Radioactive waste near Lake Huron? Saugeen Ojibway Nation and cottagers say no thanks

radioactive waste barrels Zoltan Acs/shutterstock

Though nuclear power provides the majority of Ontario’s energy needs, its radioactive waste products are a tough sell, especially close to one of the Great Lakes.

Since 2005, the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant, located near Kincardine, Ontario, on Lake Huron, has been trying to find an underground repository for its radioactive waste, and has been considering a spot near the plant. The proposed plan involved building storage 680 metres underground and 1.1 kilometres from the lake. The area’s bedrock geology makes it attractive for nuclear waste storage.

Various stakeholders were invited to participate. Susan Davidson, president of the Bruce Beach Cottagers’ Association swung into action in the summer of 2019, creating a survey and urging members to offer their input and attend various meetings in order to educate themselves about the issue.

Davidson then sent her association’s survey results to the mayor, counsellors and committee tasked with approval of the site. Only areas determined to be a “willing host” would be considered for the waste storage site. 

But in late January, another stakeholder group, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), voted overwhelmingly against allowing it, rendering the proposed waste site essentially dead. They had been invited into the discussion of the project by then-environmental minister Catherine McKenna and the project would only go ahead with buy-in from the local Indigenous people.

A spokesperson for SON released a statement noting that “We were not consulted when the nuclear industry was established in our territory…nuclear power generation in Anishnaabekiing has had many impacts on our communities, and our land and waters.”

Davidson notes that the majority of comments she received from her cottage members indicate that they will be pleased with the decision. What’s more, she’s satisfied that her survey and its results likely had an influence in the decision as well.“The bottom line is it’s important that you’re reflecting the voice of your community,” she says. 

In the meantime, the hunt continues for a waste storage site that can house the waste safely for a very long time. 

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