We deserve better than nuclear waste

James F. Kimberley

Dear editor,

I would like to make the following comments in your paper regarding the process to find a nuclear waste dump site here in Northern Ontario.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is in charge of finding a final resting place for highly toxic radioactive waste recently announced that June 30, 2020 is the final deadline for public comment regarding their proposed plan to bury nearly three million highly toxic spent radioactive fuel rods into bedrock. The selection site for this repository is quoted as being started in 2010 with 22 communities being considered as potential sites for the radioactive waste. The actual date for the search to bury this waste started some 40 years ago in the early 1980s here in Atikokan after the mines shut down with the loss of 1200 jobs. Atomic Energy of Canada was the proponent at the time seeking a willing community to accept a nuclear waste dump. After a public meeting both for and against burying the waste, the community of Atikokan voted overwhelming against burying nuclear waste in our region. Atomic Energy packed up and left town.
Presently the NWMO has narrowed the proposed nuclear waste dump down to two communities; the town of Ignace in N.W. Ontario 1600 kilometers from where the waste is produced and South Bruce located in Southern Ontario within 150 kilometers of where most of the nuclear waste is produced. The Saugeen Ojibway First Nations, whose traditional territory encompasses the municipality of South Bruce recently voted 85 per cent against burying “low level waste” in their territory. The Federal government, a partner in finding a site for nuclear waste has stated they must ensure buy-in for such a project from First Nations. If the Federal government can be taken at their word then it is a foregone conclusion that Ignace will be the community chosen to accept a nuclear waste repository. If Saugeen First Nations will not allow low level nuclear waste in their traditional territory, I see no reason why they would accept high level toxic waste in their territory. That only stands to reason. That leaves the town of Ignace the final contender.
In the overall process to site a nuclear waste dump you have to ask the question; why were so many of the potential sites selected here in Northern Ontario? From Southern and Central Ontario to here in the northwest there is no shortage of the geological rock formation the NWMO is seeking to bury the waste. The common theme for most of the sites selected were; economically depressed communities and low density populations which would have little to no impact politically on the issue of nuclear waste disposal. Over the last few years the NWMO has doled out $700,000 to Constance Lake First Nations, $700,000 to Hornepayne, $700,000 to Manitouwadge , $350,000 to Chapleau First Nation, $350,000 to GIoogaming First Nation, $350,000 to Missinabie First Nation, $600,000 to White River, $200,000 to Long Lake First Nation and $200,000 to Red Sky #58 Metis Independent Nation. The town of Ignace has also received funding from the NWMO. The NWMO also just recently doled out $50,000 to the NW health unit. To date, the total donations to various communities and organizations surpasses $4,150,000.00. All of these donations are said to be “well-being community investments”, which is up to interpretation. Other terms could be applied to such payments.
The NWMO is a well funded organization which receives its money from the nuclear industry (rate payers money) across the country and the Federal government through tax dollars. Their mandate is to find a willing community to accept a nuclear waste dump. Their proposed theory on burying nuclear waste in bedrock is based on computer modelling and theories. The radioactive waste they want to bring to N.W. Ontario is highly toxic and has a half-life of 10,000 years. After 250,000 years it could be rendered non lethal. To think you can project a safe way to store this waste safely for 250,000 years so it will not find its way back to the environment has to be the height of arrogance. The NWMO is a one sided story and has “no mandate” to bring to light the dangers of storing and transporting nuclear waste 1600 kilometers from where it is produced. Forty years ago, funding was made available to Atikokan to bring in speakers well versed in the dangers of the nuclear industry. To date I have not heard or seen of such a process for any of the communities money has been doled out to.
The other interesting thing about having Ignace as being a willing host to accept this waste is that actual site for the repository is well outside the municipal boundaries of the town. The site lies approximately 28 kilometers to the south west of Ignace’s municipal boundaries, just east of HWY 622. This site is on crown land belonging to the province of Ontario. It is news to me that the town of Ignace can, on behalf of all the people here in the north, decide what happens on crown land. A couple of weeks ago I sent an inquiry to the citizens Nuclear Waste liaison committee asking this very question. I also asked in the same inquiry if the town had sponsored a town hall meeting to give other opinions on the hazards of transporting nuclear waste 1600 kilometres and the storage of the waste. I have not received an answer as of yet. I have also voiced my concerns to our Federal MP Marcus Powlowski with no response and got a token response from our provincial MPP Judith Monteith Farrel.
There is one day left for public input and I would urge anybody to contact your federal MP and provincial MPP if you have concerns about a nuclear waste dump here in N.W. Ontario. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s web site also has a place to comment. Except for political reasons, it makes no sense to transport highly dangerous radioactive material 1600 kilometers to northern Ontario when it could be left right where it is produced. We don’t need other people’s garbage as a mainstay of our northern economy. We deserve better than that.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment,
James F. Kimberley