Lots of voices have been heard about whether to dig a deep geological repository for storing low- and medium-level nuclear waste about half a mile down and less than a mile from Lake Huron.
Canadian and U.S. environmental groups and even members of the U.S. Congress have registered protests; some local municipality councils voted support, and a federally appointed joint review panel recommended licensing it. A decision, originally scheduled for mid-December, has been delayed until March 1, when Ontario Power Generation may get a decision from the Ministry of the Environment about proceeding with its multimillion dollar, multi-decade project.
But whether a repository is constructed at that site could come down to just one voice —that of the people of the Saugeen First Nation.
“Ontario Power Generation had given us their commitment that they will not proceed unless they have community support. That’s a letter that we have on file,” Saugeen Chief Vernon Roote told Indian Country Today Media Network. Roote publically expressed his opposition in the November 2015 Saugeen News, and also noted that he was concerned about simply moving the facility near other First Nations. “We might not be the best of friends when we push nuclear waste on our brothers’ and sisters’ territory.”
Saugeen leaders are determining how to gauge the community voice—by vote at public gatherings or perhaps at the polls—and whether they will favor the facility or not. They’ve held engagement sessions on the issue.
“There’s a big gap between now and then in terms of communicating with the community,” Roote said of any final decision. “The community needs to be educated before they can understand. I can’t say what the community will provide for an answer.”
“We will not build this facility without their support. We are on record with that; we’ve been very clear about that,” agreed Ontario Power spokesperson Neal Kelly. “We’re learning about the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, we’re learning about their history, about their way of life. And on the flipside, they’re learning about Ontario Power Generation. Hopefully there will be a positive resolution, but we’re very much in the learning phase.”
Ontario Power is pursuing a permanent storage solution for waste generated in the past 50 years by its three nuclear power operations, including the Bruce Power Plant, where the repository would be located.
“We have a long list of fears, legitimate fears in our community about these facilities, interaction with our rights, our interests and our way of life,” then–Saugeen Ojibwe Nation Chief Randall Kahgee told Indian Country Today Media Network in 2013.
By Konnie LeMay, 12/11/15, as posted in Indian Country