In the past couple of weeks, the NWMO announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the potential Deep Geological Repository for spent nuclear fuel that could be built here. This is a positive step forward, because it helps clarify for all involved what it likely means if South Bruce agrees to become a willing host community. They then went on to release the Confidence in Safety reports, which indicate that the South Bruce site has suitable geology to safely build and operate the repository. At this point, South Bruce and the northern community of Ignace are still in the running for the multi-billion-dollar project, and it’s important that residents help to make an informed decision on this massive potential investment in our local economy.
Of course, becoming a willing host community would be an important step, but according to the NWMO’s most recent annual report, the DGR would still be a very long way off in the future. The NWMO is attempting to execute Canada’s plan for permanent storage of high-level nuclear waste, a plan that is mandated by the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act of the Government of Canada. NWMO timeline currently calls for a site to be chosen in 2023, followed by a full ten years of further studies, and regulatory and environmental approvals.
This means that, optimistically, a shovel could hit the ground as early as 2033, but frankly, I have my doubts. The way mega-projects and government approvals go in Canada, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it took an extra ten years to get through all the government red tape, and to get all the approvals for construction to start. Of course, none of those approvals is a given; any of a number of processes could cause the project to pause, or to stop altogether.
Wading through a long, arduous regulatory process wouldn’t be the worst thing. Finland and Sweden have already started building their DGRs, and Finland in particular is at least 10 years ahead of Canada. We can learn from their experience throughout the process, and the longer an approval takes, the more experience they will have to learn from. But as long as South Bruce stays in the game, you can bet the NWMO will be here, investing money, providing jobs, and putting money in the pockets of South Bruce residents.
One local business owner confided to me “This project might never go ahead, but as far as I’m concerned, we should keep the NWMO here, spending their money, as long as possible.” That sounds like a sensible approach to me.
Tony Zettel, RR5 Mildmay