Lawmakers say no to nuclear waste
State Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) on May 20 introduced a package of bills in Lansing meant to rally more U.S. resistance against the development of the Class C level nuclear waste disposal facility planned in Kincardine, Ontario.
The package urges President Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress, bi-national environmental groups and citizens to study and weigh in on the controversial facility, which has been in development since 2004.
The bills were announced at public meetings May 19 in Port Sanilac and Port Huron.
The Huron County Board of Commissioners recently passed a resolution opposing the proposed development, which was forwarded to all Michigan counties, members of state and federal leadership and leaders of the Provence of Ontario. On Tuesday, the board encouraged residents to write letters to lawmakers encouraging them to voice opposition to the proposed site.
The dump proposed by Ontario Power Generation would bury seven million cubic feet of nuclear waste deep inside limestone caverns less than a quarter-mile from the shoreline - roughly 120 miles upstream from intakes that provide water for much of Southeast Michigan.
The site would consume about 70 acres directly across the lake from St. Clair, Sanilac and Huron counties.
Used fuel rods would not be stored at the site. The facility would hold Class C nuclear waste such as clothing, mop heads or other items exposed to radiation in the area of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, said Pavlov.
“Here in Michigan, more than anywhere, we value our Great Lakes,” he said. “That’s why we are all so shocked. How can a government make a unilateral decision to bury nuclear waste directly across from our three counties? One has to ask whether that is the best use of our shoreline.”
Pavlov recognizes that the U.S. has little control over Canada’s decision.
“Because this is an international matter, this is one we don’t have authority on,” he said. “All we can do is approach groups that actually can do something.”
The latest package of bills:
• Calls on the U.S. Congress to demand a binding decision from the International Joint Commission (IJC), an organization of members from U.S. and Canada appointed by treaty to resolve disputes over the use of the Great Lakes. The IJC will be asked to hold hearings in locations that will be adversely affected by the proposed facility.
• Urges the Great Lakes Commission to study potential impact and take a formal position.
Would create a Great Lakes Protection Radioactive Waste Advisory Board to assess a broad range of public health, natural resource, cultural, archaeological and historical consequences of the proposed Ontario facility.
• Finally, the package would extend Michigan’s current ban on nuclear waste to include Class C radioactive waste.
Backing Pavlov were Senator Mike Green, R-Mayville, and Rep. Paul Muxlow, R-Brown City.
“The Great Lakes are Michigan’s most valuable natural resource, not only for our ecosystem but for our economy as well,” said Green. “Michigan has a long history of protecting this resource and that’s what we are joining together to do today.”
The Great Lakes provide 1.5 million jobs in the U.S - including more than 525,000 in Michigan - and $62 billion in wages every year, according to a 2011 study by Michigan Sea Grant and the University of Michigan.
“The process should make it clear to everyone that the development of this nuclear waste disposal facility is unacceptable, and I hope it puts significant pressure on the Canadian government to stop their approval of the site,” Muxlow said.
Al Lewandowski, of Croswell, asked Pavlov what Canadians thought of the proposal.
Pavlov said protests have been raised in Canada as well, although the proposal has support in Kincardine, where many residents have jobs connected to the nuclear power industry.
The Bruce Power complex is the world’s largest nuclear power station and produces one-fourth of all electricity generated in Canada’s most heavily populated province.
Lewandowski expressed some skepticism as to how dangerous the facility would be.
“As a rule, Canadians have been better stewards of the shoreline than the U.S. has been,” he said. “I’m not for or against it. We have a number of nuclear power plants storing waste in shallow wells right here in Michigan.”
Pavlov also announced the creation of an online petition, www.ProtectLakeHuron.com, and encouraged residents throughout the Thumb and the state of Michigan to add their voices to the call for presidential action.
Huron County View Editor Kelly Taylor- Jerome contributed to this article.