TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee said Friday he will push Congress to officially oppose Canada’s plans to allow nuclear waste to be stored underground less than a mile from Lake Huron, saying the country should find a site farther away from the Great Lakes, the world’s largest body of surface fresh water.
Kildee offered a similar resolution during the last congressional session, and numerous cities in the Great Lakes region have come out against the storage plan, but it failed to win House approval. Even if successful, it would have no force of law because Canadian officials will make the final decision.
Even so, the Democrat from Flint Township said the effort was worth making. He said the Ontario Power Generation plan to bury radioactive material, including discarded parts from the reactor core and ashes from incinerated floor sweepings and map heads, was “dangerous and an unnecessary risk we shouldn’t take.”
“The Great Lakes aren’t just a source of natural wonder,” said Kildee, whose district includes a section of the western Lake Huron coastline. “As the world’s largest body of fresh water, they’re vital to our way of life.”
Publicly owned Ontario Power Generation wants to bury 7.1 million cubic feet of low- and intermediate-level waste from its nuclear plants about 2,230 feet below the earth’s surface at the Bruce Power generating station near Kincardine, Ontario.
The company has said it’s the safest way to deal with radioactive material that has been stored aboveground since the late 1960s and needs a permanent resting place. Officials say it would be entombed in impermeable rock chambers far below the lake’s greatest depths in the vicinity.
“There have been numerous studies that have proven this repository will not put the lake at risk,” said Jerry Keto, vice president of nuclear decommissioning for Ontario Power Generation. “We’ve been examining this rock for a decade.”
Critics say there’s no way to guarantee the lake’s safety over the thousands of years that would be required for all the waste to lose its radioactivity.
Kildee’s office said the plan is opposed by 146 cities in the Great Lakes region, from Chicago to Toronto to Rochester, New York.
“My congressional resolution seeks to find an alternative location for this Canadian nuclear waste storage site so it does not endanger our state’s livelihood or economy — now or for future generations,” the congressman said.
A review panel of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has conducted hearings on the project and is expected to issue a report by May 6. The Canadian environment minister would decide whether to approve or deny the project. If the minister endorses it, the review panel will decide whether to issue a construction license.
Following construction, expected to begin around 2018, another license would be sought to operate the facility. Keto said the target date to begin operations is 2025.
Keto acknowledged the company had not sought other locations but said there was no need.
The two biggest requirements for such a facility are “good rock and a willing host community, and we have both right where we are,” he said. “There is no technical basis for moving the site.”