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Hunt on for nuke storage site;

The Sudbury Star: HAROLD CARMICHAE - May 26, 2009

Looking for a job-creation project that will involve hundreds, maybe even thousands of jobs in your community?

If the ground below your feet features solid bedrock, there is a good chance the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) will want to talk to your local council about storing spent nuclear fuel.

But just because a community is willing to host a proposed underground storage facility, it won't come about for some time, explained Ben Belfadhel in an interview during a public information session held in Greater Sudbury on Monday at the Howard Johnson Hotel.

"This project is going to last decades," he said. "Even the site selection process will last seven-10 years, drilling bore holes and doing geological surveys, to ensure the site is safe. We are looking at seven-10 years at a cost of hundreds of millions fully funded by the nuclear industry.

"So, it will be 2035 at the earliest before this is up and running."

The information session, which ran from 2-9 p. m., featured a 20-minute video and numerous display boards. Organization staff were on hand to explain the site selection process.

Created in 2002, NWMO was told to consider three options for the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste and report back to the federal government. In November 2005, it recommended burying the waste in a rock formation combined with short-term storage at the reactor sites and the option of moving the waste to a central, above-ground storage site while the underground repository was being built.

Currently, about two million spent nuclear waste bundles are stored at nuclear reactor sites and research centres across the country.

Belfadhel said if a community is interested in being host to the proposed storage facility, a total of five site criteria have to be met before it can be considered.

"The site should not contain groundwater resources at depth to protect the groundwater and also the repository," he pointed out. "Also, the site shouldn't be located where there are natural resources such as gold or uranium."

Last Thursday, Sudbury MPP and cabinet minister Rick Bartolucci issued a statement calling on Greater Sudbury council to approve a resolution that would veto any proposal to bury nuclear waste in the Sudbury area.

"Our community must be clear in our message to city council that we do not want this type of storage in our community," he said. "There is no dollar figure, no salary and no number of jobs that would be worth risking the health of our children, our landscape and our future."

Bartolucci alleged NWMO is proposing a large-scale, deep geological repository be built in Greater Sudbury that would store some of Canada's nuclear waste.

"I am urging all Sudburians to say no to this proposal and to urge city council to pass a resolution indicating they do not support this idea either," he said.

"We are not the dumping ground for Canada's nuclear waste nor do we ever want to be."

A NWMO spokesman said last week that Greater Sudbury has not been targeted for a nuclear waste storage site.

"There is not, and has never been, a proposal to bury nuclear waste in Sudbury," Mike Krizanc said. "We're simply visiting the major regions of the nuclear provinces to ask for the public to comment on our process for finding a site."

Jamie Robinson, NWMO's director of strategic communications, said the amount of jobs that would be created with the proposed storage site is considerable.

"We are talking about hundreds of direct jobs in the community and maybe indirectly thousands of jobs in the community," he said, in an interview Monday.

Robinson said that once a site is selected, a "site characterization building" will be constructed and operated over a period of five years. If everything goes well with that building, he said, the construction of the actual storage facility will follow and take 10 years to complete.

The nuclear waste storage facility project is a national infrastructure project that carries an estimated price tag of $16-24 billion.

Brennain Lloyd, of Northwatch, who travelled to the city from North Bay for the information session, said the best solution for nuclear waste is to store it where it is produced.

"In any other industry, you deal with waste at source," she said. "Reduce it as much as possible."

Lloyd said that creating a nuclear waste storage site in a remote part of Northern Ontario would not be a good move for many reasons.

"If you move it in Northern Ontario, you have increased transportation," she said. "And you create the risk of remoteness. You add this out of sight and out of mind quality to it. It's not the ingredient we want in a waste management solution. In 100-200-300 years when the reactors are shut down, the expertise (in dealing with nuclear waste) will become more and more scarce."

Gord Harris, who ran for the Green Party in the Sudbury riding in the October 2008 federal election, said he doesn't like the fact that the Ontario government plans to increase the amount of nuclear-generated power.

"It only expands the problem (of dealing with nuclear waste)," he said. "That $20 billion could be better spent expanding renewable power."

Harris said he does find that the NWMO is doing it right and proceeding very slowly with its plans.

"I studied this in university," he said. " I have always been aware of the challenges we have in disposing of nuclear waste. It is one of the biggest challenges we have ever faced. These things will be here 100 million years from now."

The Greater Sudbury session is one of 13 NWMO is holding across Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

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Disposal

Uranium fuel rod bundles are not like a dead household battery.

* a uranium-dioxide rod bundle is about .5 metres long, about 13 centimetres in diameter and weighs about 20 kilograms;

* a rod bundle has a working life of about 18 months;

* a spent rod bundle then gets stored in a water tank for 10 years, the water helping to both cool the rod bundle down and help shield against radiation emission;

* next up is storage in a dry container;

* a spent rod bundle will continue to emit radiation for thousands of years;

* about 90 per cent of the spent nuclear rod bundles in Canada to date were produced in Ontario;

* at the moment, spent rod bundles in Canada are stored on site at nuclear power reactors and at research stations where they were used;

* the proposed underground storage of spent nuclear bundles would see some 300 bundles stored in a copper container surrounded by bentamite clay and bedrock;

* storage would occur some 500 metres below the surface;

* if all the spent rod bundles in Canada were collected and stacked like cordwood, they would fill six hockey rinks from ice level to the top of the boards.

-- source: Nuclear Waste Management Organization

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