Tuesday, November 13, 2012 9:20:02 EST AM
In recent months, several municipal and town councils in Bruce County – the Town of South Bruce, the Town of Saugeen Shores, the Municipality of Arran-Elderslie, the Township of Huron-Kinloss and the Municipality of Brockton – have expressed an interest in learning more about the so-called “nuclear waste dump” that might be constructed in Canada. In effect, councils are willing to consider having the “dump” built in Bruce County. It would be built by Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a private corporation run by the producers of nuclear energy in Canada.
What I refer to as a nuclear dump is technically known as a high-level, deep geological repository (HL-DGR). In essence, it is a permanent disposal facility, deep underground, for exhausted but still highly radioactive fuel rods from nuclear reactors. Another underground repository, this one for low- and medium-level waste (LM-DGR), is in the planning stage at the Bruce generating station (and currently under environmental assessment by the federal government). This repository would be for the disposal of such things as protective clothing, tools, reactor components and resins and filters used to clean reactor water circuits, some of these items dangerously radioactive. Both repositories raise important issues that the public should be giving some serious thought about.
I”m writing from Southampton in Saugeen Shores to tell you why I am opposed to a HL-DGR in Bruce County. I hasten to point out that I’m not anti-nuclear and I believe that Ontario Power Generation, the operator of the Bruce generating station, contributes much to the regional economy and has generously supported community programs and events and charities. Nevertheless, I’m strongly opposed to the building of a HL-DGR in Bruce County. Many of my arguments apply also to the low- and medium-level repository so when I mention one, think both.
Because the issues surrounding a nuclear waste dump are so complex, and there are so many reasons for opposing a dump in Bruce County, I will have to discuss them in a 5-part letter. Part 1 begins with the most general, and obvious, criticism …
For me, the most important reason for opposing a high-level DGR in Bruce County is because it is simply the wrong place. Bruce County is in the midst of an agricultural and recreation/tourist region, a completely inappropriate location to dispose of exhausted fuel rods. Indeed, Huron County to the south advertises itself as the “West Coast of Ontario”, alluding perhaps to California and British Columbia and implying the county may be as appealing to tourism and retirement as the west coast of North America. I think this analogy could easily be extended to Bruce County.
A high-level DGR for exhausted fuel rods from nuclear reactors in an agricultural and recreation/tourist region could create a stigma in the public mind, negatively affecting the county’s economy and also land values.
The economic impact of a stigma associated with a nuclear waste facility was examined by the State of Nevada, which was concerned about what the proposed Yucca Mountain HL-DGR might do to its economy, based heavily on tourism and the casino industry. An independent socioeconomic study commissioned by the state predicted a serious loss of revenue and the state went to court to force the U.S. federal government to cancel plans for the facility. The federal government subsequently terminated funding of the project in 2009 for its own economic and political reasons.
In Bruce County, a potential reduction in land values because of proximity to a nuclear waste repository has already been acknowledged by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) in an agreement with the Municipality of Kincardine and surrounding municipalities for the low- and medium-level waste facility (LM-DGR) being planned at the Bruce generating station. Compensation to landowners for demonstrated loss of market value because of proximity to the LM-DGR is discussed Section 7 of the hosting agreement between OPG, Kincardine and neighboring municipalities (dated October, 2004). A drop in land values is also likely to occur should a repository for exhausted fuel rods be built in Bruce County. In the view of some realtors, the controversy has already affected the resale and rental markets.
One must ask: would a high-level nuclear waste dump in Bruce County affect the selling price of farm products, discourage new industries from re-locating here, deter people from vacationing or retiring in the region … or even drive people away?
Lots to think about.
In Part 2 of my five-part letter explaining why I oppose a HL-DGR in Bruce County I will discuss other economic issues and potential risks to the environment and human health.
Peter L. Storck (PhD, environmental archaeology)