SOUTH BRUCE – Last week, the Municipality of South Bruce responded to a letter received on Feb. 23 from David Donnelly. The lawyer represents opponents of the proposed deep geological repository (DGR) with their lawyer's correspondence.
The communication said, “We have been provided with a copy of your letter to Municipal Council dated Feb. 4, 2021 on behalf of Protect Our Waterways – No Nuclear Waste. We have been asked to respond to the points raised in your letter on behalf of the municipality.”
South Bruce’s lawyer, Patrick G. Duffy, outlined “significant developments…over the past 18 months that are relevant to the topics outlined” in the letter.
He provided a timeline of these developments starting in November 2019, spanning to February 2021, which included updated reports and studies completed to date.
The outline included that “approximately 60 processes and inputs” have recently been initiated “to ensure the community has the information needed to make an informed decision about whether to host the project.”
Duffy went on to answer each of the questions/concerns outlined in Donnelly’s letter.
Duffy answered, “your letter raises questions about the regulatory jurisdiction for the project and the municipality’s role in the regulatory process.”
He explained that the DGR project is a federal undertaking under the Constitution Act 1867, and that it must comply with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) licensing regime.
“Before the CNSC can issue a licence for the Project, the NWMO (Nuclear Waste Management Organization) will be required to complete a federal impact assessment under the Impact Assessment Act,” with a public regulatory process that will take “many years to complete.”
The project will only advance after the assessment and licencing are finished.
Duffy added, “While the federal government holds primary regulatory authority over the project, the municipality can exercise its jurisdiction over the project provided it does not displace or frustrate the purpose of federal regulation.”
He said the municipality has “a limited but important role in regulating local impacts…such as aspects of land use and transportation.”
In regards to Donnelly’s request to “confirm a compelling demonstration of willingness to host a DGR as a binding referendum, requiring a two-thirds majority,” Duffy said, “at this time, council has not made any determination as to whether the community is a willing host for the project.”
Added Duffy, “Council has not yet decided how willingness to host the project will be determined. The municipality is working with its lead consultant GHD on a process to seek community input on what mechanisms should be used to assess willingness.”
The peer reviews and funding for those reviews are addressed in the “Guiding Principles” recently incorporated by the municipality.
The municipality is applying the same practices they use for other large infrastructure projects, the letter said, adding, "The municipality required and has secured funding from the NWMO to undertake appropriate peer reviews and independent studies of the potential impacts on and benefits for the community associated with the project.”
Duffy said, “In this regard, Principle 25 of the Guiding Principles states: ‘The NWMO will fund the engagement of subject matter experts by the Municipality to undertake peer reviews of Project reports and independent assessments of the Project’s potential impacts on and benefits for the community as determined necessary by the Municipality.’”
Donnelly said that “NWMO should apply under the Planning Act for amendments to the South Bruce Zoning Bylaw.”
Both the Bruce Nuclear Power Development and Darlington Nuclear Power Plant are governed in part by the Planning Act.
The South Bruce Zoning Bylaw (bylaw 2011-63) does not authorize a nuclear waste repository in the municipality. A nuclear waste repository is not a service or utility referenced in subsection 3.1.1 (i) or (ii), nor is the NWMO considered an agency or department of the federal government.
“The issue of municipal planning authority over the project has been addressed in Principle 33, which states: ‘The NWMO will comply with the Municipal Official Plan and zoning bylaw and seek amendments to the Official Plan and zoning bylaw as necessary to implement the Project,” said Duffy.
“Consistent with Principle 33, the Municipality expects that the NWMO will comply with the South Bruce Zoning Bylaw for all activities undertaken within the community and seek appropriate variance or amendments to the applicable zoning as needed,” he added.
The municipality does not view the Planning Act as a good tool to obtain public participation in assessing "willingness," Duffy said.
“A zoning bylaw amendment for the use of the site as a Deep Geological Repository would not be required until a building permit for the facility is needed, which will be after the federal impact assessment process is completed and the NWMO is ready to commence construction on the Project,” he said, adding, “this timing is obviously unsuitable for use in the site selection process.”
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times