Following the trail to nuclear funding

Dear editor,

As we go into 2024 the Nuclear Waste management Organization (NWMO) is preparing to announce who the “lucky” community will be to become the host community for all of Canada’s toxic radioactive waste. This process has been ongoing for over four decades and during those four decades several Northern Ontario communities have declined the offer.

Ignace and Wabigoon First Nations are the two host communities here in NW Ontario that are still in the selection process. Another community Teeswater in S. Ontario is in very close proximity to all of Ontario’s nuclear plants and is also in the running for this toxic waste dump. Teeswater on average is “less than 250 kilometers” from all of Ontario’s nuclear plants and the closest nuclear plant, the Bruce, North America’s largest nuclear plant is literally only a few kilometers away. If radioactive waste is shipped to N.W. Ontario to be dumped for disposal, some of the travel distance exceeds 2500 kilometers from Maces Bay Point LePreau nuclear plant in New Brunswick and from S. Ontario the shipping distance from Ontario’s nuclear plants is 1643 kilometers on average from the three Ontario nuclear plants. Ontario produces 90% of this toxic waste.

Looking at the travel distances and considering two to four truckloads daily of this toxic waste will be on the highways for up to 50 years one has to ask the question; why would the NWMO (a branch of the nuclear industry) or for that matter our provincial and federal governments want to put millions of people at risk in the event of an accident spilling this toxic waste onto our highways and potentially into our watersheds? The nuclear industry is regulated and overseen by our provincial and federal governments so they have a responsibility to keep our communities and highways safe. I have approached both my Federal MP Marcus Powlowski and Provincial MPP Kevin Holland on this issue.  In a conversation in Atikokan with Marcus Powlowski MP for a meet and greet session, his response to my question was: “it has to go somewhere.” The response I got from MPP Kevin Holland was an email brushing me off and referring me back to the NWMO the people in charge of the dump selection process. Kevin Holland did not address the issue. My impression from both of these politicians was they do not want to deal with the issue or even talk about it. Why? You tow the party line or you don’t last long in politics. Both Federal and Provincial governments are presently supporting the nuclear industry at the public’s expense and risk. To say the least, I and a lot of other people are disappointed at the lack of concern these two politicians have for their constituents who have valid questions that need to be addressed and go unanswered.

In addition to the risks associated with transporting this dangerous waste over long distances on some of the most dangerous highways in Canada, the whole process of selecting a site for this toxic waste has to be brought into question. Over the course of 10 years the NWMO has given millions of dollars to these communities in what they call “wellness money”! Ignace has received over $10 million, Dryden has received over $4 million and the amount of money given to Wabigoon First Nation is not open to public scrutiny. The wellness money is for these communities to learn more and only a willing and learned community will be selected as a host community. This is the rhetoric espoused by NWMO.  The money given to these communities is not dictated how it will be spent. Ignace purchased a fire truck for $779,000, a compressor for their arena at $44,000, a gas stove for their arena at $12,000, $85,000 for playground equipments, $5,000 for school jerseys, $ 2,3000 for bouncy castle family days, $61,000 for a plow truck, $344,000 for a rescue truck, $ 276,000 for a loader and the list keeps going on and on. Learning and being informed of radioactive toxic waste; really? Discussions amongst people with more open minds have described the whole learning process by the NWMO as nothing short of bribery. As more money is doled out to these communities how much clarity is lost in the issue at hand about the dangers this toxic waste may pose now and into the future?

The “wellness” money and its millions in handouts can become a money dependency addiction and as the money flows out to these communities the more addicted they get. Statements made by public servants in these communities tend to show they have lost clarity on the issue as it really is. The issue at hand is about a highly dangerous radioactive waste being transported to our region to be buried and then abandoned. It is about the real dangers of a spill that can occur anywhere along a very long and dangerous transportation route. The issue at hand is about the morality of putting this toxic waste into the ground and putting our pristine watersheds at risk.

There Is no learning of the dangers nuclear waste may pose by purchasing fire trucks, playground equipment , snow plows or gas ranges, etc. but this is the learning process the NWMO has put in place with these vulnerable economically depressed communities. This has to be “an all time low” in how our government sponsored corporations (NWMO) connect and treat these most vulnerable communities and their citizens. An an even lower bar that has been set is how our elected MPs, and MPPs ignore this most deplorable situation and will not talk publicly about it.

If Ignace and Wabigoon agree to accept this most toxic waste, then I think it only fair the NWMO and the nuclear industry should start to contribute financial aid to all the communities along the transportation route and within the regional watersheds. That aid in all fairness should be equal to any monies given to Wabigoon and Ignace as it has happened in the past and into the future. After all, any community along the transportation route is as at much risk of an accident happening as the end of route communities. Perhaps Mr. Powlowski and Mr. Holland could start campaigning on compensation for those communities here in NW Ontario. It may be somewhat comforting to hear from these politicians but don’t hold your breath waiting to hear from them! As cynical as my last statement sounds, it is not because it is not justified. The town of Ignace approximately 1200 people and Wabigoon First Nations with an even smaller population will have final say on this most important issue. The rest of the 500,000 thousand or more people along the transportation route are put at risk with no say in the matter. This is government incompetence and democracy in action at it’s worst!!

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

James Kimberley
Atikokan – Ontario