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Vote expected this year on a proposed nuclear waste repository near Lake Huron

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
The Fermi Power Plant on Lake Erie

A decision on the fate of a proposed nuclear waste repository near Lake Huron is expected this year.

The facility would be located in Canada, less than one-mile from the shore of lake Huron.

Michigan U.S. congressman and environmental groups have raised concerns about the site, saying any kind of spill would be catastrophic.

The decision could rest with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. The proposed site would be on tribal territory and Ontario Power Generation, the company behind the site, committed in 2013 not to build the storage site without tribal consent.

Lester Anoquot is Chief of the Saugeen First Nation. He said tribal members as young as 13 may be allowed to participate in a vote on whether the project should move forward.

“We’re exploring the idea. We believe the young people need to have a voice on this decision. Not just people 18 or older per say.”

Fred Kuntz is the Communications Manager for Ontario Power Generation. He said their research shows the nuclear repository would protect the lake. Currently, there are temporary nuclear waste storage sites all across the Great Lakes region, on both the Canadian and U.S. sides.

Kuntz said it is important to find a permanent storage place for nuclear waste.

But, he said, the decision to move forward with the facility ultimately rests with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and the Minister of the Environment.

“This will be determined based on both traditional scientific knowledge and also indigenous traditional knowledge. We’ve done the science and we’re working on the indigenous part and once it’s in the minister's hands it’ll all be up to the minster.”

Chief Anoquot said the decision is one that will be weighed carefully. The Nation expects to hold 20 meetings over the course of the year before taking a vote.

”We want to make sure we do this right and that we don’t leave a legacy of toxicity for everyone.”

Even if the Saugeen Ojibway Nation votes against the project Chief Anoquot said they will stay in talks with Ontario Power about alternatives.