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OPG committed to lasting solutions for nuclear waste

Exploring alternative options for safe and permanent disposal

Kincardine – Ontario Power Generation remains committed to seeking safe and permanent disposal of nuclear waste, following a First Nation’s vote on a Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) at the Bruce nuclear site.

Responding to a vote by members of Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) not to support the DGR project for low- and intermediate-level waste, OPG CEO and President Ken Hartwick said today: “OPG respects the decision of SON members. We will now move forward to develop an alternate solution.”

OPG committed in 2013 that it would not build the DGR at the Bruce site, without the support of SON.

“OPG will explore other options and will engage with key stakeholders to develop an alternate site-selection process,” Hartwick said. Any new process would include engagement with Indigenous peoples as well as interested municipalities.

“Nuclear energy – as a non-emitting source of electricity – is a vital tool in fighting climate change,” Hartwick said. “To enjoy the benefits of this low-carbon, low-cost and reliable source of energy with peace of mind, we must manage the waste responsibly. Permanent and safe disposal is the right thing to do for future generations.”

As OPG explores alternative solutions for permanent disposal, “a priority is our continuing efforts in waste minimization,” Morton said. This includes minimizing waste production at source, innovations in waste processing to reduce the volume, and recycling of clean materials.

Key Facts on OPG and the DGR project:

  • The DGR project, as submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in 2005, would have been built 680 metres below the Bruce site, in strong, dry and impermeable rock that has been isolated from the lake or any groundwater for hundreds of millions of years.
  • OPG’s DGR at the Bruce site would have been for low- and intermediate-level waste from OPG-owned generating stations at Pickering, Darlington and Bruce.
  • High-level waste, or used fuel, in Canada is destined for a separate DGR for which a site selection process is underway, managed by a separate company, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO).
  • The Municipality of Kincardine was a willing hosting community for OPG’s DGR since 2005. Four adjacent municipalities also passed resolutions to support the project.
  • All across Ontario, OPG is committed to building and growing long-term, mutually beneficial working relationships with First Nations and Métis communities near our current and future operations. In engaging with Indigenous peoples, OPG aims to reflect best practice internationally in outreach, partnerships and capacity-building support.

OPG is the largest electricity generator in the province, providing almost half the power Ontarians rely on every day. It is also one of the most diverse generators in North America with expertise in nuclear, hydro, biomass, solar and gas.

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For further information, please contact:

Ontario Power Generation
416-592-4008 or 1-877-592-4008
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Frequently asked questions

OPG respects the decision of Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) members. OPG will now move forward to develop an alternate solution for permanent disposal of low- and intermediate-level waste.

In 2013, OPG committed to SON that it would not build the DGR at the Bruce site without the support of SON members. The commitment amounted to a requirement of SON consent.

OPG will explore other options and will engage with key stakeholders to develop an alternate site-selection process. Any new process would include engagement with Indigenous peoples as well as interested municipalities. Over the years, OPG and SON have been building a relationship based on mutual respect, collaboration and trust. OPG looks forward to continuing this relationship, and committed to remain in dialogue with SON regarding permanent disposal of the waste in its territory.

Nuclear energy – as a non-emitting source of electricity – is a vital tool in fighting climate change. It provides 60% of the electricity in Ontario, which has one of the cleanest electricity grids in North America (hydro provides another 25%). While solar and wind depend on the right weather conditions, nuclear is always available, a reliable source of the baseload required to meet electricity demand.

As OPG explores alternative solutions for permanent disposal, we will continue to prioritize efforts in waste minimization. This includes minimizing waste production at source, innovations in waste processing to reduce the volume, and recycling of clean materials.

OPG has committed to continue to work with SON on identifying and resolving legacy issues, related to the history of development of the Bruce nuclear site.

OPG made a unilateral DGR benefits offer to SON members in October 2019, to help SON members make an informed decision. In broad terms, the offer addressed three categories of benefits, if SON supported the DGR:

  • A role for SON in future decision-making on the DGR, on major milestones (for example, when to close the DGR in future).
  • Employment, training and business opportunities for SON members in the DGR project.
  • Financial benefits for SON.

Benefits agreements for host communities are considered best practice, around the world, for such facilities, in recognition of the role that such communities play in providing last solutions.

Facts about the DGR

The DGR would have been built 680 metres below the Bruce site (on the east coast of Lake Huron) near Kincardine, in strong, dry and impermeable rock that has been isolated from the lake or any groundwater for hundreds of millions of years.

No, the DGR would not have been located on the shore of Lake Huron; the site was 1.2 kilometres inland. At 680 metres deep, the DGR would be three times deeper than Lake Huron’s deepest point. The rock at that depth has been isolated from any lake or groundwater for hundreds of millions of years.

OPG’s DGR would receive 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from OPG-owned generating stations at Pickering, Darlington and Bruce. Most of the radioactivity will decay within 300 years. Intermediate-level waste consists of used reactor core components and will return to background level within 100,000 years.

Low- and intermediate-level waste (L&ILW) from the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce Power nuclear generating stations is safely transported and managed at OPG’s Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) at the Bruce nuclear site, in operation since 1974. Half or 100,000 cubic metres of the waste that was destined for the DGR is stored on the WWMF site now.

No, high-level waste, or used fuel, in Canada is destined for a separate DGR, for which a site selection process is underway, managed by a separate company, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO).

Some of the radioactivity is long-lasting. It is not an ideal plan to continue with interim storage at the surface in perpetuity. Buildings and containers would have to be maintained and replaced for thousands of years. Risks include uncertainties about the long-distant future, including societal conditions or extreme weather. OPG believes responsible waste management includes developing lasting solutions – allowing the public to enjoy the benefits of clean, low-cost and reliable nuclear energy with peace of mind. It is the right thing to do, for future generations.

DGRs are recognized around the word as a scientifically sound solution, especially for intermediate- and high-level waste. Some countries have different facilities for different kinds of waste. Some store low-level waste in a near-surface disposal facility.

A federally appointed independent Joint Review Panel on the Environmental Assessment concluded in 2015, after a four-year review, that the DGR project would protect people, the Great Lakes and the environment and that the Bruce site was appropriate; it recommended the project proceed “now rather than later.”

OPG has engaged since 2004 with SON, which comprises two bands, the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation. OPG also continues to engage with Métis Nation of Ontario and Historic Saugeen Métis regarding waste operations at the Bruce site.

Yes, the Municipality of Kincardine has been a willing hosting community for OPG’s DGR since 2005. As well, all four adjacent municipalities passed resolutions to support the project.

OPG is the largest electricity generator in the province, providing almost half the power Ontarians rely on every day. It is also one of the most diverse generators in North America with expertise in nuclear, hydro, biomass, solar and gas.