John Spears,, September 1, 2012

TIVERTON — Picture this: you’ve lived in the same house for more than 50 years, and have never taken out the garbage.

Then you sealed it all in boxes and locked it in the basement, promising some day to find a better place for it.

Now, picture Canada’s nuclear industry.

Since the 1960s, nuclear power plants have generated more than two million bundles of highly radioactive used fuel. And they’re all still stored on the sites of the plants that produced them. But the pace of finding a site to store Canada’s most potent radioactive waste permanently is about to pick up. Twenty Canadian communities have said they’ll consider volunteering to host the storage site.

That list is about to close. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization, whose job it is to find and build the site, will stop taking new names on Sept. 30.

The impending cut-off is ratcheting up pressure on technocrats charged with selecting a site; on boosters who want to snare the multibillion-dollar repository for their community; on activists who harbour deep suspicions about safety; and on aboriginal leaders who say they’ve been cut out of the process.

Adding urgency is another nuclear decision hanging over Ontario: Whether to proceed with building two big new reactors at the Darlington nuclear station. Progress in finding a secure, permanent storage site for the country’s nuclear waste might give the province more comfort in continuing down a nuclear path…

Here’s a sampling of opinion from some communities willing to host the nuclear waste storage site…

The locals

 Standing in front of her beachfront home in Southampton, Dale Robinette knows about the divisions Smith fears.

A yellow sign protesting the proposed waste site nestles in the dune grass.

But apart from displaying the sign, Robinette says she’s pulled back from overt activism.

“It’s divided our community dreadfully,” says Robinette, whose family has owned her property for 101 years. She now lives there year-round.

“Friends of 60 years aren’t speaking to each other,” says Robinette sadly. “That’s why I’ve backed off being a real hawk about it.”

Up in Elliot Lake, contractors Stephen Martin and Marc Brunet can’t wait for the project to start.

The town has been through hard times since the last uranium mines closed in the 1990s, and they’re thirsting for more activity. Earlier this year, it was struck by the fatal collapse of the Algo Centre Mall. It’s tried to turn itself into a centre for retirement living, but that activity doesn’t match the employment generated by the mines.

“It’s a great project,” says Brunet. “It’ll bring career jobs to Elliot Lake, which we do not have … It’ll bring a younger community, and 30-pluses.”

Chris Patrie owns the Elliot Lake Trading Post, an outfitting shop for campers, hunters and anglers.

Elliot Lake has been identified with uranium since its founding, he shrugs, adding “We’re the uranium capital of the world.”

And his store?

“I think it’ll help my store. This thing will be a tourist attraction. I think it’s the best thing that could happen.”

Donna Rochon runs a natural food store in Elliot Lake. She has misgivings about a nuclear waste site there.

Meanwhile in Saugeen Shores, a lively battle is underway as members of a citizens group dubbed save Save Our Saugeen Shores, or SOS, fights what they see as an attempt to impose the waste site on their community on the shore of the Great Lakes.

“We’re talking about something that has to be successfully containing this waste for a minimum of 100,000 years,” says Cheryl Grace, a leader of SOS. “Some of the waste we’re talking a million years. We’re talking basically forever.”