The nuclear industry in Canada is coming close to finalizing a site which will house the country’s accumulated waste -waste that will remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), responsible for approaching communities and pitching the potential economic benefits of housing nuclear waste while skirting environmental disadvantages, has settled on a list twenty-one potential communities. Thirteen of these perspective repositories are within the region of Northwestern Ontario, including Ignace, Nipigon, Schreiber, Wawa, Manitouwadge and Elliot Lake.
“It’s one of the biggest decisions that these community residents will ever have to make, and Northwestern Ontario will be greatly impacted,” says Independent MP Bruce Hyer, who launched his town-hall style tour earlier in November. Hyer will be holding meetings in Southern and Northern Ontario to hear from citizens, hoping to raise awareness of the opportunities and risks associated with nuclear waste. Though he maintains an ambivalent stance on his own personal or professional opinion about the long-term storage solution for nuclear waste, Hyer is choosing to focus his energies on getting the NWMO to consult communities along the transportation corridors of the nuclear waste.
“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 through-their town someday.”
Hyer notes that many citizens are not aware of the fifty thousand metric tonne stockpile of nuclear waste waiting to find a permanent storage site. “The communities on the transportation route will bear some risk on any potential nuclear waste spill or accident, so they should have a say sooner rather than later.”
Officials estimate close to fifty-three shipments a month by truck, ship, or train could be seen over the next thirty years as more than two million used nuclear fuel rods – similar in size to a fire log – are transported to their final destination.
Hyer held his first meetings in Parry Sound, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie earlier in the week, and plans to visit the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant on Monday; more details and future legs of the tour will be announced within the month.
A visit to Thunder Bay will undoubtedly include discussion of Ontario Power Generation’s transition from coal-generatedto nuclear power, a conversion projected to be completed by 2015. “Shutting out people that will be impacted won’t help us come to a satisfactory solution. With the scale of this particular problem and long-term impacts faced, this is one decision that has to be done right.”