(continued)
Several delays and delegations later, a vote is taken
by Sandy Lindsay

February 28, 2017
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After several delays, a recent deferment of more than a year and many delegations to Saugeen Shores Council, a vote on a Motion of Support for the Municipality of Kindardine in its decision for a proposed deep geologic repository (DGR) for nuclear waste was finally made at Monday night's council meeting.

Background:

The proposed DGR for low and intermediate waste (L&IW) would be located at the Bruce Nuclear site in Tiverton.  Presently, the waste is stored above ground or in shallow below ground facilities, with much of it being incinerated ash.

The question of a DGR for spent nuclear fuel has been on-going for many years in countries that utilize nuclear energy as part of their electricity mix. Today, spent nuclear fuel is stored above ground in a facility operated by Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) at the Bruce Nuclear site. 

Since nuclear energy began some 50 years ago at the Bruce location, the above-ground storage for spent fuel was always seen as an 'interim' solution.  Today, an adaptive phase management (APM) program includes the consideration of a DGR in order to get the spent fuel from above ground to below for one sole reason ... safety.

A Joint Review Panel was established with world experts in their fields and, following public hearings that went on for many months, gave their recommendation that a deep geologic repository was the safest solution possible and "should be done sooner than later".

Several countries using nuclear energy are now in the process of either considering or constructing DGRs, including Finland.

The issue has been very contentious and organizations have been established who are against a DGR solution but who offer little in the way of alternatives.

At Saugeen Shores Council meeting on Monday, delegations were presented both for and against the proposed DGR at the Bruce Nuclear site.

Among those who spoke was John Mann, a long-time opponent to the DGR, said that as far as he was concerned, "...this DGR is nothing more than a Trojan horse for a spent fuel DGR, but if there is to be one it should be at the Bruce site, the largest nuclear site in the world and there should only be one for all nuclear waste."

John Mann

Mann also said that he felt this area should be home to a university on nuclear energy to find a solution for waste.  "We should do something valuable, something that will be here forever." 

The next delegation was Glen Sutton, former Mayor of Kincardine and a nuclear engineer, spoke out in favour of the proposed DGR as being the "... only safe solution that cannot be left for our children and grandchildren to clean up."

Glen Sutton

Sutton presented summaries of several reports by world experts where an overall consensus was that "... long term storage of nuclear waste should take place in 'passively safe' isolation and this is best achieved in a deep geological repository (DGR)".

 Jill Taylor, President of the SOS Great Lakes organization, also spoke out in opposition to the proposed DGR and Saugeen Shores Council support of Kincardine.

Jill Taylor

(file photo)

Taylor said that the new Federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change had asked Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to submit further information regarding the proposed DGR before making a decision on whether or not to approve it.  Taylor told Council that there were three specific points of clarification that OPG were to provide:

  •  an assessment of possible alternative sites
  • an analysis of cumulative environmental effects

  • mitigation measures

According to Taylor, none of the points had been adequately addressed and she also alluded to safety concerns at the NWMO facility.

Mayor Mike Smith, who had a long career in the nuclear industry, pointed out that Taylors' safety concerns were not valid given that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has stringent and rigorous monitoring procedures in place at the facility.

Taylor also said that there was a "stigma" surrounding a DGR tht would affect property values to which Councilor Dave Myette countered that  "... the mere mention or a possible downturn in the nuclear site has an immediate and assured negative affect.

Taylor explained that a report on 'stigma' had been presented at the JRP hearings.  "As a resident, the stigma associated with contaminated water, the stigma of a DGR construction that will take 100 years and a mountain of of rock as high as the pyramids and roads that are cluttered with trucks bringing waste form across the province to the Bruce site is going to catch up with us.  At a certain point, there will be a reckoning ... it will certainly come if this is passed."

Myette acknowledged Taylor's passion on the subject but pointed out that history has resulted in the opposite.  "The site is, in fact, a tourist destination where people visit out of curiosity and your prognostication that sooner or later we will get to the edge of the cliff, I don't see how you can predict the future where the last 40 to 50  years have proven the exact opposite."

Councilor Neil Menage then asked two questions that were more toward the scientific end of the spectrum of controversy ... do you believe the nuclear waste left as it is today is the safest method of storage?  ... what scientific difference do you support and if we are not going to support this location then where do you think it (waste) should go?  You keep saying, 'it shouldn't be done here', but you never say where it should be done (located)?

In answer, Taylor referred back to the Federal government's question of asking OPG for further studies.  "It's not for me to answer ... it's up to OPG to do due diligence to do what is asked of them."  She also said that considering today's storage of waste, from reading 'scientific' reports, that current storage is not safe.  She also said that time has been wasted since 2002 and that the government should be looking at safe ways to store the waste.

When it came time to vote on the Motion of Support for the Municipality of Kincardine's decision in support of a DGR, Councilors again had the opportunity to express their views.

Councilor Dave Myette said the issue of the vote did not come to council lightly.  "I won't try to change those who are in opposition to the DGR because I know it would be a fruitless task as they are entrenched in their position. Having spent considerable years in the nuclear industry and most recently as a specialist in the area of fuel handling, people I supervised were responsible for the safe handling of all waste including fuel and spent fuel and ... I am comfortable with the methods that are used.  The manner in which fuel is stored today is adequate albeit very interim and was never designed to outlive the half-lifes of the materials stored therein. 

 

There are three undeniable truths on L&IW:

>  to suggest we do not want a repository and for those who are against it on the shores of Lake Huron, you are 40 to 50 years too late ... it already exists today and although stored safely is significantly more exposed to the elements than it would be if stored in a DGR in impermeable rock

>  there does not exist another site that would be a willing host community for the waste and there are no areas in Ontario or Canada that are uninhabited and, putting this waste in somebody else's backyard or in their territory, indigenous of otherwise, is suggesting that their lifestyle or safety is less important than the people that live in this area.  I would suggest that moving it to another location and expecting someone else or another municipality to embrace the waste generated by the prosperity that we have enjoyed is ... irresponsible.

>  through my experience, the most dangerous time when dealing with waste is when it is being transported from one location to another and moving from one packaging container to another.  Those are the times when human intervention takes place and when possible accidents could happen.  Keeping it as close to its permanent location as possible is one of the significant advantages of having a DGR on-site.

These truths exist and I urge council to support this and I would say that the majority of citizens in Saugeen Shores support this.  I have talked to a lot of people and anyone who has experience with it or who lives in this community has become familiar with and understands the energy.  In fact, the Federation of Agriculture is in support of nuclear energy and the DGR and, most people are either for it or indifferent.  Nuclear has been here and will be here for a long time and those who handle it are well trained and competent as they have been for some 50 years.  We've all enjoyed the economic spin-off, clean emissions free electricity at a reasonable price.  At some point we have to deal with this and to suggest that the detailed studies that have been conducted at the Bruce site be conducted at other locations is simply suggesting that we do nothing with it for the next 20 to 30 years.  That's the amount of time it will take and then what we are saying is let the future generations deal with  'our' waste and that's not something that I am willing to do.  We generated it, there will be more in the future and we turn ourselves to the experts' advice and findings and get ourselves behind this technology and send out support to the Minster.  By not lending our support would send a stronger message that we are not for it so let's get this passed."

Click the orange arrow to read the second column

Councilor Neil Menage, who worked at the Bruce site  for over 40 years and who is now a contract teacher for nuclear safety said that he believes it is his responsibility to support the motion and "... not to keep saying it should be somewhere else and not here.  We have the facility here.  We have the largest security force, Canada's second largest army, we have the service available against malevolent acts of terrorism and we have the ability to deal with it on-site.  I think there have probably been some mistakes made along the way but I think one DGR and, in particular, for the spent fuel should be our predominant need to find a solution.  With climate change as we know it and the way the world is going, we don't know what's coming next.  The Goderich tornado is an example that changed the way that Bruce Power is operating its nuclear stations and they have upped their safety programs.  I believe in the scientific community that put together the information and I believe in the JRP process where I was a speaker. I did all that before I put my name on the ballot (for Council) in the Port Elgin ward where arguably 50 per cent of the population put their x in my box knowing I was in full favour of the DGR so I am in support of building this DGR on this site ... sooner than later, as all that waste would be safer underground."

Councilor Cheryl Grace referred back to the Minister's request for the three specific further items from OPG.  "OPG's report of some 600 pages was released and I read 445 of those.  What is Council's letter of support going to say? Have Councilors read the whole report? According to Grace, OPG's report of alternative  locations with GPS coordinates were impossible sites and  "... indicates that OPG was sloppy and is troubling and calls into question their assurances that this project will be safe.  Why didn't OPG provide alternate sites as requested by the Minister?  According to a report by OPG of a survey conducted by an public research company, 75 per cent of respondents were in favour of the DGR.  How was the information presented? It said that DGR's around the world are in operation.  These are not really deep geologic repositories as some are what is considered, 'near surface'. 

Grace went on to refer to the WIPP in New Mexico, the DGRs in Germany, Sweden and Finland and Korea that is near surface.  This survey omitted facts to mislead.  OPG contends that "

 

"We must acknowledge that we (council) represent a community that is deeply divided on this issue and that, without a secret ballot referendum by an unbiased question by our residents, we cannot confidently state that the majority support this.  We argue that we have a duty to retain this waste because our community has benefitted economically has been used worldwide to convince communities to host repositories.  When that repository is beside a Great Lake that provides clean water for millions in two countries, it pales in comparison with our duty to protect our precious natural resource.  Finally, this report prepared not by an independent company but by the project proponent and its hirees indicates a troubling lack of rigour and challenges the long-term safety of this project."

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau highlighted that he has been listening to representations on the deep geologic repository for more than a decade, attended the International Conference on Geological Repositories (ICGR) conference, toured the Western Waste Management Facility (WWWF) at the Bruce site and read much information by groups opposed to it and listened to them carefully.  "Sometimes, we are accused of not listening to people when we make a decision but that's not what happens.  Any decision will be opposite to that or half the people.  We have to make a call. It's important for this community to make a statement with regard to a project of this nature in our region and our broader community.  I have to listen to the experts that I have heard over and over again that tell me consistently to where I feel it is a scientific consensus that the best and safest way to treat both used nuclear fuel and low and intermediate level waste is in 'passive isolation' below ground in a deep geologic repository.  That's report after report.  Even the Blue Ribbon Panel after Yucca was cancelled came back and said you need adaptive phase management, you need to put this waste in 'passive isolation' below ground.  That's what we hear from experts around the world.  I have to accept that conclusion because I believe it is grounded in science.  Therefore, I will support the Mayor sending a resolution of our support for this DGR."

Mayor Mike Smith said that he has been involved with the project for more than 14 years and has watched it very closely.  "I know the questions it has raised in our community but I support the findings of experts and will move forward with it.  One of the delegates said that there is leaking and people are in harm's way and I know that not to be true.  The site is monitored closely and the reports are available publicly and no one is in harm's way."

The vote for the motion of support was taken and only Councilor Cheryl Grace was opposed.

The  motion reads:

"That the Mayor of the Town of Saugeen Shores be directed to send a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency expressing Council's support for the proposed Deep Geological Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste in Kincardine, Ontario."


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