- Category: news
- Created: Tuesday, 17 September 2013 13:26
- Published: Tuesday, 17 September 2013 13:26
- Written by Administrator 3
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By Scott Dunn, Sun Times, Owen Sound
KINCARDINE - Saugeen First Nation Chief Randall Kahgee told a panel considering whether long-term burial of low- and medium-level nuclear waste would be safe beside Lake Huron that Saugeen Ojibway Nation isn't "fundamentally opposed" to the proposal, but it must approve the plan for it to proceed.
Asked by joint panel chair, Dr. Stella Swanson to define what the native community's support would entail, Saugeen Chief Kahgee said, "This is the trillion dollar question" and is one his community has been working on with OPG.
SON's people can't just leave if a problem arises with OPG's proposed deep geologic repository for nuclear waste, he said. But SON acknowledges there is a waste management problem and wants to carefully weigh the merits of the proposal. He acknowledged his people have fears, some valid and others uninformed.
Kahgee also said the SON's treaty rights and his people's interests must be respected. "So it's a lot of work ahead."
The facility is proposed to be placed within the Bruce nuclear site near Tiverton, which is in traditional Saugeen Ojbway Nation territory, which includes the local Saugeen and Cape Croker bands. It was recently revealed that OPG president Tom Mitchell promised its deep geologic repository won't proceed without SON approval.
Swanson's opening comments acknowledged the project's proposed location is in the SON and Metis traditional territory. Cape Croker Chief Arlene Chegahno in her opening remarks said it's no exaggeration that the DGR proposal "has the potential to change our territory and the future of our people."
This underground vault would hold up to 200,000 cubic metres of low-and intermediate-level nuclear waste 680 metres beneath the surface, with a multiple-layer 200-metre cap of shale and sedimentary, low-permeable limestone above the DGR.
The DGR would be about one kilometre from Lake Huron, at OPG's Western Waste Management Facility, which accepts low, medium and high-level waste now.
OPG owns all 20 nuclear reactors in Ontario, eight of them leased to Bruce Power. All send their low and medium-level waste like mops, coveralls and tools to the Bruce now. If approved, that waste would be buried for centuries in the DGR, rather than stored above ground.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the nuclear regulator, concluded OPG's proposal "meets all regulatory requirements" and it has "adequately demonstrated‚" its safety related to people and the environment.
Dr. Patsy Thompson of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission concluded the OPG project is "unlikely to cause adverse environmental effects," a phrase she said she uses because that's the language setting the standard used in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The regulator recommends issuing a licence to build the facility, subject to approval of the Environmental Assessment. Monitoring of OPG's compliance would be ongoing and would be reported on at public hearings, the CNSC's Peter Elder said.
After four weeks of hearings, the independent joint review panel, established by the CNSC, will make recommendations to the federal government which will decide if environmental concerns preclude the project from proceeding.
If the federal government decides the project can go ahead, the review panel would then decide on the licence to prepare the site for the facility and build it.
Construction would take five to seven years and so if final approvals came in 2014, the DGR could be ready in the early 2020s, OPG spokesman Neal Kelly said in an interview Monday.
If it doesn't, OPG would continue to transport the waste from Darlington and Pickering nuclear sites and store it above ground at the Bruce site, as it has for 40 years, Kelly said.
Ontario Power Generation vice president Laurie Swami said that this summer OPG reached an agreement with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and the Metis which she called a "milestone" toward addressing their concerns, which she will elaborate on at the hearings Oct. 7.
Swami, who began her remarks by thanking SON, told the board in opening statements that studies have shown the project "would not result in any significant adverse environmental effects." Later when questioned by the public, she qualified her answer to say its studies show significant adverse environmental effects would be "unlikely."
The CNSC identified no adverse impact on any potential or established Aboriginal treaty rights that would be caused by the DGR, Thompson said.
Review panelists challenged OPG a few times on its assertions that the project was safe and questioned OPG's degree of confidence in them.
OPG expert Mark Jensen said studies considered glaciation and earthquakes among other threats. He said the limestone vaults could collapse somewhere between "several tens of thousands of years" and maybe ‚"one million" years into the future. But he also said the cap of shale over the limestone vaults would still provide a protective barrier "forever."
Members of the public asked about why two deep geological repositories are proposed, potentially doubling the cost and the possible risks. A second vault is proposed to store highly radioactive fuel but it isn't the subject of this joint review panel.
OPG's Swami said OPG has no plans to put high-level waste together with the lower level waste.
But if there were a nuclear incident, the Nuclear Liability Act would not cover the DGR because it only covers failures at reactors with nuclear fuel, the CNSC's Elder told a questioner who asked if OPG would compensate First Nations people and others in the surrounding area. Swami of OPG said the Ministry of the Environment would have requirements OPG would follow.
Hearings are being held in the Kincardine Royal Canadian Legion for three weeks and in Port Elgin at the Saugeen Shores Community Complex Rotary Hall for the fourth week. A detailed list of registered speakers and background is available on the CNSC website at www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca.