What To Do About Ontario’s Pickering Nuclear Plant’s Huge Radioactive Waste Problem

“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.”

Find a link below for a Petition to Close the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant

A Message and a Call-Out from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance

Posted July 30th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

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.

The more than 760,000 spent fuel bundles stored at the Pickering 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 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 defenses 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.

Maybe Homer can help Doug Ford find some simple way of getting rid of all that nuclear waste.

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.

Sign the petition to close Pickering and better secure its waste.

Also, please contact your MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) – ask her/him to tell Premier Ford to close Pickering in August when its license expires and stop producing these deadly radioactive wastes.

Thank you. Please pass this message onto your friends. – Angela Bischoff, Director, Ontario Clean Air Alliance

About the Ontario Clean Air Alliance – The Ontario Clean Air Alliance is a coalition of over 90 organizations that represent more than six million Ontarians.   We led the successful campaign to phase-out Ontario’s five dirty coal-fired power plants.   We are now working to move Ontario towards a 100% renewable electricity future through an integrated combination of energy conservation and efficiency, water power imports from Quebec and cost-effective Made-in-Ontario green energy.

For more information on the Ontario Clean Air Alliance and its citizen advocacy work, click on http://www.cleanairalliance.org/ .

A Footnote from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –

About 30 or so years ago, while I was working as an environment reporter for The St. Catharines Standard, I remember arguing in a column that generating nuclear waste for energy before having a safe way of dealing with the waste is about as insane as sending humans on a space mission to the moon or Mars before figuring out a way of bring them safely home.

I was writing about this issue way back here at The St. Catharines Standard and we are still wrestling with it now. How not very smart, are we?

Only the what-to-do-about-the nuclear waste problem is far more dangerous because if something could goes wrong far more people could get killed than two or three astronauts.

Thirty years later, we still haven’t found a safe and secure way of destroying or disposing of nuclear waste, yet there are mainstream political parties in Ontario – most notably the provincial Conservatives – and vocal constituencies of people, including some with a vested interest in this multi-billion-dollar industry, who continue to prefer nuclear plants over solar, wind and other greener alternatives.

So after many years of trying to have rational discussions with these big nuke boosters and hustlers, here is my response to them.

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance column mentions the difficulty of finding a “host community” for all of this nuclear waste which is, by the accounts of many environmental scientists, at least as toxic as anything dumped in waste sites like the Love Canal and far more long-lasting.

When I was covering the awful impact chemical dumps like Love Canal were having on the neighbourhoods and communities around them back in the late 1970s and 1980s, a number of studies came out that showed that corporate generators of these chemical poisons had a habit of finding places in low-income communities or near reservations for Indigenous peoples to dispose of them.

In the case of nuclear wastes, I think we should find host communities where most or virtually all of the people living in them back pro-nuclear energy governments and political leaders like Doug Ford and oppose renewable alternatives like solar and wind.

If they support continuing with nuclear power generation so much, let them put their homes, neighbourhoods and communities on the line by agreeing to take the waste and doing whatever they can to keep from exposing themselves to the stuff.

In others words, put your communities on the line here, or at long last shut up and stop being advocates and snake oil salesmen for something that puts the rest of us at risk.

–         Doug Draper, Niagara At Large

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders



2 responses to “What To Do About Ontario’s Pickering Nuclear Plant’s Huge Radioactive Waste Problem

  1. We need to think of these “problems” as opportunities. Combining CANDU technology with breeder reactor technology to entend the fuel cycle for hundreds of years will be the most responsible thing that we can do for future generations.


  2. Alastair McIvor

    It is common among those who oppose nuclear power to paint Ontario’s nuclear industry almost like Doctor Evil in an Austin Powers movie: stockpiling mountains of nuclear waste that will either be leaked into the great lakes or made into weapons. The reality however is that the thousands of Ontarians who work at our nuclear power plants are not cartoonish villains. They are regular people, with families who live close to these plants. Reality is that nuclear waste is tiny compared to all other industrial wastes. So Pickering has been able to keep 100% of its waste and nothing is in the environment. Compare that with a natural gas plant: if we put a cork in the chimney the plant would have to shut down. There is so much waste from fossil fuels it cannot be stored, it has to pollute. NWMO are identifying the long term storage for Pickering’s waste, and if Ontario is to play its part fighting climate change we need four more Pickering plants creating clean electricity without greenhouse gas for the next half century and more. Publishing this sort of half-baked opinion, which disregards the facts, full of misleading and emotive statements is not helping the public discourse on such an important topic.


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