WINGHAM, ONT. -- As yellow signs opposing plans to bury Canada’s high level nuclear waste near Teeswater pop up across South Bruce, another group is trying to push the project forward.

“It’s a big deal for our community. I don’t think we’ll see an opportunity like this again come to South Bruce,” says Sheila Whytock, from the group South Bruce DGR-Willing to Listen.

Whytock has helped bring together a group of South Bruce residents who are excited about the possibility burying Canada’s used nuclear fuel bundles in a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) on the edge of Teeswater.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has optioned nearly 1,500 acres of land to build a $23-billion underground facility to permanently house over five million radioactive fuel bundles. The bundles are currently stored above ground, at nuclear plants across the country.

South Bruce and Ignace, Ont. are the only two communities still vying for the project.

Tony Zettel is part of the South Bruce DGR-Willing to Listen group.

“Canada has radioactive waste and we’ve been handed an opportunity to help solve that problem on behalf of Canada. So we have the opportunity to provide, really, an essential service for Canadians,” says Zettel.

“I consider the NWMO as a business that wants to move to our community. To me we should look at opportunities that come from this and make a really good informed decision,” says Willing to Listen member Larry Hayes.

The proposed DGR, while controversial, could create as many as 4,000 jobs over the 150-year life of the project.

“Filling up our storefronts, our school enrolment is down, so this could bring new families to the area. Our town is not a booming town. We could use a little bit of a boost, and I think it’s naive we don’t think we need to explore all our options,” says Whytock.

Opponents of the project say the proposed South Bruce site would be built under the Teeswater River, which flows into Lake Huron. They fear the impact such a project would have on the environment, on farmland and on property values.

“There’s kind of a sense of betrayal. There seems to be a few people who are going to get a lot of money in the short term, and then the rest of us are just collateral damage, I guess,” says Michelle Stein, local farmer and founder of a group opposing the DGR plan for South Bruce.

The NWMO intends to choose between South Bruce and Ignace no later than 2023. But they say they will only pick a community that demonstrates they are a willing host.

“What we want is that we make an informed decision based on facts, and not based on fear,” says Zettel.