Bruce County council defers vote – again – on supporting DGRs

·4 min read

BRUCE COUNTY – The county’s executive committee met Nov. 5. On the agenda was a matter deferred from earlier meetings – a vote to support the principle of deep geological repositories (DGRs).

Michelle Stein had made a presentation during the meeting of council on behalf of Protect Our Waterways, stating the group didn’t want the area to be the next “failed experiment” for DGRs.

When the executive committee met later the same day, County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, mayor of Saugeen Shores, proposed an amendment to his original motion. He told committee members the motion had been made in the immediate wake of the rejection of the DGR proposed for storage of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste.

Now, several months and one deferral later, he said Ontario Power Generation (OPG) needs to find a new location for a DGR. “DGRs are the safe way to store (nuclear waste).We need to state clearly that we need a DGR somewhere.”

He said he hopes OPG will use a similar phased-in approach that’s being used by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). “We need the process to continue,” he said, adding, “it’s a matter of settled science. Every time we bring together a group of scientists, this (DGRs) is their answer.”

He proposed as an amendment, removal of the “settled science” clause.

County Coun. Robert Buckle, mayor of South Bruce, said the proposed vote “supports the science of DGRs in Canada” and asked that the decision be deferred to give a chance to explore the science further.

He spoke about the Learning Centre set up in Teeswater, and said a lot of information is needed before any decision can be made.

County Coun. Anne Eadie, mayor of Kincardine, said she’d be open to deferring the vote. “Maybe some of our council feel they need more information.”

County Coun. Milt McIver, mayor of Northern Bruce Peninsula, suggested letting South Bruce “finish their process.” He supported deferring the vote.

Also in agreement with deferral was County Coun. Steve Hammell, mayor of Arran-Elderslie. “There’s no immediate need to proceed today,” he said.

Some members of council remain uncomfortable with the concept of DGRs. County Coun. Janice Jackson, mayor of South Bruce Peninsula, is one of them. She said she’d support deferral but would vote against it if it were not deferred.

County Coun. Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, had previously stated publicly his intention to vote against the matter before county council. He said, “This has become a lightning rod for protest in South Bruce. Let’s help Bob (Buckle) out and defer.”

Eadie said there is still a lot to learn, noting the confusion between low- and intermediate-level waste, and the NWMO project for high-level waste (used nuclear fuel).

Charbonneau asked that a time limit be put on the deferral, saying, “We’ve been learning about it for 15 years and the message hasn’t changed … someone, somewhere, has to say, on the side of science, these projects need to proceed, and we need to make a clear statement to support them.”

McIver said the timing is not appropriate now. “Let South Bruce finish their process.”

Buckle said in the next year, a lot more information will be coming. The bore holes will be done in the spring. He said, “If Bruce County council endorses this, the government might view it as regional support.”

Eadie added, “Bob (Buckle) is right. I do support DGRs, but it’s important everyone around the council table” is on the same page. She added the decision is important to her since her municipality has become, in effect, the long-term host for 30 per cent of the high-level nuclear waste and most of the low- and intermediate-level waste in the country.

Buckle stressed that “we cannot keep passing on to future generations what we have created.”

Warden Mitch Twolan, mayor of Huron-Kinloss, said he, also supports DGRs. “Just leaving it where it is, is not right, too. The solution is DGRs.”

The committee decided to defer the vote until studies on bore holes, safety and housing are completed.

Stein later issued a press release thanking Buckle for making the motion to defer. The press release stated Protect Our Waterways felt the motion before county council’s executive committee “ran counter to the fundamental philosophy of science by attaching the word ‘settled’ to an untested and theoretical project.”

She added, “It is premature for the County of Bruce to consider a vote on this motion when the lower tier municipality of South Bruce has stated on numerous occasions that no decision has been made by South Bruce to proceed with the project.”

A large number of POW supporters had gathered at the Bruce County offices to demonstrate dissatisfaction with the motion. “This motion would have been premature and would have taken the decision-making process out of the hands of South Bruce ratepayers,” said Stein. Those ratepayers are seeking a referendum on the issue.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times