Thunder Bay, Ont. — Proponents of a proposed underground nuclear-waste storage site were peppered with questions Monday night from about 50 Kaministiquia -area residents, who managed to turn out even though an information meeting hadn’t been formally advertised.
A regional Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) spokesman said meetings are usually promoted in advance, but “the request for this open house didn’t leave us with enough time to publicize the event.”
The 90-minute forum was held at the Kam Community Centre just north of Thunder Bay on Highway 102.
NWMO spokesman Vince Ponka said the meeting had been requested by a Kaministiquia woman who had been asking questions about the proposed deep geological repository (DGR) proposal for the past few years.
The NWMO is planning to build a storage site for spent nuclear-fuel rods at a remote location 35 kilometres west of Ignace, or at another candidate location in the area of South Bruce in southwestern Ontario.
The agency wants to decide which site it will use sometime next year. It would take about 20 years to build the storage facility, which is to be located 500 metres below the surface.
Murillo resident Wendy O’Connor, who attended Monday’s meeting, said she doesn’t trust the NWMO when it comes to staging meetings or how it provides information.
“This is a pattern with the NWMO,” O’Connor, who is part of a group opposing the deep geological repository site, claimed in a news release.
“After the fact they’ll describe this as a public information session, but in advance they provide little or no notice. We check their social media, we emailed the NWMO office in Ignace, but there is a resounding silence in advance of these kinds of events.”
O’Connor said members of her group continue to show up at meetings to “show the media and (affected) communities that there is opposition to this project.”
At Monday’s meeting, a woman who said she was a grandmother, left the meeting in tears after expressing her fear that the storage site threatened to be an environmental disaster and a legacy of contamination for future generations.
Though the NWMO claims the storage technology is safe, including potential transport methods by rail or transport truck, some at Monday’s meeting remained skeptical.
“My community is at risk from these radioactive shipments, we’re on the (proposed) transportation route the same as Ignace,” said Kaministiquia resident Peter Lang.
Lang said rural residents like him won’t have any say over where the site is built, even though trucks or rail cars carrying radioactive rods could be travelling near his home.
Ignace’s council is expected to express support or opposition to the storage site proposal sometime after it has been restored to five members. Currently, there are only three members, due to recent resignations.
O’Connor said support for, or opposition to, the project should be gauged in a referendum with a secret ballot, as South Bruce has chosen to do.
If a referendum was held in Ignace, O’Connor believes “it would show that there is a lot of opposition.”
Ponka said that in general, information meetings about the project have been respectful in tone.
“There’s been much more of a positive response than you might think,” Ponka said.
The NWMO plans to have its “learn-more” exhibit regarding its proposal for the deep geological repository for nuclear waste at Thunder Bay’s Canadian Lakehead Exhibition fairground on Aug. 9-13.
More information is also available on the agency’s website at nwmo.ca.