Council defers decision on show of support for proposed DGR
by Sandy Lindsay

February 29, 2016

Town Council

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In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Saugeen Shores Council voted 5 - 3 to defer making a decision on a show of support for a proposed deep geologic repository (DGR).

A motion that was previously brought forward by Councilor Dave Myette and seconded by Councilor Neil Menage, set out the resolution that ...

"the duly elected Council for the Municipality of Saugeen Shores believes that the majority of its citizens support the findings of the JRP and therefore lends it unequivocal support for the proposed Deep Geologic Repository for low and intermediate radioactive waste and strongly encourages the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change to approve the project to advance to the next stages of development."

Of those in attendance, Myette, Menage and Mayor Mike Smith were the three votes in favour of demonstrating the municipality's support for the project  through notification to the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Catherine McKenna. 

Voting for a deferral were: Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau, Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber, Councilors John Rich, Don Matheson and Cheryl Grace (absent - Mike Myatt)

Prior to a vote being called, there were three deputations by residents, Patrick Gibbons, John Mann and Charles Hazel, who spoke out against the DGR and one by former Kincardine Mayor, Glenn Sutton, who spoke in favour it.

Councilor John Rich raised the 'deferment' possibility saying that, with a newly elected Federal government and Minister of the Environment, Council could delay making a decision.  "The new government has an environmental mandate and I believe the new Minister will look at all the available information with an impartial eye and come to her conclusions.  There's no pressure for us to make a decision at this time.  We should wait until we get additional information and then make a decision.  This has divided our community and I hate that we are in this situation."


Councilor John Rich

The matter of a DGR has proven to be very divisive both in the community and in Council.

Councilor Dave Myette, who presented the original motion of support, spoke passionately about the DGR issue.  "When I proposed this motion, I did so in full knowledge that it is a passionate issue ... science and politics and everything else aside ... and having gone through a pile of correspondence I was hopeful that I would find myself in a tectonic shift of my paradigm that perhaps there was something I was not seeing in the arguments against this motion but I did not find anything in the arguments that caused me to think otherwise."

"What it really comes down to for me is that we are not talking about the next 50 years, we are talking about the last 50 years and the waste that exists on the surface.  We are not talking about the next 10,000 years, we are talking millenia and, if an event was to take place today ... an extinction event that is a real possibility in today's world, or an ice age, the people who are here at that point won't have the time to think about all this nuclear waste that is now stored on the surface.  If an event takes place and the surface is disturbed, and we failed to do what was necessary to take care of this waste ... I share all the concerns about the pristeen lake and drinking water and peoples' concerns and that is why I made this motion."

Myette said that he was very familiar with ionization radiation given that he had worked at the nuclear site for many years.  "I don't want to see any of that stuff put into the environment ... it is stored on the surface and we are not doing future generations any favours by putting this solution off for the future or by burying our heads and hoping that another way might be found or some other municipality in Ontario might accept our waste that we generated."

Vice Deputy Mayor, Diane Huber, also expressed that she would second Rich's motion to defer. 

"I am strongly in support of the JRP (Joint Review Panel) but I also feel strongly that the new Minister has not had the time to do her due diligence or the time that other people have had so I don't begrudge her the time to take a step back and ask for other pieces of information that fit in with ways that she is looking at the issue.  To vote on the motion the way it is worded here, I do not agree with the last paragraph.  I think, as a Council, we did support the findings of the JRP but I don't think it's appropriate for us right now to do something like this when the process is moving along and I see what the Minister has said as being a positive and I'm willing to wait.  I do support the findings of the JRP ... and I trust the science that came out of that ."

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Councilor Neil Menage said that "The status quo is simply not an answer for me.  I had an office sitting right beside the spent fuel pools and I thought about it over and over again.  Saying 'no' to a DGR is one answer but it is not an alternative.  It can't just be 'no'."


Councilor Neil Menage

"For me, the DGR fits the need, said Menage.  "I do agree with John Mann that there should just be one DGR and I hope this is not just a 'Trojan horse' ...I think we should have one DGR and put all the waste in there now.  I also feel we should support our nuclear neighbours ... we (Saugeen Shores) weren't in a position of being able to create a DGR ... I think there was a faulty mechanism that had a lot to do with the negative vote that was well organized and the political will was not there to take possibly the best site that exists right here in Saugeen Shores.  I was pro-DGR advocate and spoke at the JRP hearings.  I believe the majority of those who voted in Port Elgin are pro-DGR."

Councilor Cheryl Grace also brought forward several of her concerns.  In 2014, there were two incidents in New Mexico's WIPP facility that were due to human error.  "Kitty litter that was used to pack the drums exploded because someone made a typo.  Human errors can occur.  My issue is putting a DGR beside the Great Lakes.  WIPP is still closed and there are over 500 barrels packed the same way sitting underground ... it's going to cost $500 million at least to try to recover and get that facility back operating."

Grace also said that she had a big problem with the hosting agreement that Kincardine had signed with Ontario Power Generation.  "There were payments made to municipalities that were rewards set out for being on 'best behaviors' and supporting the OPG project (DGR). If the reward for going forward on this are the payments that we hope will be re-installed until 2035, consider this.  According to the hosting agreement, if there is a delay in the license being granted, or if the license to construct is eventually granted and if milestones are not met, OPG has the power to reduce or stop the payments regardless of whether the municipalities act according to the agreement.  That's an immoral arrangement."

"Kincardine signed the hosting agreement but Saugeen Shores and no other adjacent municipalities had signed it," added Grace. "What they were doing was promising millions of dollars for 'best behaviors' but our population did not have an opportunity to sit and listen to a resolution being debated.  Saugeen Shores Committee of the Whole (COW) only expressed support by a show of hands just a couple of weeks before the hosting agreement was signed.  There was never a resolution passed at that time.  The only resolution passed up to this point was a few months before the JRP hearings."  

 She also raised the issue of transparency and said that alleged 'closed meetings' had been held at the County level with OPG, Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) and the CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) in violation of the Ontario Municipal Act,  to "train the Mayors on how to support the DGR project and no minutes of meetings had been taken that we know of.  Saugeen Shores has never held a referendum and without one how can we say the majority of citizens support the findings of the JRP."

"I am not anti-nuclear," said Grace, "but I am against a DGR being located beside the Great Lakes basin ... I applaud Minister McKenna's request for more information especially on the issue of cumulative effects and the likelihood of a DGR for used fuel being located in our region with three municipalities close by who are still being courted to be a host for a used fuel DGR.  It's a very important issue and one that was disregarded by the JRP.  I think a deferral would be fine and I cannot support this motion."

 Mayor Mike Smith said he fully understands that this is an issue that has divided the community.  "There are a number of things that have bothered me about it.  There have been a number of personal attacks on both sides.  I also want to say this about the 'closed meetings' ... for 17 times this was on the agenda of the Bruce County Council meetings and not one time did any of these people who are making an issue of this ask to speak to it on the agenda to Council."

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