TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The Canadian government on Thursday delayed for a second time a ruling on whether waste from nuclear power plants can be permanently stored underground less than a mile from Lake Huron, a proposal that has drawn fierce opposition on both sides of the border.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna had been scheduled to make an announcement by March 1, but instead told Ontario Power Generation to answer further questions and conduct more studies — one of which would examine the technical and economic feasibility of putting the waste elsewhere. She set an April 18 deadline for the publicly owned company to say when it could provide the answers.
OPG said in a statement it "understands the sensitivity of decisions around nuclear waste and respects the minister's request for further information to inform a science-based decision."
The company wants to bury 7.1 million cubic feet of low- and intermediate-level waste such as discarded parts from reactor cores and ashes from incinerated floor sweepings about 2,230 feet below the earth's surface at the Bruce Power generating station near Kincardine, Ontario.
The company says it's the safest way to deal with radioactive material that has been stored above ground since the late 1960s and needs a permanent resting place. Officials say it would be entombed in impermeable rock chambers far below Lake Huron's greatest depths in the vicinity.
More than 92,000 people have signed a petition against the project, contending it poses too great a risk. Some members of Congress have spoken against it, while resolutions of opposition have been approved by cities including Toronto, Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee.
"Given what is at stake, a closer examination of the serious environmental and public health risks of this site is imperative and will hopefully lead our Canadian neighbors to make the right decision to shelve plans for this site once and for all," said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat.
A Canadian advisory panel endorsed the project in 2015 following lengthy hearings, and a federal decision was expected last fall. But after the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in October, the ruling was postponed.
Beverly Fernandez, a spokeswoman for a group called Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, said McKenna should have simply rejected the plan.
"No matter what process is followed, burying and abandoning radioactive nuclear waste in the Great Lakes Basin will always be a bad idea," she said.