Activists fear proposed nuclear waste facility a terrorist ‘bull’s-eye’

[The article below refers to, among others, Mr. Kevin Kamps. Kamps is a Nuclear Waste Specialist with the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Washington, D.C. He made a presentation to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearing (Sept. 12-13, 2002 in Ottawa) concerning an application by Ontario Power Generation to have its nuclear waste storage operation (called the Western Waste Management Facility located at the Bruce Nuclear site) deemed a “nuclear installation” under Canada’s Nuclear Liability Act. Such a designation under the act would limit the amount of liability insurance the site must carry to CDN $75 million (see our Insurance chart). Kamp’s press statement, given in the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery at Parliament Hill on Friday morning, Sept. 13, can be read here (PDF).]

STEPHEN THORNE – Canadian Press

Saturday, September 14, 2002

OTTAWA (CP) – An outdoor radioactive waste dump, a financially troubled company, and one of the world’s primary freshwater sources are a lethal mix, environmentalists said Friday.

They issued that assessment as they called for a public, international review of a proposal to store high-level nuclear waste at the Bruce nuclear power station on the shores of Lake Huron. “This facility . . . would be a primary terrorist target,” said Kevin Kamps, an anti-nuclear activist from Michigan. “It would represent a radioactive bull’s-eye in the heart of the Great Lakes, a terrorist’s dream-come-true.”

British Energy Corp., the financially troubled parent company of Bruce Power, recently received a multibillion-dollar British government bailout.

Now, Ontario Power Generation, the company that owns and leases eight reactors to Bruce Power and operates the waste storage facilities there, is asking the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for special status.

If given, it would effectively grant the facilities public financial protection for what one activist called “the highest concentration of nuclear risk in the world.”

Under Canada’s Nuclear Liability Act, insurance companies would have to cover only $75 million of liability in the event of a radioactive leak.

By comparison, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster has cost the governments of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia more than $350 billion. Europe requires at least $600 million coverage for each nuclear facility.

“The Canadian government is setting itself up for financial extortion,” said Michael Keegan, chairman of the Coalition for a Nuclear Free Great Lakes.

“Once that waste is in place, the Canadian government cannot say: ‘We will not subsidize this any longer.’ The corporation will go bankrupt, but the Canadian government will be left holding the bag.”

The coalition wants government to order nuclear facilities to set aside bankrupt-proof, segregated funds for decommissioning and waste management.

A spokesman for Bruce noted that Thursday the Nuclear Safety Commission endorsed Bruce Power’s safety record.

“CNSC staff have not observed anything to indicate that the current financial problems being experienced by British Energy PLC have had an adverse impact on safe operations at the Bruce site,” said the commission.

John Earl, a spokesman for Ontario Power Generation, said his firm has followed a detailed approval process to expand its waste management facilities at Bruce.

“We have to ensure we meet and we certainly do meet all the regulatory requirements,” said Earl. “There have been a number of hearings and the hearings are open to the public.

“People can express their concerns to the regulator and if the regulator believes there is opportunity for adjustment then they would ask . . . for those adjustments and we would, of course, oblige.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency has designated the Bruce facility the most concentrated nuclear site in the world.

An accident or terrorist attack at the site could contaminate 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water in the Great Lakes Basin “in a heartbeat,” said Keegan.

“Let’s take a look at what we’re doing. Let’s slow down.”

Ontario Power Generation operates nuclear plants at Pickering and Darlington. It also owns the Bruce facilities, where it leases its plant to a consortium and continues to operate waste-management facilities for storage of low- and medium-level nuclear waste.

It is awaiting approval for storage of high-level waste at Bruce.

© The Canadian Press, 2002

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