OPG repository project open to plenty of public input
 By Liz Dadson

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is open to questions about its proposed deep geologic repository for the storage of low-level and intermediate-level waste.

Monday (Nov. 3), the company held an open house at the Best Western Governor's Inn, Kincardine, hoping to answer any of the questions people had about the project which would see the waste from the nuclear plants at Bruce Power, Pickering and Darlington, stored in a vault 680 metres underground at OPG's Western Waste Management Facility located at the Bruce site.

OPG communications manager Marie Wilson said new information is available about the proposed design of the repository and about the composition of the rock at the site, so the open houses are a way to present that new information and field questions about the project at the same time.

The repository will have two shafts, one for access and waste transfer and one for exhaust ventilation, Wilson said, pointing to one of the display boards. A 40-tonne Koepe hoist will move waste and personnel to the repository level, and the low-level waste rooms will be separate from the intermediate-level rooms.

"It's a more compact design," said Wilson. Surface facilities will include two headframe buildings and a waste receipt building. Underground facilities will include waste receiving, equipment maintenance, emplacement rooms and refuge stations.

Wilson said the placement rooms will be more isolated from the rest of the underground facility, with this new design.

Four boreholes have been completed, supplying more information about the rock where the repository is to be located, said Wilson. Next spring two diagonal boreholes will be done, looking for fractures and fissures in the rock.

"We build on that information in order to bring confidence to our safety case," Wilson said.

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In April of this year, the Ontario environment minister issued draft guidelines for the deep geologic repository Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and a draft joint panel agreement for public review.

While awaiting the final guidelines for an Environmental Assessment (EA), OPG continues its site characterization studies, said Wilson.

The EA review panel will be appointed in 2011 and OPG will submit its EIS for review. A public review and public hearing of that EIS will be held, and then the review panel will issue a report to the minister. In 2012, the Canadian National Safety Commission (CNSC) will consider a construction licence application and, if approved, OPG can move ahead with the construction phase which is expected to take five years, said Wilson.

By 2017, the facility should be completed and then OPG will seek an operating licence from CNSC.  "Once that is approved, the repository would begin operation in 2018," said Wilson. "The facility will have a capacity of 160,000 cubic metres and will accept low-level waste, such as mop heads, cloths, paper towels, protective clothing and hardware items; and intermediate-level waste, such as used reactor core components and resins and filters used to keep reactor water systems clean. These are all being stored safely now at the Bruce site," said Wilson.

Used fuel reactor bundles will not be stored in the repository.

Open houses about the deep geologic repository were also held in Ripley, Walkerton and Port Elgin this past week.
Three others are scheduled to run 4-8 p.m., on Nov. 10 at the Best Western Inn on the Way, Owen Sound; Nov. 11 at the Wiarton District Community Centre; and Nov. 13 at the Chesley Fire Hall.

For more information on this project, check out the website at www.opg.com