Bruce Power
Photo by Chuck Szmurlo

Review panel approves nuclear-waste dumpsite near Lake Huron

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The controversial plan to build a nuclear-waste dump located just 1.2-kilometers from Lake Huron is one step closer to getting the green light.

Earlier this week, a federal review panel approved the plan, saying the project “is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.”

Proposed by the Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the plan would involve building a deep bunker under the Bruce plant, located near Kincardine, Ontario, to store “low-level and immediate-level” radioactive waste. Low-level waste would include protective clothing, paper towels, mops, and floor sweepings—which would make up 80 percent of the total waste—while immediate-level includes reactor core components and filters. According to the Ontario Power Generation, high-level waste, like the nuclear fuel that’s used in the reactors, would not be stored in the site. If completed, the project would be the first of its kind in North America.

Located 680-meters underground the bedrock near the shore of Lake Huron, OPG says that the geological stability of the site would prevent any radioactivity from leaking into the water. Proponents also argue that burying the waste is a much safer alternative to storing it above ground, which is currently the case at the Bruce site.

But for groups like Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, even the risk of radioactivity polluting the source of drinking water for some 40 million Canadians and Americans is too great. The hazardous material would remain radioactive for up to 100,000 years. Detractors also worry that the site will set a new precedent in the country, and more of these potentially dangerous sites could open and store high-level waste.

Although the project still needs to be approved by the federal government, this latest news is a big blow to opponents, including the more than 150 communities in both Canada and the United States that have contested the project.

“This is an intergenerational, non-partisan issue that affects millions of Canadians and Americans,” stated Beverly Fernandez, the spokesperson of the Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump group.

Now that the review panel has approved the project, it’s up to the Environment Minister Leona Agukkaq for the final word. She has 120 days to make a decision. If approved, construction would begin around 2018 and operations would start in 2025.

“It is a decision that will affect the Great lakes for the next 100,000 years,” said Fernandez. “The last place to bury and abandon radioactive nuclear waste is beside the largest supply of fresh water on the planet.”


For more information about the proposed dump and the region’s history with nuclear power, check out this column from the May 2015 issue of Cottage Life magazine.