INVERHURON, Ontario – April 8, 2002
“Just What Does Warrant Environmental Assessment?”
Volunteer Group To Appear Before Federal Standing Committee
“If the construction of the world’s largest radioactive waste storage facility, holding the most toxic deadly substance known to humans does not warrant a full, independent, environmental assessment (EA), than just what does?”
That’s the question Normand de la Chevrotiere, President of the volunteer community group, the Inverhuron and District Ratepayers’ Association (IDRA), will put before the federal Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. de la Chevrotiere has been invited to address committee members on the morning of April 16, 2002, in Ottawa (Centre Block, Parliament, Room 253-D) as part of public hearings on Bill C-19, An Act to Amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
de la Chevrotiere thinks the act as it stands needs “a little tweaking.” He represents 300 households in the hamlet of Inverhuron, Ontario who live next to the Bruce nuclear power complex right on the Lake Huron shoreline. A new above ground storage site for up to 20,000 tonnes of radioactive spent fuel bundles from the Bruce nuclear reactors is under construction at what is called the “Western Waste Management Facility” (WWMF), part of the Bruce complex. Low and medium level nuclear waste from all of the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) nuclear facilities has been incinerated and/or stored at the site for over a decade.
“We need an Environmental Assessment as a kind of snapshot of the area as it is now. Ten, twenty, a hundred years from now, we’ll need a baseline against which we can measure environmental change. We have reason to believe existing low and medium level storage areas at the Bruce site are leaking. Let’s find out what’s going on now, before we begin storing the most toxic substance known to humans right on the Lake Huron shore!”
The IDRA has already been to the top three courts in the land to ask for an EA at the WWMF. “We let the courts know that the waste storage system OPG plans to use at the Bruce site may not be suitable for this application,” says de la Chevrotiere. “The design was specific to conditions at the Pickering site. The situation here is very different in many ways and needs to be assessed. Both the federal regulator and OPG’s own consultant said the same thing!”
But the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal ruled against the IDRA, each court saying it was not “an academy of science.” The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. So de la Chevrotiere is off to Ottawa to try and persuade the Standing Committee that the Environmental Assessment Act should require projects of such magnitude to undergo an independent EA before they get the green light.
The first of almost 2,000 silos for high level waste storage will likely be put into operation later this year, if the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission grants OPG a license to operate the facility. That approval seems likely.
“The waste materials they will be storing are deadly for hundreds of years and radioactive and dangerous for tens of thousands of years,” says de la Chevrotiere. “If a storage site for high level nuclear waste doesn’t require a look at environmental and human health factors, then why bother having an Environmental Assessment Act at all?”