By Elaine Della-Mattia, Sault Star
Thursday, November 15, 2012 6:38:58 EST AM
Communities need to have more say about the transportation and storage of nuclear waste that could travel through their cities to their final storage place, says Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Bruce Hyer.
Hyer, an independent MP, is touring Northern Ontario and holding town hall meetings in communities likely to be along the transportation corridor for much of Canada’s nuclear waste.
Hyer said there is currently a stockpile of about 50,000 metric tonnes of nuclear waste that needs to be stored in temporary or permanent nuclear waste repositories.
“Canada’s nuclear industry is getting closer to picking a permanent site for that nuclear waste, but regardless of the location that’s chosen, people in a number of communities are likely to see trucks or trains loaded with nuclear waste passing near, or throught their town someday.”
He says those communities on the transportation route – which could include Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma District with its proximity to the Trans Canada Highway – will bear some risk on any potential nuclear waste spill or accident.
“They should have a say sooner rather than later,” he said.
Almost 20 people attended the Sault Ste. Marie town hall meeting, held Tuesday at Sault College.
Hyer said his tour is designed to educate communities on the issue so that they can be informed and decide as a community what is best for them.
Some of the nuclear waste has a half-life of tens of thousands of years, he said.
Hyer himself said he doesn’t have a personal or professional opinion on the best long-term storage solution for the nuclear waste, but believes that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization needs to better inform communities along the transportation corridor about its plans.
To date, he said, their consultation has focused on the 21 communities which have expressed interest in hosting a long term nuclear waste repository, such as Wawa and Hornpayne.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization has a step-by-step process on how interested communities apply and get approved to serve as a host for a “deep geological repository,” or underground storage site.
Under the process, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization provides funding for the municipalities to hire consultants to examine and explain the proposal. Open houses are also held to provide information for community members.
Sault Ste. Marie CAO Joe Fratesi said the Nuclear Waste Management Organization has not contacted the city with any information about either nuclear storage or transportation.
Fratesi said he’s not sure how much say a municipality would have if any shipments of the waste travelled along the Trans Canada Highway. That would require government approvals and permits, he said.
Some of the communities that have expressed interest in storing the waste are mining communities that have spent mines that could be used as secure vaults for the waste, Fratesi said.
“I’m not sure we’ve ever been asked and I’m not sure what the community reaction would be,” Fratesi said.
Sault Ste. Marie has been able to diversity its economy over the past two decades and has not had the need to look at nuclear storage, he said.
Experts say that the 10-year project could cost up to $24 billion, provide 800 direct construction jobs as well as numerous other spin offs.
Long-term jobs requiring scientists will be needed to manage the repository once it is operational.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is still a long way from building a facility to house the nuclear waste.
It believes it will take another decade to find a successful host community and regulatory approval by various government and ministries will be needed after that.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization was established in 2002. It was designed to investigate approaches for managing Canada’s used nuclear fuel.
Nuclear power plants operate in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.