Nuclear waste issue must be resolved before new facility can be explored, says Saugeen Ojibway Nation

The Bruce Nuclear Station was built in the 1960s without the consultation or consent of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.

An aerial shot of the Bruce Power facility on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. Photo: Bruce Power.

The Saugeen Ojibway Nation is not making any commitments on the proposed expansion of the Bruce Power nuclear plant until the issue of whether nuclear waste will be stored on its territory is resolved.

Last week, Todd Smith, Ontario’s minister of energy, announced preliminary studies with Bruce Power to explore the expansion of Canada’s largest nuclear plant. The expansion would see an additional 4,800 megawatts of nuclear generation at the site.

The Bruce Power Nuclear Generating Station is located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), which is comprised of Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation.

“We have stated clearly that SON will not support any future projects until the history of the nuclear industry in our Territory is resolved and there is a solution to the nuclear waste problems that is acceptable to SON and its People,” said both chiefs in a letter on behalf of Saugeen and Nawash.

SON says the Bruce Nuclear Station was built in the 1960s without its consultation or consent.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), the federal agency responsible for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear waste, plans to select a host site for its proposed deep geological nuclear waste facility by the fall of 2024. The facility would hold used nuclear fuel in a vault approximately 500 metres underground.

The two possible sites are within Saugeen Ojibway’s traditional territory and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation near Ignace, Ont.

“The long overdue resolution of the nuclear legacy issues must occur before any future project is approved,” said Chief Conrad Ritchie and Ogimaa Kwe Veronica Smith in the letter. “Similarly, we must also have a plan in place that has been agreed to by SON to deal with all current and future nuclear waste before any future projects could go ahead.

“In no way does this announcement commit the SON to new nuclear development on SON territory,” added the letter posted on the band’s Facebook page.

“We remain strong that SON is prepared to stop any project that does not align with our rights, interests, or vision for the future of our People.”

In its announcement, the Ontario government said planning for the new station “will involve engagement with Indigenous communities to ensure Indigenous perspectives are understood and considered at the early stage.”

Michael Dodsworth, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy, said the minister “was pleased to meet with Chief Veronica Smith from Nawash and Head Councillor Rory Henry from Saugeen ahead of last week’s announcement, and planning for new nuclear generation at Bruce will involve engagement with these communities to ensure Indigenous perspectives are understood and considered at this early stage.” 

In response to SON’s letter, NWMO said the storage site plan “will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it.

“This means the proposed South Bruce site would only be selected to host a deep geological repository with Saugeen Ojibway Nation’s willingness,” said the NWMO.

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