No ‘they’ and ‘us’ when it comes to nuclear power

Dear Editor:

In all the discussion and debate about the proposed Deep Geological Repository in South Bruce, I think we should be clear about something.  Whose nuclear waste are we talking about?  Those opposing the DGR like to characterize it as someone else’s problem, as something created by rich and powerful organizations, who now want to download their problem, on the small and powerless community of South Bruce.  Their call to action characterizes it as a “David and Goliath” struggle.  This begs the question: “whose waste are we talking about”?

You see, nearly all of Canada’s operating nuclear power reactors are here in Ontario, built by Ontario Hydro, and owned by its successor company, Ontario Power Generation.  Ontario Power Generation is responsible for nearly all of Ontario’s nuclear waste.  It “owns” the nuclear waste.  So OPG is the “they” right?  Well, who owns OPG?  It’s a crown corporation, owned by the people of Ontario.  So “they” is actually “us”. It’s our problem, and here in South Bruce, we have an opportunity to be part of the solution.

Now, OPG has a tough job.  We all want to turn on our lights and air conditioners and refrigerators and our farm and industrial machines, but we don’t really like any of the methods of producing a lot of electricity.  Coal and gas create massive greenhouse gases, and make us sick from air pollution.  Niagara Falls is nice, but we only have one of those.  If you want more hydroelectric production, you need to build massive dams and flood a lot of good land.  Solar is nice, but super expensive, and nobody’s figured out how to do it at scale.  And wind power – well we’d best not talk about that! 

In my opinion, nuclear is the least bad way of generating massive amounts of electricity.  It powers 6 out of every 10 Ontario light bulbs and air conditioners and electric machines, without burning fossil fuels, and it produces a comparatively very small amount of waste.

Now, whether you agree with nuclear power or not doesn’t change the facts.  We own nuclear waste, and 50% of it is right here in Bruce County.  It’s not going away. The good news is, we now have the opportunity to deal with it in a permanent way, in keeping with internationally recognized standards.  We have many of the required skills, we have the appropriate geology, and we have a capable and resilient workforce.  But we need to decide as a community whether this is for us.

There are those who would like to stop the process now.  Stop the learning, stop the dialog, quit the process and tell the NWMO to go home.  Leave the problem to someone else.  We should be clear: it’s our problem, and the “someone else” is our children and grandchildren.  We can kick the problem down the road, or we can take safe, responsible steps toward a safe solution.  That’s why I call on my fellow residents and land owners in South Bruce to support our Council, engage in the process, and find out whether we can create a safe and sustainable solution to our nuclear waste.

Tony Zettel
RR5 Mildmay