Nuclear Waste Becomes Transborder Concern

IR 2002-11
August 12, 2002 – INVERHURON, Ontario Bruce Nuclear
Nuclear Waste Becomes Transborder Concern:
US Press Sights Canadian Nuclear Waste at
Bruce Nuclear Power Station on Great Lakes Shorline

Last month, as U.S. President George W. Bush signed a bill into law which, for better or for worse, made Yucca Mountain in Nevada the central storage point for waste from U-S nuclear power plants, the Detroit News published a feature article about nuclear waste stored on the Canadian shoreline of Lake Huron at the Bruce nuclear site.

Many elected officials in northeastern U-S states backed Yucca on the basis that it would mean the removal of nuclear waste from the Great Lakes waterways, home to 36 million people. The article on page one of the paper’s July 24 Metro section muted the celebrations of Yucca supporters. Few Americans, it seems, are aware of the volume of high level nuclear waste stored at Canadian nuclear power stations on the Great Lakes basin: at the Bruce nuclear site (some 50 miles across Lake Huron from Michigan) and at the Pickering and Darlington sites on Lake Ontario.

The amount of waste stored at the Bruce site alone exceeds the total amount of waste stored at all U-S reactors around the Great Lakes. You can read The Detroit News article in pdf.

Having read the Detroit News article, one wonders when Canada will find a permanent high level nuclear waste storage site. Canadian government, scientific and civilian authorities have spent decades seeking one, but without success. In June 2002, the federal government created the Waste Management Organization (WMO), comprised of industry representatives charged with studying the options
and recommending its choice for a permanent disposal solution for Canada’s nuclear waste.

One of the options which might be on the table is expanding the Bruce nuclear site. At present, 14,000 tons of high level waste is already in cooling pools at the Bruce site, waiting to go “above ground” into the new “short term” storage containers, likely beginning as early as this fall. However, official incident reports already note leakage from the existing low and medium nuclear waste storage facilities at the
Bruce site on the Lake Huron shoreline, which holds such waste from all of Ontario’s nuclear power facilities. As well, the Bruce reactors regularly contribute planned emissions” of tritium and other radioactive elements into Lake Huron.

Thus, the new above ground high level waste site is raising concerns locally and around the lake. Detroit takes its drinking water from Lake Huron, as do many other U-S and Canadian cities such as Flint, Port Huron, Sarnia, London, etc. Lake Huron feeds the St. Clair River, which feeds Lake St. Clair, source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of more homes. As the search for a permanent Canadian
site continues, perhaps industry and federal regulators would consider conducting independent environmental assessments and risk analysis to verify the safety of “short term” storage sites, existing and new, on the Great Lakes Shoreline. (Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), has defined the period of “short term” nuclear waste storage as “50 to 80 years or

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