Plans for Deep Geological Repository at the Bruce nuclear site in Ontario (Credit: OPG)The 4500-member Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) announced on 31 January that 85% of those casting ballots had rejected the construction of a deep geologic repository at the Bruce nuclear power plant in Ontario, Canada.

The vote was 170 for and 1058 against.

“We were not consulted when the nuclear industry was established in our territory," SON said. “Over the past forty years, nuclear power generation in Anishnaabekiing has had many impacts on our communities, and our land and waters, including the production and accumulation of nuclear waste.”

Ontario Power Generation had planned to build the repository 680m underground about 1.2km from Lake Huron as a permanent store for about 200,000 cubic metres of low and intermediate-level radioactive waste from OPG-owned generating stations at Pickering, Darlington and Bruce.

OPG committed in 2013 that it would not build the repository at the Bruce site, without the support of SON.

The project was tentatively approved in May 2015, with Kincardine willing to host the facility.

However its proximity to the lake sparked protests from politicians, environmentalists and communities elsewhere in Canada and the USA. As a result, successive federal governments withheld final approval. In August 2017, then-environment minister Catherine McKenna halted the process to ensure participation from indigenous people in the area.

While OPG insisted the stable bedrock would safely contain the waste, it said it respected SON’s decision.

“OPG will explore other options and will engage with key stakeholders to develop an alternate site-selection process,” said Ken Hartwick, head of OPG. “Any new process would include engagement with indigenous peoples as well as interested municipalities.”

OPG said it plans to continue a relationship “based on mutual respect, collaboration and trust” with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which comprises the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.

The utility also said it remains committed to burying the waste elsewhere in Ontario.

Hartwick noted: “To enjoy the benefits of this low carbon, low-cost, and reliable source of energy with peace of mind, we must manage the waste responsibly. Permanent and safe disposal is the right thing to do for future generations.”

Photo: Image showing proposed DGR at Bruce nuclear site (Credit: OPG)