Michigan officials fighting Ontario's nuke site get support from feds

Nov 14, 2013

Canada’s federal review panel wrapped up its public hearings on Ontario Power Generation’s request to build an underground nuclear waste site on the coast of Lake Huron last week, but not before hearing from the feds on this side of the border.

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, along with several fellow Democrats in the Michigan congressional delegation --Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint, Sander Levin of Royal Oak, who represents much of Macomb County, and John Dingell of Dearbon -- sent a letter to the Canadian review panel urging it to consider the potential threat that the site could pose to the Great Lakes. They also called for an open dialogue as the process proceeds.

In addition, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to get involved.

“I am ecstatic,” said state Rep. Sarah Roberts, a St. Clair Shores Democrat, who along with State Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, a Taylor Democrat, have been leading the charge against the project. They spoke at the recent public hearings in Ontario and introduced resolutions in the Legislature urging U.S. officials to oppose the proposed nuke site.

“I’m very proud of the work that so many of us have done to get the attention of our federal elected officials.”

Ontario Power Generation is seeking a license to construct an underground permanent burial facility for all of Ontario’s low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ont. That’s less than a mile inland from the shores of Lake Huron and about 440 yards below the lake level. Kincardine is a small community about 114 miles upstream from Port Huron.

The plan calls for shipping an estimated 52 million tons of nuclear waste to the site from other nuclear plants around Canada. Some of those discarded materials will remain toxic for more than 100,000 years as they are stored in limestone caverns.

Once full, the shafts are to be sealed with sand, clay and concrete. What concerns many is whether or not the limestone can maintain its integrity over the years and keep toxins out of harm’s way.

“This nuclear storage facility is anticipated to remain radioactive for over 10,000 years; as a result, it will impact the people of both countries for perpetuity,” the congressman stated in their letter to the review panel.

They also pointed out that millions of people, both in the U.S. and Canada, depend on fresh water from the Great Lakes for drinking, fishing, and tourism.

“If the Great Lakes were to be contaminated with nuclear waste, it would cause significant damage to this vital natural resource” the lawmakers wrote.

The group recommended an environmental assessment focused on the location of the facility be made with great caution and deliberation.

Though recognizing Canada’s right to decide its own energy future, the House members urged the panel to include federal, state, provincial and local governments on both sides of the border in the deliberations.

They also urged the Canadians to explore other locations that might not put the lakes at risk.

In their letter to Secretary of State Kerry, Stabenow and Levin urged their former Senate colleague to “engage the International Join Commission on this important topic but also encourage the Canadian government to reconsider placing a nuclear waste dump near the shores of Lake Huron.”

Now that the public hearings concerning OPG’s proposed deep geological repository, or DGR, are over, the panel will take 90 days to review the material and opinions.

It will then present its recommendations to Canada’s Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq. She will bring the issue forward to Canada’s ruling cabinet officers.

Roberts said she will continue her efforts to increase public awareness, “I think the more that any of us do to talk about our concerns about the project,” she said, “the more public it will become and the more pressure we can put on the joint review panel and the Ontario government to oppose it.”


For more information about the proposed deep geological repository on the shores of Lake Huron visit: ecowatch.com; stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.com; saveoursaugeenshores.org; opg.com; ccnr.org (Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility)

A freighter passes by the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron. Michigan officials are concerned about the threat to the Great Lakes posed by a proposed underground nuclear waste site.

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