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First Nation rejects nuclear waste site near Lake Huron, utility now looking at "alternatives"

Ontario Power Generation

Updated February 3, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.:

Activists are wary of declaring total victory after plans for a permanent nuclear waste storage site near the Canadian shore of Lake Huron were voted down Friday.  

Members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation overwhelmingly voted against Ontario Power Generation’s plan to create a Deep Geologic Repository for low and intermediate nuclear waste less than a mile from the shore of Lake Huron.

The project has been opposed by environmentalists and residents who feared the potential damage to the Great Lakes.   The utility insisted the project was safe.

Beverly Fernandez is with the group "Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump."

She says they’re happy a negative vote by a First Nation community in Canada stopped the project.

But Fernandez expects there will be efforts to place future nuclear waste storage facilities in the Great Lakes basin.

“You know we will continue to need the involvement of the U.S.,” says Fernandez, “People in Michigan who have stood up to oppose this.  Their voices will certainly be needed again in the future.”

Ontario Power Generation says it will now examine “alternate” solutions for a future low and intermediate-level nuclear waste repository.

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint Township) hopes the Canadian government will locate the facility outside the Great Lakes basin.    

Original post, February 1, 2020:  

Plans for a permanent low and intermediate level nuclear waste storage sitenear the Canadian shores of Lake Huronhave been dealt what may be a fatal blow.

Ontario Power Generation(OPG) has spent years developing the project, despite the objections of environmentalists, as well asMichigan lawmakers.

On Friday, members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nationvoted overwhelmingly against the project.  

“We have a responsibility to our Mother Earth to protect both her and our Lands and Waters,” says Chief Lester Anoquot of the Chippewas of the Saugeen First Nation. “…We must work diligently to find a new solution for the waste.”

The nuclear waste storage project was originally submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in 2005.   

OPG committed in 2013 that it would not build the Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) without the support of the First Nation.

The Canadian utility says it remains committed to seeking a safe and permanent nuclear waste disposal site and will look for an alternate solution. OPG officials say they will explore "alternative solutions for permanent disposal."

“OPG will explore other options and will engage with key stakeholders to develop an alternate site-selection process,” says Ken Hartwick, OPG’s CEO and President. “Any new process would include engagement with Indigenous peoples as well as interested municipalities.”

The proposed waste disposal site, located less than a mile from Lake Huron, has drawn strong opposition.

Numerous Michigan communities along Lake Huron passed resolutions against the proposed nuclear waste site.

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint Township) was a vocal critic of the plan. He tweeted his relief that the utility will likely have to look elsewhere.

“This decision is a HUGE victory for protecting our environment and our economy that relies on healthy & vibrant #Great Lakes,” Kildee tweeted.

This post was updated on February 3, 2020 with new information.

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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