Nuclear Waste Vault Divides Community: Citizens Group

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Efforts to present a petition to South Bruce council calling for a referendum on municipal election day, not after, on a long-term nuclear waste storage project bogged down over privacy issues just before the council meeting of Tuesday.

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The referendum is supposed to decide whether the residents of South Bruce are ready to host an underground vault for the permanent storage of high-level nuclear waste. Willingness is required by the proponent, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.

South Bruce council voted Dec. 13 to hold the referendum after the Oct. 23 municipal election and after a draft hosting agreement was negotiated with the NWMO, the federal agency responsible for the design and the creation of a plan for the safe and long-term management of Canada. spent nuclear fuel. The schedule would allow for more studies.

But the council’s referendum vow doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t bind the next council, Michelle Stein, president of Protect Our Waterways – No Nuclear Waste, said in an interview Wednesday.

POW, the petition organizer, wanted the petition received before the council’s decision and group members were surprised when the referendum decision was made before their petition was received.

Not everyone who signed it necessarily opposed hosting the deep geological repository, but “they were sufficiently concerned about the board’s decision-making process,” Stein said.

The 1,258-signature petition had each name verified as a resident of South Bruce, Stein said. POW still wants the council to receive the petition and hold the referendum on election day.

But the nuclear waste project has now become too controversial to publicly share the names of those who oppose it, Stein said, so she sought to share them with the council privately. City staff then suggested it be done behind closed doors, Stein said.

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“Some people chose not to sign because they feared it would affect their workplace,” she said. “People are afraid of disturbing their neighbours. This created divisions among family members. . .

“And we don’t believe the NWMO needs to have access to the names of these people.

Protect Our Waterways - Council Presentation No nuclear waste on the side of a trailer outside the council chambers on Tuesday, January 11, 2021 in South Bruce, Ontario.  (Protect our waterways – No nuclear waste photo)
Protect Our Waterways – Council Presentation No nuclear waste on the side of a trailer outside the council chambers on Tuesday, January 11, 2021 in South Bruce, Ontario. (Protect our waterways – No nuclear waste photo)

Immediately before the council meeting, the citizens’ group held a car rally and its members watched a Zoom presentation from Stein to the council. Around 50 cars parked behind the arena on a freezing, freezing night to watch the match.

The presentation was shown alongside a trailer, with audio streaming through speakers, given COVID-19 concerns. A video of the projection on the trailer is broadcast on the Facebook page of the citizen group.

The petition was submitted to municipal staff beforehand, with the confidentiality clause.

But Stein learned shortly before the city staff council meeting that the petition could not be presented behind closed doors because it did not meet the narrow criteria for a closed meeting.

In response, Stein returned two suggestions the group had made for presenting the petition while considering privacy concerns.

The deep geological repository project promises economic benefits to the municipality in a rural area that could benefit from an economic boost, and it offers what is meant to be a long-term solution for the safe storage of nuclear waste, which are now stored on the surface.

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South Bruce and Ignace Township are the other two communities being considered for the NWMO’s proposed $23 billion project. The federal agency obtained approximately 1,500 acres of land in the two communities.

The organization says its DGR plan will only continue in an area with informed and willing hosts. The NWMO plans to identify a single preferred site by the end of 2023.

South Bruce and Ignatius both worked to decide how to measure willpower.

South Bruce has retained the services of GHD Ltd. to consult with the community and prepare a report on how they would like willingness to be measured. A summary of the report, published in October, showed that a majority of respondents would prefer a public referendum. However, the municipality says there were a variety of opinions on when the community vote should take place.

Council decided to hold the referendum when a draft hosting agreement was negotiated with the NWMO that addresses the municipality’s 36 guiding principles, which cover issues such as safety, environmental protection , community engagement and regional benefits.

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