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Opponents of DGR fear used nuclear fuel may end up in facility
By Liz Dadson

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Two Michigan politicians added their voices to the opposition to Ontario Power Generation (OPG)'s proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for low-level and intermediate-level nuclear waste at the Bruce Nuclear site in the Municipality of Kincardine.

Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood of the 8th District in Wayne County; and Sarah Roberts, state representative in the Michigan House of Representatives, addressed the Joint Review Panel, Monday afternoon, at Day 12 of the hearing, now in its third week at the Kincardine Legion.

Just prior to their presentation at the hearing, the pair spoke to local press along the shores of Lake Huron at Macpherson Park.

Both said they, and the citizens of Michigan, are concerned that anyone would consider burying nuclear waste beside one of the Great Lakes.

"We are here to tell Michigan's story," said Hopgood, "and to bring attention to our concerns."

Roberts said the people she represents live along Lake St. Clair, and the DGR project could potentially harm public health and the livelihood of those residents.

Hopgood said that the review panel's own consultant, Dr. Peter Duinker, who evaluated OPG's approach and method in its Environmental Assessment (EA), said it was not defensible, unclear, not reliable and inappropriate.

Roberts said she became aware of the DGR project in 2007, and then heard nothing until recently at which time she became involved in opposing the project.

She said there is no precedent for this project and most of the people she has spoken to are astonished that it would ever be considered, this close to Lake Huron.

If the review panel recommends the project proceed, Hopgood said the next step for the Michigan politicians would be to petition the Cabinet in Canada to reject it.

When asked about possible confusion between this project and the proposed DGR for used nuclear fuel, Roberts said the opposition is to burying nuclear waste within a half mile of Lake Huron.

"It's not being made clear that they (OPG) are not going to be burying high-level waste there," said Hopgood. "That's our concern."

Hopgood told reporters he has been to Canada and Ontario before, but this is his first visit to the Bruce County area. He said its natural beauty is breathtaking.

In his presentation to the Joint Review Panel, Hopgood said another major concern is there has been no general public outreach in Michigan.

"Our citizens were never notified and their input was never sought," he said. "All citizens living in Great Lakes states have a right to know about this proposal and should have been consulted. How can people possibly raise concerns about something they don't know about? Shamefully, this highly-controversial proposal, with potentially grave impacts, is largely unheard of."

He said that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality provided limited comments on the project's Environmental Impact Study, repeatedly noting shortfalls in OPG's studies.

The department cites  failure to explicitly answer the two questions posed as part of the geological study's report objectives. It notes that some figures do not accurately reproduce the pressure distribution, and that figures for dissolved solid concentrations are high for some formations. Finally, the department said that some of the studies may be incomplete or inaccurate.

"This is not an impressive review for an entity seeking to be a pioneer with underground nuclear waste disposal," said Hopgood.

Regarding Duinker's report, he asked what confidence can people have in OPG and the entire EA process with this highly-critical evaluation?

POSSIBILITY OF DOUBLING SIZE OF DGR

Finally, Hopgood said OPG has repeatedly referenced plans to include decommissioned waste - a move that would double the size of the facility.

"The possibility of high-level nuclear waste is a concern as well," he said. "Despite claims that this facility will not accept such waste, there is nothing to ensure that will not occur in the future. While the hosting agreement (with Kincardine) does not specifically include high-level waste, nothing binds OPG to only low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste, and nothing prevents an amendment to allow for high-level waste."

Roberts told the review panel that it is impossible for any scientist or geologist to guarantee the geological safety of the proposed location for 100,000 years (the radioactive life of intermediate-level waste).

"The Great Lakes define us as a state," she said. "We are the only state in the U.S. that is located entirely within the Great Lakes Basin. So much of who we are and what we do is connected to the water."

Speaking in support of the project, Monday, was Bruce County warden David Inglis.

"The County of Bruce believes OPG's proposed DGR will provide safe, permanent storage for low- and intermediate-level waste, which is currently managed safely at OPG's Western Waste Management Facility located at the Bruce Nuclear site," he said.

"OPG's proven track record in the safe management of this waste provides us with confidence and trust in their ability to meet and exceed regulatory regulations to ensure the safety of both the public and environment.

"We support OPG and the Municipality of Kincardine in their proposal to move the low- and intermediate-level waste to a permanent, safe location in the DGR on behalf of present and future generations."

To read Inglis' entire presentation, click here.

In response to questions about how the county came to the conclusion that the majority of its citizens were in favour of the project, Inglis said there was an absence of opposition, which the county took as support for the project.

Last week, opponents continued their presentations against the project, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, and John LaForge of Nukewatch.

Kamps, based in Washington, D.C., said his main concern is that the so-called "low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste dump" (DGR 1) will be the camel's nose under the tent for the high-level radioactive waste dump (DGR 2) which is already being targeted at a half-dozen municipalities in the Bruce area.

"Already we've seen OPG admit, under the pressure of questioning by intervening groups, that it has quietly planned to double the capacity of this DGR by adding another 200,000 cubic meters of 'low' and 'intermediate'-level radioactive wastes from decommissioning activities, what I would call DGR 3," said Kamps. 

"Beyond Nuclear joined with 27 other groups in a Request for Ruling to the Joint Review Panel, demanding clarification of the relationship between DGR1 and DGR3."

 



Michigan politicians Sarah Roberts (L) and Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood

Another concern, said Kamps, is that these radioactive waste dumps will endanger the drinking water supply for 40-million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American/First Nations, not just for this generation, but for countless future generations. 

And his third concern is that the radiological risks associated with these proposed dumps will then mix with, and add to, the radiological and toxic chemical risks from nuclear power and fossil fuel-burning facilities and activities throughout the Great Lakes basin. 

"These bio-accumulative and synergistic effects, although warned about by the likes of Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring a half-century ago, as well as Rosalie Bertell in her work on the Nuclear Task Force of the International Joint Commission in the 1990s, have been ignored by OPG, NWMO, and CNSC."

DGR CALLED "INSANE PROPOSAL"

Kamps said Beyond Nuclear has known about this "insane proposal" for over a decade and watched "with growing alarm and disbelief" as the project advanced to the licensing process.

"I worked at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service until July 2007, and have worked at Beyond Nuclear ever since then," he said. "I have also served on the Great Lakes United Nuclear-Free/Green Energy Task Force for more than a decade, as well as served on the board of Don't Waste Michigan during that same period of time. Between NIRS, Beyond Nuclear, GLU, and Don't Waste Michigan, we have taken part in all of the DGR(s) proceedings we've known about, intervening against the DGR(s) at every twist and turn for many long years now.

"Despite our active involvement, OPG did very little outreach to places like Michigan. As a result, push back from the likes of the Michigan State Legislature is growing."

As an alternative to the DGR, Beyond Nuclear joins with hundreds of environmental groups across the U.S. calling for Hardened On-Site Storage for commercial high-level radioactive waste, said Kamps. This same approach could and should be taken with so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes. 

The system involves dry storage that is designed and built well and should be designed and built to safeguard against accidents, defend against attacks, and prevent leakage into the environment due to age-related degradation. It is an interim measure. 

"We are opposed to the permanent storage or disposal of radioactive wastes on the Great Lakes shorelines," said Kamps. "The incineration of radioactive wastes, as done at the Western Waste Management Facility, and the proposed burial of radioactive wastes, are unprecedented on the Great Lakes shores. These activities and proposals are unacceptable."

LaForge of Nukewatch, based on the Wisconsin-Minnesota
border on Lake Superior, said he is concerned that the process appears rushed and under-funded in view of the 26 years and $7-billion spent investigating the Yucca Mountain, Nevada, DGR in the U.S.

He is also concerned that the watery area of the Bruce Peninsula is far too wet to keep dangerous, alpha-emitting radioactive materials in the low- and intermediate-level waste out of the water.

And he is concerned that OPG and the labour representatives who presented at the hearing Tuesday 
(Sept. 24) appear thoroughly disinterested in protecting themselves or the environment from the radiation contained in the waste. 

"In answer to its own question in a public handout, OPG has said: '... even if the entire waste volume were to be dissolved into Lake Huron, the corresponding drinking water dose would be a factor of 100 below the regulatory criteria initially and decreasing with time'," said LaForge.

He said he first heard of the DGR proposal in 2003.

Like Kamps, he recommends the Hardened On-Site Storage alternative which provides time that can be used to develop containers and burial methods that are improvements over the current designs that have failed at WIPP in New Mexico and the Asse Mine in Germany.

"There is not currently a DGR that is working as expected to contain such wastes," he said.

Meanwhile, it appears that as many presenters are opposed to the project as are in favour.

The hearing continues tomorrow, Day 13, with a focus on surface water, habitat and aquatic biota. Presentations will be given by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority, Bluewater Coalition (Cheryl Grace), Save our Saugeen Shores (Jill Taylor), Natalie Caine and Curt Valmy.



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