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Saugeen Ojibway Nation could stop nuclear waste dump on Lake Huron

Maude Barlow Lake Huron

Barlow visits Lake Huron

A federal panel has approved a proposed low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste disposal site near Lake Huron. If the project is approved by the Harper government, nuclear waste that is considered hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years would be stored just hundreds of metres from the Great Lakes, the source of drinking water for about 40 million people in two countries.

The Toronto Star reports, “A federal panel has given an overall seal of approval to the controversial nuclear waste disposal site proposed for a subterranean crypt below the Bruce nuclear station near Kincardine, Ont. …The panel’s favourable view of the project, proposed by Ontario Power Generation [OPG], overcomes a major regulatory hurdle in the construction of the Deep Geologic Repository, or DGR in industry jargon… OPG proposes to bury 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from its nuclear power plants in a thick layer of limestone 680 metres below ground, about a kilometre from Lake Huron.”

The article adds, “Overall, the report says, the risk posed by a nuclear waste site is much less of a threat to the Great Lakes than numerous other factors, including invasive species, climate change and other forms of pollution. ‘The Panel is of the view that the relative position of the proposed project within the spectrum of risks to the Great Lakes is a minor one, albeit one that demands strict attention and regulation’, it said.”

In about four months time – so around early-September, just prior to the October 19 election – federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq could approve the project.

Construction of the DGR could begin in 2018 and it could be in service by 2025.

In terms of our hope to stop this from happening, the article highlights, “Environmental approval is not all the project needs, however. OPG says it will not go ahead with the project over the objections of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, in whose traditional territory the site lies. Talks are continuing, but Saugeen has not yet given its agreement.”

In August 2013, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow met with Randall Kahgee, the previous Chief of the Saugeen First Nation. He was very much opposed to storing nuclear waste near water. He has stated, “Without it we are lost. We are being told something, the water is speaking to us, the question is, are we listening? We have to be the voice of the generation to come. [They’ll ask] what efforts or steps did we take to protect what is most vital to each and every one of us?”

Barlow and the Council of Canadians will soon be sharing their concerns about the proposed DGR with the current Saugeen First Nation Chief Vernon Roote.

We are calling for the Great Lakes to be declared a commons, public trust and protected bio-region. In the report titled Our Great Lakes Commons: A People’s Plan to Protect the Great Lakes Forever, Barlow highlighted the threat that nuclear power poses to the Great Lakes. She has also commented, “I don’t know how to say this other than this is an act of insanity, this would be a crime against future generations, this is a crime against nature. We know what’s in this nuclear waste… and to even conceive burying it within one kilometre of these lakes is absolutely the most terrible idea I can think of.”

Further reading
Opposition forms against nuclear waste dump on Lake Huron (April 2011 blog)
Nuclear waste repository is a serious threat to the Great Lakes, warns Council of Canadians (May 2011 media release)