As we South Bruce ratepayers explore the opportunity to host Canada’s Deep Geological Repository for spent nuclear fuel, it’s interesting to see the widespread change in public opinion when it comes to nuclear energy. We as a society are grappling with the colossal challenge of reducing and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, and it seems newsmakers and lawmakers worldwide are adopting a favourable attitude toward nuclear. Here are a few examples:
1. Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has invested heavily in new nuclear technology, as a long-term, stable source of low-carbon energy production. In a recent interview with a German business publication, Gates insisted that “The waste problems should not be a reason to not do nuclear”, going on to explain that the volume of nuclear waste is very small and can be stored safely and cost effectively. (see https://www.cnbc.com/2023/02/10/bill-gates-nuclear-waste-is-not-a-reason-avoid-nuclear-energy.html)
2. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, once a vocal opponent of nuclear energy, has changed her viewpoint, telling German leaders it is a “mistake”, to continue closing their active and viable nuclear power plants. (see https://www.forbes.com/sites/arielcohen/2023/04/03/greta-thunberg-has-embraced-nuclear-power-will-the-greens-follow/?sh=e2c8ff1e9ad1)
3. In the US political arena, which is frustratingly polarized into opposing “left” and “right” views on almost every issue, nuclear energy is one area where more and more Republican and Democrat leaders are starting to agree and work together. (see https://cardinalnews.org/2023/04/17/the-changing-politics-of-nuclear-energy-is-bringing-some-liberals-and-some-conservatives-together/
Here in South Bruce, opinions are shifting as well. In 2020, soon after the Nuclear Waste Management Organization announced they had acquired land for the potential DGR site, local residents saw a backlash from a highly-motivated opposition group. Seeing the apparent strength of opposition, many local farmers, residents and business owners decided their best course of action would be to go along and oppose the project as well. A lot has changed in three years, as people continue to become informed about the project and the industry. In the South Bruce municipal election of 2022, the DGR was the single most prominent voting issue, as opponents ran a bloc of publicly anti-DGR candidates. These candidates were defeated across the board by a vote of approximately two to one, a result interpreted by some as a widespread endorsement of the project.
Of course, the fact that nuclear power is a clean, safe and massive source of energy is well-known to many of us here in Canada’s nuclear heartland, as our county is home to the world’s largest nuclear power development, and many of our friends, neighbours and family members have worked in the nuclear industry for the past couple of generations. But it’s interesting to see local and world-wide opinions shifting, as our generation tries to make the best energy decisions for the future.
Tony Zettel, RR5 Mildmay