Peaceful Awareness Walk Against Nuclear Waste visits Sioux Lookout
Tim Brody - Editor
Darlene Necan, a member of the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen, has walked hundreds of kilometres in a Peaceful Awareness Walk Against Nuclear Waste.
Necan started her walk in Ignace, travelling to Savant Lake, Sioux Lookout, and arrived in Dryden on Sept. 25. She will then walk back to Ignace.
Necan was in Sioux Lookout on Sept. 20 sharing her fears regarding a proposed Deep Geological Repository (DGR) in the Ignace area.
According to Bradley Hammond, Director Media and Stakeholder Relations for the NWMO, “The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is responsible for implementing, collaboratively with Canadians and Indigenous people, Canada's plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel, in a manner that protects both people and the environment. Canada's plan calls for used nuclear fuel to be contained and isolated indefinitely in a deep geological repository, to be located in an area with informed and willing hosts.”
He explained, “A comprehensive site selection process is underway to identify a single, preferred location in two areas, the Municipality of South Bruce in southern Ontario and the area around Ignace in northwestern Ontario.” Hammond added, “The project will only proceed in an area with local communities, including municipalities and Indigenous, working collaboratively to implement it. We expect to identity this single, preferred location in 2023.”
NWMO’s website informs, “As of June 30, 2019, Canada has an inventory of about 2.9 million used nuclear fuel bundles. If stacked like cordwood, all this used nuclear fuel could fit into about eight hockey rinks from the ice surface to the top of the boards. At the end of the planned operation of Canada's existing nuclear reactors, the number of used fuel bundles could total about 5.5 million.
“About 90,000 additional used fuel bundles are generated each year.
“A deep geological repository will need to be large enough to contain and isolate the full inventory of Canada's used fuel. No foreign used fuel will be placed in the repository.”
Necan said she is concerned about any potential impacts the project could have on area waterways, the environment and future generations.
She also said she doesn’t feel area residents have been well enough informed about the project.
“We know the dangers of it and that’s what we’re speaking out on,” she said.
Necan visited the NWMO Learn More Centre in Ignace prior to setting out on her awareness walk.
“I did go in there and I did listen, but it was so much information, it was kind of like whoa! Hard to soak it in.”
Necan said she hopes NWMO will be willing to bring their Mobile Learn More Centre to any interested communities, something Hammond said could be done.
“Because this is Nishnawbe territory, we are walking for our people,” she said.
“This Indian is gonna walk to save the next generations. I believe in our generations next to come, that we have to save the waters, the trees, the grass, and all that. That’s how I see that as a Nishnawbe woman,” Necan said, adding, “This is not an Indian problem… it’s for your grandchildren too that are going to be here when you guys are gone.”
“As an organization we have always been clear, the project will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, this includes local Indigenous communities and municipalities working collaboratively to implement it. We encourage anyone interested in the project to take the opportunity to learn more, by either visiting an NWMO Learn More Centre in person, following us on social media, requesting to speak with staff or visiting our website,” Hammond said.
Neecha Dupuis, a member of the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen, accompanied Necan to Sioux Lookout and said she also feels more information needs to be shared about the proposed DGR in the Ignace area.
Paul Machimity, another member of the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen who made the trip to Sioux Lookout said he is concerned about the potential impact the proposed DGR in the Ignace area could have on the environment, his children and future generations if it goes forward.
Machimity said he believes more people in the area would be willing to share their concerns, but he said, “They want to come out, but they’re afraid something is going to happen to them terribly if they come out.”
He added, “That’s a lot of the mentality that these people have, is if they say something, they’re going to be taken from their homes and things are going to be taken from them. That’s the way I felt for years. Even at the apartment I’m at right now in Thunder Bay, there are times I feel like if I speak out against something over here, these officials are going to come and take away whatever I have. That’s the fears that everybody has. People want to come out and talk, but they’re afraid because the system kept them down over all these years. This is how we see the nuclear waste.”
Rachel Garrick, a Lac Seul band member, came out to support the awareness walk and participate in it, walking two kilometres.
“I’m here because first and foremost I love the Earth. I love our area and I’m thankful for being able to reside here and enjoy the beauty of the land and to be able to go out and fish when I want to. To be able to kayak, enjoy being on the water.” Garrick said she wants future generations of her family to be able to do the same and is concerned about potential impacts the proposed DGR in the Ignace area could have on the area.
Hammond shared, “In Northwestern Ontario, The Township of Ignace, was one of the 22 communities about a decade ago that put up their hand and said, we’d like to learn more about Canada’s plan and what it might mean to host it in this area. Since that time, as our work began in that municipality, we’ve been diligently working to make sure people in that area, so broadly speaking the northwest, Sioux Lookout to Thunder Bay and everything in between, have equitable access to information about Canada’s plan. In Ignace itself, we do have a Learn More Centre that is open five days a week (observing COVID-19 guidelines and public health measures) and for special occasions. Out of that is a recognition that not everyone that might be interested in the project in the northwest lives in Ignace… so we created what is what we call a Mobile Learn More Centre. The Mobile Learn More Centre tells the story of the project, some of the background, some really fun interactive maps, scales of the project, lots of interactive learning opportunities geared at a wide variety of ages and knowledge based about the project. We were thrilled to have that in Ignace when we knew this walk was starting and we knew there were going to be some additional people in the community. We made sure it was there for the individuals who were walking.”
He commented, “Miss Necan’s point is well taken, there’s a lot to learn about. I think that and there’s a responsibility on behalf of the NWMO and all of us to make sure we’re doing what we can to make that information accessible to people who are interested.”
Hammond commented of Necan’s awareness walk, “One of the things that I think is great to hear from Miss Necan is it’s certainly a call to action directed at us to make sure we are doing more. If we receive invitations to bring the Mobile Learn More Centre to a community… we would be more than happy to do so.”
Hammond stressed it is important for people to have accurate information about the project.
“We are proceeding with this project and pursuing a deep geological repository to protect both people and the environment. One of the things that we need to do is make sure that people, as they’re learning more about the project, have an understanding about the nature of the challenge and the hazard. Used nuclear fuel is dangerous, but it is a stable, solid material and we have a large body of literature and international best practices to draw on that point to long-term deep geological disposal or management being the best and most safe way to achieve that type of containment.”
“The potential repository depth in the Ignace area is about 500 metres in a rock formation that hasn’t really moved in a billion years,” Hammond said.
“One of the things we want to do is make sure we are getting all the information we can from members of the public so we can take those inputs and make sure they are put into Canada’s plan, to achieve that long-term containment. As an example, underway in the Ignace area right now, we have a program of environmental baseline monitoring, which we’re asking people in the northwest, in particular a lot of those folks who are getting ready to head out for hunting season and things like that, tell us what you see. Let us know what you have. What has your catch been? What was your harvest like? What plants are you observing? All of these things can be input that we put into that baseline monitoring data, so that as we’re going through impact assessments and all the regulatory phases down the road, that we have a strong understanding of the environment now, and can really ensure we’re taking every step that is necessary to ensure that protection and containment over the long-term” Hammond said.
People can keep up to date on Necan’s walk by visiting No Nuclear Waste on Treaty Lands on Facebook.
A petition to stop the disposal of nuclear waste in Northwestern Ontario started by Environment North can be signed at https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-disposal-of-nuclear-waste-in-northwestern-ontario?use_react=false.
More information about the proposed DGR project in the Ignace area and how NWMO is designing and implementing Canada's plan for the safe,
long-term management of used nuclear fuel can be found at www.nwmo.ca.