To the Editor:
What on Earth are they planning to store in this proposed deep geological repository (DGR) in South Bruce? I have read so many letters claiming all sorts of crazy things….how do I know what is true and what is not? There are many people trying to skew the perceptions of “the plan” in order to scare people and instil doubt in the public to further their own agenda. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has it all laid out pretty clearly on their website, if you are willing to take a look. In case you do not have time or access, I will give you a brief overview of what “the plan” is in regards to what will be stored in Canada’s DGR.
Let’s start with, “What type of waste will be stored in the DGR?” The answer is high level nuclear waste, or in Canadian terms, spent nuclear fuel. Our reactors in Canada (CANDU reactors) run on natural uranium. That means unlike the majority of the fuel internationally that is “enriched” to create fission, our reactors are able to use plain old natural uranium – no enrichment necessary. Bonus for CANDU! The CANDU fuel is a stable, solid ceramic pellet. It is NOT flammable, explosive or fissile, therefore cannot catch fire, explode or “meltdown” (the most dreaded term in the nuclear vocabulary). Each fuel bundle is about 0.5m long, 0.1m in diameter and weights about 24kg.
Next question: “Will the DGR store foreign waste?” The answer is quite simply, NO! No foreign fuel will be placed in the repository. There will be no waste imported from the United States for storage. If we construct a DGR, we will not “automatically become every country’s dumping ground” for nuclear waste. Any statements by opponents stating otherwise is blatantly false and being used to scare you.
Finally, “What about waste from future reactor designs?” In the future, decisions about nuclear power generation made by provincial governments, nuclear plant operators and regulators may result in different types of used fuel. Provincial governments may decide to build new nuclear plants; right now Small Modular Reactors (SMR’s) are a common topic. The NWMO application for regulatory review and approval, which is required by law before the facility can be constructed and operated, will be based on a specific fuel inventory. Proponents of SMR development have been told to discuss their plans with the NWMO to ensure any spent fuel would meet the criteria (be a solid, durable, and transportable to site). The NWMO would also require specific information about the fuel composition, radionuclides present, and length of time it is to be removed from the reactor prior to placement in the DGR. Also, incredibly important to note, the specific type of fuel to be placed in the DGR will be agreed upon with the community. In other words, if we don’t want SMR fuel to be stored here, we can negotiate that into any agreements that occur.
We need to keep an open mind and do our research. Are we the best location for a DGR? I have no idea at this point as the testing is not completed. What I do know (and you should too) is that our community holds the cards when it comes to this project. We have quite a bit of room to negotiate what we are and are not willing to deal with. Maybe we want to see a Centre of Expertise and Underground Demonstration Facility built and operated before we commit to the entire DGR. Perhaps we need more studies done about the possible affects on the community, both good and bad, before we can decide.
This is NOT a “this is what we are offering, take it or leave it” kind of deal. We owe it to future generations to thoroughly examine this proposal and investigate whether or not it is a good fit for the future of South Bruce. Most of all, we need to use facts to make those decisions, not fear. Is that too much to ask?
Sheila Whytock, Teeswater