To the Editor:
First off, I’d like to publicly acknowledge Principal Greg McLean of Sacred Heart elementary school in Teeswater. A few weeks back, Mr. McLean held sessions for all his students from Grade 5-8 to learn about the proposed DGR in South Bruce. I was invited to speak to the classes, along with a speaker generally opposed to the DGR project, and the classes then engaged in a mock referendum on the project. What a delight it was to speak to, and interact with these bright young students, who represent the future of our community.
I started off by explaining to the kids that the DGR debate is really not about “old” guys like me. I invited them to think about themselves in the year 2033 – the year construction is likely to begin, if the project goes ahead. What would they like to do for a living? Where would they like to live? You don’t have to explain much to these kids. They quickly did the math – they will be 23-27 at that point. They understand a lot of people move away from our community to Toronto or another city when they enter the workforce. Why? Jobs. Some of the kids told me they want to be farmers, some teachers, some doctors or mechanics, but all of them would like to stay here in South Bruce. I agreed with them on this last point. That’s why I came back after 18 years in the city.
The students also wanted to know what all of us want to know – would a DGR be safe? I explained to them that, yes, I think it can be built and operated safely. I explained the incredible depth of the proposed facility – under hundreds of metres of solid rock, much deeper than the CN Tower is high. I explained the five separate barriers that are designed to keep waste products from ever mixing with water or ever escaping the DGR, even if one or two of the barriers fail for some unknown reason. I also explained that we’ve been safely handling and storing spent nuclear fuel right here in Bruce County for over 50 years, and that we already have most of the required expertise right here and that Bruce County is the nuclear energy capital of Canada. If anyone can handle and store spent fuel safely, we can.
At the end of the day, the youngsters were on both sides of the issue. The Grade 5/6 class voted overwhelmingly against hosting a DGR, and the Grade 7/8 group voted in favour by one vote – 11 to 10. This is the sort of process that all of us should be engaged in over the next 3 years, until it’s time to make a decision in 2023.
I frankly don’t know whether this is the right project for South Bruce. There are many factors to consider, and we need to think long and hard about what kind of community we want. For those of us in the last decade or two of our careers, it won’t make much difference, but it certainly will to our children and grandchildren.
If the DGR project goes ahead, it is expected to produce 700-800 direct jobs over its 10 years of construction and 40 years of operation. Experts tell us that, with “induced” and “indirect” jobs, there will be about 2800 jobs created in our community. That’s a lot of young people who will be able to make a good living, and enjoy a good standard of living and wonderful quality of life right here in Bruce County.
I hope all my fellow South Bruce residents will take the opportunity over the next 3 years to learn as much as they can on both sides of the discussion, and make an informed decision for our future generations.