Rep. Kildee: Great Lakes, nuclear storage don't mix
I strongly disagree with the idea that permanently burying millions of gallons of Canadian nuclear waste is the 'best option' for our Great Lakes. The logic of storing nuclear waste less than a mile from Lake Huron fails in three important ways.
First, even when pure science suggests a potential site may be safe, such an analysis fails to account for human error. And sadly we've seen nuclear radiation leaks happen recently due to human error, despite assurances of safety.
In February 2014, human error released radiation at a nuclear facility in New Mexico that exposed 21 people to nuclear radiation. Fortunately, this nuclear radiation leak was limited because the site was land-locked and not near a body of water. I hate to even imagine what a nuclear radiation release would look like if it happened less than a mile from the Great Lakes. The fact remains that no person, panel or country can ever say with absolute certainty that there is no risk associated with this plan. Human error does occur.
Second, it is appropriate to ask why Canada continues to move ahead with this nuclear waste site when it objected to a similar U.S. plan just a few decades ago. When the U.S. was considering several sites to store nuclear material in the 1980s near the Great Lakes, Canada's then-Minister for External Affairs objected, saying such a site so close to our shared water basin was not appropriate. If nuclear waste stored then within our shared waterways was too close for Canada, why is less than a mile from the Great Lakes appropriate now?
Additionally, unlike the U.S. in the 1980s, Canada has failed to consider any other sites besides Kincardine, located less than a mile from Lake Huron. Surely in the vast landmass that comprises Canada, there must be a more sensible place to permanently bury nuclear waste than on the shores of the world's largest body of fresh water. That's why I've introduced a congressional resolution seeking an alternative site to be considered, with the support of 10 Democratic and 10 Republican colleagues in Congress.
This isn't just another partisan political issue – there is growing opposition from Democrats and Republicans, as well as Americans and Canadians. Over 150 local communities, from Toronto to Chicago, have spoken against the Canadian plan. Sadly, however, the Canadian Joint Review Panel, responsible for making a recommendation on approving the project, has not taken any of this opposition into consideration, as it has moved forward and granted preliminary approval of the plan.
I completely agree with The Detroit News' argument that temporary, above-ground storage is also a threat to our Great Lakes and environment and that we must find safe and permanent storage locations for such waste. I am committed to doing just that. But the lack of progress in finding a safe, permanent storage site is hardly justification for making a temporary risk permanent. Permanently storing nuclear waste less than a mile from the Great Lakes is an unnecessary risk to the world's largest freshwater source. The Great Lakes would be forever changed if they were to become contaminated with nuclear waste.
As a congressman representing Michigan, I take my job of protecting the Great Lakes seriously. Whether it's from Asian Carp, invasive species, or now, the threat of nuclear waste, we have a sacred obligation to future generations to protect the Great Lakes from harm. Our vast water resources are a natural beauty and an economic engine for our state, and threatening their vitality is not good for the U.S. or Canada.
Congressman Dan Kildee, D-Flint, represents Michigan's 5th District.