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'Final touches' being put on nuclear waste hosting agreement

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Last December, Mayor Mark Goetz said he’d like to see a historical hosting agreement between the Municipality of South Bruce and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization in place by February of 2024 “because the later it gets, it pushes the referendum back further and further."

Fast forward to April, and there’s still no hosting agreement or contract in place that will lay out the details of how plans for a $26 billion underground facility to house Canada’s used nuclear fuel would proceed in the community, and how much the municipality would be paid to host it.

“We’ve worked the past 12 years getting to this stage, so all that information has to be brought together. It’s a 170 year project, so you want to make sure your I’s are dotted and your T’s are crossed,” said Goetz.

Goetz said the “final touches” are being put on the hosting agreement, and that it should be before council and the community “in the very near future.”

He still anticipates a fall vote by the community to decide whether South Bruce will or won’t be a willing host to as many as 5.6 million used nuclear fuel bundles that remain radioactive for centuries.

Municipality of South Bruce Mayor Mark Goetz is seen in Teeswater, Ont. in April 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

“We’re very hopeful the referendum will be happening in the fall of this year,” said Goetz.

The only other community still in the running to host the underground facility — that will encompass nearly 1,500 below surface acres — is between Dryden and Ignace, in northern Ontario.

That municipality signed a hosting agreement with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) in March, which would see the municipality pay $170 million over the next 80 years.

Included in that is a $0.50 “emplacement fee” for every used fuel bundle deposited into the underground facility, known as a deep geological repository or DGR.

Graphics show what a deep geological repository to store Canada’s used nuclear fuel bundles might look like. (Source: Nuclear Waste Management Organization)“The concerns I’ve seen are, that at the end of the day, the adaptive plan basically gives the Nuclear Waste Management Organization free range. Also, your municipality must support it, and if they decide to make changes, it doesn’t sound like the community has very much say,” explained Michelle Stein, who lives near the proposed South Bruce DGR project and is co-founder of No Nuclear Waste-Protect our Waterways.

Stein, who lives very close to the proposed project area just north of Teeswater, is worried about the impacts on her and her neighbours who might move if the DGR moves forward.

“My question is, did council even try to get something for those of us who are in this zone that we can at least start somewhere else if we don’t want to be beside a radioactive experiment,” she said.

Goetz said South Bruce’s hosting agreement will come before council as soon as it’s ready before being released to the public. He’s still confident South Bruce residents will vote on the project’s fate this fall. 

Graphics show what a deep geological repository to store Canada’s used nuclear fuel bundles might look like. (Source: Nuclear Waste Management Organization)

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