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House: No nuclear waste storage near Great Lakes

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — The U.S. House on Thursday approved a measure backed by the Michigan delegation that officially opposes the permanent or long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel or other radioactive waste near the Great Lakes.


Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, left and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn

The measure passed by a vote of 340-72 as part of a larger nuclear waste policy bill, which now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said they introduced the bipartisan amendment to the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018, expressing the “sense of the Congress” that the governments of the United States and Canada should not allow the storage of radioactive waste near the freshwater lakes.

“Right now we have four spent nuclear fuel sites, including two in Southwest Michigan right on the shores of Lake Michigan,” said Upton, who with Dingell is a members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Keeping spent fuel there in perpetuity is not an option, especially when a permanent, responsible solution has long been available.”

The amendment is lawmakers’ latest effort to stop a controversial Canadian plan to build a repository for low-to mid-level nuclear waste less than a mile from Lake Huron in Ontario.

The utility Ontario Power Generation has continued to seek approval to construct the facility near Kincardine, Ontario – a project under consideration for more than a decade that has been on hold since the Trudeau government took office.

A year ago, 32 members of Congress representing the Great Lakes region signed a letter to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, saying they want the power utility to choose another location outside the Great Lakes Basin, noting that 35 million people (24 million of them Americans) rely on the freshwater lakes for drinking water.

“This amendment sends a strong, bipartisan message to our friends and neighbors in Canada that the U.S. Congress is united against storing nuclear waste near the Great Lakes,” Dingell said Thursday.

Members of Michigan’s delegation last year introduced resolutions in the U.S. House and Senate in opposition to the project, urging President Donald Trump and Tillerson to work with their counterparts in Canada to prevent its advancement.

Ontario Power Generation’s repository would sit 2,230 feet below the surface and less than a mile from the lake shore.

Company officials say the makeup of the rock at that depth would be good for safely storing wastes for hundreds of years, and that alternative sites would be more expensive and take longer to build.

The company’s preferred location is at an existing nuclear facility where the waste is currently stored above ground in warehouses 100 yards from the site.