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Federal agency to make recommendation on Lake Huron nuclear waste dump in fall 2017

The Council of Canadians has been calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reject a plan to bury 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste near Lake Huron.

A federal review panel approved the nuclear waste dump in May 2015. They reportedly accepted testimony that Lake Huron would be large enough to dilute radioactive pollution should a leak from the repository occur. The proposed waste site would be located on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. That nation has not given their free, prior and informed consent to the project.

There has also been significant opposition to the plan in the United States. The Detroit News has reported, “[In November 2015], a dozen members of Michigan’s congressional delegation wrote to Trudeau, urging the new prime minister to deny the construction permits necessary for the storage facility to be built.”

While the Liberal platform in the October 2015 federal election promised “the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, to “renew our commitment to protect the Great Lakes” and asserted that “government should base its policies on facts, not make up facts to suit a preferred policy”, it is not clear that the Trudeau government will reject the nuclear waste site.

In February 2016, The Globe and Mail reported, “In a letter to the provincially-owned utility, [federal environment minister Catherine] McKenna delayed a decision on whether to approve [Ontario Power Generation’s] proposed deep geologic repository [DGR] for low– and medium-level radioactive waste. Instead, she told OPG to submit additional studies, including assessments on possible alternatives to the currently proposed site at the Bruce nuclear station in Kincardine, Ont., and on the cumulative impacts of siting other nuclear waste facilities in the region.”

The Council of Canadians agrees with the Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump campaign that the Trudeau government should have rejected the proposal at that time rather than delaying their decision.

Now, the Associated Press reports, “Relocating a nuclear-waste bunker from its currently proposed site on Lake Huron would cost billions of dollars, take decades to execute, and increase health and environmental risks, according to a new report by the project’s proponent. The report by Ontario Power Generation, done at the request of the federal environment minister, also asserts that the public doesn’t really care about the proposal for the deep geologic repository even though scores of Great Lakes communities in both Canada and the United States have denounced the plan.”

The article adds, “The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will now review and assess the utility’s report, allow time for public comment, and come up with its own recommendations to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in the fall. The agency notes the timeline could change if it requires more information. For its part, however, OPG insists it’s time to set aside any criticism and get on with digging the bunker — at the Bruce site.”

The Ontario Power Generation report says, “There is little interest among the general public regarding the DGR project. Ontarians are not looking for information on nuclear-waste disposal in large volumes. This topic is not a popular one nor is it generating large volumes of curiosity.” And yet, local residents and many others have stated that it’s unacceptable to them that nuclear waste that is considered hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years could be stored just hundreds of metres from the Great Lakes, the source of drinking water for about 40 million people in two countries.

To send a letter to federal environment minister Catherine McKenna calling on her to “reject Ontario Power Generation’s application to build a deep geologic repository (DGR) for low and intermediate level radioactive waste next to Lake Huron”, please go to our “No nuclear waste near the Great Lakes’ shores” action alert here.