OTTAWA—People and communities need to educate themselves on what is being proposed and what impacts there will be on their community before making a decision on whether they become home to a nuclear waste facility, says Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing (AMK) MP Carol Hughes.
“At the end of the day my stance is that everyone should be informed so that at the end of the process they can make an educated decision on whether they want, or don’t want nuclear waste to be stored underground in their community,” Ms. Hughes told the Recorder this past Monday. “It isn’t something that I would want in my backyard, but it’s important to be respectful to the process and the need for everyone to have input. People need to be informed so they can make the best decision.”
It was announced last week that Hornepayne, a community of 980 people about 680 kilometres northwest of Sudbury, is one of the five finalists to see who becomes home to a nuclear waste facility.
In 2011, the town entered a bid to become a repository for 5.2 million log-sized bundles of used nuclear fuel. They were joined by 21 other Canadian communities that have since been whittled down to internal protest or geological unsuitability.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) of Canada’s plan is to take this used fuel, known as “high-level nuclear waste,” contain it in steel baskets stuffed into copper tubes and encased in clay, and place that in a deep geological repository (DGR), a 500-metre deep hole reinforced with a series of barriers. This is where it will stay for the 400,000 years it remains radioactive.
“I’ve always been of the opinion people have to learn about the process before making a decision to apply to be a site for nuclear waste, or not,” said Ms. Hughes. “There has been financial compensation provided to areas that have been part of the process of seeking a site for the nuclear waste. That is something I have been opposed to from the start; when there is money-compensation provided for those involved. It is like trying to get people interested by going this route.”
Ms. Hughes said she will be attending a rally on August 14 in Hornepayne for those opposed to the community taking the waste. “I will be going to the rally on August 14 in Hornepayne. The NDP party has been clear that from the start that we don’t want to see nuclear by or near the Great Lakes or any water body.”
“First Nations communities are not supportive of this process either,” continued Ms. Hughes. “The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) had said if the proposal is not supported by First Nations and communities in an area it wouldn’t take place. Now it seems there is a difference in opinion.”
“We shouldn’t leave all of this for future generations to deal with,” said Ms. Hughes who said it is important to have all sides of the story.
Ms. Hughes said consideration needs to be given to municipalities that will see the nuclear waste being hauled through them. “If the nuclear waste is being transported through a community to another to be stored, what is the right of the communities they are travelling through? Again, NWMO said this waste would not go through a community opposed to it, but during discussions it seems this isn’t the case. There is still confusion on some of these issues.”
“It is also important to understand what is happening in terms of climate change,” said Ms. Hughes. “And the NWMO is talking about burying the waste underground, but is there a guarantee that nothing will ever happen that negatively impacts the environment? I don’t think anyone can make this type of guarantee.”
“Another issue I have is when NWMO sponsors a community to be part of the process for consideration of taking the waste, and for information evenings in communities, to make it look like they are good corporate citizens. I raised the issue on sponsorship in this fashion in the last election campaign,” continued Ms. Hughes.
Bradley Hammond, senior communications manager for NWMO, told the Sault Star in its August 3, 2018 edition that the project only moves forward if it receives “broad social acceptance” within the selected communities.
“We won’t proceed in an area with opposition,” he said, adding that he has complete confidence that NWMO will find a suitable town by 2023.
When asked if there was a plan in place if all five of the finalist communities,Huron-Kinross, Ignace, Manitouwadge, South Bruce and Hornepayne back out of the project, Mr. Hammond indicated there isn’t because that would be impossible.