OPG terminates repository project

July 2, 2020, 7:02AMRadwaste Solutions

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has officially canceled its plan to construct a deep geologic repository (DGR) for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste at its Bruce site, withdrawing the project from Canada’s federal environmental assessment process. In a June 15 letter to OPG, Canada’s minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, accepted the company’s request to withdraw the project and end the environmental assessment.

OPG also informed the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that the company was terminating the project and asked that its site preparation and construction license application be withdrawn.

In terminating the project, OPG confirms its 2013 commitment to the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) not to go forward with the repository without SON's support. In January, SON communities voted not to support the siting of the DGR in their territory. The DGR would have been located at the Western Waste Management Facility on the Bruce nuclear plant site in Kincardine, Ontario.

The back story: In 2005, OPG began the regulatory process to secure a license to prepare the site and construct the DGR with the submission of a project description to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and in 2007, the project was referred to a joint review panel under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. That panel recommended that the DGR be built, and in 2015, it released an environmental assessment report that concluded the project “is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.” The Canadian government, however, suspended the environmental review in February 2016, requesting that OPG conduct further technical, environmental, and economic studies into the DGR.

As designed, the DGR would have stored about 262,000 cubic yards of waste more than 2,200 feet below ground. According to OPG, 90 percent of the waste would have been low-level waste. Because of its close proximity to Lake Huron, the project drew considerable opposition from environmental groups and political leaders from communities surrounding the Great Lakes, both in Canada and the United States.

Next steps: In its May 27 letter to Wilkinson requesting the cancellation of the environmental assessment, OPG said that it “remains committed to developing an alternate solution for the safe and permanent disposal of the radioactive waste from its owned nuclear generating stations.”

According to Wilkinson, the termination of the environmental assessment does not limit future applications for a geologic repository, and if OPG, or another proponent, proposes a similar facility, it will be considered as a new project pursuant to Canadian regulations.

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