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First Nation bands will decide fate of high-level nuclear waste plan
WINGHAM, ONT. -- As residents of South Bruce debate the merits of permanently housing Canada’s high-level nuclear waste, members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation are preparing to have their say.
The proposed project site northwest of Teeswater, Ont. falls within the territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON).
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has said they will not select a site within SON territory without the band's consent.
Although SON leadership have not stated a position on the high-level waste plan, a little over a month ago SON members resoundingly voted down plans to bury Ontario’s low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste within their territory.
Vernon Roote, a former chief with the Saugeen First Nation, suspects SON residents feel the same about high-level waste.
“I would imagine that we will not allow high-level waste to be buried within our territory either because that was the big fear with the last project, that high level waste go into it."
Two Ontario communities remain in the running to permanently store Canada’s most radioactive nuclear waste - South Bruce and Ignace, in northwestern Ontario.
About 1,300 acres of farmland northwest of Teeswater has been optioned by the NWMO for a possible underground storage facility to store over five million used fuel bundles, which remain dangerously radioactive forever.
Finland has already started construction on an underground facility to permanently store their high-level nuclear waste.
Luke Charbonneau believes it’s time Canada did the same. He is the Mayor of Saugeen Shores.
He says the science is clear, which is why he is pushing Bruce County to support the plans put forward by the NWMO to build a Deep Geological Repository to permanently store Canada’s nuclear waste, wherever that may be.
“We have to move forward to build Deep Geological Repositories to store the waste from nuclear power production, so that we can continue to have a sustainable nuclear power fleet to fight global climate change,” he says.
Not everyone on Bruce County council is on board with that plan. Chris Peabody is the Mayor of the Municipality of Brockton.
He says, “The benefits of the nuclear sector to Bruce County are huge. The Achilles heel of the nuclear sector is the waste, because it remains radioactive for 100,000 years. So it is something we have to take seriously.”
The NWMO plans to pick one site to permanently store Canada’s high-level waste by 2023.
Construction could begin by 2033, with operation scheduled to begin in 2043.
The plan would be to operate the facility for approximately 50 years, before closing the site, and essentially walking away from it - a sobering or scary though, depending on who you speak to.
Before a final site is picked in three years' time, South Bruce will have to consent to being a host community, as would the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.