Four members of Michigan’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 6 urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure his nation does not build a radioactive waste disposal site near the Great Lakes.
The lawmakers said they were concerned by reports that the Canadian government is approaching a decision on the location for a permanent national repository for nuclear waste.
“We stand in strong opposition to any decision by the Canadian government to select or consider a permanent national repository for nuclear waste storage near the Great Lakes. This is a treasured natural resource each of our counties share and we urge you to stand with us to protect these waters for future generations,” says the letter to Trudeau, signed by Reps. Debbie Dingell (D), Fred Upton (R), Paul Mitchell (R), and Daniel Kildee (D).
Last month, Upton and Dingell added an amendment to legislation on management of U.S. nuclear waste that offers a “sense of Congress” that the U.S. and Canadian governments should prohibit permanent disposal or extended storage of radioactive waste near the Great Lakes. The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Nov. 20 in favor of the bill, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019. It has not yet been debated on the House floor.
Upton and Dingell, along with other Midwestern lawmakers, have for years warned against the proposed location for a planned Canadian geologic repository for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. Ontario Power Generation is waiting on government approval for its selected site at the Bruce nuclear power plant in Kincardine, near Lake Huron.
Then-Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna suspended her agency’s regulatory approval process in 2017 while indigenous peoples determined whether to support the project, the Owen Sound Sun Times reported Monday. Members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation are scheduled to vote Jan. 31 on the question of support.
Ontario Power Generation has said it hopes the Canadian government will make a decision will by 2021 on the repository, which ultimately would hold 200,000 cubic meters of waste 680 meters underground.
More recently, Canada’s utility-backed Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) in late November said it had further narrowed the number of locations being considered for a separate geologic repository for the nation’s spent fuel from nuclear power plants. One of those communities, Huron-Kinloss in southern Ontario, is also near Lake Huron. The NWMO expects to complete site selection by 2023. That facility would hold an anticipated 5.2 million bundles of spent-fuel assemblies 500 meters underground.
It was not immediately clear this week if the Michigan lawmakers were referring to one specific project in their letter. Upton and Dingell did not respond to queries.
In making their case against the potential location of Canadian radioactive waste disposal, the two Michigan representatives have noted that the Great Lakes provide drinking water for tens of millions of people on both sides of the border.
The developers of both repositories emphasize their safety. The low- and intermediate-level waste, for example, would be buried in low-permeability limestone under 200 meters of low-permeability shale, reducing the potential for contamination to escape, according to Ontario Power Generation.