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Health, Science and Environment

Proposed nuclear waste site on shores of Lake Huron overwhelmingly voted down

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NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Labratory
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A proposed nuclear waste site on the shores of Lake Huron in Canada has been voted down by the native tribe that owns the land.

The Saugeen-Ojibway Nation, on whose land the nuclear storage site was proposed, voted overwhelmingly to oppose the placement of the site on their territory.

Fred Kuntz is a spokesperson for Ontario Power Generation, which proposed the storage site for low and intermediate level nuclear waste.

“The decision was clear from Saugeen-Ojibway nation  and OPG respects that decision,” Kuntz said. “Next steps include moving forward to find an alternate solution.”

There are roughly forty temporary nuclear storage facilities along the shores of the Great Lakes.

Kuntz said the company believes a deep repository is the only long term solution to nuclear waste.

“OPG believes the responsible thing to do is find permanent disposal because the waste is hazardous for a long period of time, thousands of years. You can’t really say with confidence that you can maintain buildings, maintain packages, for thousands of years.”

A statement from the Saugeen-Ojibway called the decision a “historic milestone and momentous victory” in the exercise of Aboringinal Treaty Rights.

Kuntz acknowledged that OPG hasn’t always respected the rights of the Saugeen-Ojibway.

                      

“If you go back, we’re a 100-year old company, in the early days there wasn’t always engagement or consultation where there should have been,” he said. “This is a good model going forward for us to build social support, build license, in the communities where we operate.”

A spokesperson for the Saugeen-Ojibway said the tribe would continue to work with OPG to ensure the earth is protected for future generations.

Although the vote means that Ontario Power Generation will have to find an alternative site a second nuclear waste storage facility for high level waste has already been proposed near Lake Huron.

High level nuclear waste can stay radioactive for roughly one million years.

The Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organization is currently considering two potential sites, one on the shores of Lake Huron and the other north of Minnesota.

Both OPG and the NWMO have said that limestone under Lake Huron is an ideal long-term storage place for nuclear waste.

NWMO hopes to have a site selected by 2023.