Letter from Brian Masse MP to Minister of Environment and Climate Change

August 10, 2022

Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Guilbeault,

I am writing today regarding the proposed high level nuclear waste deep geological repository (DGR) proposed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) in South Bruce,
Ontario. I understand that this is one of two site selections alongside Ignace, Ontario, and I am writing specifically in reference to the proposal at South Bruce. I stand firmly against this plan to store high level radioactive waste anywhere in, or near, the Great Lakes basin.

As you know, the former DGR proposal by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) near Saugeen, Ontario, was dangerously close to the Great Lakes. Moreover, the residents and indigenous communities there strongly opposed the proposal.

DGRs not only threaten the health and vitality of the respective communities at the sites, it also poses serious risks to the Great Lakes - the primary source of drinking water for over 40 million Canadians and Americans. In South Bruce, the Teeswater River is a tributary of Lake Huron and there is no guarantee that the water will not be contaminated in the future. Moreover, it is impossible to guarantee that the waste containers will not degrade and cause irreparable damage to future generations. Not one of the NWMO’s scientists or geologists can say with absolute certainty that this will not happen.

Furthermore, I have introduced Motion 15 on the Order Paper which reads:

M-15 — November 23, 2021 — Mr. Masse (Windsor West) — That, in the opinion of the House, the government should defer further review and any approval of the Deep Geologic Repository project environmental assessment for all levels of radioactive waste at any site until such time as: (a) an independent technical body is established and has completed (i) an evaluation of the state of technical and scientific knowledge with respect to deep geological repositories for nuclear waste, (ii) an assessment as to whether Canada’s regulatory regime is sufficiently robust to adequately support an environmental assessment and licensing review of proposals for deep geologic repositories; (b) there is a full evaluation of alternatives to the proposed deep geologic repository, including alternative sites, alternative designs and alternative methods; and (c) residents, stakeholders and rights holders in the Great Lakes Basin, including in potential host communities, neighbouring communities, transportation corridor communities, and the broader Great Lakes community, are engaged in a direct and active dialogue facilitated by a trusted third party.

An historical precedent has been set by the United States. In 1986, the US Department of Energy investigated a similar nuclear waste repository site in the Great Lakes basin. In response, then Secretary of State for External Affairs, the Right Honourable Joe Clark released an official statement:

“I and several of my Cabinet colleagues have made it clear to our US counterparts that this Government opposes any development that could present a transboundary threat to the welfare of Canadians or the integrity of the Canadian environment.”

As a result of Clark’s intervention, the US sites in shared water basins were eliminated from consideration.

Minister, we know that the irradiated nuclear fuel removed from Canadian nuclear reactors is highly radioactive and will remain so for hundreds of thousands of years. In comparison, the
Great Lakes were only formed 10,000 years ago. This irradiated nuclear fuel must be completely isolated from the environment.

We also know that there is no operating DGR for high level radioactive spent fuel anywhere in the world, despite multiple countries having invested heavily in researching this concept over decades.

Therefore, I urge you to consider placing a moratorium on current and future DGR proposals and alternatively consider using a “rolling stewardship” model instead. This model would provide a responsible waste management scheme in the meantime. Instead of abandoning the waste, rolling stewardship maintains the status quo until a scientifically proven safe alternative for storage can be developed. It allows for timely corrective action when needed, ensures monitoring, robust packaging and retrievability and repackaging if necessary. Rolling stewardship is not a solution but is what is required until a safe solution can be found.

We cannot afford to harm the Great Lakes, the environment or ecosystems that these lakes support. I truly hope that you will consider action on this file before it is too late.

Should you have any future questions or concerns on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours truly,

Brian Masse MP
Windsor West
NDP Innovation, Science and Industry Critic, NDP International Trade and Canada-US Border
Critic, and Great Lakes Critic
Vice-Chair, Canada-US inter-Parliamentary Group

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