Grand Council Chief Madahbee says proposal to store nuclear waste near river is ‘insanity’

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OTTAWA—‘Insanity’ is a word Patrick Madahbee, grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation, used to describe a proposal to store nuclear waste near the Ottawa River in eastern Ontario. He and other Indigenous groups rallied recently, calling on the federal government to intervene.

“What else would you call putting something like nuclear waste that close to a water body that could potentially impact millions of people, in the Ottawa River and downstream,” stated Chief Madahbee when contacted by the Recorder. He is one of many Indigenous individuals who participated in a press conference last week. After having studied the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories application for a 10 year renewal of their operating licence, the longest ever, the groups presented their serious concerns with this proposal. They also presented important information about the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commissions (CNSC) relicencing hearings taking place this week in Pembroke, Ontario where they and many other groups will be airing concerns.

Chief Madahbee was quoted by CBC News January 19, 2018 as saying, “trying to build this giant mount of radioactive waste…is insanity.” The Anishinabek Nation advocates for around 40 communities representing around 65,000 people across Ontario.

“There is seismic activity and movement in the water all the time, and if this goes through there is always the potential of a leak and the (nuclear) waste getting into the water,” said Chief Madahbee.

In 2014, the federal government gave Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) control over nuclear operations at Chalk River. The government continues to own the nuclear assets.

CNL has plans for a permanent nuclear waste disposal site at Chalk River. Opponents say the waste is cheap, dirty, unsafe and out of alignment with International Atomic Energy Agency guidance. And, nuclear waste in Chalk River will cost billions to deal with and leave a  legacy that will last centuries, opponents say.

Chief Madahbee said CNL has an obligation under the United Nations declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to consult with Indigenous people about storing hazardous materials in their territory, but CNL hasn’t thus far. talked to them about it.
The waste facility could be operational by 2020.

Chief Madahbee told the Recorder, “the solution to this whole thing is not to produce nuclear waste in the first place; and where it is produced to control it where it is produced. Instead they look at communities that are economically depressed as places to store this stuff.”

CNL’s licence to run the Chalk River labs expires on March 31.