Local Angle: It made no sense for nuclear-waste debate to last as long as it did

When Creighton was crossed off the list of potential nuclear-waste storage sites last year, many well-meaning residents were disappointed.

For them, the underground nuclear-waste repository proposed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) represented an incredible job-creation opportunity for our region.

But as The Reminder explored the nuclear-waste saga in a retrospective piece last week, it became more apparent than ever that if unsuitable geology had not quashed the proposal, then opposition would have.

There was so much opposition at such high levels, and so early on, that in hindsight one wonders why NWMO spent any money considering Creighton for the repository, let alone the $1.15-million-plus that was doled out over time.

One would imagine that an organization with as much expertise as NWMO would have consulted with the Saskatchewan government before contemplating something as controversial as a nuclear-waste repository for the province.

While it’s true that Saskatchewan, unlike Manitoba, has no law forbidding non-domestic nuclear waste storage, then- and current premier Brad Wall openly told people where he stood.

In April 2011, Wall told The StarPhoenix that Saskatchewanians were not supportive of nuclear waste storage in their province and that it was highly unlikely his government would ever allow a repository.

Wall reiterated his position six months later. One of the headlines from that interview read “No nuclear waste storage site for Saskatchewan: Brad Wall.”

The premier of Saskatchewan had announced NWMO’s project was not wanted in his province. Okay, what if he’s defeated? Well, the opposition NDP that would replace him was and is also against the repository.

In light of this, why would NWMO keep on to study anything in Saskatchewan? Why continue playing hockey as if the final buzzer had not just sounded?

The best guess is that NWMO believed it could somehow sway Wall, or perhaps hoped his successor years down the road would be open to a repository despite vocal public opposition. But that’s a lot to hope for, isn’t it?

The Saskatchewan government certainly had the power to keep nuclear waste out of the province. And so, by virtue of NWMO’s own guidelines, did First Nations. NWMO clearly said the repository would not proceed in an area that lacked First Nations support.

And so came another strike against NWMO. In May 2014, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) came out against locating the repository on land under consideration near Creighton.

PBCN passed a band council resolution opposing the repository. Another First Nation with a claim on the proposed site also vocalized its opposition.

Just like that, NWMO had failed to meet its own criteria for a repository.

Let’s take all of this in for a moment. The concept of a nuclear-waste repository near Creighton was now opposed by the premier of Saskatchewan, the official opposition leader, two First Nations and Creighton MLA Doyle Vermette.

Perhaps NWMO clung to hope that if it just completed enough studies and held enough meetings, somehow the powerful opponents to its repository would come around.

Of course it never got that far. In March 2015, NWMO pulled out of Creighton after a study found the site being examined for a repository was geologically unsound.

It’s not that the idea of bolstering the Flin Flon-Creighton economy with a multibillion-dollar repository was a bizarre one; it’s that the whole thing was so obviously doomed from the start that it’s astounding NWMO carried on for more than four years.

Even if Creighton’s geology had been fine, the notion that a nuclear-waste repository could have still somehow proceeded defies all rational belief.

Local Angle is published on Fridays.


DECEMBER 3, 2016 09:00 PM

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