A motion before Bruce County indicating that deep geological repositories are a matter of settled science has been deferred for a second time.
On Thursday, the county’s executive council, which is made up of the eight mayors of the county’s lower tier municipalities, voted to defer the motion. The matter was referred to the executive committee in February after the notice of motion presented by Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau was deferred the first time.
In the motion, it also states that the county expresses its continuing support for Canada’s plan for a safe, long-term storage of nuclear waste materials.
South Bruce Mayor Bob Buckle, who presented the motion to again defer on Thursday, said that during the discussion about the motion, he felt that some of the mayors were wanting more information about the science.
“Since South Bruce will be having a lot of environmental studies done within the next year, such as borehole drilling and water well monitoring, the science will be more confirmed if it is true,” Buckle said Friday. “A report will come back to county council within a year about the results of these environmental studies.”
South Bruce is one of two remaining preferred sites for the deep geological repository proposal by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, with the other in the Ignace area, northwest of Lake Superior.
In South Bruce, the NWMO has now secured more than 1,500 acres of land north of Teeswater through a combination of option and purchase arrangements. NWMO expects to begin drilling the first of two exploratory boreholes on the lands in the spring.
Feasibility studies are underway for both sites, with the preferred site expected to be announced by 2023.
The aim of the project is to create a long-term storage solution for spent fuel rods, currently stored above ground at nuclear sites. The proposal would involve the construction of an approximately two kilometre by three kilometre underground storage facility, about 500 metres below the surface, depending on the rock characteristics of the site.
The Protect Our Waterways – No Nuclear Waste group has been strongly opposing the plan in South Bruce, and attended Thursday’s meeting, where president Michelle Stein made a presentation.
Buckle said that he could tell that some of Bruce County’s mayors were “hesitant” following Stein’s presentation and after Charbonneau brought the motion forward.
“I could see where they were definitely wanting more information,” he said. “That is why I had to have it deferred until we get these studies done to back up the science.”
Protect Our Waterways has raised concerns about the motion, which it says “runs counter to the fundamental of science by attaching the word ‘settled’ to an untested and theoretical project.”
“It is premature for the County of Bruce to consider a vote on this motion when the lower tier Municipality of South Bruce has stated on numerous occasions that no decision has been made by the South Bruce council to proceed with the project,” Stein said in a news release.
“We are very pleased to be heard on this motion,” she added in response to the deferral.
A large group of Protect Our Waterways supporters were on hand at the county building in Walkerton to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the motion and to show opposition to the proposed DGR.
The group has gathered signatures on a petition, distributed hundreds of signs against it and has asked for a referendum on the proposal, but so far there has been no commitment to such a vote.
“This motion is premature and would have taken the decision making process out of the hands of South Bruce ratepayers who are seeking a referendum on the issue,” Protect Our Waterways supporter Jason Wall said in the release. “This project will never have a social license from the community until ratepayers in South Bruce have had their say in a vote.”
Buckle has said that South Bruce residents will definitely have a say on whether the project should come to South Bruce, including at election time in 2022 when he expects there will be candidates both for and against the proposal.
Council has also considered having a separate municipal vote on the DGR, but no decision has been made on that yet, he said.