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Problems and public opposition to the plan to store high level nuclear wastes under the Great Lakes

Nuclear Question: Debate continues over long-term storage of nuclear waste in the Great Lakes. Great Lakes Now, By Andrew Reeves, 25 Oct 21,

Canada’s plan to store spent nuclear fuel 1,600 feet below ground in the Great Lakes basin, some 30 miles from Lake Huron, is continuing to ruffle feathers throughout the Great Lake states.

Earlier this month, U.S. lawmakers called out the Canadian plan for failing to prioritize the health of the Great Lakes and the 40 million residents who depend on it for clean drinking water ahead of its own energy needs.

Michigan Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee is leading a 20-member bipartisan group calling on President Joe Biden to pressure Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt the plans for storing an anticipated 57,000 tons of high-level radioactive material within the basin.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in a statement on the ongoing legal battle over the future of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, accused the Canadian federal government of “adding even more risk to our waters” by allowing plans to store radioactive nuclear waste in a 1,400-acre underground warehouse to proceed.

Yet despite concerns within the basin from politicians and environmental groups, and unrest among local farmers worried about water contamination and potentially tanking property values, the project is moving ahead as planned. Geologic testing at one location in southern Ontario began this spring.

Even so, determining the long-term fate of Canada’s spent nuclear fuel remains far from settled as rifts develop within the host community, and between Canada and frustrated U.S. lawmakers.

“There’s a divide taking place,” Canadian Member of Parliament Brian Masse noted on a recent tour of the proposed South Bruce site with concerned residents. “I do believe there needs to be some responsibility taken on a federal level to make sure our communities aren’t broken in this process.”………

When spent nuclear fuel bundles are removed from a reactor they are currently interred in a water-filled pool for up to seven years until radioactivity decreases. From there the rods are relocated to dry storage containers made of 20-inch-thick, high-density concrete lined with steel half an inch thick. These storage facilities have a lifespan of roughly 50 years, and Canada has been generating nuclear power since the early 1960s. While the dry storage silos can be refurbished to extend their use, it does nothing to address the long-term need for safe storage solutions.

Experts at NWMO settled on a deep geological repository as the preferred storage option in 2007 after three years of discussion with European nuclear engineers.

The basic premise of the DGR is deceptively simple: bury the spent fuel. If NWMO could identify a willing host community that is situated in an area with suitable geology, the stage would be set to spend $23 billion over 40 years to construct a massive underground labyrinth of tunnels bored into rock that, in total, would be capable of storing the 57,000 tons of spent fuel that Canada currently has in cement-encased copper canisters. The aboveground footprint of buildings would be little more than a mile across.

But the question remains: Where should three million bundles of spent nuclear fuel be stored for what is, essentially, the rest of time?

Identifying a willing host community

The process for identifying a willing host community began in 2008.

From an initial pool of 22 potential locations across Canada, on-site investigations quickly whittled that list down to two, both of which are in Ontario: South Bruce, at a location some 30 miles from Lake Huron, and Ignace in northwestern Ontario. (The Ignace location, northwest of Lake Superior, is not within the Great Lakes basin; rather, it sits within the Winnipeg River basin. Borehole drilling to determine the suitability of the bedrock beneath the proposed site began in Ignace in 2017.)…………

U.S. lawmakers aren’t the only ones concerned about the proposed DGR. Public opposition to the proposal among South Bruce residents has been mounting steadily. …………. https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2021/10/storage-nuclear-waste-great-lakes/

October 26, 2021 - Posted by | Canada, wastes, water

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