Trefoil signage says a lot beyond the yellow symbol

Dear Editor,

I’m dismayed and disappointed to hear that some of the yellow “No Nuke Dump” signs in South Bruce have been vandalized.  South Bruce residents certainly have a right to express their opinions about the proposed Deep Geological Repository, and that includes putting up signs, if they choose to do so.  And destroying someone else’s property is vandalism, and illegal, regardless of your viewpoint.

I’m not surprised, however, that some neighbours find the signs upsetting. The bold, yellow signs, always featuring a radiation hazard symbol, are obviously intended to get “in your face” and provoke an emotional response.  The word “dump” is deliberately inflammatory.  It suggests something that’s dirty unkempt, as in “that place is such a dump”.  The suggestion is that the nuclear industry would carelessly discard its waste, without the utmost caution and concern for safety.  This is an affront to those who work in the nuclear industry, where each and every activity is taken with an extreme – and even fanatical – devotion to safety, and where every system and every process takes a meticulous “defence in depth approach”, including safety measures, backup safety measures, and backups to the backups.

The main message of the yellow signs is of course, “I oppose the DGR, and you should too”.  However, here are four other messages the signs shout to me as I drive through our littered towns and countryside.

  1. “I don’t like the nuclear industry.  ‘You people’ in nuclear, with your fat pay-checks (I’m quoting an anti-DGR activist here), should deal with nuclear waste yourselves, in some way that doesn’t involve me.  My community and I are not friendly to anything associated with nuclear power.
  2. “I reject the consensus of all the world’s nuclear countries, that a DGR is the safest and best long-term solution for nuclear waste (yes, every country with nuclear waste is pursuing a DGR).  I think all those scientists and experts are either misled, lying or incompetent, and I prefer to support the anti-nuclear scientists, who say it can’t be done safely.
  3. “I don’t want this long-term investment of billions of dollars into the local economy, and all the high-paying, high-tech jobs the project will bring for our children and grandchildren.  I prefer to keep South Bruce just the way it is.
  4. “We have a lot of signs, a lot of land, and a lot of power.  You had better not oppose us, or else.  (I’ve heard this sentiment from local business owners, who are privately supportive of the DGR, but are afraid of the negative impact their own neighbours might inflict on their business.)”

As a person who has made his career in the nuclear industry, I find these signs very disheartening, which I’m sure is one of their desired effects.  I also regret the message we are sending to visitors to our community.  DGR opponents often say they’re concerned about the potential “nuclear stigma” associated with the potential project.  In my opinion, every yellow sign featuring a radiation hazard symbol helps create that stigma.

As I’ve said, I respect my neighbours’ rights to be involved and to express their opinions, but I must say, I prefer meaningful dialogue, and still sincerely hope that the process does not devolve into a war of signs and slogans.  We are all on the same side here.  We all want clean and safe water, prosperous farms and businesses, and employment opportunities for our children and grandchildren.  We just disagree on how to go about it.

So, whether you hate yellow signs, or you display one proudly on your front lawn, I encourage my fellow South Bruce residents to move beyond signs.  Reach out and talk to your neighbour.  Try to understand his or her thoughts and concerns, and to express yours respectfully.  The fact that my neighbour works in a different industry than I do, or holds a different opinion than I do, does not make him or her any less my neighbour.

Tony Zettel, RR5 Mildmay