Energy minister dismisses talk of N.B. nuclear storage site June 5, 2009

Speculation about storing nuclear waste in the province is premature, said New Brunswick Energy Minister Jack Keir, even as a growing number of experts say the province has geology that may be suited to the task.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization was in New Brunswick this week meeting with people in various communities about its plan to build an underground storage site somewhere in Canada for spent nuclear fuel.

The organization, which was formed in 2002 to be responsible for the long-term management of Canada's used nuclear fuel, seemed to catch the provincial government off guard on Thursday when a company official said that any of the four Canadian provinces involved in the nuclear industry New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan could be home to this proposed storage facility.

Tom Al, a University of New Brunswick geologist, said he agrees that this province may have the right geology for such a project.

"[The province] might be suitable and it might be possible to develop a repository," he said.

Until now, most people believed that the Canadian shield with its igneous and metamorphic rock of was the best location, but more recent research has suggested sedimentary rock might also work.

Both Al and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization said it would require a lot more study.

Keir said the entire discussion is premature.

"I don't care. I mean I don't care. Have they done research on New Brunswick for nuclear waste? I would suggest they haven't," Keir said.

"I haven't seen any research in New Brunswick that suggests anybody's done any research on whether New Brunswick has the conditions to hold this. And all I'm saying is that would have to be done. But that's way ahead of the game."

The used uranium from the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station is currently stored on-site at the reactor in southern New Brunswick. Keeping the spent fuel at Point Lepreau has always been considered a short-term solution while a permanent home for the waste was found.

New Brunswick will be responsible for storing even more nuclear waste if the proposed second reactor at Point Lepreau is approved.

Another UNB geologist, Bruce Broster, also told CBC News that salt and potash formations, such as those in the Sussex area, might be suitable for an underground nuclear waste facility.

The local member of the legislature, Progressive Conservative Bruce Northrup, said his southern New Brunswick community wants no part of the project.

"Thanks, but no thanks. I wouldn't be interested in that whatsoever and I'm being 100 per cent honest about that," he said.

Nuclear Waste Management Organization is looking for communities to express an interest in hosting a storage facility. Only then would the company do the necessary research to see if the area is suitable.

According to the organization, the province that would be home to the Canadian nuclear storage site would receive a $16-billion to $24-billion investment.

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