EP’s response to OPG’s proposed environmental assessment guidelines for new nuclear waste site

Energy Probe

September 22, 2006

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
Attn: Michael Rinker, Environmental Assessment Specialist
P.O. Box 1046, Station B
Ottawa, ON K1P 5S9
Phone: 1-800-668-5284
Fax: (613) 995-5086
E-mail: ceaainfo@cnsc-ccsn.gc.ca

Re: Comment on the Proposed Scoping Document (Environmental Assessment Guidelines) for Ontario Power Generation’s Proposal for a Deep Geologic Repository for disposal of low and intermediate level radioactive wastes in Kincardine.

Dear Mr. Rinker,

Energy Probe, a national environmental and consumer energy research organization, is responding to the CNSC’s above-noted notice that it will hold a one-day public hearing on October 23 on the Scoping Document (Environmental Assessment Guidelines) regarding Ontario Power Generation Inc.’s (OPG) proposal to construct and operate a Deep Geological Repository within the Bruce Nuclear Site in Kincardine, Ontario.

Energy Probe wishes to register the following comments:

Energy Probe believes that there is a significant public concern with the proposal presented by OPG.

The proposal being presented by OPG is very significant. Deep underground disposal of nuclear wastes from reactor operations is not currently approved in Canada and represents a major change in current practice. OPG is proposing to construct a radioactive disposal site approximately 1 kilometre from shore of Lake Huron, a very significant natural resource for both Canadian and American citizens. The inventory of waste to be interned in the proposed facility will include transuranic isotopes and other long-lived and biologically active isotopes such as long-lived iodine isotopes. It is likely but not certain that the site will be used as a repository for large amounts of refurbishment and decommissioning waste. There is substantial uncertainty as to the composition and quantity of waste that will ultimately be interned in the site.

Energy Probe therefore recommends that the proposal should be subject to the most thorough review procedures afforded by prevailing Canadian law. The highest standard of review available is a panel review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). Under CEAA, a panel review allows for the highest standard of testing of environmentally significant project proposals, and also allows some opportunity for concerned parties and individuals to participate fairly in the review process.

Environmental assessment without a panel review, as proposed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, will be inadequate for assessing the proposed underground disposal facility for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste.

Given its scope and implications, OPG’s proposal should be subject to pubic hearings with presentation of evidence, the appearance of witnesses for the proponent to speak to the evidence under oath, and the examination of this evidence by concerned parties and individuals, including through cross-examination.

Consistent with the significance of OPG’s proposal, Energy Probe suggests that a written interrogatory process should be built into the review process. In its July 17th submission, Greenpeace asked the CNSC to establish an obligatory interrogatory process that allows questions to be directed to all parties under established rules. Greenpeace further suggested that an initial deadline for response to interrogatories should be set at an agreed time after receipt of the initial draft environmental assessment report from OPG. Energy Probe supports the suggestions of Greenpeace.

Energy Probe is concerned that the scope of the review proposed by the CNSC excludes consideration of the approach that, with available or foreseeable technology, is likely to have the lowest overall environmental impact. The waste management review should include a comparison of OPG’s proposal for centralized, transportation-dependent, and probably non-retrievable deep underground disposal with the option of on-surface or near-surface monitored and retrievable storage at the reactor sites where the radioactive waste is produced. Energy Probe is concerned that CNSC staff has stated that storage at existing facilities would not be assessed (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Disposition of Comments from First Nations, the Public and Stakeholders on Scoping Document [sic] for OPG’s Proposed DGR, August 2006 (CNSC CMD 06-H22), p. 2). Energy Probe is also concerned that a complete analysis of the impacts of transportation implications of OPG’s proposal would not be reviewed under the proposed CNSC approach and that the communities along the transportation corridors will not be specifically consulted. CNSC staff has stated that “Transportation of waste from power generating stations to the WWMF will not be assessed because this is a currently approved activity. Nor will a specific consultation plan be considered along the transportation route in the context of this EA.”

Sincerely,
Tom Adams
Executive Director
Energy Probe

 

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