On Feb. 5, Protect Our Waterways – No Nuclear Waste (POW-NNW) released a statement to the press and the Municipality of South Bruce, detailing a series of demands from that legislative body.
In general, the statement presents two points: one, that such a facility is not permitted under zoning bylaws; and two, that there must be a commitment to a binding referendum immediately on the matter of a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) in South Bruce.
Much of the issued statement hinges on the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO)’s acquisition of land for the express purpose of constructing a DGR in South Bruce, and a supposed-majority support for the group’s positions.
In response to this statement, South Bruce DGR – Willing to Listen is issuing this release.
It should be clarified, at the outset, that the land purchased in South Bruce is not expressly for the construction of a DGR or its facilities. The land has been procured for site-selection purposes – borehole-drilling, environmental baseline drilling, and other testing to determine the suitability of the site prior to selection.
The presentation of the site purchases for DGR construction at this point, is under-informed, at best, or wilfully misleading, at worst.
On the first matter, we agree with POW-NNW’s statement, in that the NWMO and any prospective DGR project must, abide by zoning bylaws governing any lands in the Municipality of South Bruce. Where we diverge, however, is that this is not currently a pressing concern. Amending any applicable bylaws is a matter to be met at such time as the viability of a site is confirmed.
“Control of these bylaws is a powerful negotiating lever for the municipality, and neutering that leverage before negotiating any terms of that amendment is harmful to South Bruce in the long-term of this process,” says Willing to Listen’s founder Sheila Whytock.
On the second matter, we do not share POW-NNW’s perspective. “Any referendum on this matter boils down what is a complicated, nuanced, politically-loaded conversation to a simplistic and binary question, to be decided on their (POW-NNW’s) terms alone,” says Whytock.
The municipality is commissioning studies on the NWMO’s data, and the NWMO has scarcely begun geologic and environmental studies of the site – there is simply not enough information to make an educated decision on the matter. Furthermore, POW-NNW’s statement calls into question the qualification and competency of South Bruce’s municipal council, as well as the willingness of South Bruce residents to be informed.
In addition, the presentation of POW-NNW’s survey as fact, that a majority of South Bruce residents support this action, is questionable at best. This is demonstrated by the group’s own statement: “We are informed and we are not a willing host community,” but the findings of its own sponsored survey show South Bruce is not informed. Less than one-third (28.8 per cent) of respondents consider themselves “very informed;” whereas, 36.1 per cent consider themselves uninformed.
The question, then, whether a respondent would vote for or against the DGR project is built on infirm ground – if 36 per cent of respondents would vote against the DGR because they feel uninformed on the issue, less than 28 per cent of South Bruce residents, then, would vote against the project from an informed stance – far from the overwhelming majority presented.
“This illustrates the need to continue with the process so that South Bruce residents can make a decision from a fully-informed perspective, and not half-truths or misleading data,” says Whytock.
In short, rather than issuing forceful rhetoric, POW-NNW should engage in the process and discussion of the project, with a goal of honesty, education, and openness.
“South Bruce DGR – Willing to Listen” is a group of South Bruce residents, with a stated goal of seeking information and education on the proposed DGR, from the NWMO in the municipality. The group seeks to engage in the conversation with the Municipality of South Bruce, the NWMO, and the community, to make an informed decision.