A permanent solution for nuclear waste is a priority says OPG speaker




A representative from Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the largest power generator in the province, spoke about the company’s approach to nuclear stewardship in an educational presentation at the Community Liaison Committee (CLC) meeting on Thursday evening (Apr. 7).

OPG is currently responsible for the care of Ontario’s nuclear waste, explained Fred Kuntz, OPG’s Senior Manager of Corporate Relations and Projects in the region. He said that the company is guided by three pillars when it comes to the care of Ontario’s nuclear waste: stewardship, lasting solutions and peace of mind.

These pillars speak to OPG’s focus on managing the waste safely, as well as finding permanent solutions for low-, intermediate- and high-level waste. Kuntz reviewed current handling of lower-level waste and said OPG is exploring long-term options for lower-level waste. The company also supports the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) process to establish a deep geological repository (DGR) for all of Canada’s high-level waste.

The Municipality of South Bruce is one of two communities remaining in the site selection process for the NWMO Project, which would store the used nuclear fuel that is currently in the care of OPG and accounts for nearly 90% of all of Canada’s high-level waste.

Kuntz also discussed rolling stewardship as an alternative approach to managing nuclear waste. This approach involves maintaining safe storage of the waste above ground into the foreseeable future, while considering alternative options or emerging ideas for a permanent solution. It was noted that no country is planning to use rolling stewardship as a long-term method to manage nuclear/radioactive waste.

“Nothing besides the passage of time allows radioactive materials to decay and lose their radioactivity,” said Kuntz, when noting that scientific consensus is that there is likely not a better solution to managing high-level waste than a DGR.

Kuntz explained that there are future unknowns and risks to keeping the waste above ground, including extreme weather events and geo-political instability. “In the long term, surface storage poses greater potential environmental risks,” he added.

In closing, Kuntz emphasized that working towards a permanent solution for the waste is a responsibility that should be dealt with in our lifetime.

“We have good solutions today. We should do the right thing and be proud of doing the right thing,” he concluded.

The next CLC meeting is scheduled for May 5th, and will present baseline information and Project parameters that are relevant to the NWMO-led and municipally led studies, a number of which are nearing completion and will be presented to the public over the next several months.