Georgina Island is one of the communities that wants to protect the water.

Georgina Island is one of the communities that wants to protect the water.

By Joey Krackle

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is proceeding with its $13 billion plan to refurbish the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in 2016 following approval by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), including regular licence renewal.

The Anishinabek Leadership pointed out that the Darlington nuclear refurbishment EA hearing and the operating licence 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. We are the environmental stewards of water — our lifeblood and we are committed to protecting and preserving it for the next seven generations,” said Chief Marsden of Alderville First Nation.

Chief Donna Big Canoe of Georgina Island First Nation 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.”

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 met 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 “to the public” at the Hope Fellowship Church, in Courtice, Ontario to enable OPG to renew its operating licence for the Darlington NGS. This 4 unit nuclear power plant is located in the Municipality of Clarington. Regional Municipality of Durham on the north shore of Lake Ontario approximately 70 kms. 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 till 2055.

The Darlington Waste Management Facility (DWMF) located on this site and was commissioned in 2007 for interim dry storage of spent nuclear fuel. The OPG Darlington Nuclear Station Refurbishment & 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. Their spokesman says:

“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 are the largest source of fresh water in the world.

In April 2010, Bruce Power applied for permits with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to ship nuclear waste through the Great Lakes to a treatment facility in Sweden. This plan threatened to contaminate the drinking water of Owen Sound and other communities around the Great Lakes. Despite the opposition of city mayors, US senators, First Nation communities, residents and environmental and other groups, the CNSC issued transport permits, which have since expired.

In 2012, in response to this Bruce Power initiative, the Anishinabek Nation Chiefs in Assembly in passed a resolution stating that they still stand united and oppose any proposals or applications with the intent to export nuclear waste or radioactive contaminated equipment to other provinces or countries by either land or water,” says Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee. “The Great Lakes were never negotiated by treaty and we have inherent and treaty rights to all our waterways. Neither the Nuclear Safety Commission nor Bruce Power can guarantee that a disaster will not happen with this shipment. The spillage of any hazardous waste would infringe on our constitutionally-protected rights to fish, hunt, and gather lake-based traditional foods and medicines.”

Anishinabek Grandmother Josephine Mandamin is a highly respected woman who walked around the Great Lakes in an effort to emphasize the role of Indigenous women as the keepers of water and to highlight public attention to the importance of water –our lifeblood.

“The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River have been the source of life for over 30,000 years for the Anishinabe People, as well as the Algonquin, Mohawk, Cree and other Indigenous Nations,” said Mandamin.

She pointed out that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that Indigenous people have full and effective participation in all matters that concern our people, lands and waters. No treaty exists in North America where Indigenous people have given up their Rights to Water.