Canada Considers Deep Geologic Waste Repository Near Bruce Nuclear Plant

In the coming months regulators in Canada will hold a public hearing on a storage facility for low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste – one of the last steps before permitting the first deep geologic repository in that country.

Bruce nuclear plant. Source: OPGAs noted by Michigan Radio Tuesday, it is sited near Ontario Power Generation's Bruce nuclear plant on Lake Huron and would dispose of waste from the company's 20 power reactors. A project spokeswoman told the radio station that 80 percent to 90 percent would be low-level waste, with the remainder intermediate-level items like filters from plant water systems.

To accommodate them, engineers faced the challenge of designing a repository capable of safely storing the material for at least 100,000 years. And after more than four years of study, the utility finalized environmental and technical documents in April of last year. The public hearing is expected to take place in the first half of next year, with license approval anticipated in 2014.

If approved, the repository will represent a historic step in Canada's nuclear program, as low- and intermediate-level waste is now stored at aboveground sites. OPG's Western Waste Management Facility near Bruce has been among them since 1974, and according to the World Nuclear Association, the new repository would be built 680 meters beneath it.

As in the U.S., Canada is also trying to nail down a permanent storage site for spent fuel. A separate deep geologic repository for high-level waste became the government's favored solution in 2007, and Michigan Radio reported that 21 communities expressed interest in hosting the facility. Potential sites are under review, and plans call for it to open in the 2030s.

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