News & Noteworthy

A special section to keep you up to date on events, research, and stories relevant to the NWMO’s proposal to site the Deep Geological Repository in South Bruce. It will be updated regularly. Sign up for updates here.
  • Two small communities are competing to receive Canada’s inventory of nuclear waste. They can’t be sure what they’ll get

    By Matthew McClearn

    Two Ontario municipalities are vying to become hosts for an underground disposal facility for Canada’s nuclear waste. Both must formally announce in the coming months whether they’ll accept the facility – but they cannot know exactly what wastes they’d be agreeing to receive.

    The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) designed its $26-billion facility, known as a deep geological repository, to receive spent fuel from Candu reactors located in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. This year, it plans to choose between the last two sites still in the running: the Municipality of South Bruce, Ont., located more than 120 kilometres north of London; or near Ignace, Ont., a town of 1,200 more than 200 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

    But since the project was conceived, two of NWMO’s three members (Ontario Power Generation and New Brunswick Power) proposed to build new reactors that would burn different fuels and produce novel wastes. The organization guarantees reactor developers that it will dispose of these wastes, even though their nature might not be understood for decades. And in the past few months, both candidate municipalities signed agreements that spell out how the project could be modified to receive such wastes, while limiting their ability to refuse.

    These provisions help reduce uncertainty for the nuclear industry. A roadmap produced last year by the Nuclear Energy Institute, a U.S. lobby group, noted that because most small modular reactors (SMRs) being developed would burn different fuels from those of existing reactors, “technology neutral” criteria for accepting spent fuel into repositories was needed as soon as this year in both Canada and the United States.

    But the provisions could make it harder to find willing hosts.

    Continue reading this article at The Globe and Mail →

  • South Bruce group opposing nuclear waste storage questions willing host agreement

    BY JANICE MACKAY

    The Protect Our Waterways - No Nuclear Waste organization in South Bruce continues to question the fairness in the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) Willing Host decision.

    The Municipality of South Bruce Council endorsed the Hosting Agreement between the municipality and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) at its meeting May 1, 2024.

    South Bruce is one of two possible locations remaining in the site selection for a used nuclear fuel storage bunker, along with Ignace, Ontario.

    The No Nuclear Waste group shared what it learned during its recent webinar, which included Environmental Lawyer David Donnelly and researcher Ole Hendrikson.

    Donnelly told the group there were ethically questionable practices in the signing of that agreement to possibly host a Deep Geological Repository for Canada's used nuclear fuel in South Bruce.

    Continue reading this article at CKNX News Today →

  • Moving nuclear waste through traditional territories could face opposition, Ontario First Nation says

    By Colin Butler

    'Think about how many treaty territories that waste would have to go through,' chief says

    A First Nation in southwestern Ontario says even if the community votes yes on a proposed $26 billion dump for nuclear waste within their traditional territory, it would likely be opposed by other First Nations, through whose territories the more than 5.5 million spent fuel rods would have to pass. 

    Canada's nuclear industry has been on a decades-long quest to find a permanent home for tens of thousands of tonnes of highly radioactive waste. The search has narrowed to two Ontario communities — Ignace, northwest of Thunder Bay, and the Municipality of South Bruce, north of London. 

    Both will vote later this year on whether to build a deep geologic repository, a kind of nuclear crypt, where more than 50,000 tonnes of waste in copper casks will be lowered more than 500 metres underground to be kept for all time, behind layers of clay, concrete and the ancient bedrock itself. 

    But so will their Indigenous neighbours, whose traditional territories the towns are within, which gives each respective First Nation a veto.

    In the case of Saugeen Ojibway Nation in particular, it means the community again finds itself as the future arbiter of a potential nuclear waste site on their traditional lands for the second time in a few years. 

    Continue reading this article at CBC News →

  • Media watchdog finds CANDU reactor ads "inaccurate" and "unsupported"

    By Lake Ontario Waterkeeper

    Have you ever looked at advertisements for nuclear power and wondered how organizations such as the Power Workers' Union can call nuclear reactors "emission free?" We see similar phrases all the time in print media, on the web, and in statements by elected officials. The problem is, it just isn't accurate to say that nuclear power is "emission free." Nuclear reactors emit all kinds of foul things into the environment, and industry and government know it.

    Advertising Standards Canada has just posted a decision to its website declaring that it is inaccurate and unsupportable to call CANDU reactors “emission free.”

    Earlier this year, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper staff and a group of law students from Queen's University filed a complaint about this with Advertising Standards Canada. The national not-for-profit body self-regulates the advertising industry in Canada. If an ad is misleading, deceptive, or makes claims that are unsupportable, Advertising Standards Canada can request that the advertiser remove the ad.

    Continue reading this article at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper →

  • New Brunswick’s nuclear reactor emits high levels of radioactivity, increasing cancer risk

    by Ian Fairlie

    Expert report for the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group

    New Brunswick Power’s Point Lepreau nuclear reactor on the Bay of Fundy emits much higher levels of radioactive tritium than other nuclear reactors in Canada. Ingesting and breathing in tritium increases the risk of cancer in humans and other animals.

    Tritium is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen, and international agencies recognise it as an unusually hazardous radioactive substance. One of its properties is to bind with carbohydrates, proteins and lipids in cells to form organically-bound tritium (OBT) which sticks inside the body for years.

    These alarming findings will be tabled on May 10 by the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group in Saint John during Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearings on the application by NB Power for an unprecedented 25-year extension of its licence to operate its Lepreau reactor. The CNSC is the regulator of all nuclear activities in Canada.

    Although industry scientists in Canada claim tritium has low toxicity and does not bioaccumulate, official reports show tritium is twice to three times more radiotoxic compared to external gamma radiation. And many studies indicate OBT levels increase the longer people are exposed to tritiated water.

    Considerable evidence exists – from many epidemiology studies around the world, that children who live near nuclear plants emitting large amounts of tritium are more likely to get leukemia than those living further away. References to all these studies are included in the appendix to the CNSC submission by the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group.

    Continue reading this article at NB Media Co-op →

  • South Bruce residents digest dense $418 million hosting agreement

    By Greg Cowan

    The $418 million hosting agreement signed Wednesday by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization and South Bruce is a complex 50-plus page document.

    Perhaps it is fittingly dense for a first-of-its-kind project in Canada with a 100-plus year lifespan that will transform whichever municipality is chosen to host Canada’s high-level nuclear waste deep underground.

    Some of those in South Bruce who have followed Canada’s search for a suitable place to construct a deep geological repository (DGR) in their proverbial backyard are now trying to wrap their heads around what was agreed to in the hosting agreement before being asked to decide whether they are an informed and willing host this fall in a referendum.

    Michelle Stein has rallied against the project for years as part of Protect Our Waterways — No Nuclear Waste.

    She sounded defeated in a text message Thursday while aiming to plant grain at a field near the potential DGR site.

    “What difference does anyone’s thoughts make now?” Stein asked. “The council and NWMO have never sought our input and have completely ignored all of our concerns.”

  • Accidents can and will happen

    Continuing Safety Problems with New Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Shaft.

    ecent monthly reports by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board relate disturbing stories about near-miss operational incidents in the fifth shaft, under construction, at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  The underground federal radioactive waste disposal site is located 2,150 feet below ground surface in a salt formation almost 30 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico.  The Board has reported broken cables, misaligned transport platforms for workers to reach the underground, and workers stuck in the new shaft.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/

    Continue reading this article at nuclear-news →

  • Ballooning costs and secret projects at Canada’s federal nuclear labs

    by Ole Hendrickson

    What does Canada get from its nuclear power corporation for its $1.54 billion budget?

    Canada’s national nuclear power corporation – Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) – has no functioning nuclear reactors, unlike similar state-owned bodies in China, Russia, France, Korea, and the United Arab Emirates, and despite a $1.54 billion annual budget.

    AECL’s three “prototype” CANDU reactors haven’t produced electricity for 37 years. Its three main research reactors are also shut down. Yet they must be maintained to protect nearby water bodies.

    Section 9 of Canada’s 2023 Public Accounts indicates that AECL’s liability will require ongoing public expenditures for the next 162 years. It records “decommissioning of nuclear facilities” as a $9.3 billion “asset retirement obligation.”

    Continue reading this article at rabble.ca →

  • In an Ontario town split over a nuclear dump site, the fallout is over how they'll vote on the future

    By Colin Butler

    The town will hold an online vote, but an opposition group demands paper ballots

    A citizen's group opposed to burying Canada's stockpile of spent nuclear fuel half a kilometre below a southwestern Ontario farm town is demanding a paper ballot rather than an online vote in an upcoming referendum on whether it should welcome radioactive waste. 

    Canada's nuclear industry's quest to find a place to store the growing amount of highly radioactive detritus it produces stretches back decades. The search has narrowed to two potential host communities in Ontario: Ignace (four hours northwest of Thunder Bay) and the Municipality of South Bruce (two hours north of London).

    For years, South Bruce has found itself divided over being a potential host — split, between those who believe a new industry is a way to reclaim lost prosperity that lapsed with the glory days of farming, and those who think jobs and subsidies from the nuclear industry has blinded the others to the risks of welcoming radioactive waste into the community.

    On Monday, town councillors in South Bruce voted to accept the official question on the ballot: "Are you in favour of the Municipality of South Bruce declaring South Bruce to be a willing host for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization's (NWMO) proposed deep geological repository?"

    'Our concern is the way that they're holding the referendum'

    "I have no issues with how the question is worded," Michelle Stein, a member of the grassroots Protect Our Waterways — No Nuclear Waste, said.

    "Our concern is the way that they're holding the referendum as an online vote."

    Stein said unlike paper ballots, which can be audited and verified by anyone, she argues the way a computerized voting system sorts and tallies ballots is largely a mystery to laymen, hidden beneath source code that's indecipherable to all who lack specialized knowledge.

    "This is a forever decision. Why wouldn't they want tangible physical proof? We can go back and count those paper ballots and they can say, 'look, here's the ballots. This is what the people voted for.'"

    But advocates of online voting say it makes voting easier, cheaper and can increase participation. For those reasons, online voting has become increasingly popular among Ontario municipalities with some 3.8 million Ontario voters voting online in the province's 2022 municipal elections. 

    South Bruce Mayor Mark Goetz said the reason council went with online voting for the referendum is because council needs a strong majority to either vote yes or no for the referendum to be binding. 

    Since adopting online voting for municipal elections, Goetz said South Bruce has never seen higher turnout. 

    "We achieved a 59 per cent voter turnout through electronic voting, which I believe is an Ontario record."

    Goetz said there were worries on council that, if the town couldn't achieve 50 per cent voter turnout, then it would be up to him and the town's six councillors to decide in an official vote. 

    "I want the people to make the decision in this referendum and I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen." 

    Errors or breaches can be difficult to detect

    Still, critics say online voting is prone to cyber attacks and there's no way to guarantee voter privacy, or the integrity of the vote. There is also no provincial standard in Ontario, or, for that matter, federally, when it comes to online voting systems. 

    "There's a lot of questions that this technology introduces around that. 'How do I know my vote counted? How do I know it was kept secret?'" Aleksander Essex, a Western University professor who studies cyber security and crytography, said.

    At the same time however, Essex notes, he has never seen any evidence of fraud or tampering with the vote in all the years he has studied online voting.

    "Now with that said, the concern is that we're not getting evidence in the other direction: that the election was counted up correctly."

    Essex said it can be difficult to detect errors or breaches in online voting systems, possibly allowing an incursion to go unnoticed.

    "What it comes down to in many of these elections is voters just having to take the election officials word for it and, indeed, the election official having to take the company's word for it."

    Essex said, case law sets out some important legal principles that must be followed when it comes to technology in municipal elections, including ballot secrecy and certainty in the mind of the public that the results of the election reflect the votes cast. 

    "There is a case to be made that the technology is not supporting or enforcing those democratic principles."

    'Nothing on the internet is 100 per cent secure'

    The company hired to conduct the online referendum is Montreal-based SimplyVoting.

    "Nothing on the internet is 100 per cent secure," company president Brian Lack wrote in a letter to South Bruce council dated March 20, 2024. "In the context of municipal elections, we believe that an internet voting system with robust security such as Simply Voting's provides excellent protection against the threats at hand."

    Lack said his company "is actively working on internet voting standards for municipal elections" and plans to have a number of "good transparency measures municipal staff may take" that he said were outlined in a sample procedure manual for Ontario's 2026 municipal elections. CBC News was unable to independently verify the document.

    "There is always going to be some element of risk in an election, even with paper ballots," Lack wrote, noting that, "for national elections, where much more power and money is at stake, and state actors are a threat, the level of risk is elevated."

    "To me, that's not an acceptable answer," Stein said of Lack's comments. "The scope of this project goes way beyond our municipality. It'll be a federal project and it's estimated to cost more than $26 billion and that was the figure they used before COVID."

    Stein said there may not be any recourse for activists, but it's she also acknowledges it's par for the course in what she describes as more than just a David-and-Goliath battle.

    "It's not just Goliath, it's Goliaths. We've got our municipality, we have the nuclear industry, there's just so many layers with organizations that have so much more money than we do."

    Continue reading this article at CBC News →

  • Canadian officials found radiation levels in these northern Ontario homes ‘well above’ the safe limit. Their response: ‘¯\_(ツ)_/¯’

    By Declan Keogh and Masih Khalatbari, Investigative Journalism Bureau

    In January 2021, a senior official with Canada’s nuclear regulator asked a colleague to do a rough, “back-of-the-envelope” calculation on the amount of potentially deadly radiation that residents in Elliot Lake were exposed to in their homes.

    The government had just received a complaint that long-forgotten radioactive mine waste was buried underneath some homes in the northern Ontario city. Ron Stenson, senior project officer at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), wanted to “confirm our assumption that 468 Bq/m3 is not an urgent health concern.”

    He did not get the answer he wanted. A senior official with the commission’s radiation protection division replied that those levels of radon are “well above” the public radiation dose limit set by federal authorities.

    Stenson’s response came 90 minutes later: “¯\_()_/¯.

    For too long, shrugging is all the Canadian government has done, as far as local homeowner Lisa Speck is concerned.

    The government official’s email is “a true visual representation of the response we’ve received to date,” she says. “It accurately summarizes the respect we’ve been shown.”

    Continue reading this article at The Toronto Star →