Don’t dump on Bruce nuke vault, London Coun. Jesse Helmer says

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One London city councillor isn’t so sure that Ontario Power Generation’s proposed nuclear waste storage bunker near Kincardine is such a bad idea.

The proposed underground ­storage site, deeper than the CN ­Tower is tall, has drawn opposition from across the Great Lakes basin, from residents and municipalities and Indigenous groups, with many worried what might happen to the drinking water for millions of North Americans if the vault leaks.

City council passed a resolution four years ago opposing the bunker, which would be used to store decades worth of medium- and low-level radioactive equipment and maintenance debris from ­Ontario’s nuclear power reactors.

But Coun. Jesse Helmer told council’s civic works committee Monday that he sees the repository as a preferable option to storing the nuclear waste in secure containers above ground, which is now done nearby at the Bruce nuclear complex, the world’s largest operating nuclear plant.

“I understand why people are worried,” he said. “(But) the waste has to go somewhere.”

A group called Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump is asking Mayor Matt Brown to add his voice to 93 other municipal leaders in an open letter urging federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to reject the plan.

The civic works committee — though it had just two voting members after Coun. Virginia Ridley declared a conflict Monday — voted to move the matter along to council. Helmer is not a member, although he ­attended the debate.

Committee chairperson Michael van Holst even suggested adding language around preventing another tragedy like Fukushima, but Coun. Bill Armstrong voiced objections.

“It would just be sad to see another similar disaster,” van Holst said.

Hundreds of municipalities in Ontario and parts of the United States have passed resolutions opposing the plan.

Concerns about the risk to drinking water abound, with nuclear waste buried just 1.2 kilometres from Lake Huron if the repository goes ahead.

But shipping and dumping elsewhere would bring its own challenges, including higher costs and potential accidents and contamination from trucking radioactive materials.

“The rock in this particular area has been stable for something like 400 million years,” Helmer said of the proposed Bruce site.

“Drilling down to deposit this low-­level and intermediate-­level waste seems like a good place to put it.”

Thousands of Londoners who signed earlier petitions circulated by Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump group disagree. One commenter said the project is “not worth the risk . . . Do not jeopardize the greatest part of our ­continent.”

Another said the Great Lakes must be protected: “They are called ‘Great’ for a reason. And it’s not so you can rename them ‘radioactive.’ ”

Coun. Bill Armstrong said he hopes future generations won’t have to deal with the byproducts of nuclear energy at all.

“Obviously, as a country, province, city, we have to continue to progressively pursue the use of solar energy, because the use of solar energy doesn’t create this kind of waste,” he said.

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