North Huron council updated on South Bruce DGR project

·5 min read

NORTH HURON – The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) and the South Bruce Nuclear Exploration Project sent a delegation to update North Huron council about the ongoing studies happening in South Bruce and the plans for a deep geological repository (DGR).

Dave Rushton, project manager with the South Bruce Nuclear Exploration Project, and Tareq Al-Zabet, NWMO director of site selection – southwestern Ontario, spoke to councillors about several ways that the Municipality of South Bruce and the NWMO are engaging with ratepayers, landowners, and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON).

The updates included the recent study on willingness, South Bruce guiding principals, studies and peer reviews, and borehole drilling.

Rushton also invited North Huron councillors to attend the Community Liaison Committee meetings to listen to various speakers and learn more about the proposed DGR.

Agricultural impact, hospital capacity, and transportation concerns were among the questions posed to the delegation by North Huron councillors.

“How is the hospital in Wingham, is it able to react to a spill where radiation is involved, is there communication with them, so that they can get keyed in?” Coun. Chris Palmer asked.

Rushton answered, saying, “Yes, we are doing a study on emergency management and how that would be handled, whether that is something that would be handled by our efforts or the NWMO’s efforts and where they would go.”

Additionally, the hospitals around the nuclear plant in Kincardine already deal with radiation issues, and they can draw on that expertise moving forward.

“We have consultants out working on that right now,” he added.

Al-Zabet commented on Palmer’s question as well to address the term “spill,” reassuring him and the other councillors that the waste product is not liquid, therefore, won’t “spill.”

“The waste itself is ceramic, it’s solid. It doesn’t go anywhere; it goes in a very contained system,” he said.

Coun. Kevin Falconer wanted to know how much “product” would be placed in the DGR. He also wanted to learn more about the transportation of the fuel rods and the safety surrounding that activity.

“How big is this, and how far away is it going to be coming from?” he asked the delegation. “That encapsulates rail, it encapsulates roads and everything else in our area. How big does this get?”

Al-Zabet answered that question, saying that most of the waste will come from Ontario, specifically from the Bruce Power plant.

He spoke about the safety of the canisters that are used to transport the nuclear waste, saying, “some of the experiments that we tried on those canisters used for transport were shot by missiles and they did not budge.”

Al-Zabet went on to say, “we can’t just say there were no incidents, because you never know, but so far, everything we have seen is very promising.”

He also explained that transporting nuclear fuel is something that Bruce Power does all the time; this is not a new activity.

Transportation studies are underway, and there will be more information on the subject once those are completed.

As for the number of used fuel rods, the amount right now is around five million, Al-Zabet said, but “don’t quote me on the number because that may change.”

He directed councillors to check their website as they update it annually on how much spent fuel rods are in inventory.

Al-Zabet also wanted to clarify that the NWMO will never accept any nuclear waste from outside Canada.

Falconer asked about any other radioactive waste, such as low-intermediate level (contaminated work clothes etc.), and Al-Zabet reassured him that this DGR is only for spent fuel rods.

“How do the technical feasibility studies affect the willingness?” asked Deputy Reeve Trevor Seip, speaking to the local conversation about a referendum.

Seip added, “A referendum usually happens during an election, unless you’re going to have a special referendum… because these technical feasibility studies are going to be done after the current municipal election, how are these studies going to potentially affect willingness within that community?”

Rushton answered, “Quite easily what happens is a by-election and a by-election operates the same as your municipal elections.”

He said he reiterated that the question of willingness would be better asked after all of the studies are done.

Coun. Paul Heffer said, “This is the bread basket of Ontario here…and I noticed that one of you said there would be no negative impacts on agriculture.” He asked for clarification on this statement.

Rushton answered, saying, “I think that is one of the areas we are just starting to study, and that’s kind of what we’re looking for is that we want to ensure that the people farming are still able to farm, that there is no impact from there.”

He went on to say there are several studies ongoing, on the environment, on groundwater, on the wells, and on “a lot of different things to ensure that there isn’t an interruption on that. We are also looking at what the impact has been in other nuclear areas, like we obviously have one really close to us in the Bruce area that has been going for 60 years and there is definitely a lot of farming around there, so we have that to draw on as well as the Pickering and Darlington plants.”

The NWMO is tasked with the safe, long-term storage of Canada’s used nuclear fuel in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come. As a result, the site selection process has narrowed the search for a willing host community to South Bruce and Ignace, Ont.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times

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