At the recently held Saugeen Shores Men’s Probus Club, members learned more about Ontario Power Generation (OPG), when Fred Kuntz, Manager, Corporation Relations and Communications – Bruce County, spoke to the group.
“Nuclear is a clean energy source that is a reliable base-load,” said Kuntz, “while other sources of energy such as wind and solar are weather dependent. Nuclear is also low-cost at six to seven cents per kilowatt hour.”
In a clear, concise presentation, Kuntz lead the audience through the many facets under the jurisdiction of OPG, including the Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) that has been proposed as a permanent storage solution for Low and Intermediate Waste (L&IW).
“The storage that we have now is certainly safe but it was always viewed as an interim storage solution,” explained Kuntz. “There are two types of waste in nuclear, the Low and Intermediate waste and the high level or used fuel. Low level waste include things like gloves and brooms, etc. that are incinerated by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to reduced its volume by 80 per cent. Intermediate waste is things like reactor components and steam generators. The waste today is stored in in-ground canisters.”
High level waste or used fuel (spent fuel rods) are cooled in water for 10 years after which they are removed and placed in concrete sealed containers. According to Kuntz, there are currently 14 casks of 380 fuel bundles in each housed in four warehouses with more to be built. “Again, this has always been viewed as interim storage until a permanent solution could be found. We need responsible storage because it is this generation that has benefitted from nuclear and it’s up to us to act responsibly for future generations. We are using nuclear in the medical field and, in Canada, we supply 40 percent of the world’s Cobalt 60 used in medical sterilizing.
“No packaging lasts forever and some of the waste that has been stored since the 1970s has already been re-packaged.” In addition, Kuntz pointed out factors such as climate change and social breakdown in societies that could have a bearing on interim storage in the future. “We are all seeing that weather is becoming more extreme and we are, in fact, living in an inter-glacial period in history that has implications for anything on the earth’s surface. OPG and its scientists are thinking of the long-term because it is our responsibility. Above ground storage continuing is simply not feasible and the whole world is already looking at DGRs as a solution. There are 10 in the world that are 50 metre below the earth’s surface, OPG’s would be 680 metres below surface in impermeable rock over 400 million years old that is ideal for storage.”
Kuntz referred to the 33 days of hearings that were held so that a Federally appointed Joint Review Panel (JRP) could listen to the pros and cons of a DGR. At the end of the hearings and deliberations that followed, the JRP came out with the statement “… the DGR should be built now rather than later.”
The Federal government has asked for more information and further studies which could mean a delay of 25 to 30 years. “If we look at another site, it would take 40 years of 22,000 shipments just to move the existing waste not to mention the costs that would be involved. Also, there has been no other site located that has the bedrock found here.”
Kuntz also explained that an agreement had been made with Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) that OPG would be committed to have SON’s support of the project would not proceed. “We hope that SON does support this initiative as it’s the responsible thing to do for waste management. Construction will take approximately five years once undertaken. It’s a basic mining procedure. We hope the choice of the site selection will be finalized by 2023.”
The need for two DGRs is due to the different handling procedures for each kind of waste. Used fuel waste discussions began in 2002 and are still on-going.
Kuntz also touched on the subject of the proposed Nuclear Innovation Institute but, because it is a Bruce Power initiative, OPG has had little to do with it. “I know that it will be a research institute and a trades skills development secretariat,” said Kuntz, “which will be good for the area.”
Each month, Probus meets on the first Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Port Elgin Legion and hosts a guest speaker covering a wide range of topics. PROBUS is an association of active retirees who meet monthly to keep their minds active, expand interests and enjoy the fellowship of new friends. New members are welcome.