Canadian review panel files report on radioactive waste disposal plan in Ontario

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency said May 6 that the Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, received the report of the Joint Review Panel for the proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste project in Ontario.

The federal government will now review the panel’s report before issuing a decision statement on whether the project may proceed. If the project is authorized to proceed to the next phase of the permitting process, the decision statement will include conditions related to the project that will be legally binding on the proponent.

Prior to the federal government’s decision on the project, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will invite Aboriginal groups and registered participants to comment on potential conditions relating to possible mitigation measures and follow-up requirements that could be necessary, if the project is authorized to proceed. These comments will be taken into account by the Minister of the Environment for the decision statement.

Subject to the federal government’s decision, the Joint Review Panel, as a panel of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, will make a decision whether to issue a licence to Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to prepare a site and construct the deep geologic repository facility.

The DGR is a proposal by Ontario Power Generation to prepare a site, and construct and operate a facility for the long-term management of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste at the Bruce nuclear site, within the Municipality of Kincardine, Ontario. Low-level waste consists of industrial items that have become contaminated during routine clean up and maintenance activities at nuclear generating stations, such as mops, rags and protective clothing. Intermediate-level waste consists primarily of used mechanical parts, ion-exchange resins and filters. Used nuclear fuel will not be stored or managed in the DGR.

“OPG developed the DGR with one goal in mind: to create permanent, safe storage for Ontario’s low and intermediate-level nuclear waste,” said Laurie Swami, Senior Vice President at OPG in a May 6 statement. “We are pleased with the Panel’s conclusion that the project will safely protect the environment.”

The panel’s recommendation comes after more than 14 years of study and consultation.

“The deep geologic repository will be designed to protect the Great Lakes’ unique natural environment and precious resources,” Swami said. “OPG and a team of scientists will closely analyze the Panel’s conditions, many of which reinforce our commitment to the stewardship of the Great Lakes.”

The deep geologic repository would safely store about 200,000 cubic metres of low and intermediate level waste from more than 40 years of operating Ontario’s nuclear stations. The DGR will safely isolate and contain the waste deep underground, ensuring protection of the water and the environment permanently. It will be buried 680 meters in stable rock formations that are over 450 million years old. The Federal Minister of the Environment is expected to render her final decision on the DGR in 120 days.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.