Kildee opposing nuke waste near Lake Huron

Apr 14, 2015 Issues: Environment

Detroit — U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, wants President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to take a more active role in preventing the Canadian government from permanently burying nuclear waste in the province of Ontario, less than a mile from Lake Huron.

Kildee plans to introduce a congressional resolution on Monday seeking an alternative site for Canada's radioactive waste, where it won't harm U.S. commerce or public health. His intiative urges the Obama administration to "take appropriate action to work with the Canadian government to prevent a permanent nuclear waste repository from being built within the Great Lakes Basin," and to work with the Canadians to find a "safe and responsible solution" for the long-term storage of nuclear waste.

"We're simply asking the Canadian government ... to consider a site that is not so close to the world's greatest freshwater resource ...," he said Friday.

Canada's Ontario Power Generation has worked for years to secure approval for its deep geologic repository near Kincardine. Officials with the company contend that the geologic makeup of the strata beneath the surface is ideally suited to housing low-to-mid-level nuclear wastes for centuries.

Given the planned facility's proximity to Lake Huron, Kildee isn't content with those safety assurances. As an example, he pointed to a radiation leak last year at the U.S. storage facility near Carlsbad, New Mexico.

"That's one of the risks nations take when they enter into the creation of nuclear facilities," he said. "But we should never be in a position where if one of those systems fails, or if human error causes there to be a radioactive release, that it would affect a shared water source."

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Five others from the Michigan delegation are signing on to co-sponsor the measure: Reps. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township; John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit; Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak; Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn. Other sponsors include Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio; Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio; Brian Higgins, D-New York; and Louise M. Slaughter, D-New York.

But similar calls in the past have generated little response. In 2013, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin sent a letter to the U.S. State Department asking for the federal agency to get involved in the growing dispute. At a morning press event, Kildee touched on the possible reasons behind Kerry's reluctance to get involved.

"I think very often what happens, in a nation-to-nation discussion, is that administrations tend to think about the entirety of a relationship ...," he said. "My concern is that, in the interest of continuing to keep Canada as an ally, for example in multilateral trade negotiations, the U.S. government may not want to offend the Canadians."

The resolution describes the lakes as "precious public natural resources" shared by the U.S. and Canada, which have worked to improve water quality since 1909. Both countries are represented on the International Joint Commission, a body set up to to handle border-related disputes. In order for the agency to get involved, however, the secretary of state must make a formal request.

Friday, Kildee said: "That would logically be a place to adjudicate these kinds of differences."

The initiative comes just weeks ahead of the expected release of a report on May 6 from the panel appointed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to study the proposed facility's construction. After receiving the panel's report, Canada's minister of environment has four months to decide whether to proceed.

The facility would store up to 52 million gallons of low- to intermediate-level nuclear waste about 2,230 feet underground inside limestone caverns near its Bruce Nuclear Generating Station.

More than 145 municipalities in the region have passed resolutions opposing the waste site. Cities include Toronto, Chicago, St. Clair Shores and Wayne County.

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