Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation says ‘no’ to nuclear waste in Flin Flon area

By Jonathon Naylor, Winnipeg Free Press, July /17/2014

The most controversial economic-development proposal in the history of this area may have just had its Elijah Harper moment.

Brandishing a feather in her hand, Eileen Linklater announced her native band, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, is against bringing radioactive waste to the Flin Flon region.

"We don’t want (any) nuclear waste in our territory," Linklater, a PBCN councillor, told officials studying the concept in May.

To say PBCN’s opposition complicates the potential of nuclear-waste storage in Creighton, Flin Flon’s sister community just across the Saskatchewan border, is an understatement.

Creighton (pop. 1,498) is involved in the early, learning phase with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which is mandated to find a site to stockpile Canada’s nuclear waste.The waste — spent nuclear fuel rods from nuclear power plants — will be buried about 500 metres underground in a highly secure repository.

The geology of the chosen area must be sound, but just as importantly, surrounding residents must convincingly demonstrate they want the project. On that point, NWMO has placed heavy emphasis on the will of First Nations people, recognizing they have "unique status and rights," says the agency’s website. With this in mind, Linklater attended a May meeting of the Community Liaison Committee, a group that forms a bridge between Flin Flon-Creighton-area residents and NWMO.

During question period, she dropped the bombshell that her band had adopted a resolution opposing any nuclear-waste storage "in or around PBCN communities, lands, or traditional territories.""You should know of the pros and cons," Linklater, a grandmotherly figure with a no-nonsense air about her, told the meeting. "All you think about is money here. Money. But after that money is gone, what’s going to happen?"

"…science is not infallible, and PBCN — as well as many residents — worry something could go terribly wrong."

PBCN is one of the largest native bands in Saskatchewan, with over 10,000 members in northeastern Saskatchewan. Many PBCN members live in Flin Flon-Creighton, and even more utilize the community as a service centre.

Despite the band’s lucidly worded resolution, NWMO says Creighton remains in the learning phase of the project along with more than a dozen Ontario communities."NWMO will continue its efforts to engage PBCN, to answer their questions, address their concerns and understand their views on Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term care of used nuclear fuel," said NWMO spokesman Mike Krizanc.

Krizanc reiterated, as he often does, that Creighton is in the early stages of a lengthy procedure to learn about nuclear-waste storage.

The final decision on where the repository will go is probably a decade away. PBCN’s hostile position disappoints advocates who genuinely view the repository as the region’s best hope to finally shed its status as a one-industry (mining) town.

NWMO foresees 400 to 1,200 jobs during a construction phase of up to a decade. After that, it will take upwards of 40 years to truck waste to the repository, creating 600 to 800 jobs. Once transportation is complete, roughly 200 people will be needed to maintain the repository for an undetermined period of time, perhaps indefinitely.NWMO has gone to great lengths to illustrate the safety of the project and its reliance on the best available science.

Earlier this year, Neale Hunt, manager of safety assessment for NWMO, shared research showing the anticipated annual radiation dose for someone living atop a nuclear-waste repository would be far, far less than an average Canadian’s exposure from everyday sources.

Still, science is not infallible, and PBCN — as well as many residents

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