For Premier Shawn Graham, it would be easy to say New Brunswick won’t open its doors to anyone else’s nuclear waste.
But that could create a problem in the future, when this province is looking to dispose of its own nuclear waste from the Point Lepreau Generating Station.
“What do you do with the waste New Brunswick is currently storing in our province?” asks the premier. “That’s why we can’t close that door. We have a responsibility to make sure we properly dispose of our waste that we’re currently storing here today.
“If I stand up and say New Brunswick is not going to be at the table for discussions, then all of a sudden we’re stuck trying to find our own solution here in the province to a much bigger problem.”
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is soliciting input from across the country as it seeks a long-term storage facility for used nuclear fuel. The organization, established in 2002 by Ontario Power Generation Inc., Hydro-Québec and N.B. Power under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, is responsible for the long-term management of Canada’s nuclear waste.
A spokesman for that organization recently told the Times & Transcript the current cross-country dialogue is designed to develop a fair process for choosing the site of the long-term storage facility. A proposal will eventually be drafted and it could be up to two years before the organization starts to hear from communities interested in hosting such a facility.
Nuclear provinces New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan are all being considered for the storage site, as well as any community in another province that expresses interest. The spokesman said the facility will not be imposed on any community that doesn’t want it.
Waste from Point Lepreau is currently stored on-site in tanks similar to an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It’s only a third full and Energy Minister Jack Keir recently said there’s enough space to handle waste for the next 30 years.
Graham says with 19 nuclear sites in Canada, including Point Lepreau as the only site in Atlantic Canada, it’s unlikely New Brunswick would be considered the best location for storing nuclear waste.
“There’s a much better chance our material will be moving to another jurisdiction than 19 jurisdictions having their material come here,” says the premier. “But we have a responsibility to be at the table to discuss how we can properly dispose of this material.”
He says taking a hard line against bringing nuclear waste to New Brunswick would not serve this province well in the future, especially if the site is eventually located in a different province.
“(Because) then I have (Premier) Brad Wall stand up in Saskatchewan and say ‘OK, if we make the decision to bring it here, you’ve already said no, so you can’t bring it to our province,’” says Graham.