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Council doesn’t have all the facts

Dear Editor,

It is unfortunate that Oshawa council voted in opposition to OPG’s proposed deep geologic repository (DGR), without – one assumes from your July 14th article – full consideration of the issue. Oshawa council certainly does have a “moral obligation to act,” but shouldn’t the “action” be to learn more about OPG’s proposal and make a fully informed decision based on the facts?

This is not an abstract issue for Oshawa. OPG has been a major local employer throughout decades of nuclear operations, and decades to come with the upcoming Darlington refurbishment, which accounts for much of the waste to be stored in the proposed DGR. Looking more broadly, Oshawa’s industry and general well-being have benefited from years of reliable, low-cost electricity from Ontario’s reactors. The question at hand is what to do with the non-fuel waste all of this has created – currently stored in above-ground and shallow facilities at the Bruce nuclear site on the shore of Lake Huron.

The facts show that this waste material can be safely stored 680 metres beneath the Bruce site in limestone rock that has sat unperturbed through half a billion years of planetary evolution (including tectonic activity and several ice ages) – and has held on to the water within it throughout that time.

There are several examples around the world where “natural analogues” lend credibility to the DGR concept – including in Saskatchewan, where the world’s richest deposits of uranium have sat for millions of years without movement and with no radioactive signature at the earth’s surface, protected from groundwater flow – much greater than that which the DGR will ever experience, by naturally-occurring, low-permeability buffer material.

The DGR’s environmental assessment has undergone a broad evaluation of potential impact on the biosphere – including atmosphere, hydrology and surface water quality, geology, aquatic environment, terrestrial environment, socio-economic effects, aboriginal interests, radiation and radioactivity, and malfunctions, accidents and malevolent acts. The outcome of these evaluations is that there will be no long-term impact from the DGR on the biosphere.

It is very likely that the impact on the city of Oshawa itself on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence watershed (through local air and water discharges) is far greater than that predicted for the DGR throughout its millennia-long lifetime. Furthermore, each member of Oshawa council likely emits more radiation into the environment (through excretion of natural radionuclides) than the DGR ever will.

It is incumbent on Oshawa council to seek the truth and make an informed decision on this important issue.

Dr. Jeremy Whitlock

Canadian Nuclear Society