Dec. 13, 2012, WALKERTON

Growing concerns about the targeting of the eastern shore of Lake Huron for the burial of radioactive waste, and the lack of transparency in that process, have prompted the formation of a new regional umbrella group to oppose the nuclear industry’s plans.

The Bluewater Coalition Against the DGRs brings together several citizens’ groups in the three counties to share information and strategy, it was announced in Walkerton on Dec. 13, 2012.

“We feel that people throughout our region aren’t getting the truth,” said Cheryl Grace, a spokesperson for Save Our Saugeen Shores (SOS).

“A regional body is needed because there are now numerous groups in Bruce County upset about this,” said Brockton councillor Chris Peabody. “The information being provided is all from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) and it’s all one-sided. For example, people have been led to believe getting your farm picked for this [as a site expropriated for a deep geological repository] will be like winning the lottery. It won’t be like that at all. And, they are saying different things to different communities about the size of the site.”

There are two radioactive-waste-burial plans under consideration in the region.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) proposes to construct a deep geological repository (DGR 1) for all of Ontario’s low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste near Tiverton, Ont., at a site less than one kilometre from Lake Huron. A joint panel is now reviewing environmental and public impacts of the project.

Meanwhile, the NWMO, an agency created by federal legislation but funded by the nuclear industry, is searching for a municipality that will agree to become a ‘willing host’ for a DGR for all of Canada’s high-level radioactive waste. The councils of six communities in this region — Saugeen Shores, Arran-Elderslie, Brockton, Huron-Kinloss and South Bruce in Bruce County and Central Huron in Huron County — have expressed interest in their municipalities becoming the site for such a DGR. If one of these communities ‘won,’ radioactive used fuel would be trucked to them from reactors in Tiverton, Darlington, Pickering, Chalk River, Gentilly in Quebec and Point Lepreau in New Brunswick.

The organizers of the new coalition say it’s the downplaying of the extreme risk in the projects proposed that have prompted them to join forces.

“We need to get the whole area aware of what’s happening on Lake Huron,” said Ruth MacLean, a Presbyterian minister in the Kincardine area. “One-fifth of the world’s fresh water is in the Great Lakes. We need everybody who’s concerned about fresh water to learn about this.”

“It’s not just ‘not in my backyard’ in this case. It’s ‘not in our bread basket,’ said Tony McQuail, an organic farmer in Huron County, a member of the Ecological Farmers of Ontario and president of the Huron National Farmers Union. “Southwestern Ontario is a hugely important food-producing area, and we are talking about the risk of contamination with an unproven system beside our Great Lakes. We need to share information, so the NWMO can’t play one community off against the other.”

Members of the group also mention concerns about the OPG and the NWMO ‘stage-managing two processes, and a lack of transparency in the actions of  their local municipal councils

‘My council [Kincardine] really doesn’t want to have a debate [on DGR 1]. All they say about the DGR is how much they had learned from the OPG and the OPG had answered all their questions,” said Jutta Splettstoesser, who farms in Huron-Kinloss.

Adds Marti McFadzean, chairperson of the Inverhuron Committee,  “Kincardine signed their hosting agreement [for DGR 1] before they consulted the community. Then they did a survey we feel is questionable. And this, when the decision to bury nuclear waste right next to the Great Lakes could be the biggest environmental mistake of our generation.”

Only two councillors, Peabody of Brockton and David Wood of South Bruce have voted against their municipalities continuing in the NWMO process for the high-level DGR.

The regional group also notes their councils’ apparent lack of interest in seeking out any but the nuclear industry’s point of view.

“When the Canadian dean of nuclear critics, Gordon Edwards, spoke in Saugeen Shores in August, we know of only two councillors from the region attending, said Grace of SOS, which organized Edwards’ lecture.

“It’s clear the mayors have been given talking points by the NWMO. They just say they want to learn more [in explaining why they entered the NWMO process],” said Peabody. “It’s a difficult corner to be painted into.  So it’s very important that groups share information and develop a common front.”

Peabody said the new group will focus on coordinating activities to disseminate information more widely throughout the region, in the rural areas particularly. Grace added that the group wants to reach out to all the municipalities that may be affected. “Don’t forget that the waste has to travel through towns like Harriston, Clifford, and the Greater Toronto Area.”

Despite the challenges, the newly formed group, the Bluewater Coalition says opposition to the DGRs is gaining momentum. “SOS realized early on that this is a regional issue affecting the whole Great Lakes Basin,” said Grace.

“We’re now hearing from people not just in Walkerton, Lion’s Head, Stayner, Dundalk, Orangeville, Harriston, Mount Forest and Wiarton, but farther afield in Caledon, Windsor, Sarnia and Michigan.”

Recently, for example, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley has urged the Chicago-based Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative to oppose DGR 1.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT  Cheryl Grace, 519 483-5537 or AND Chris Peabody, 519 506-0648

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