OPG to explore alternatives to deep geologic repository

03 February 2020

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) said it remains committed to seeking safe and permanent disposal of nuclear waste after the members of Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) voted not to support plans for a deep geologic repository (DGR) for low and intermediate-level waste at the Bruce nuclear site. OPG said in 2013 that it would not build the DGR without the support of the First Nation.

The DGR would have been built at a depth of 680 metres (Image: OPG)

Following the ballot, in which 1058 votes were cast against the proposed DGR project with 170 in favour, Chief Lester Anoquot of the Chippewas said the First Nation would continue to work with OPG to find an acceptable solution for the waste. "[W]e didn't ask for this waste to be created and stored in our territory, but it is here," he said. "We know that the waste currently held in the above ground storage at the Bruce site will not go away."

OPG CEO and President Ken Hartwick said the company respects the decision of SON members. "OPG will explore other options and will engage with key stakeholders to develop an alternate site-selection process," he said. Any new process would include engagement with Indigenous peoples as well as interested municipalities.

The planned repository would have been built 680 metres below the Bruce site, in strong, dry and impermeable rock that has been isolated from the lake or any groundwater for hundreds of millions of years. It would have been used for low and intermediate-level waste from OPG-owned generating stations at Pickering, Darlington and Bruce, currently in storage at OPG's Western Waste Management Facility at the Bruce site. OPG submitted an environmental impact statement, preliminary safety report and supporting documents for the DGR to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in 2011.

OPG has engaged since 2004 with SON, which comprises two First Nation communities, the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation. OPG also continues to engage with the Métis Nation of Ontario and Historic Saugeen Métis concerning waste operations at the Bruce site. The Municipality of Kincardine has been a "willing hosting community" for the DGR since 2005, according to OPG.

Used nuclear fuel in Canada is destined for a separate DGR for which a site selection process is under way. The Nuclear Waste Management Organisation is carrying out a long-term selection process to identify by 2023 a single, preferred location for a repository for Canada's used nuclear fuel with informed and willing hosts. Both sites remaining in that selection process are in Ontario.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News