Michigan lawmakers seek study on Canadian nuclear waste plan

Members of Congress from Michigan announced a new effort Monday to prevent the burial of Canadian nuclear waste near the Lake Huron shore.
Copyright, The Associated Press

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Members of Congress from Michigan announced a new effort Monday to prevent the burial of Canadian nuclear waste near the Lake Huron shore, calling for a study by an agency that represents both nations in boundary waters disputes.

Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters said they will introduce legislation that would require the U.S. State Department to negotiate with Canada over delaying a decision on the nuclear waste facility until the study is completed. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Flint Township, said he would offer the same measure in the House.

The proposal by publicly owned Ontario Power Generation for permanently storing 7.1 million cubic feet of radioactive waste "is an unnecessary threat to both the U.S. and Canada's shared water resources," Kildee said.

The legislation would invoke a 1909 treaty allowing either nation to require a review by the International Joint Commission when differences arise over their shared waterways. The treaty established the commission to provide advice on matters such as water pollution, water levels and air quality in boundary regions.

Neal Kelly, spokesman for Ontario Power Generation, said the waste storage plan has been under development for 14 years and been exhaustively reviewed. A government advisory panel endorsed it in May, saying the project was unlikely to cause significant environmental harm. Canada's environment minister, Leona Aglukkaq, is expected to make a decision by December.

The panel's recommendation followed "the most comprehensive, science-based nuclear waste study in Canadian history," Kelly said.

The waste would not include highly radioactive spent fuel. It would consist of "low-level" waste such as ashes from incinerated mop heads, paper towels and floor sweepings, and "intermediate waste" — discarded parts from the reactor core.

Company officials say the material has been stored above ground since the 1960s and needs a permanent resting place. It would be entombed in stable rock formations more than 450 million years old, they say.

Stabenow, interviewed by phone after a news conference in Detroit, said burial of radioactive waste less than a mile from the lakeshore is just the type of issue the International Joint Commission exists to help resolve.

"There's a lot of land our friends from Canada could choose other than by the Great Lakes," she said.

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