To the editor,
This week my mailbox received a new pressure tactic from the anti-DGR (deep geological repository) crowd. This group of local anti-nuclear activists has been feverishly trying every tactic possible to pressure the municipal government of South Bruce to stop the DGR process prematurely. The current flyer is demanding a 2022 referendum on the topic – a full year ahead of the schedule for South Bruce to declare whether we are a “willing host” for Canada’s DGR for spent nuclear fuel. Now the word is that this group will be going door-to-door to pressure residents into signing a petition. Before you sign anything, I think you should consider what your visitors are not likely going to tell you.
First, they will tell you 2022 is the perfect time for a referendum. Wrong. The process agreed to between South Bruce and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) calls for willingness to be established no sooner than 2023. The extensive geological study currently underway will not even complete until well into 2023.
They will tell you a referendum is the only fair and democratic way to decide the issue. Not so. France’s DGR, which is years ahead of Canada’s in development, is also in a quiet rural community. France, of course, has a democratic system of government similar to our own. Did they hold a referendum? No. Instead, municipal government representatives visited each and every household to discuss the matter, and gather people’s opinions. Lo and behold, when residents were away from the yellow signs and pressure tactics, most of them said they were in favour, so the local government indicated the community was willing. As a result, France is likely to have a safe, permanent solution for spent nuclear fuel, and the local community will prosper from decades of steady investment and local employment.
Your uninvited guests may tell you that no DGR can ever be safe, that “water will get in” and the nuclear waste will end up polluting the Great Lakes. This, I believe, is the closest thing we have to pure fantasy. The current plan is to build the DGR some 650 metres underground in the Coburg rock formation, which has been there and been stable for some 450 million years. The waste will be stored in virtually indestructible containers, and sealed in water-impermeable bentonite clay. The waste is not water-soluble anyway – it’s ceramic.
The DGR is a big, complex project, that takes years of exploration, development, checking and double-checking to ensure every possible problem has been anticipated and every risk sufficiently mitigated. You can’t do this stuff overnight – the science and learning take time. If the project goes ahead, it will mean hundreds of long-term, high-paying, high-tech jobs for our children and grandchildren. I think we owe it to them to trust the science, and follow the process. If in the end, we decide we don’t want the DGR on reasonable, rational grounds, so be it. But if we end the process early due to the fear mongering of a special interest group, shame on us. If you’re willing to listen like me, or even if you’re the tiniest bit undecided, I respectfully urge you not to sign the petition.
Editor’s note: The NWMO intends to identify a single preferred site – either South Bruce or Ignace – in 2023. South Bruce council will have the Willingness Study presented to them on Nov. 9. Given the NWMO’s timelines, it is expected that willingness will be measured over the next couple of years but no firm date or process have been set. Steven Travale, communications/public relations officer with the South Bruce Nuclear Exploration Team, confirmed that a number of studies will not be completed until later in 2023.