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Dumping on the Great Lakes

Alex Green • Nov 12, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Local governments in Canada and Michigan have approved resolutions opposing Ontario Power Generation's plans for a deep geological repository in Kincardine, Ontario.

The repository would store low and intermediate level waste 680 meters underground within a mile of Lake Huron's shoreline.

Toledo and Oregon have also approved resolutions in the past three months, since Lake Erie receives 95 percent of its water from Lake Huron.

Longtime Port Clinton resident Victoria Clemons wrote a letter to Port Clinton council in August, asking them to do the same.

"Protecting the purity of the Great Lakes is probably one of the most important tasks for legislators at the city and state level throughout the Midwest," Clemons wrote. "I urge you to pass a resolution calling in the strongest possible terms on Canada and the United States to stop looking anywhere in the Great Lakes watershed for a site to bury radioactive waste."

Ontario Power Generation, or OPG, a government-owned company responsible for 60 percent of Ontario's electricity, believes it has done its due diligence in researching the repository and its potential effects for more than a decade.

"We're talking about a repository that would be 680 meters under the ground," OPG spokesman Neal Kelly said. "The tightly-sealed barrels would be stored between rock that has been around for 450 million years."

Nuclear waste expert and whistleblower Arena Gundersen served as an expert witness in the Three Mile Island accident, one of the worst nuclear power plant accidents in history. He has also provided commentary on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and served 10 years on Connecticut's low-level radioactive waste advisory committee.

Gundersen vehemently opposes this repository.

"It might be within 400 million-year-old rock, but you have to shatter the rock to put [the repository] in," Gundersen said. "Suddenly the monolithic structure that was there is really not monolithic anymore."

Gundersen also discounts OPG's other justification — a 72 percent approval rating for the dump among residents of Kincardine.

"This is a very poor community that needs the jobs," Gundersen said.

Gundersen believes any beneficiary of the Great Lakes, especially residents in Northern Ohio should be seriously concerned with a repository that is close to being to built.

"I just can't believe they would consider putting something like this so close to a major body of water," Gundersen said. "We're talking about the water source for 40 million people. Contaminating a water supply is not a spigot you can turn off once it starts. Over time we're going to contaminate the largest fresh water source in North America."

Michigan senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow wrote a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Oct. 21, explicitly opposing the dump.

"We are writing to express serious concerns about a proposal to store low and intermediate level nuclear waste in an underground facility at the Bruce nuclear power site near Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario…. Special consideration must be given to the potential environmental impacts of such a large radioactive waste site on the shores of our region's most important natural resource," the letter read.

Michigan State Rep. Sarah Roberts has been a major part of the dump's opposition movement. She believes it is important for people to get involved and help educate one another.

"One of the best things people can do is to get their local government to pass resolutions opposing the site," Roberts said.

In spite of the overwhelming opposition, Gundersen still believes OPG is going to go through with its plans.

"They are trying to go through with this because they are already there," Gundersen said. "I think they are going to get approval from the Canadian government, and I think ultimately they will try to expand and store high level waste here."

The joint review panel, appointed by the Canadian Nuclear Regulator, has 90 days to review information submitted during the public hearings that have recently taken place.

It will then make a recommendation to the Canadian Ministry of the Environment that make its recommendation to the Canadian Cabinet that will make the final verdict.

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