NWMO is trying to sell people on repository, critic says

By Mike Stimpson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thunder Bay Source

The way environmentalist Brennain Lloyd sees it, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s latest Confidence in Safety reports amount to little more than public relations.

“It’s not about safety,” Lloyd said this week from North Bay. “You know, they call it a confidence in safety report. It’s more ‘confidence game’ than it is a safety report.”

The industry-funded organization is mandated under the federal Nuclear Fuel Waste Act of 2002 to implement a plan for the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The safety reports were written to sell that plan, said Lloyd, a member of Northwatch and We the Nuclear Free North.

“The NWMO is trying to get to Yes,” she said. “And this report is another step along their path to approval.”

The NWMO is considering sites near Revell Lake and Lake Huron as finalists for a deep geological repository (DGR), a facility to be constructed hundreds of metres below ground level.

The industry-funded organization’s latest Confidence in Safety reports, released last week, say both locations have the geological features needed for safe containment of used nuclear fuel.

The reports acknowledge flaws in the sites, including fault lines and large dikes, but then gloss over those flaws as unimportant, Lloyd said.

The reports also overstate how “rigorous” transportation safety tests have been, she said.

Site selection for the DGR is scheduled to conclude with a final decision this fall.

A “willingness process” has been underway for years in Ignace, east of Revell Lake, to determine if the township wants to be a host community for the DGR.

The process has included “learning” events in Ignace, a community study being conducted by an eastern Ontario consulting firm, a trip to Finland for 10 Ignace residents to see the Nordic country’s new DGR, and township representatives attending the Canadian Nuclear Association’s annual conference.

This week several people from Ignace toured a Cameco uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan to learn more about the early stages of the nuclear energy process, when fuel material is extracted.

Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, west of Revell Lake, has been undergoing its own willingness process as the Northwestern Ontario site’s other host community. Their process has included a Finland junket last summer involving a delegation of 18 members.

Funding from the nuclear organization covered the expenses for all of those events and activities.

Both Ignace and Wabigoon Lake will make their willingness decisions in a few months. The NWMO has said community willingness is an essential prerequisite to site selection.