Silence of the lambs?: South Bruce (January 2013)

Tuesday, January, 15, 2013 – 2:02:07 PM

McThoughts by John McPhee

South Bruce council looks like it might be taking a page out of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s playbook – allow only one voice to be heard in public and keep any disagreement out of the media.

Looks like South Bruce is going to create a communications policy that, in essence could be seen as a gag-order ruling.

Councillors will be allowed to speak to an issue, but only as private citizens.

The united front approach (solidarity forever!) might make for the appearance of a happier, more productive team, but from my near 20-year experience, most local politicians don’t like to be turned into Stepford Wives. (Well, OK, excluding the back benchers at the provincial and federal level where it takes mavericks like former Huron-Bruce MP Paul Steckle or former Bruce-Grey Owen Sound MPP Bill Murdoch to sound off when their party does something wrong.)

But at the local level, disagreement can be a good thing and can serve a purpose of not allowing controversial issues from being steamrolled through. It can also bring public awareness to issues that might otherwise get swept under without someone speaking up.

I’ve covered councils in the past where you just knew they discussed issues and worked out details before open council. One year covering Hanover council my reporter and I kept track of when a motion was defeated. None were.

That makes for very boring and slow news kind of council meetings – which I’m sure councils prefer. But it does not serve the public.

Granted, if a councillor disagrees with the majority, he/she shouldn’t actually try to sabotage the plan or the process, but being an outspoken critic is healthy and should be encouraged, not silenced.

When I see policies such as this in governments or organizations, it makes me wonder what the administration is afraid of – the truth?

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Issue is far more than jobs and money (December 2012)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 2:15:38 EST PM


Our Town Council voted on November 26, 2012 to move Saugeen Shores to Step 3 of the NWMO process towards accepting a Deep Geological Repository or “nuclear dump” for all of the highly radioactive nuclear spent fuel from all of the nuclear power plants across Canada.

The process that the NWMO has created in order to locate this dump is fatally flawed. It is undeniably undemocratic. Locating the most toxic poison humans have ever created – beside our Great Lakes – defies common sense. Allowing this decision to be made by the residents of a small Ontario town completely ignores the rights of 40 million people who use the fresh water of the Great Lakes for their drinking water.

This issue is about far more than jobs and money for our town. It is about protection of our precious natural resource – the water of the Great Lakes – from potential contamination from lethal nuclear waste from a nuclear waste dump located anywhere in the Great Lakes Basin.

Our Mayor, our Town Council, and many of our citizens have failed to recognize that this is not an issue that is even remotely appropriate for Saugeen Shores residents to decide.

It is very important for all of us to put this issue in perspective. This is not a Saugeen Shores issue. Nor is it a Bruce County issue. It is not even an Ontario issue. This is a national issue. In fact, this is an international issue, with serious ramifications. The crux of this issue is about the protection of our Great Lakes.

As this issue gains national exposure, we will come to see that the process of potentially allowing the people who live in this town to decide the location of a DGR for all of Canada’s high level nuclear waste, and to make the decision for 40 million people who use the Great Lakes for their fresh drinking water, will be unacceptable to the Canadian and American people. All of the acrimony, destruction of friendships, and division amongst family members that has taken place in our town are extremely regrettable, and will be for naught. It is unlikely that the Canadian and American public will permit the location of a nuclear waste dump close to the Great Lakes.

The question that remains is this: What actions should we, the people of Saugeen Shores, take – as honorable, trustworthy, caring Canadians – to provide a shining example of responsible leadership, and responsible stewardship for the Great Lakes? We can and must think beyond our own interests – of profit, of jobs and money – and make our children, our grandchildren, our families, our neighbours, and our fellow Canadians proud.

As our Canadian National anthem heralds, we pledge to “stand on guard for thee”, Canada. Standing up and for that which is our duty to protect – the Great Lakes – is within our reach.

 Beverly Fernandez
Saugeen Shores

Nuclear Dump in Bruce – Transportation Risks (December 2012)

Monday, December 10, 2012 12:32:18 EST PM


This is the third of my five-part letter explaining why I am opposed to the building of a high-level, deep geological repository (HL-DGR) in Bruce County for the disposal of exhausted fuel rods from nuclear reactors.

In parts 1 and 2, I argued that Bruce County is a completely inappropriate location for a HL-DGR because: (1) it is in the midst of an agricultural and recreation/tourist region, (2) the stigma associated with nuclear waste might depress the county’s economy and also reduce land values, (3) a HL-DGR would create an imbalanced and boom-bust economy and (4) deeply buried nuclear waste has the potential for contaminating the environment and endangering human health.

In this, Part 3, I discuss the transportation risks associated with a HL-DGR and also the flawed site selection process in Bruce County.

Transportation risks.

A HL-DGR in Bruce County would be a centralized repository, serving the nuclear industry in all of Canada.  Thus, it would draw an estimated 53 road shipments per MONTH of highly dangerous radioactive material into the region from reactors and research laboratories in Manitoba, southern and eastern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.  Under the NAFTA agreement, the HL-DGR might also receive shipments from the United States which does not have a DGR.

Shipments to Bruce County from the west would have to be transported around Lake Superior and northern Lake Huron/Georgian Bay by rail or truck  – alternatively, by ship across the lakes.

Shipments from eastern Canada would have to be transported along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River and through the Greater Toronto Area, if not also through the St. Lawrence Seaway which traverses the densest populated regions of the country and is also adjacent to the border with the United States, raising (as does the use of the Great Lakes Waterway) international issues.

A centralized HL-DGR, no matter where located, involves extensive transportation of highly dangerous radioactive material.  And regardless of assurances about safety, accidents happen.  Locating a DGR in Bruce County creates an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, as well as to the people living in their vicinity.

Flawed site selection process in Bruce County.

I believe that the search to find a location for the HL-DGR by Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is flawed in Bruce County because payments made to municipalities surrounding the Bruce generating station for their support for a low- and medium-level DGR at the Bruce generating station are a possible incentive for municipal interest in a high-level DGR.

Four of the five municipalities in the county that have expressed an interest in learning more about the HL-DGR have received, are currently receiving and have been promised, under the terms of the hosting agreement for the LM-DGR mentioned above, substantial sums of money (two one-time lump sum payments, in 2005 and 2013, and annual payments of smaller amounts through 2034) for supporting that facility at the Bruce generating station.  These municipalities stand to lose that money if they do not: “… in good faith, [exercise] best efforts to achieve any of … the milestones … to permit the construction and operation of the … [low- and medium-level DGR].”   This places municipal councils in an awkward position, if not a potential conflict of interest situation, with respect to the proposed HL-DGR.  Ontario Power Generation insists that the two projects are separate and distinct.  However, the hosting agreement for the LM-DGR may have influenced the decisions of local councils to express an interest in the HL-DGR  – councils being unwilling perhaps to jeopardize the hosting agreement by not also supporting NWMO’s search process for a HL-DGR and, simultaneously, also risk being left out of a potential future agreement (and financial benefits) for that repository.

Council’s response to criticism, at least in the case of Saugeen Shores, that it took action without prior consultation with the public for a project that is beyond the scope of the official municipal plan, is that the NWMO process incorporates an “Out option” at any time during steps 1 through 5 of the ten-step process, although council has not also suggested when or how that option might be triggered.  Thus, in Saugeen Shores at least, council seems interested in the potential financial benefits of a HL-DGR but appears to have no other considerations on behalf of the municipality; nor does it appear willing to take a leadership role in organizing community discussions, or even a referendum, independent of NWMO.

Lots to think about.

In Part 4 of my five-part letter explaining why I oppose a HL-DGR in Bruce County, I will discuss corporate convenience and scientific issues.

Peter L. Storck

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Let the info on the used fuel repository flow


By Troy Patterson, Kincardine News

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 11:26:29 EDT AM

Image Caption: Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) confirmed that the geography of Huron-Kinloss will allow it to move on to the third stage of the adaptive phased management program, investigating the possibility of establishing a Deep Geologic Respository for used nuclear fuel from Canada’s nuclear reactors.

I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to tour the Western Waste Management Facility three times since 2007 and the knowledge I gained each time made me fear nuclear waste, its storage and the ideas for its long-term management less each time.

Sadly, of the 10 media representatives I toured the WWMF at the Bruce site with on Friday, only a few seemed to have a true grasp of the used nuclear fuel issue, the difference between it and low and intermediate-level (L/IL) nuclear waste and the ability to differentiate the two completely separate projects being discussed in our region.

Sadly, I fear that’s the reality I’m working with as I write for our wider Sun Media print and online audience. I’ve been fortunate to gain a wide-range of experience in order to better explain these scientifically complex, socially important and historically significant projects that can’t be tossed around like they have been, in 30-second sound bites. Trying to nail down even one issue in that way doesn’t do it justice. A number of our media counterparts only grab the juicy buzzwords often thrown around by opponents of these projects, which isn’t informative either.

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