Letter to residents: Correcting misinformation about site selection process
The NWMO's Vice-President of Site Selection, Dr. Ben Belfadhel, addresses misinformation circulating in South Bruce.
I am writing today to address misinformation that has begun circulating in South Bruce and area about the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). A recent flyer shared throughout the region is based on fear, not facts. As a scientist with nearly 25 years of experience in the safe management of radioactive material, my goal today is to correct the record.
My chosen field is both rewarding and challenging. I understand that the long-term management of used nuclear fuel is controversial, with passionate views held by many. Any large scale environmental infrastructure project garners intense reaction in local communities. Doubly so when the project is as unique and generational as the plans to build a deep geological repository for Canada’s used nuclear fuel.
That’s why the NWMO has, from its very outset, sought to create a dialogue. We work to involve communities in every step of our work. We want to ensure they are engaged in the process and they have all the necessary facts. Because the hard truth is, we need a long-term solution. Interim storage was never designed to last for thousands of years. But a deep geological repository is.
We owe it to future generations to implement a long-term sustainable solution. We have the answer. We know how to do it safely. Now, as a generation that has reaped decades of benefits from nuclear power, it is on us to act so our children and grandchildren don’t have to.
At the NWMO, we are implementing a site selection process that is designed to be fair and inclusive. We respect and welcome a diversity of views. We also value open discussions and challenges to the scientific basis of our project. We consider questions and challenges to be important to the integrity of our work. However, the description presented by the “Not Willing to Listen” group on the potential impact to Lake Huron is concerning as it is simply inaccurate and misleading. It is not based on any evidence or any of the well-established hydrogeological models.
Let me be clear: this campaign amounts to fear-mongering. We welcome debate, but not misinformation.
As a scientist, I’ve spent my life looking at issues from all sides. It’s what we do every day at the NWMO. It’s why our technical reports consider every possible factor or variable, right down to possible ice ages centuries from now. But to cherry pick facts, or quite simply make them up, is divisive and does a disservice to the discourse. It runs contrary to the very foundations of the scientific method. And it’s unfair to the many people we hear from each day who are genuinely trying to learn about the project so they can make an informed decision.
The NWMO employs highly skilled scientists who are amongst the best in the world. These are passionate citizens who have dedicated their lives to the protection of people and the environment. They are guided by science and the NWMO’s values and commitments. To imply that these experts, these parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and caring members of their communities do not care about our valuable Great Lakes is disappointing and unfair.
While I respect differences of opinion, there is a minimum of rigour necessary for a productive debate. I would invite the authors of the aforementioned flyer to produce scientific evidence for their claims. I am interested in understanding how they came to their conclusion. They also owe it to their neighbours like you.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the NWMO. Myself and my colleagues are always available to answer your questions.
Dr. Ben Belfadhel
Vice-President Site Selection, Nuclear Waste Management Organization
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization tasked with the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository, in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.
Founded in 2002, the NWMO has been guided for more than 20 years by a dedicated team of world-class scientists, engineers and Indigenous Knowledge Holders that are developing innovative and collaborative solutions for nuclear waste management. Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Métis communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it. The NWMO plans to select a site in 2024, and two areas remain in our site selection process: the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area in northwestern Ontario and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area in southern Ontario.