Critics want feds to kill nuclear-waste bunker on Lake Huron

TORONTO -- Groups opposed to the burial of nuclear waste near Lake Huron are calling on the federal government to kill a proposal for an underground storage bunker rather than ask for more information on the project.

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In a statement Friday, one group said the environmental credibility of the new Liberal government under Justin Trudeau is at stake.

"It is unfortunate that the government is not listening to what the people and Great Lakes communities are telling them: to reject this plan," said Beverly Fernandez with Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump.

"No matter what process is followed, burying and abandoning radioactive nuclear waste in the Great Lakes Basin will always be a bad idea."

The statement comes after the federal government said it needs more information before deciding whether to approve plans to build a giant underground storage bunker for nuclear waste near the Lake Huron shoreline.

That means a decision on the project, decried by scores of communities around or near the Great Lakes, will be delayed well beyond what had been a March 1 deadline.

A notice posted by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency says Environment Minister Catherine McKenna wants more details and further environmental studies for the proposed deep geologic repository near Kincardine, Ont.

A review panel last May had given the go-ahead, but a decision rests with the McKenna.

"The minister has requested that the proponent, Ontario Power Generation, provide additional information on three aspects of the environmental assessment: alternate locations for the project, cumulative environmental effects of the project, and an updated list of mitigation commitments for each identified adverse effect," the notice reads.

"The minister's request for information from the proponent has paused the timeline for an environmental assessment decision to be issued."

A decision had been expected in September, but the former Conservative government extended the deadline to March 1 to allow for last fall's federal election.

McKenna has now given the utility until April 18 to provide the environmental assessment agency with a schedule for fulfilling the information request. When she might make a decision is still to be determined.

Ontario Power Generation proposes to construct and operate the underground facility for the long-term management of radioactive waste at the Bruce nuclear site.

The proposal calls for hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of so-called low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste to be buried 680 metres underground in the bedrock.

Proponents argue the rock is geologically stable and would provide a hermetic seal to prevent any radioactivity reaching the lake about 1.2 kilometres away for tens of thousands of years.

However, almost 200 communities and environmental groups have argued that such a facility, despite OPG's arguments, would be too risky given the proximity to Lake Huron. Any contamination, they say, could threaten drinking water for millions of people.


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