Miller: ‘No’ to nuclear waste near Lake Huron

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller

The United States and Canada have long shared an appreciation for the vital role the Great Lakes play in our economic and cultural lives and history — and a commitment to preserve and protect the Lakes for generations to come.

Today, that consensus is imperiled by a proposal from Ontario nuclear power generators, now pending in Ottawa, to sanction the construction of an underground nuclear waste repository in Kincardine, less than a mile from the shores of Lake Huron.

Ontario Power Generation, wholly owned by the Province of Ontario, is seeking to build a repository for 200,000 cubic meters of low- and medium-level radioactive waste in a limestone formation 2,200 feet below the surface. Its backers contend the waste can be more safely stored there than it is today, on-site at nuclear power generating stations.

In my view, that contention defies common sense. In a territory as vast and geologically diverse as Ontario, the notion that no viable alternative to Kincardine exists — one not in close proximity to the Lakes — is not credible.

That is why I have made repeated calls on our Department of State to pursue intervention by the U.S.-Canada International Joint Commission, a treaty organization that was formed to protect the Lakes more than a century ago, and work with the Canadian government to find such an alternative. It is also why I joined with a bipartisan majority of my colleagues in Congress to urge newly elected Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau, whose environment minister is scheduled to make a decision on the repository March 1, to do the same.

Our opposition to the Lake Huron nuclear waste facility reflects a broad consensus among the people who live in the Great Lakes watershed, and the 40 million citizens of both countries who rely on them for drinking water, that protecting the region’s premiere natural resource is paramount. Reflecting that consensus, a citizens group opposed to the repository recently submitted more than 92,000 petition signatures to Premier Trudeau, asking him to reject the OPG proposal. Additionally, more than 180 local governments, representing about 22 million residents in both countries, have adopted resolutions in opposition to Kincardine.

While the case against the Canadian waste site is clear, those of us on this side of the border need to acknowledge we have failed to assume full responsibility for our own nuclear waste.

For more than a generation, it has been official U.S. policy to develop a long-term storage facility for high-level waste from power plants. And construction of such a facility was underway in Nevada when President Obama, at the urging of that state’s lawmakers and environmental groups, abruptly shut down the project (a move that remains under legal challenge).

In the meantime, waste from American nuclear power plants is accumulating at temporary storage all over the country.

This situation is unsustainable.

We have an obligation to deal with waste generated by our nation’s nuclear power plants, upon which we rely for a significant portion of our energy needs and which emit virtually no greenhouse gases.

But I firmly believe America can meet its obligation without threatening the Great Lakes with contamination.

So can Canada.

Millions of those who cherish the Lakes today, and the generations of Canadians and Americans who will do so in the future, deserve no less.

Candice Miller is a Harrison Township Republican who is serving her seventh term in Congress.