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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.
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."
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."
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.
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:
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.
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
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
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 "
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."
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Tuesday, February 28, 2017