POLITICS

Citizens ask court to stop burial plot for nuclear waste near Lake Huron

06/12/2015 02:01 EDT | Updated 06/12/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - A review panel decision in favour of a plan to bury dangerous nuclear waste near Lake Huron was illegal and unreasonable, a citizen's group argues in a new Federal Court application.

In asking the court to set aside the decision, the group says the panel that approved the Ontario Power Generation proposal failed to consider Canada's international obligations, was biased, and violated the Canadian environmental rules.

"The (panel) erred in failing to require OPG to fully study accidents and malfunctions that would result in adverse effects to human health and safety and to the environment," the application by Save our Saugeen Shores states.

"(It) erred in failing to require OPG to adequately evaluate the potential for reasonably foreseeable or unplanned events, singly or in combination, to produce significant short- and long-term adverse effects on the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem, home to 40 million people and containing 20 per cent of the world's fresh water."

Approval of the billion-dollar deep geological repository near Kincardine, Ont., along with any conditions currently rests with federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who has delayed making a decision until December — after the fall election.

A spokeswoman with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency said it would be inappropriate for Aglukkaq to comment given the matter is before the courts but Neal Kelly, with OPG, called the action routine.

"Judicial reviews are often brought forward by opposing groups on projects like this," Kelly said.

"The joint review panel gave a very strong endorsement of OPG's proposed project."

The OPG proposal calls for permanently storing hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of so-called low and intermediate level nuclear waste in bedrock 680 metres underground near Kincardine, Ont. The site at the Bruce nuclear plant would be about one kilometre from Lake Huron — close to where the radioactive waste is now stored above ground.

While the company argues the rock is stable and would provide a hermetic seal to prevent any radioactivity reaching the lake for tens of thousands of years, opponents on both sides of the border have decried the plan as too risky.

More than 150 communities — many in the United States — have passed resolutions against any storage of nuclear waste near the Great Lakes.

The federal court application argues Ontario Power Generation failed to take into account Canada and Ontario's obligations to be "good neighbours" to the U.S. and individual states.

"No Canadian representative, whether formally or informally, notified the United States of the proposal," the application states.

While OPG maintains that Kincardine is a willing host community for the waste bunker, the citizens' group maintains that the acceptance was only obtained by "egregious and deceptive" practices that included throwing money at local politicians, and holding secret meetings with them which an independent review concluded broke the Municipal Act.

Jill Taylor, president of Save Our Saugeen Shores, said the federal government cannot expect industry and the public to respect environmental laws and processes when it has failed to do so. The project is simply too risky, she said, noting last year's failure at an American underground nuclear waste site in New Mexico.

"To risk contaminating (Great Lakes) water with nuclear waste that will remain highly radioactive for 100,000 years is unthinkable," Taylor said.