NORTHERN COMMUNITIES DISCUSS NUCLEAR WASTE

NOTE: The following was published in the Meadow Lake Progress on June 10.

By Mark Melnychuk

Both the benefits and risks of storing nuclear waste were up for discussion at an open forum in Beauval.

The Northern Forum for Truth on Nuclear Waste Storage was hosted by the Committee for Future Generations, and was held on June 2. More than 200 people attended the event.

Mayors and band councillors from as far south as Saskatoon were invited. Although community leaders were asked to show up, organizers said they didn’t want the forum to become a political battleground. Instead, they wanted to inform members of the public who could one day have the responsibility of deciding if they would like to store nuclear waste.

“We want transparency, we want the truth, and we want to be included,” said organizer Max C.D. Morin.

So far Pinehouse, English River First Nation and Creighton have expressed interest in the project.

Dr. Jim Harding, a retired justice studies professor and staunch opponent of nuclear power, delivered the keynote address.

Harding warned that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) couldn’t guarantee that radioactive plutonium rods wouldn’t affect the environment, even when buried 500 metres below ground.

“Do you want to be a party to an experiment that’s potentially playing with a whole region of water and life and biodiversity, that is completely an experiment unproven anywhere,” Harding asked the crowd.

Harding said an impartial scientific team needs to look at the effects of storage, and that Saskatchewan shouldn’t be a dumping ground for nuclear power users in southern Canada.

The NWMO was unable to attend the conference due to scheduling conflicts. However, it did later respond to concerns.

The organization said scientists have studied natural uranium deposits formed billions of years ago at the Cigar Lake mine, and confirmed that certain geology barriers would guard the waste indefinitely.

“There is no evidence of any radio nucleates on the surface at Cigar Lake,” said Michael Krizanc, a spokesperson for the NWMO.

Besides being safe, Krizanc pointed out that the nuclear storage would provide communities with hundreds of jobs.

Krizanc denied claims that northern Saskatchewan was being targeted as a dumping zone.

He said the project wouldn’t be forced on any community unless they were totally willing to move ahead.

Several representatives from northern communities stated their objection to waste storage, including members of Waterhen Lake First Nation.

Band councillor Dennis Martell said the reserve’s community doesn’t want to take any chances with its natural resources.

“I’ve been asking around just to get a feeling of it and they said no, nothing’s worth the price of the proposed nuclear waste site,” said Martell.

Approximately two million used nuclear fuel bundles have been produced in Canada. The NWMO is in need of 250 acres of land to store them.

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