Today, I read an article (German) about a deep geological repository that is planned to be built in Canada and the controversy around it. When looking up some English sources for this, I noticed the disconnect between the English term for this and the actual meaning. Who would think of a nuclear waste dump when hearing the term “deep geological repository” for the first time? What’s being dumped in there isn’t even part of the term. For all I know, it might be used to once and for all store away Tim Hortons coffee to protect the country’s taste buds.
The repository that I read about is located in the boonies of Ontario right at the shore of Lake Huron:
Currently, the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station which is the largest nuclear power plant in the world is located there. It is proposed to build a nuclear waste facility conveniently located right next to the power plant, about a mile away from the shore and 680m deep under ground.
Southeastern shore of Lake Huron (CC-BY Doc Searls)
This sounds like a horrible idea considering that the Great Lakes are the main source of drinking water for millions of people. Having lived in the region in Germany that includes the failed Asse II nuclear waste storage facility, this really upsets me. There, nuclear waste was dumped into an old salt mine in the 1970s. A salt mine was back in the days praised as a safe permanent storage solution as the salt would (under pressure from the ground above) move around the waste containers and seal any potential leaks and cracks. Now it turns out while the salt did part of its job in surrounding the containers and crushing many of them under the pressure, another feature of salt was not considered which is its dissolubility in water. More and more water is currently soaking into the facility (about 3 Gallons per day), threatening to dissolve nuclear waste and rinsing it into the drinking water. Plans how to safely extract the nuclear waste from the facility are currently being discussed and the cost to bring an end to this failed experiment are estimated to be in the billions. Obviously, it is not planned to use a salt mine for storage in the Canadian project but this is a good example of how what is considered a perfectly safe solution might only a few decades later turn out to be a very bad idea.
Based on that, I really hope that the Canadian government will cancel the current plans and the federal environment minister is expected to give a recommendation to the cabinet by March 1st. A fancy website doesn’t make nuclear waste storage next to a giant fresh water reservoir safe.