May 25, 2022

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is running out of time to find a permanent solution for storing radioactive nuclear waste.

Dry storage containers, the current method of storing contaminated items, have a minimum life span of fifty years and is ‘80s technology, according to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a non-profit overseen by the government.

A permanent dumpsite is needed for low and intermediate-level nuclear waste. The secure Bruce nuclear site in Kincardine, Ont., is the proposed location but it’s on the unceded territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON).

The items, including contaminated worker clothing and tools, could be radioactive for 100 years while resins, filters and used reactor components could be toxic for 100,000 years, according to NWMO.

These items need to be buried in something called a deep geologic repository (DGR), which will be buried 680 metres underground, deeper than the CN Tower is tall.

A ratification vote has been called by the SON and will be held collectively on Chippewas of Saugeen First Nations at the James Mason Memorial, Culture & Recreation Centre and on Chippewas of Nawash First Nation at the Cape Croker Community Centre on Jan. 31.

Talks with OPG and several information sessions have been held to date.  A detailed information booklet is available for the nearly 4,000 band members who are eligible to vote.

The voting age has been lowered to 16 and there will be a special information session for young people on Jan. 25-26 at the Outdoor Education Centre, between Sauble Beach and Wiarton.

Two community members said concerns over the proposal have been heightened by the accidental emergency broadcast message that was sent to thousands of people from the Pickering nuclear plant early on Sunday, Jan. 12.

London resident Jane Meathrel said in a Facebook post, the waste site should be located “as far away as possible from the Great Lakes. I do not trust ‘the experts’ that it is not dangerous.”

Concerns about the adverse impacts on water quality are a key reason people around the power plant are saying no to nuclear waste being buried so close to their homes and livelihoods. Many rely on the fish from Lake Huron for food and income.

“We the people who live on this continent are well aware that we have the worlds greatest freshwater resources,” said Sue Boles, who leases land for a cottage in Neyaashiinigaaming. “We have a duty and an obligation to protect it for future generations and the world.”

Boles brings her grandson to the beach near her cottage to swim every year.

President and CEO of Bruce Power, Mike Rencheck, was not available for comment,  but said on their website, “We recognize our role and work to ensure our decision-making process incorporates environmental, social, cultural and economic systems.”

Saugeen resident and band member Kim George is voting no and if she had a voice when the plant was first built, she would have said no then too.

“I think most of us have always had an underlying fear of the nuke plant,” she said. “The planned nuclear DGR is compounding that fear.”

Online voting has begun for off-reserve band members and will be open until Jan. 31.

Even with a yes vote, there will still be many years, possibly decades before the facility is built. 

Ontario Power Generation has guaranteed that if the vote is no, they will abide by the decision and begin to look for another location.

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