Big step begins Thursday in search for used nuclear fuel home

Jim Tripp has been staking out the site, north of Teeswater Ont. for days.

It’s where a steady stream of equipment will show up Thursday to set up the first borehole site, for what could become Canada’s first permanent underground storage facility for nuclear waste.

The Kincardine native with 30 years in the nuclear industry, says he wants to be a part of the “exciting” project.

“This is such a good project. I would like to volunteer my time to help them go forward to make this a success,” he says.

But, not everyone is excited at the prospect of 5.5 million used nuclear fuel bundles filling 1500 acres under these fields, north of Teeswater.

The citizen’s group, Protect Our Waterways, wants to ensure the community gets to vote on the project, before any radioactive waste goes in the ground.

“Protect Our Waterways isn’t saying we need a referendum, right now, what we’re asking for is that council commits to giving the people a referendum, before any final agreements are signed,” says the group’s leader, and local farmer, Michelle Stein.

South Bruce council is committing to anything, just yet.

It wants more information, like the results of the borehole drilling - expected to begin in a few weeks and last throughout the year - before deciding how the community will choose if it wants the $23 billion project under the municipality.

“I expect that this could be a referendum, but that is for council to decide once we get all the information available, and we know the people are well informed,” says South Bruce Mayor, Robert Buckle.

Regardless, many people in South Bruce, have already boldly and publicly stated their voting intentions in regards to the nuclear waste plan, with signs around the region. But, if a vote was a held today, it might be tight.

“If they were to hold a vote today, I think it would be pretty close, it definitely wouldn’t be definitive, yes or no, it would be pretty close,” says Sheila Whytock, co-founder of Willing to Listen, a group of South Bruce residents, in favour of moving the project forward.

He wouldn’t get a vote, because he’s from Kincardine, but Jim Tripp will be there when the borehole equipment arrives Thursday, excited to see 50 years of planning, move a little closer to completion.

“It has to happen somewhere in the world, and I’m proud that it could be in our community,” he says.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization, tasked with finding a home for Canada’s high level nuclear waste, will decide between South Bruce and Ignace Ont., no later than 2023.