Local officials have joined a bi-national effort to stop a proposal to
build an underground nuclear-waste storage facility less than a mile
from Lake Huron's shore.
Activists, politicians, and citizens groups from the United States and Canada voiced their opposition Oct. 23 to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regarding a proposal to create a nuclear-waste storage site under Kincardine, Ontario.
Kincardine is on Lake Huron, about three hours northeast of Port Huron. Local officials fear the repository could contaminate the lake and other local waterways.
"This repository presents an unacceptable risk to our community and our future generations," Fred Fuller, St. Clair County drain commissioner and vice-chairman of the Bi-National Public Advisory Council for the St. Clair River Area of Concern, wrote in a recent letter to the Canadian environment ministry. "The nuclear wastes will remain hazardous for thousands of years. This could cause significant detrimental environmental effects in St. Clair County."
Ontario Power Generation has applied for regulatory approval to build a storage facility deep underground for low- and intermediate-level radioactive wastes generated at the Bruce nuclear plant site in Tiverton, Ontario. The facility also would take wastes from other nuclear facilities in Ontario.
Before the project moves forward, it must pass an environmental-impact study. The nuclear-safety commission is expected to outline requirements of the study within the next six weeks.
The environmental as-sessment, usually done by environmental experts hired by the nuclear industry, could take until 2011. If satisfied with the assessment results, the commission would grant a construction license.
John Earl, spokesman for Ontario Power Generation, said the storage facility could be operational in 2017.
The Kincardine community, not industry, suggested the underground repository, Earl said.
Bruce nuclear plant officials acknowledged in 2002 that ground water near homes in Kincardine, Ont., tested positive for radioactive waste.
"The material is already (stored above ground) right on that site. It has been for 40 years," Earl said. "The community said we believe there is a safer method."
Fuller and others are asking the Canadian Ministry of the Environment refer the project to a mediator or review panel. The nuclear-safety commission, opponents say, is not an objective body, because it reports to the Ministry of Natural Resources, which promotes the use of nuclear energy, and is comprised of former nuclear-industry employees.
"It's not exactly within my jurisdiction or job description, but I know it represents a certain threat to St. Clair County and the water here," Fuller said. "Can we really predict how safe this will be in the next centuries? We need to find a very secure and closely considered way to store this waste."
Kay Cumbow of St. Clair County's Lynn Township is president of the Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, a Michigan group opposed to the proposal.
"We get our drinking water out of Port Huron, as does Flint and a chunk of the city of Detroit. Beyond that, the responsibility for the water quality - and the health of the water - is a responsibility that is incumbent on the First Nations, Native Americans, and the U.S., the citizens as well as all the governments. We need to take care of that, we need to respect that because the water is life and as the water goes, so do we."