Plan to store nuclear waste near Great Lakes proves radioactive via The Washington Post

If there was an off-key moment during the otherwise flawlessly executed trip to the U.S. Capitol this spring by the new Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, it might have come when he was cornered by Rep. Debbie Dingell.

“We never want to see nuclear waste in the Great Lakes,” the freshman Democrat from Michigan sternly told Trudeau during a visit to the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Trudeau knew what Dingell was talking about. A few weeks earlier, his administration delayed an expected final ruling on whether Ontario Power Generation (OPG) could blast an area twice as big as the White House in a hole as deep as four Washington Monuments and then dump and seal inside 50 years’ worth of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste amassed by the province’s three nuclear power plants.


The plan is supported by dozens of scientists, including those who participated in a government-appointed independent review panel that approved of the plan. The 2,231-foot hole would go far below the water table and into layers of rock so ancient that they have not moved in more than 50 million years, they say. It is the best solution available, they say, to ensure that the material, now stored in canisters at the surface, is kept away from humans well into the uncertain future.

That’s not enough for environmentalists and political leaders on both sides of the Great Lakes. “No matter what process is followed, abandoning radioactive nuclear waste in the Great Lakes basin will always be a bad idea,” said Beverly Fernandez, spokeswoman for Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, who lives in Southampton, Ontario, about 30 miles north of Kincardine.


Opposition to the project, though, has swelled. More than 180 county boards, city councils and other local elected bodies near the Great Lakes in both countries have passed proclamations urging a veto of the plan. Dingell was among 32 members of Congress who signed a bipartisan letter to Trudeau asking him and McKenna to reject it. The GOP-dominated Michigan Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on the White House and Congress to intervene under the Boundary Waters Treaty. (The White House referred questions to the State Department, which declined to comment on the issue.)

Some of those U.S. politicians, though, support the long-delayed effort to bury the United States’ high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, outside Las Vegas.

Dingell doesn’t see that as a contradiction. “This is different,” she said. “We’ve got to find a location that doesn’t impact large populations of people. A mountain that is in an isolated place is a better place than water that is 20 percent of the freshwater in the world. If there’s a leak or an accident at Yucca Mountain, it’s in an isolated area.”


The city of Kincardine, which received more than 600,000 Canadian dollars (about $465,000) a year between 2004 and 2014 for agreeing to host the repository — the stipends stopped after opposition grew and progress stalled — stands to benefit from additional regular payments as well as new jobs.

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