Hiding it not the answer

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) flyer that stated, “Countries that currently have operating deep geological repositories for radioactive material include Finland, South Korea, Sweden and the United States. “

In fact, “no country in the world has a deep geological repository (DGR) for spent fuel in operation” (World Nuclear Waste Report 2019). From the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, “DGRs are being considered in countries around the world … The only operating DGR is in the U.S. at the WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant).”

According to the CNSC’s definition of a DGR, Finland, South Korea, and Sweden are not classified as DGRs because they are only 50 to 100 meters below ground. And like WIPP, these are all low and intermediate level facilities.

The NWMO now agrees that radiation did escape at WIPP but no radiation was detected off site or in town. WIPP is in the middle of a desert, on 10,000 acres with over 8,000 of those acres a safety buffer zone and the nearest town is 35km away. Here, Teeswater, with two elementary schools, is less than a concession away.

I am glad the industry is learning from these mistakes but I don’t want to find out what will be learned from the mistakes that could happen here. You can’t calculate and remove the risk of human error.

If all the barrier systems are at risk of failing there is no way to guarantee its safety for 100,000s of years. Undisturbed, unchanging rock? Drilling, blasting and boring is going to disturb this rock and things will begin to change. Water will get in.

From NWMO reports: “Ultimately, the repository will become fully saturated and the ground water will induce local corrosion.” Check out protectsouthbruce-nodgr.org for independent reports and studies from around the world concerned with the rate of corrosion.

“When the containers eventually fail by corrosion as the result of ground water ingress into the repository, waste constituents can migrate out of the disposal facility and enter the biosphere” (NWMO report).

The International Atomic Energy Agency recently released its review of Canada’s nuclear industry. “The government should enhance the policy and strategy for radioactive waste management and the CNSC should consider better aligning its radiation protection requirements with IAEA safety standards.”

Canada’s waste strategy and radiation safety guidelines don’t meet international standards. Now isn’t the time to be pushing forward this toxic experiment under our farmland, next to our towns in the Great Lakes basin.

If the nuclear industry can protect the power plants and keep the cooling pools safe, why can’t they keep the nuclear waste safe using rolling stewardship?

This allows careful monitoring and the ability to repackage as new technology is developed.  Spent fuel after being removed from the reactor will still have to be stored above ground for a minimum of 30 to 40 years before placement in a DGR, according to the NWMO technical report. Hiding a problem underground is never the answer.

Michelle Stein,