Indigenous community votes down proposed nuclear waste bunker near Lake Huron

Nuclear waste burial

Nuclear waste burial

Since 2013, Congressman Dan Kildee has been fighting against a nuclear waste site in Ontario less than a mile from Lake Huron.

"This is a victory for the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), the people of Ontario, and our worldwide counterparts who share Lake Huron and the Great Lakes with us", said Windsor West MP Masse in a statement.

The 4,500-member Indigenous community said it was never consulted when the nuclear industry was established decades ago. "Over the past 40 years, nuclear power generation in Anishnaabekiing has had many impacts on our communities, and our land and waters, including the production and accumulation of nuclear waste".

In a community vote, held in-person Friday as well as online and via mail, 1,058 SON members voted "no" to the DGR plan, with only 170 supporting it.

Ontario Power Generation spokesperson Fred Kuntz says "OPG respects the decision of the SON community".

At the same time, Anoquot said, the vote showed the need for a new solution for the hazardous waste, a process he said could take many years.

"I don't want to set a specific timeline for OPG's alternate solutions because we're about to embark on a process to find alternate solutions and a site-selection process has to be designed".

"We know that the waste now held in above-ground storage at the Bruce site will not go away", he said. Today, our people have voted against the DGR.

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An official at SON's environment office said the SON chiefs and councils will be consulting with their communities before commenting further.

However, over 230 resolutions have been passed by municipalities and other lawmakers in both the United States and Canada opposing the construction of any nuclear waste repository in the Great Lakes Basin.

That permanent facility could possibly store up to 52 million gallons of low-to-intermediate level nuclear waste underground. In August 2017, then-environment minister Catherine McKenna paused the process - the last in a string of delays for the project - to ensure buy-in from Indigenous people in the area.

The organization, comprising several nuclear plant operators, said it had struck deals with landowners in South Bruce - about 30 minutes east of Kincardine - that will allow it to begin site tests.

After OPG committed to not proceeding with the project without securing Saugeen Ojibway Nation's approval, SON says it went through nearly two years of hearings and launched a community process to inform members about nuclear issues and the DGR project.

The nuclear vault would have been built 680 metres below the Bruce site, in what the crown corporation describes as "strong, dry and impermeable rock" that has been isolated from Lake Huron or any groundwater for hundreds of millions of years. The radioactive material, particular from used fuel, remains highly toxic for centuries.

It was submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in 2005.

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