Anishinabek leadership demand environmental stewardship of Darlington nuclear refurb

ONTARIO—While Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is moving ahead with a $13 billion plan to refurbish the Darlington nuclear generating station in 2016, Anishinabek leadership is demanding that environmental stewardship be in place and reminds all stakeholders that the refurbishment Environmental Act hearing did not meet requirements under a Supreme Court of Canada ruling concerning First Nations.

“The Great Lakes were never negotiated by treaty and we have inherent and treaty rights to all our waterways,” Anishinabek Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee, stated in the Anishinabek News on January 11, 2016. “Neither the Nuclear Safety Commission nor Bruce Power can guarantee that a disaster will not happen with shipments (of nuclear waste). The spillage of any hazardous waste would infringe on our constitutionally-protected rights to fish, hunt, and gather lake-based traditional foods and medicines.”

Chief Madahbee pointed out that in 2012, “in response to this Bruce Power initiative, the Anishinabek Nation Chiefs in Assembly passed a resolution stating that they will stand united and oppose any protocols on applications with the intent to export nuclear waste or radioactive contaminated equipment in other provinces or countries by either land or water.”

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is proceeding with its $13 billion plan to refurbish the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station with approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), including regular license renewal.

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The Anishinabek leadership points out that the Darlington nuclear refurbishment environmental assessment hearing and the operating license hearing which included ‘stakeholders and Aboriginals’ did not meet the requirements of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that stated that governments had a duty to consult and accommodate First Nation interests if there may be negative impacts to their Section 35 rights. Neither the Alderville First Nation nor the Georgina Island First Nation were contacted directly by the CNSC and consequently were not consulted as required by law.

Southeast Regional Grand Chief Jim Bob Marsden expressed concern over the refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear plant and the proposed transport of nuclear waste and the possible risk of spillage and contamination of Lake Ontario and by extension the other Great Lakes.

“We never ceded our lake beds,” Chief Marsden of Alderville First Nation, told Anishinabek News. “We are the environmental stewards of water—our lifeblood—and we are committed to protecting and preserving it for the next seven generations.”

Chief Donna Big Canoe of Georgina Island First Nations stated that, “Georgina Island members are very committed to protecting their environment and their lifeblood-water. We are concerned that we were not consulted individually and that we found out about these meetings through the media. Our officials attended meetings on the Darlington project refurbishment in an attempt to mitigate possible risk and future damage.”

Anishinabek News reported that OPG undertook an Environmental Assessment (EA) to assess the environmental effects of the refurbishment and continued operation of the four Darlington reactors. Following a detailed technical review of the work, and a four day public hearing, the CNSC announced its decision in March 2013 that Darlington Refurbishment and Continued Operation will not result in any significant adverse environmental effects, given available mitigations. While a challenge was made on the decision, a federal court decided in November, 2014 that the EA meets the required standard. OPG developed an EA follow up monitoring program which will verify the accuracy of the EA and determine the effectiveness of the mitigation.

Moreover, in 2015, CNSC held four-day hearings with the public in Courtice, Ontario, to enable OPG to renew its operating license for the Darlington NGS. The four-unit nuclear power plant is located in the municipality of Clarington, regional municipality of Durham on the north shore of Lake Ontario—approximately 70 kilometres east of Toronto. These CANDU pressurized heavy water nuclear reactors were commissioned between 1990 and 1993 and have operated continuously since then. This refurbishment will allow the Darlington Station to operate until 2055.

The Darlington waste management facility (DWMF) is located on this site and was commissioned in 2007 for interim dry storage of spent nuclear fuel. The OPG Darlington nuclear station refurbishment and continued operation environmental assessment follow-up program states that, “refurbishment waste will be stored at expanded facilities at DWMF or shipped to the western waste management facility (WWMF) at the Bruce power site near Kincardine, Ontario;  or to another off-site licensed facility. The project will require that DWMF be expanded to accommodate radioactive waste resulting from refurbishment and used nuclear fuel associated with continued operations.

Greenpeace Canada is concerned about the safety and health risks posed by this nuclear power refurbishment project. “The government agencies mandated to protect the public are helping push the project through by concealing Darlington’s true risks from the public,” said Greenpeace spokesman Shawn-Patrick-Stensil.

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance wants Ontario to abandon the refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear project and sign a  long-term deal with Quebec to get much cheaper hydro energy.

The Anishinabek Nation firmly believes that water is the lifeblood and is very committed to environmental stewardship and the protection of the quality and quantity of water, especially in the Great Lakes which is the largest source of fresh water in the world.

In April 2010, Bruce Power applied for permits with the CNSC to ship nuclear waste through the Great Lakes to a treatment facility in Sweden. Despite the opposition of city mayors, US senators, First Nation communities and environmental and other groups, the CNSC issued transportation permits, which have since expired.