Equilibrium & Sustainability — Altria

Bipartisan House group asks Biden to stop Canada’s Great Lakes nuclear storage plans

Greg Nash

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) is calling on the Biden administration to stop the Canadian government from storing nuclear waste in the Great Lakes Basin. 

 The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a nonprofit established by the Canadian government, recently unveiled plans to construct a site that “would permanently store more than 50,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste” in the town of South Bruce, Ontario, Kildee’s office said.

South Bruce, located within the Great Lakes Basin, is about 30 miles east of Lake Huron.

Kildee in a release from his office described high-level nuclear waste as “the most dangerous form of nuclear waste,” and said that if an accident involving such waste occurred in the Great Lakes region, it could take a catastrophic toll on public health in surrounding U.S. and Canadian communities.

“The Great Lakes are central to our way of life, and permanently storing nuclear waste so close to our shared waterways puts our economies and millions of jobs at risk in the fishing, boating and tourism industries,” Kildee said. “People in both the U.S. and Canada depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water, which could be contaminated if there ever was a nuclear waste incident.”

Kildee is offering a bipartisan resolution asking President Biden to work with the Canadian government to stop the plans for the storage. The resolution is co-sponsored by 11 Democrats and nine Republicans from states surrounding the Great Lakes.

“From recreational activities to economic opportunities, the Great Lakes are integral to our daily lives, and a spill of hazardous materials would be devastating to communities across the state,” one of the co-sponsors, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), said in a statement. “We must continue to urge our Canadian allies to find an alternative storage site for nuclear waste.”

Tribal Chief Tim Davis, of the Michigan-based Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, added his concerns, noting his community’s ongoing work “to eliminate the continuing threat of nuclear waste being deposited into Mother Earth so close to the largest fresh water repository on Earth.”

“The Tribe remains committed to the elimination of all efforts to further threaten our environment and territories for the greater good of humanity,” Davis said.

Not only do the Great Lakes provide clean drinking water to more than 40 million people in the U.S. and Canada, they also generate more than $82 billion in economic activity annually, Marc Smith of the National Wildlife Federation said in a statement.

“A nuclear waste spill would spell disaster for our economy, the health of millions, and our way of life,” Smith added.

In response to Kildee’s announcement, a spokeswoman for Canada’s NWMO told The Hill that the organization has reached out to the congressman directly, to offer him a briefing on the plans, expressing disappointment that he had not been in touch for more information.

“The entire purpose of Canada’s plan — the reason we are investing time, effort and money to implement it — is to protect people and the environment, including the Great Lakes,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “The used fuel will be moved from the surface, further from the lake than where it is now, and placed within a system of barriers to ensure passive safety for generations.”

The NWMO, she explained, is considering two potential landlocked spaces for a deep geological repository — the southern one that Kildee specified and another in northern Ontario — and that plans would only go forward if they can be demonstrated as safe for humans and the environment and if they have the agreement of local host communities.

Emphasizing that Canada’s long-term storage plans are “consistent with best practice around the world,” the spokeswoman noted that the interim storage methods used today “are not appropriate for the many thousands of years” that nuclear waste remains hazardous, and that deep geological repositories are preferred by the scientific community.

“The U.S. has dozens of high-level nuclear waste storage sites along the Great Lakes and has had them for many years,” the spokeswoman added. “In Canada we are doing the responsible thing by implementing plans to place used nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository which, scientists from around the world agree, would permanently protect people and the environment including the lakes.”

Tags Canada Dan Kildee Great Lakes Joe Biden Michigan nuclear waste ontario Peter Meijer

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