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Questions about two proposed nuclear waste sites continue to provoke controversy.
More than half a century after miners started gouging uranium out of the Canadian Shield at Elliot Lake, William Elliott wants it back. He’s leading the campaign by the town and surrounding communities to become the place where the used fuel from Canada’s nuclear reactors is stored forever.
But the long-running saga of finding a spot for Canada’s nuclear waste still has years more to run as those who want the waste — and those who don’t — struggle over what to do with it.
And the question gets even more vexed as a decision nears on a second radioactive waste site for less potent — but still hazardous — nuclear waste that Ontario Power Generation wants to develop at its Bruce nuclear site near Kincardine, Ont.
Decisions about nuclear waste, which have simmered for decades, are starting to heat up, as two processes move forward. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization, responsible for finding a home for used fuel from nuclear reactors, has started trimming the list of applicants from its roster, dropping four communities and leaving 17 in the running.
A federal panel is due to make a decision this year on whether to give the go-ahead to OPG’s proposed waste site at the Bruce.
The double process, for two different waste sites, has sown confusion in the Kincardine area, where the town solidly backs OPG’s proposal, but has made it clear it has no interest in the used fuel waste site.
But a number of Kincardine’s neighbours have said they do want the used fuel site, leading to speculation that the two projects could still somehow become one.
That simply isn’t going to happen, vows Mike Krizanc of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO).
“It’s been the challenge for us to address that and distinguish them,” he acknowledges. But he says the two sites can’t possibly be combined. “The two are technically different,” Krizanc insists.
OPG proposes to store its waste in a series of huge, horizontal underground caverns.
The used fuel that is the responsibility of the NWMO will be placed in radiation-proof steel and copper containers and deposited in vertical boreholes drilled deep into bedrock.
Any open spaces left when the containers are deposited will be packed with bentonite clay, a material that is a solid barrier to water flow, should radiation somehow leak from the containers into groundwater.
Technical issues aside, a key component in deciding where the used fuel depository should go remains finding a community that is happy to have it.
On that score, Elliott, who heads the Elliot Lake-area business development corporation, thinks his community’s bid comes in as a strong contender.
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