Thursday, July 24, 2014
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First Nations must speak for themselves, nuclear hearing told

OPG relied too heavily on Kincardine council's support, federal panel told.

Toronto Star

By John Spears

Business reporter

Ontario Power Generation relied too much on the support of Kincardine town council when the company decided to bury nuclear waste near the town, First Nations representatives told a federal panel Wednesday.

“To this point I must be absolutely clear,” Chief Randall Kahgee of the Saugeen Ojibway Nations (SON) told the panel.

“Kincardine cannot speak for us or our territory in these matters. We must speak for ourselves, and this must be recognized not only by OPG, but by governments as well.”

OPG has now promised that it won’t proceed with the nuclear waste project without SON’s support.

OPG proposes to bury low and intermediate level nuclear waste in 31 caverns, each 250 metres long, excavated in limestone 680 metres below the surface on the grounds of the Bruce nuclear station. The construction cost is estimated at $1 billion

The waste would not include spent fuel, but some of the intermediate waste — which makes up about 20 per cent of the volume — would remain highly radioactive for many thousands of years.

Kahgee said Kincardine’s acceptance of the project isn’t binding on his people.

“Radiation does not respect town lines,” he said.

“Our people are being asked to accept this project in the heart of our territory, and to accept the risk of the project forever.”

The panel has a tight, four-week schedule for hearing submissions on the project, and Kahgee warned that the process can’t be hurried.

“If we do not proceed thoughtfully and with care and caution, we will only shift our burden to future generations and subject them to permanent risk,” he said.

“As I have said, this is a forever project, and we have an obligation to our future generations to get it right.”

Kahgee said the SON is working to re-establish a fishery, and is highly dependent on tourism. It leases 1,700 vacation properties, and operates a campground, he said.

Both those enterprises could be badly stigmatized if the public isn’t persuaded that the nuclear waste site is safe, he said.

OPG has said that the site may be used to hold the waste from the Pickering nuclear station, once it is closed and dismantled.

“This represents a very significant change in the scope of this project,” said SON lawyer Alex Monem.

“It is not the basis on which OPG conducted its public engagement, including its engagement with SON.”

“Central aspects” of how an enlarged site might operate, and what kind of waste it would handle, would be left to be clarified later, he said.

“The approach we’re being asked to accept is to permit the deferral of these key issues to subsequent stages of development and subsequent regulatory proceedings,” he said.

That could lead to a project in which builders have to manage risks as they arise, instead of planning to avoid them altogether, he said.

Monem also said OPG’s plan doesn’t deal with the risks of transporting waste to the site. OPG has been trucking low and intermediate level radioactive waste to a surface storage area on the Bruce site from its Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations for decades.

Joe Heil, OPG’s director of First Nations and Métis, said the company is developing an “evolutionary process” for working with SON.

“We’re committed to building a strong, trusting relationship,” he told the panel.

The hearings are slated to continue through the end of next week in Kincardine, Ont., and then conclude after a week’s hearings in Saugeen Shores.

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