Citizens act to protect Great Lakes from nuclear waste

92,000 thousand people on both sides of the Canada-US border have signed a petition calling on the Canadian government to reject a proposal to store nuclear waste in an underground vault near the Great Lakes.

Canadian and American citizens living near the Great Lakes are afraid that the water crisis currently affecting Flint, Michigan could someday land on their own doorsteps – and water taps.

92,000 people have signed a petition urging Canadian lawmakers to reject the local utility Ontario Power Generation’s proposal to store nuclear waste in an underground limestone vault near the Great Lakes amid fears that a spill could contaminate the drinking water from the water source. As AFP reports, 40 million people in Canada and the US rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water.

An independent review panel recommended the storage proposal be approved in May 2015. Following on outcry on both sides of the border, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper postponed any decision until 1 December 2015. After his party lost the 19 October federal election, the new Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau pushed that decision to 1 March 2016, according to a CounterPunch article.

The 6,000-page petition, which was presented to the Canadian environment minister Catherine McKenna last week, is just the latest in a series of grassroots and community actions protesting the OPG proposal.

According to the website of Stop The Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, a non-profit organisation opposing the proposal, 184 resolutions opposing the proposed nuclear waste dump have been passed by communities on both sides of the border as of 18 January. Together they represent 22.7 million Canadian and American citizens.

“No scientist, nor geologist can provide us with a 100,000-year guarantee that this nuclear waste dump will not leak and contaminate the Great Lakes,” Beverly Fernandez, who leads the campaign, told AFP. “So when we found out that OPG was trying to locate this nuclear waste right besides the Great Lakes—the drinking water for 40 million people in two countries—we felt compelled to do something.”

OPG rejects the safety fears and says the rock at the Bruce Peninsula location is impermeable and has been stable for 450 million years. “Public health and safety will be protected,” says OPG spokesperson Neil Kelly.

The Great Lakes is the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world. They contain more than 20 per cent of the world’s surface freshwater, writes AFP.


Image credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, flickr/Creative Commons

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