The next Land Back battleground will be north of Lake Superior, as Chiefs say no to nuclear waste on their traditional lands
August 10, 2022
Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Minister Guilbeault,
I am writing today regarding the proposed high level nuclear waste deep geological repository (DGR) proposed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) in South Bruce,
Ontario. I understand that this is one of two site selections alongside Ignace, Ontario, and I am writing specifically in reference to the proposal at South Bruce. I stand firmly against this plan to store high level radioactive waste anywhere in, or near, the Great Lakes basin.
As you know, the former DGR proposal by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) near Saugeen, Ontario, was dangerously close to the Great Lakes. Moreover, the residents and indigenous communities there strongly opposed the proposal.
DGRs not only threaten the health and vitality of the respective communities at the sites, it also poses serious risks to the Great Lakes - the primary source of drinking water for over 40 million Canadians and Americans. In South Bruce, the Teeswater River is a tributary of Lake Huron and there is no guarantee that the water will not be contaminated in the future. Moreover, it is impossible to guarantee that the waste containers will not degrade and cause irreparable damage to future generations. Not one of the NWMO’s scientists or geologists can say with absolute certainty that this will not happen.
Furthermore, I have introduced Motion 15 on the Order Paper which reads:
M-15 — November 23, 2021 — Mr. Masse (Windsor West) — That, in the opinion of the House, the government should defer further review and any approval of the Deep Geologic Repository project environmental assessment for all levels of radioactive waste at any site until such time as: (a) an independent technical body is established and has completed (i) an evaluation of the state of technical and scientific knowledge with respect to deep geological repositories for nuclear waste, (ii) an assessment as to whether Canada’s regulatory regime is sufficiently robust to adequately support an environmental assessment and licensing review of proposals for deep geologic repositories; (b) there is a full evaluation of alternatives to the proposed deep geologic repository, including alternative sites, alternative designs and alternative methods; and (c) residents, stakeholders and rights holders in the Great Lakes Basin, including in potential host communities, neighbouring communities, transportation corridor communities, and the broader Great Lakes community, are engaged in a direct and active dialogue facilitated by a trusted third party.
An historical precedent has been set by the United States. In 1986, the US Department of Energy investigated a similar nuclear waste repository site in the Great Lakes basin. In response, then Secretary of State for External Affairs, the Right Honourable Joe Clark released an official statement:
“I and several of my Cabinet colleagues have made it clear to our US counterparts that this Government opposes any development that could present a transboundary threat to the welfare of Canadians or the integrity of the Canadian environment.”
As a result of Clark’s intervention, the US sites in shared water basins were eliminated from consideration.
Minister, we know that the irradiated nuclear fuel removed from Canadian nuclear reactors is highly radioactive and will remain so for hundreds of thousands of years. In comparison, the
Great Lakes were only formed 10,000 years ago. This irradiated nuclear fuel must be completely isolated from the environment.
We also know that there is no operating DGR for high level radioactive spent fuel anywhere in the world, despite multiple countries having invested heavily in researching this concept over decades.
Therefore, I urge you to consider placing a moratorium on current and future DGR proposals and alternatively consider using a “rolling stewardship” model instead. This model would provide a responsible waste management scheme in the meantime. Instead of abandoning the waste, rolling stewardship maintains the status quo until a scientifically proven safe alternative for storage can be developed. It allows for timely corrective action when needed, ensures monitoring, robust packaging and retrievability and repackaging if necessary. Rolling stewardship is not a solution but is what is required until a safe solution can be found.
We cannot afford to harm the Great Lakes, the environment or ecosystems that these lakes support. I truly hope that you will consider action on this file before it is too late.
Should you have any future questions or concerns on this issue, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
Brian Masse MP
NDP Innovation, Science and Industry Critic, NDP International Trade and Canada-US Border
Critic, and Great Lakes Critic
Vice-Chair, Canada-US inter-Parliamentary Group
Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s chiefs-in-assembly passed a resolution Wednesday “vehemently” opposing the possibility of an underground repository for nuclear waste in Northern Ontario.
The chiefs’ resolution calls on Nishnawbe Aski Nation, or NAN, which represents 49 First Nation communities within Northern Ontario, to take action to stop such a possibility, including through protest and possible legal action.
“We’re fighting for our young people. We’re talking hundreds of years from now – that’s who we’re speaking up for,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Derek Fox in an interview. “NAN is going to do all it can – and I was mandated by the chiefs to do all we can – to stop this from happening.”
Chiefs, youth leaders and women’s advocates raised concerns during NAN’s annual Keewaywin Conference, which is being held in Timmins, Ont., this week. Some leaders also expressed anger at a lack of consultation of NAN’s communities over the possible site. The chiefs’ resolution speaks to a years-long search by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, or NWMO, for a site to build a “deep geological repository,” or GDR, which would see Canada’s spent nuclear fuel stored in a facility located at least 500 metres below-ground.
That search has been narrowed to two possible sites: one located between Ignace and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation in Northern Ontario, which is the site of concern to NAN, and another near South Bruce, Ont. A decision between the two sites is expected by the end of 2023, said Bob Watts, NWMO’s vice-president of Indigenous relations and strategic programs.
“We keep going, we’ve been fighting for 30 years, it’s just one more step“, trumpeted Régine Millarakis, 71, from the collective “Bure Stop 55“, in the alleys of this militant mobilization, in Hévilliers (Meuse).
For Juliette Geoffroy, spokesperson for the Collective against the burial of radioactive waste (Cedra), this DUP even represents “a springboard” to remobilize the opponents.
Some 31 associations and collectives also intend to file “beginning of september“an appeal to the Council of State, according to Angélique Huguin, of the”Legal Front against Cigeo“which brings together activists, lawyers and jurists.
Soberly named Industrial Geological Storage Center (Cigéo), the project aims to bury some 85,000 m3 of waste – the most radioactive of the French nuclear fleet – 500 meters underground on the borders of the Meuse and Haute-Marne.
The National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (Andra), which is piloting this project, hopes to store the first “packageof nuclear waste by 2035-2040.