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Region wants funding for nuclear waste storage

Councillor says region should be compensated for storing nuclear waste at Pickering, Darlington

The Region of Durham is seeking compensation from the Ontario’s energy sector for the continued storage of nuclear waste. Above, the ongoing refurbishment of the Darlington Generating Station is expected to extend the life of the power plant for as long as 30 more years.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The Region of Durham is ramping up the pressure on the province’s energy generator and the federal nuclear regulator.

At the April 11 regular meeting, council endorsed a number of resolutions aimed at Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

Durham is asking for compensation for the storage of nuclear waste at Darlington and Pickering Generating Stations “until such time as nuclear waste is stored in a permanent nuclear waste site.”

Currently, OPG is in the midst of planning for a deep geological repository (DGR) for low and medium level nuclear waste near the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, located about 200 km north of London on Lake Huron.

OPG and Kincardine recently ratified an amended agreement for the repository, originally signed in 2004, under which the municipality will receive compensation.

However, it remains unclear exactly when this site would open, as an environmental assessment is still under review, and the project does not have the required support of local First Nations communities.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization, a federal body, is currently seeking a host for a DGR that would house high-level nuclear waste.

There are currently five communities, two in Midwestern Ontario and three in the province’s north, under consideration for the project.

Ajax Councillor Colleen Jordan says nuclear waste has been stored at Pickering and Darlington Generating Stations since the two facilities opened.

With high-level nuclear waste expected to remain at Pickering until 2060, more than 30 years after the planned decommission of the plant, Jordan says this will have made Durham a ‘host site’ for nuclear waste for almost 100 years.

“We’ve been a host here for many, many years but we’ve received no compensation,” she told The Oshawa Express. “We need it to be recognized, I think 100 years is pretty permanent.”

Neal Kelly, director of media, issues and information for OPG says the 30-year shutdown process is standard when any nuclear plant closes.

“The process involves removing fuel and heavy water from the reactors and placing equipment in a safe caretaking state,” Kelly states in an emailed response to The Express. “The facility is then monitored for approximately 30 years as radiation levels decline significantly. During this period, used fuel from the wet storage bays is removed and placed in dry storage containers.”

Until the remaining fuel is transferred to a long-term repository, the temporary storage containers will be monitored constantly by both OPG and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kelly adds.

As for Durham’s request for compensation, Neal says while “OPG remains committed to respectful dialogue with our municipal partners on the topic of nuclear waste, at this time, it’s premature to comment on the motion as it was just introduced and passed last week.”

The region is also requesting the CNSC require OPG or the provincial government to provide ‘appropriate funding’ for the implementation of the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan (PNERP), which was updated in December 2017.

In an email to The Express, Brett Byers-Lane, strategic communications director for CNSC wrote, “compensation to Durham Region, whether by OPG or the Government of Ontario, is not within the CNSC’s mandate.”

At the April 4 committee of the whole meeting, Jordan also questioned Dave Nodwell, deputy chief of planning and program development for the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, if such funding would be provided.

Nodwell stated there were no plans in place, but it could be a discussion to take place in the future.

Lastly, regional council is calling on the CNSC to encourage the province to publicly release an upcoming technical assessment on the expansion of evacuation zones and potassium iodine (KI) pill distribution, and for OPG to “prepare and publish plans” on how it will mitigate “negative impacts” of the decommissioning of the Pickering station, including transition plans for affected workers.