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The “goodwill” money from the proposed nuclear waste site is pouring into the declining agricultural town of Ontario. What if it stops?

A group of citizens accuse the Canadian nuclear industry of using its financial might to prepare a declining Ontario farming community to become a willing host for the country’s most dangerous radioactive waste. In a brochure about the proposed disposal site that was published last year, the Ontario Municipality of South Bruce – which encompasses the farming communities of Teeswater, Mildmay, Formosa and Salem – says it is “in decline.” The brochure talks about a shrinking population, where rural towns and villages “city centers are disappearing from what they used to be”, with empty storefronts, big infrastructure bills and little prospect. new economic growth. Protecting Our Waterways – No Nuclear Waste, a grassroots group of citizens accuses the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) of profiting from the decline by spending millions of dollars on “goodwill” projects that the community does not could not afford alone. Bill Noll, a resident of Teeswater and vice president of Protecting Our Waterways, said the money had done a lot of good – it had helped find doctors in small towns, improved care for the elderly, improved wells and even bought local firefighters to save lives. equipment. The money has ‘separated’ from the project, the group says “It is strictly a gesture of goodwill,” Noll said. “This money has nothing to do with the project. He’s completely divorced. Why would you spend a million and a half dollars on a community if you didn’t expect something in return?” School officials pose with NWMO Director of Relations Paul Austin, second from left, during a check presentation at Hillcrest Central School in Teeswater. The NWMO has funded community projects for years through a “ goodwill ” fund. (Steven Travale / Municipality of South Bruce) The project Noll is talking about is a $ 23 billion nuclear storage site where the NWMO wants to intercept some three million fuel bundles in a vast network of tunnels and holes 500 meters below. floor. South Bruce is one of two communities in Ontario – the other is Ignace, about 2.5 hours northwest of Thunder Bay – under consideration for what the NWMO calls the “deep geological repository.” “. The NWMO says it is working with local communities to select the site in 2023. In the case of South Bruce, test drilling recently started north of the dairy town of Teeswater to see if the old bedrock is. sufficiently viable. But NWMO funds have been pouring in since 2012, when the local council volunteered to be considered a host. A diagram from the NWMO shows the vast underground network of chambers that would permanently contain used nuclear fuel deep beneath the Earth. The complex would cost $ 23 billion and last 40 years. (Nuclear Waste Management Organization) According to a March 2021 report by South Bruce Treasurer Kendra Reinhart, the community has received over $ 3.2 million from the NWMO since 2012. It has been used to pay for everything, from St. John Ambulance training to offset additional costs. of the pandemic, to the salaries of municipal employees. The report did not include all of the money and indicated that several sources of NWMO funding had been omitted. For example, requests for additional support, such as the $ 1.5 million that the municipality is seeking from a $ 4 million investment fund sponsored by the NWMO, have been left out to help offset the cost of expansion of a local wastewater treatment plant. Michelle Stein, another resident of Teeswater and president of Protect Our Waterways, said money became so ubiquitous that on March 23, the same day the treasury report was presented to South Bruce’s board, the NWMO was has appeared 121 times on the council’s agenda. The mayor says the community is “a fool not to” take money. “If you go through our council agendas, it’s now common to see an organization like a community center or a fire station to apply for a project, and it is included in their request: ‘Could we have any. community welfare fund money? ” “The NWMO plans to take bundles of used nuclear fuel locked in copper containers and then drive them into holes drilled 500 meters underground. (Nuclear Waste Management Organization) “Our community has really started to rely on NWMO money,” said Mr. Stein. Stein and Noll said the closer the Municipality of South Bruce is financially to the NWMO, the more difficult it will be for the community to disentangle themselves by saying no to the nuclear storage site, lest they cut off the new source of gas. wealth of the community. “We don’t depend on the money we get from the NWMO to run the municipality. I can’t stress that enough,” South Bruce Mayor Robert Buckle told CBC News on Wednesday. Buckle said that in addition to the exploration costs of the proposal, the community is using the money for other projects that he described as “unnecessary, but nice to have.” Critics say that by taking the money the municipality is undermining its official position, which has been neither for nor against hosting the nuclear storage site. Buckle disagrees, saying the municipality is open to exploring any opportunities that come their way and, if an organization like the NWMO is willing to pay the expenses, then the city should take full advantage. “You are stupid not to do it,” he said. “It’s just business.” Ultimately, Buckle said, it should be the people who decide, but only if and when the NWMO chooses Teeswater as their preferred location, and the decision should go to a referendum. “This is my personal opinion,” he said, noting that the council has not yet taken an official position. Until then, he said, the community will continue to take the money until the NWMO is ready to make its official announcement in 2023. Nuclear industry wants to build a “positive legacy” The NWMO said she is fully prepared to help defray the costs of the project and help build infrastructure capacity in South Bruce, should the community decide they are willing to host the project. Firefighters from the South Bruce Fire Rescue Service pose in new equipment purchased by the NWMO, which spends millions in the community on everything from playgrounds to rural doctors seeking with its “goodwill” fund. (Steven Travale / Municipality of South Bruce) “We are committed to leaving a positive legacy in all the communities in which we are involved,” said Lise Morton, vice president of site selection for the NWMO. Morton said all expense documentation as well as financial agreements with communities participating in the site selection process are fully transparent and available online. Yet critics say communities with little prospect of economic development could become dependent on NWMO money, which Morton said she would not speak to. “It’s really not for the NWMO to determine or comment. In fact, the municipality must ensure that it complies with the requirements of the Municipalities Act. She said the main goal of the NWMO, which is a non-profit organization, is to leave potential host communities better off than at the start of the process, even if they say no. But for Stein and Noll, who co-chair Protecting Our Waterways – No Nuclear Waste, no, that’s not the answer they’re concerned about when it comes to the $ 23 billion project or the 700 jobs that would come from it. “With such a huge influx of employees and such a huge influx of traffic, we’re going to see a significant shift in the culture of the community,” Noll said. “South Bruce has a population of only 5,600. When you bring in that many people, there will be major changes going on.

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