POLITICS

U.S. Congress again urged to oppose Canadian plan to bury nuclear waste

04/10/2015 02:33 EDT | Updated 06/11/2015 10:59 EDT
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The U.S. Congress should officially speak out against the possibility that Canadian nuclear waste will be stored underground near Lake Huron, a Michigan politician said Friday.

Canada needs to find a site that's much further from the lake, Rep. Dan Kildee said.

"The Great Lakes aren't just a source of natural wonder," Kildee said. "As the world's largest body of fresh water, they're vital to our way of life."

Publicly-owned Ontario Power Generation wants to bury more than 200,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste from its nuclear plants in a large bunker about 680 metres underground at the Bruce Power generating station near Kincardine, Ont.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which held hearings on the project, is expected to issue a report on the idea by May 6. If federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq then approves the repository, the commission's review panel will decide whether to issue a construction licence.

More than 140 cities and towns in the Great Lakes region have come out against the storage plan. There is also vocal opposition in the Kincardine area.

During the last congressional session, Kildee put forward a similar resolution — largely symbolic given that the decision is Canada's to make — but it failed to win House approval.

Nevertheless, Kildee said, it's important to express opposition given that the plan is "dangerous and an unnecessary risk."

"My congressional resolution seeks to find an alternative location for this Canadian nuclear waste storage site so it does not endanger our state's livelihood or economy — now or for future generations," the congressman said.

Ontario Power Generation maintains that burying the waste is the safest way to deal with radioactive material that has been stored above ground since the late 1960s.

"There have been numerous studies that have proven this repository will not put the lake at risk," said Jerry Keto, vice-president of nuclear decommissioning for Ontario Power Generation. "We've been examining this rock for a decade."

Critics, however, argue there's no way to guarantee the lake's safety over the thousands of years that would be required for all the waste to lose its radioactivity.

The two main requirements for such a facility are "good rock and a willing host community, and we have both right where we are," Keto said.

"There is no technical basis for moving the site."

If approved, construction on the respository is expected to begin around 2018, with a target date to begin operations of 2025.