For his first feature documentary, director Colin Scheyen decided to tackle the divisive issue of nuclear power.
In what became a five-year passion project, Scheyen's film, “Nuclear Hope”, explores how Ontario should handle its growing stockpile of highly radioactive nuclear waste.
“This is something everyone in Ontario has created,” Scheyen told NorthernLife.ca. “We've contributed to it. If you've turned on a light bulb somewhere in Ontario at some point in your life, you play a role in this issue.”
Scheyen said he started making the film without much perspective on the issue, and no strong opinions with one side or the other.
“Now I come in with a far greater understanding of the issue,” he said.
Scheyen said his goal early on was to present the audience with an accurate picture of Ontario's nuclear waste management issues, and to let people make up their own minds on the issue.
“I'm a teacher, and as an educator I'm not a proponent for propaganda,” he said. “My goal is to assist people in coming to a common understanding through inquiry and discussion.”
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is currently in the early stages of a nine-step process to build a 500-metre repository for two million, half-metre cylindrical bundles that contain radioactive uranium dioxide pellets.
The site could be operational by 2035. During a 10-year construction period, the project would create around 1,000 jobs.
A number of small communities throughout Northern Ontario – including Elliot Lake, Blind River, Manitouwadge and Hornepayne – and near Lake Huron, are in the running to host the repository.
While making the film, Scheyen said he and his crew spoke to around 100 people, both for and against plans for a nuclear waste repository.
“A lot of people have huge concerns about its proximity to the Great Lakes,” Scheyen said. “They are potentially the most toxic substance we have.”
Opponents to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization's plans are also concerned about transportation, and the risk of a leak into the environment or communities on the way to the repository.
“How do you bury something and leave it safely there for a million years?” Scheyen asked.
Those in favour of a nuclear waste repository cite the economic benefits.
Most of the communities in the running have faced economic setbacks after losing major employers like paper mills or mines.
In addition to construction jobs, the repository would make its host community recession-proof for more than a century, Scheyen said.
Highly educated people would move to the chosen town and help revitalize its economy.
After touring the film on the festival circuit – where it has garnered a few awards – Scheyen decided to make his movie as accessible as possible to the masses.
The movie is available to rent online for $2.74, and can be purchased for $4.80.
Scheyen said he hopes the film can educate Ontarians about an important issue the province faces.