Pickering Nuclear’s huge radioactive waste problem

The Pickering Nuclear Station has a deadly secret: The plant is a storehouse for 16 million kilograms of high-level radioactive waste sitting right on the edge of Lake Ontario.

Pickering's waste would stretch from Kingston to St. Catharines

                                                 Pickering Nuclear

The more than 760,000 spent fuel bundles stored at the Pickering nuclear plant are the legacy of 50 years of reactor operations with no long-term waste management solution in sight. This waste contains dangerous radioactive elements and enough plutonium to construct more than 11,000 nuclear warheads. Laid end-to-end, the radioactive fuel bundles stored at Pickering would stretch from Kingston to St. Catharines.

More than half the waste that Ontario Power Generation has been quietly piling up at Pickering nuclear plant is kept in open water pools. One of the biggest concerns during the Fukushima nuclear disaster was the possibility of a “pool fire” if the zircaloy cladding on spent fuel bundles combusted. All of Tokyo would have needed to be evacuated if a narrowly avoided pool fire had happened. Pickering’s fuel has the same cladding, except Pickering is 10 times closer to downtown Toronto than Fukushima is from Tokyo.

The rest of Pickering’s massive inventory of spent fuel is stored in warehouses that have no defences against rocket or airplane attacks. All of this, right next to the source of our drinking water.

But the most troubling news from a report commissioned by the OCAA from nuclear risk expert Dr. Gordon Thompson is that this waste is probably going nowhere for a century or more – if ever. That’s because the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s effort to find a “willing host” community to become the burial site for tonnes of radioactive waste has no end in sight — and may never succeed. Even if a willing community can be found, building a massive underground storage facility and transferring tonnes of waste from Pickering and other nuclear sites will take decades.

We’re calling for the waste to be pulled back from the waterfront and stored in above-ground, attack-resistant, reinforced-concrete vaults.

What other industry would be allowed to create toxic, dangerous radioactive waste for decades with no long-term safe disposal plan in place?

Those, like Premier Ford, who think it’s a good idea to keep Pickering running well beyond its design life need to immediately explain their plan for dealing with its deadly waste. No one in Pickering or Toronto agreed to be a “willing host” community for the storage of 16,000 tonnes (and growing) of radioactive waste. It’s time to stop the production of even more of this deadly waste every year.

— Angela Bischoff

Ontario Clean Air Alliance

Ontario Clean Air Alliance