In October 2016, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) applied to renew its Waste Facility Operating Licence for its Pickering Waste Management Facility (PWMF). The previous licence expired March 31, 2018.
OPG requested a licence term of approximately eleven years that would expire on August 31, 2028. OPG’s requested licence would permit it to continue its routine operations at the PWMF over that period, namely:
processing and storing used fuel rods from the reactors at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station (PNGS); and
storing intermediate waste in the form of retube components from the Pickering A refurbishment.
The new licence would also permit OPG to significantly expand the PWMF by:
constructing three new waste storage buildings, one of which was already approved in the past relicensing process for the PWMF and two that require approval in this current relicensing process; and
constructing a new used fuel processing building which will double the facility’s processing capacity from 50 to 100 Dry Storage Containers per year.
With the requested expansion, the PWMF would be able to hold a maximum of 1,152,768 bundles of high level radioactive waste, and 2,210 cubic meters of intermediate level radioactive waste. This would include all waste currently stored at the PWMF, as well as the waste expected to be generated for the remainder of the PNGS’s productive life.
Waterkeeper has long been concerned about the impacts of the Pickering nuclear site on local lake water quality and aquatic ecosystems, and has been involved with the hearing process for the PWMF.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) held a public hearing on April 13, 2017, where Waterkeeper made a presentation.
Prior to the hearing, the CNSC invited intervenors to provide written submissions. On March 13, Waterkeeper submitted a list of 21 recommendations for specific improvements over concerns with OPG’s application. Overarching concern was the lack of publicly available information regarding the PWMF’s potential environmental impacts and measures to mitigate them.
One of those recommendations was to make OPG’s 2017 Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) available for public comment. This recommendation was adopted, and on June 21, 2017 the CNSC opened up the 2017 ERA for public comment.
On July 21, 2017, Waterkeeper submitted its review of the 2017 ERA. Waterkeeper found the several issues were still not addressed and that it contains significant information gaps. It also focuses on the Generating Station to the detriment of the PWMF, meaning the waste facility isn’t facing near enough scrutiny.