Congress 2021 blog edition
By Claire Kroening, University of Alberta human geography alumna and communications professional
A few years ago, the Ontario government committed to nuclear energy generation, with the promise of a thorough and safe plan for dumping nuclear waste in the province. Today, as waste mounts, so does the tension surrounding the incomplete and unsatisfactory waste management plan.
In today’s session, “Northern Relations, Radiation and Nuclear Waste,” Ontarians talked about the pitfalls of the deep geologic repository site the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is proposing as the solution to Ontario's nuclear waste management.
Deep geologic repository is a method of nuclear waste management where waste is buried deep underground and stored for hundreds of years as it decays. Dr. Richard Denton, Co-Chair, North America International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) (Nobel Peace Prize 1985) and associated with International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN winner of 2017 Nobel Peace Prize), says, it's the “out of sight, out of mind” method.
Dr. Richard Denton is a southern Ontario leading resistance against NWMO’s proposal. He says “what we have now is environmental racism...the gist is you put dumps of garbage--in this case nuclear waste--in communities that are economically depressed, maybe Indigenous. Desperate, these communities are looking for economic opportunity, so without long-term consideration, they sign on to high-risk projects like this.”
Two communities, South Bruce and Ignace, have been identified by NWMO as the potential site for the nuclear waste dump.
David Grant, farmer and member of Protect South Bruce - No DGR, lives on a farm abutting a portion of the land NWMO bought in South Bruce for the potential development. He is deeply concerned about the negative social and health impacts the site could have on the community. The deposited waste will sit underneath prime agricultural land and aquifers in the region. The biggest threat is that radiation could leach into the drinking water supply for South Bruce and could enter crops. South Bruce’s economy is built on agricultural output. “Who wants to buy food produced beside a nuclear dump?” says Grant.
The provincial government said that the dump would be put in a “willing community”, Grant asks “how do they measure if we’re willing?”
“If you look at safety from a social perspective rather than a technical perspective…it’s much harder to say this is a safe project,” Bill Noll, retired and experienced telecommunications executive and member of Professional Engineers of Ontario, commented on the conflicting perceptions of risk among Ontario residents and the NWMO on the project. From the technical standpoint of NWMO, the project does not present considerable risk to the communities and will provide economic benefit.
But as Noll says, “the project is not going to ensure that our communities will have safe food and water; it puts a community and aquifer at risk. We need other options. The NWMO should have a ‘Plan B’ because betting against the power of community opposition is risky business.”
Now, with serious opposition coming from South Bruce and Ignace residents, Bill Noll says “We need to do this together. The NWMO has lots of money, and we are small communities, we need to ensure lots of people are informed and to bring visibility to this issue.”
The event “Northern Relations, Radiation and Nuclear Waste” was hosted by the Canadian Peace Research Association