I spent my formative years growing up and working on a Bruce County dairy farm, on the bank of the beautiful Teeswater River. After living and working away from Bruce County for a while, I’ve been very fortunate to spend the past couple of decades living back in Bruce County, and working in the nuclear industry. So, as most of my friends and family will tell you, I have a special place in my heart for two of the unsung heroes of our world: dairy cows and nuclear reactors.
Dairy cows, these hard-working, gentle, unassuming providers of food, are among my favourite animals. Nuclear reactors meanwhile, these wonders of engineering that produce a full 60 percent of Ontario’s electricity without burning fossil fuels, are among my favourite machines. Unfortunately, like most good things, both cows and reactors have their downside – they produce waste.
I happen to live next to several cattle farms, and you don’t have to search too far for the manure. Some evenings, when the breeze is just right, it’s unpleasant to sit outside, and when the neighbour’s been spreading – well, we just stay inside with the doors and windows closed for a few days. The smell is just an inconvenience, and personally, I don’t mind too much, since it reminds me of my youth. But living here in proximity to Walkerton, we know that cow manure can also be a real hazard to human health. People can and do get sick and die. So we need to employ proper methods and take precautions to keep it out of our water.
We also live down the road from one of the world’s largest nuclear generating facilities. Now, despite providing 60 percent of Ontario’s electricity, the amount of nuclear waste produced is incredibly small. Experts tell us that all of the spent fuel produced by all the reactors in Canada in their 40-year history would fit in 7 hockey rinks full to the boards. I haven’t done the math, but I’m pretty sure that’s less than the manure produced by a single large dairy farm in a year. Like many industrial waste products, nuclear waste is toxic, and it remains so for a very long time. The difference is, because there’s such a small quantity, the nuclear industry is able to take amazingly good care of it, storing it in durable containers, cataloguing it meticulously, monitoring and measuring it and transporting it with the utmost of care. The result is that nobody ever – EVER – gets sick or dies from nuclear waste removed from a nuclear reactor. In the world!
Now, we’re faced with the opportunity to store this stuff permanently underground in South Bruce. 700 meters deep underground, over three times as deep as the groundwater goes, in containers built to last 100,000 years, deep inside a dense, solid rock formation that’s been there undisturbed for 400 million years. I realize this stuff is called “nuclear”, and that’s made a lot of people very uneasy, but all the science indicates it can be kept safe there, and will never come anywhere close to the lake, the rivers, or our wells – at least for a few hundred thousand years, give or take. I’m not an expert, but based on what I’ve seen, I really think we have way less to fear from the DGR than we do from cow manure.
That’s why I encourage my fellow residents and land owners to examine the facts, to be part of the solution, and to support the DGR in South Bruce.