Science

Indigenous community votes down proposed nuclear waste bunker near Lake Huron

Indigenous community votes down proposed nuclear waste bunker near Lake Huron”

On Friday, members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation voted overwhelmingly against the project.

OPG's DGR at the Bruce site would have been for low- and intermediate-level waste from OPG-owned generating stations at Pickering, Darlington and Bruce.

"We were not consulted when the nuclear industry was established in our territory", SON said in a statement.

While Kincardine was a "willing host", the relative proximity of the proposed bunker to the lake sparked a backlash elsewhere in Canada and the United States.

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

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

After 14 years of study and consultation on the proposal, an independent joint review panel recommended to the federal government in 2015 that the DGR proceed. 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.

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Low-level waste includes items used at nuclear facilities, like mop heads, gloves, clothes and floor sweepings, according to OPG, while intermediate-level nuclear waste includes things like used filters and resins and reactor components.

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Out of 1,232 total votes, just 170 voted "yes", while 1,058 voted "no", with four spoiled ballots.

The DGR project, as submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in 2005, would have been built 680 metres below the Bruce site, in strong, dry and impermeable rock that has been isolated from the lake or any groundwater for hundreds of millions of years. "Any new process is going to include engagement with indigenous people, as well as interested municipalities".

"We know that the waste now held in above-ground storage at the Bruce site will not go away", Nadjiwon says.

The Owen Sound Sun-Times reported in December SON would have received $150-million if it supported the OPG's proposal to build the DGR. "We worked for many years for our right to exercise jurisdiction in our Territory and the free, prior and informed consent of our People will be recognized".

As OPG explores alternative solutions for permanent disposal, "a priority is our continuing efforts in waste minimization", Morton said.

OPG's CEO Ken Hartwick says, "To enjoy the benefits of this low carbon, low-cost, and reliable source of energy with peace of mind, we must manage the waste responsibly".

Ontario depends heavily on nuclear power for its electricity but a permanent storage solution for the increasing amounts of waste now stored above ground has proven elusive.

SON's vote did not concern a second DGR project, proposed to store highly radioactive used nuclear fuel rods.



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