To the Editor:
I had a recent discussion with a neighbour who is an active opponent of the proposed Deep Geological Repository (DGR) in South Bruce. The conversation made me realize that the two of us agree on almost everything related to the DGR, even though we haven’t arrived at the same conclusions. In the spirit of building constructive dialogue, I’d like to list the important things on which almost everyone involved with the DGR issue agrees.
1. We care about the environment, especially our precious fresh water. To characterize proponents of the DGR or people who work in the nuclear industry as greedy people who don’t care about the environment is just wrong. The nuclear industry is incredibly conscientious about any sort of pollution. It is the only industry that saves and accounts for all its waste, and many of us got into the industry and stayed in the industry precisely because we care about the environment, and see nuclear energy as part of the solution to climate change.
2. We care about our farmland, and want all of our neighbours, including farmers, to be protected, and continue to have a prosperous livelihood. The difference is that some of us see the DGR as a threat, and others believe there is no credible threat. My hope is that the current and ongoing studies will bring clarity to that issue.
3. We appreciate our electricity supply. Ontario’s nuclear stations produce 60% of our electricity, and we appreciate that it is a strong, stable source of power.
4. We care about jobs for the upcoming generations of young people in South Bruce. The DGR could be a strong driver of employment, but in fairness, there are and will be other businesses, small and large, in our municipality’s future.
5. We have nuclear waste in Canada, and we will need long-term methods to deal with it.
6. In the very long term, spent nuclear fuel would be safer in a DGR in South Bruce than in the current facilities on the shores of the Great Lakes. This may sound contentious, but even some of the most ardent, vocal campaigners against the DGR agree on this point. On one recent webinar hosted by the anti-DGR campaign, the guest speaker was Kevin Kamps, a leader of a US-based anti-nuclear group. Part way through the seminar, he stated that he thinks the waste would be safer in a DGR than where it is now, then quickly added “oh, I guess I’m not supposed to say that”. In a recent presentation by Dr. Gordon Edwards, a perennial anti-nuclear activist, he stated that the only aspect of the DGR he disagrees with is abandoning the waste. In other words, he is OK with moving the waste to a safer facility, inland from the great lakes. He just isn’t convinced we should close up the repository for all of time.
To me, there is significant common ground between people on all sides of the issue. I think we should start with the points of agreement, to help drive the discussion in productive ways.
- First, we should stop attacking and demonizing people who hold opposing viewpoints.
- Secondly, we should stop attacking our politicians. They are our elected representatives, who are trying to do their best for South Bruce. They deserve our respect and our support, not public shaming and pressure tactics.
- Third, we should talk openly and respectfully with people who disagree with us. It seems unlikely to me that the answer is simply “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Usually the best answer is somewhere in between, but we won’t find it by only talking with like-minded people.
Maybe a DGR in South Bruce is the best solution. Maybe it would be better to build the DGR up in the mining community of Ignace. Perhaps we should move the waste to a secure, above ground facility inland (like the South Bruce location), and keep it there while we do further research. One way or another, there’s an opportunity here to do something great for South Bruce and for Canada. We should work together to find it.