Ontario First Nations demand a say over nuclear waste storage (May 2015)

First Nations in Northern Ontario say municipalities are opening their doors to the federal organization that is looking for a place to dump nuclear waste but most of the sites being proposed lie outside municipal boundaries on traditional treaty land.

Isadore Day, the Lake Huron Regional Grand Chief, has written to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to ask her government to talk directly with First Nations and to “come to a fair and acceptable resolution” about the location of the $24-billion Deep Geological Repository for the waste generated by nuclear reactors.

Environmental groups and some local residents reacted angrily earlier this month when a federal review panel agreed that a repository far below ground near Kincardine, Ont., could be used to store low-and intermediate radioactive nuclear waste including clothing and used parts.

But the hunt for a place to permanently store used fuel bundles, a far more contentious form of the hazardous material, continues. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has narrowed its search to nine municipalities – three in the southwestern part of Ontario and six in the North.

Those municipalities have all told the organization they are willing to explore the possibility of being a host site for the repository that will take decades to build and will store the spent nuclear fuel bundles for 400,000 years or more until they are safely non-toxic. Having the site nearby will mean increased jobs and improved infrastructure for a community.

All of the municipalities that finished the preliminary phase of the assessment received a $400,000 “sustainability and well-being” payment from the NWMO for showing leadership on a difficult national public policy issue.

But, even though it is the municipalities that are being consulted and compensated, most of the sites being considered for the dump lie well outside of their jurisdictions on traditional First Nations territory, said Mr. Day.

“The actual sites being looked at are on treaty lands and municipalities have no say about what happens on those lands,” Mr. Day says in his letter to Ms. Wynne. “This matter is a discussion that must take place between treaty partners.”

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GLORIA GALLOWAY, OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail, Published Thursday, May 21, 2015 11:30AM EDT

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