Canada delays decision on nuclear waste storage project

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

The Canadian government will delay its decision on whether to move forward with a controversial nuclear waste storage facility that would be sited near the shore of Lake Huron.

On Friday, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced it will issue a decision on the deep geologic repository project March 1, 2016. That decision had been expected early next month.

For more than a decade, Ontario Power Generation has pursued approval for its plan to bury low-to-mid-level radioactive wastes deep underground near Kincardine, a city located right along the shore of Lake Huron. If completed, the repository would sit 2,230 feet below the surface, and less than a mile from the shore.

The project has moved slowly forward under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. But it may be getting a new look following the election of new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

And a new look would be welcomed by a host of elected officials around the region who fear housing nuclear waste so close to the Great Lakes is a dangerous mistake.

“Storing radioactive nuclear waste within such close proximity of our Great Lakes put the millions of Americans and Canadians who rely on them in unnecessary danger,” said U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, in a statement released Saturday. “I hope that this additional 90-day review period will give Canadian authorities time to take the prudent course of action and not permit the construction of this nuclear site so close to the Great Lakes.”

Earlier this month, a dozen members of Michigan’s congressional delegation wrote to Trudeau, urging the new prime minister to deny the construction permits necessary for the storage facility to be built.

Ontario Power Generation has long contended that the design and placement of its underground facility ensures it will provide safe storage of the wastes for “many thousands of years.”

“Ontario Power Generation respects the Minister’s need for more time to review the Joint Review Panel’s recommendations to move forward with the project,” the company said in a statement released Friday. “OPG has spent more than a decade studying the feasibility of a (deep geologic repository) at its Bruce site in Kincardine... and has conducted considerable public consultations.”

In August, several Michigan legislators attempted to involve the International Joint Commission in the picture. The commission is a U.S.-Canadian body established by treaty more than a century ago to handle boundary disputes between the two nations. An official request from the U.S. Department of State is needed before the commission can get involved.

“Given what is at stake, invoking this treaty to require a thorough review by the International Joint Commission and a process to resolve this critical issue is a reasonable solution,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, in August. So far, the State Department has not requested IJC participation.

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