have that capability and, in Canada, we do."

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Legal counsel, Alex Monem, took issue with the entire process of asking questions.  "The process for intervening questions we find to be severely limiting and is curtailing our ability to participate in the fact finding process and the evidence testing process.

We understand the limits of time and appreciate protocol but single stand-alone questions will not allow us to participate adequately in the testing of evidence and I would ask that the panel consider ways of mitigating this problem so that SON and other intervenors can meaningfully participate in this process."

He went on to ask about the technical challenges of co-locating the low and intermediate level waste.  "Would there be additional requirements to place intermediate level waste in a high level waste repository?"

Frank King explained that there are factors but, "... if there was a high level repository, which there isn't, it would be possible but I defer to Dr. Chizevsky." 

Dr. Chizevsky of OPG added that, "There are a range of factors.  Intermediate is very different from high level ... heat factors, gas generation, safety casing, seals used, different chemicals, etc.  They are different designs and there would be two repositories to suit the different wastes. 

Swami also pointed out that it is OPG's responsibility to manage low and intermediate waste for the long term and that the question of a high level repository was not germane to the hearing.

General Information

On weekdays, the morning sessions begin at 9 a.m., afternoon sessions at 2 p.m., and evening sessions at 7 p.m. Each session continues for about three to four hours. Session breaks are 1.5-two hours long.

All hearing documents will be made available on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry through the Hearing Documents link.

The hearing proceedings will be webcast live by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Go to www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng to access the webcast.

A daily agenda will be available before the start of each hearing day. The daily agenda will reflect any changes that have been made to the hearing schedule.

Written transcripts of the proceedings will be available as soon as possible following each hearing day.

Simultaneous translation of the oral proceedings will be available in French and English.

Public access to the Internet will not be provided by the panel in the hearing room.

All individuals must be prepared to have their bags and briefcases searched by police or security personnel before entering the hearing room.

Upon arrival, Registered Participants are asked to identify themselves to a member of the Joint Review Panel Secretariat (members of the Secretariat will be wearing name tags).

Registered Participants must ensure that the Secretariat has their local contact information so that they can be reached in case of changes to the schedule.

Registered Participants should arrive before the start of the session(s) in which they are scheduled to present to the panel, in case of a change in scheduling.

Presentation equipment (laptop & projector) is provided by the panel. Presentation material will be loaded in advance of each session.


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Tuesday, September 17, 2013