KINCARDINE, Ontario — Canadian utility giant Ontario Power Generation says the layers of rock where it proposes a deep underground nuclear waste storage facility are solid, stable and well-suited for the job. But what’s at the surface and less than a mile away — the shores of Lake Huron — has people on the Michigan and Canadian sides of the Great Lake fiercely opposed to the plan.
“I’m up in arms,” said Michigan resident Sherry Hummel of Williamsburg. “It’s just a dangerous, dangerous thing to do near 20% of the world’s” unfrozen surface freshwater.
For the 24 million U.S. residents who get drinking water from the Great Lakes, and those making their living from Michigan’s $2.4 billion fishing industry and $13 billion tourism industry, it’s a vital policy decision over which their elected representatives have no control.
The facility would be more than 2,200 feet underground in a layer of limestone, with a 660-foot layer of shale above. There, containers of radioactive waste from Ontario’s 20 nuclear reactors would be stored in created corridors. Most of the disposed items would be low-level waste, such as mops, rags, floor sweepings and clothing — items that can be safely handled by workers without any special radiation protection, according to the utility’s proposal. But the underground facility also would take intermediate-level waste, “things like filters, resins, things that are closer to the nuclear core,” said utility spokesman Neal Kelly.
“They are much more radioactive and need to be handled with a lot more care,” he said.
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