If You Bury Nuclear Waste, Will It Grow?

by tatertot on November 25, 2016 - 4:22pm

     As reported by Cameron (2016), at about one kilometre away from the Lake Huron shoreline, stands the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station that is owned by the Ontario Power Generation (OPG). Over time, as a result of generating nuclear power, they have developed waste products that have been classified as low-level and intermediate radioactive waste. As a way to permanently store this nuclear waste (which includes ashes, paper towels, floor sweepings, and discarded parts from the reactor core), the company proposed to build a ‘Deep Geological Repository’ (or DGR) which entails burying the waste deep within Ontario’s bedrock beside Lake Huron (“OPG’s Deep Geological Repository Project for Low & Intermediate Level Waste,” n.d.). As expected, there has been a lot of growing concern that has sparked controversy and advocating against this proposal for fear of health and environmental concerns that could occur from leakage from this repository. After hearing about the horror stories from Chernobyl, who would happily accept this proposal without knowing about the scientific research? As it turns out, many people didn’t. In the news article by Peter Cameron, he explains the extent of this opposition by mentioning how Canada’s Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, received a petition from the ‘Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump’ group with over 90 000 signatures. As discussed in class, and on the online discussion board, the petition process is a good technique for state legitimization. In this case, it was a good way for the company to hear and consider the public’s concerns about their proposed project.

     Also, other opposition included how OPG has been notified of 180 resolutions that have been developed and passed both in Canada and in the United States of America, where it is claimed to represent 22 million people that have opposed the project. However, OPG conducted an environmental assessment that proves, by providing science, that their plan is the best method to control their waste. This procedural tool was used to assess the concerns regarding potential environmental and health risks and determined through science that OPG’s plan has a low risk to the lake. OPG, and other proponents, also quell uncertainty by contending that the bedrock is geologically stable, which would provide a nice tight seal for the nuclear waste. As with any plan, there are different perspectives that can create conflict, as shown by this article. One type of conflict that stuck out to me was cognitive-based conflict between the proponents and opponents of the DGR where they had different understandings about the high and low risks associated with this project. Personally, I believe that burying the waste in stable bedrock, that happens to be close to the Great Lakes, is better than transporting the waste (and risking more contamination) to another site. However, I also wonder about how they know the location is geologically stable? Inter-plate earthquakes have occurred in Ontario before. Maybe this not-so-much-of-a-problem situation is a situation that could grow into an issue where there is in fact leakage? Maybe uncertainty will always be present and this is the reason why a state is needed for regulation?

 

References

Cameron, P. (2016, January 21). Plan to bury nuclear waste near Lake Huron sparks opposition. The Toronto Star. Toronto. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/01/21/plan-to-bury-nuclear-wast...

OPG’s Deep Geological Repository Project for Low & Intermediate Level Waste. (n.d.). Information Sheet, Ontario Power Generation. Retrieved from http://www.opg.com/generating-power/nuclear/nuclear-waste-management/DGR pdfs/nwmo228-DGRLakeHuronReport.pdf