Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of talking to a number of people about the proposed DGR – those firmly in favour, those just interested, and those fervently opposed. There are many reasons people give for not wanting a DGR in South Bruce, but it basically boils down to the following three issues.1. This will bring a lot of economic and industrial development to the area. There will be road construction, a lot of heavy equipment, and a lot of trucks on the road. This business will attract a lot of outsiders to our area – they will move here and build houses, and expand our towns and subdivisions. The DGR itself will take 250 acres of good farmland out of production, and the building of homes and associated businesses will take even more. This is a nice, quiet agricultural area, and we don’t want a whole lot of industrial development.
This objection is based on sound logic – likely all of those things are true. The DGR will attract a lot of new people to the area. Some of the jobs may be occupied by our own children and grandchildren, but a lot of them will likely be taken by experts who come in from elsewhere. If you just want South Bruce to stay the way it is now, then a DGR is a bad idea.2. There may be a “nuclear stigma” that could negatively affect our farms and land values. This as well is a very real possibility. A lot of people have a really bad feeling about anything called “nuclear” or “radiation”, and some people have already said ‘they’ won’t buy our farm products if we have a DGR in the area. I think this concern is less well-founded. The farmers near Bruce Nuclear have been successfully producing beef, dairy, corn and soybeans for decades, right down-wind from one of the world’s largest nuclear generating facilities. These farms are very prosperous, and as far as I know, they don’t have trouble marketing their products, or have to take lower commodity prices. And certainly the price of land hasn’t suffered. The funny thing is, detractors are actually increasing the nuclear stigma, through their protest signs and anti-nuclear rhetoric. If the DGR goes ahead – a big “if” – construction will not start for 13 years, and operation will not start for about 10 years after that. By that point, I suspect people will have grown comfortable with it, and I’m hopeful that any remaining stigma will not negatively affect agricultural markets.
3. It will poison our water. This is the trump card that gets people motivated to oppose the DGR, and in my informed opinion, this is completely and utterly unfounded.
I agree 100% that “We have to protect our water.” If the DGR has any reasonable chance to pollute the water with nuclear waste, it must not be built, and it won’t be. Why? Because the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, a formidable government watchdog with sharp teeth, will not allow it, even if the residents of South Bruce want it. I’ve read many of the reports of nay-sayers, and they generally do not give me pause for concern. For example, there is a Finnish geologist who opposes Finland’s DGR, because he thinks there’s a chance it may be damaged by glaciation in the next ice age. OK, but that’s likely 20,000 years from now. A team of Russian scientists believe they’ve found a worst-case scenario for the Sweden DGR, in which used fuel containers could start to corrode within the first thousand years. Well, OK. Canada’s used fuel containers are designed to last 100,000 years, but suppose they start to corrode in 1000. They still have to corrode through an inch of corrosion-resistant copper alloy, and 4 inches of carbon steel. Then there are still 500 meters of solid rock and bentonite clay between the used fuel and the groundwater. Scientists like to debate whether that could cause a problem in 5000, or 10,000 or 100,000 years, or whether it would still last a million. But really, once you get beyond a few thousand years, it starts to get pretty academic, doesn’t it?
In summary, I respect my neighbours’ right to form their opinions about the DGR, and I see many sensible reasons for people to be opposed. But don’t let people tell you it will poison the water. In my opinion, that is simply not going to happen.
Tony Zettel, RR5 Mildmay