What is the DGR?

by Sandy Lindsay

September 24, 2013


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For anyone who may not be following the on-going Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) hearings being held in Kincardine, Ontario, below is a simple diagram of what everyone is discussing.

The proposed DGR would be 680 metres below ground surface. There will be 'emplacement' rooms that are 250 ft. long where containers, filled with either low level or intermediate level nuclear waste, would be stacked five high.  Currently, and since 1974, the waste has been in the Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) located at the surface of the Bruce site.  Of that waste, 80 per cent (80%) is low level ... items such as rags, mops, cleaning supplies, etc. while the remainder is considered intermediate level waste which is more radioactive.

Joint Review Panelist, Dr. Gunter Muecke, asked if super-compaction had been considered in order to reduce volumes of low level waste and, thereby, reducing the size of the proposed DGR.  Frank King of OPG said that studies had been done earlier and a super-compactor was found to " ... create a 'nasty' liquid which, in turn, would have to be dealt with."  "Wouldn't those liquids cause concern over time in the DGR?" asked Muecke.  "The liquids would have to be dried and packaged," answered King.

One of the concerns raised by many who oppose the DGR and many who oppose nuclear energy in general was the matter of retrieval.  According to King, the low and intermediate level waste has no function and, therefore, there would be no need for retrieval.  It is solidified and there is no plan to monitor the individual containers.

Dr. Paul Gierszewski said that basic concept was to observe the first panel (room) for several decades to determine what, if any, degradation there was.  "There will also be sampling ports to allow measuring of gases and water."

There were many other questions raised: how would the waste would be tracked and recorded for future generations should the project go ahead; what about transportation; the possibility of accidental leakage; the types of containers that would be used; monitoring systems that would be implemented and many others.

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There is no doubt that many of those opposed to the DGR and nuclear energy are sincere in their concerns and want answers.

For those against nuclear energy, it is simple ... shut down all reactors and do not keep producing nuclear waste and try to find a permanent solution for what now exists. 

Today, with the world now so dependent on nuclear energy ... simple is not so simple.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013