Saugeen Ojibway Nation raises many concerns over proposed DGR - Part 1

by Sandy Lindsay

September 25, 2013


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Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) Chief, Randall Kahgee, spoke on behalf of the Saugeen First Nation and Cape Croker Unceded First Nation at the Joint Panel Review being held in Kincardine, ON .

Kahgee made himself absolutely clear. "Kincardine cannot speak for us or our territory in these matters.  We must speak for ourselves.  This must be recognized not only by OPG but by governments as well."

"As I have said, we cannot move away if something goes wrong or do not feel connected.  Our culture and place are here.  Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) by way of definition have become hosts for this DGR ... but no one asked if we were willing."

He also pointed out that the Chair of the Joint Review Panel, Dr. Stella Swanson, had, in fact, said that a 'willing host' community was a central element in the proceedings and was, in fact, the key driver.

Today, (Wed. Sept. 25/13) Kahgee, along with SON's two legal counsels, Alex Monem and Murray Frame, presented the many concerns of SON, in what will be one of two presentations, the second to be made on October 11th.

The review, on-going for four weeks and now in its second week of presentations, is being held to consider all aspects of the proposed deep geologic repository facility that would house low and intermediate level nuclear waste at the Bruce Site.

While Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the proponent has had a panel of experts setting out the parameters and design of the proposed repository, there have also been many 'interveners' presenting and asking questions ... technical, environmental, socio-economic and everything in between.

Monem began by saying that SON received a copy of the preamble to the public survey that had been conducted by Kincardine to pose its acceptance of becoming a willing host community for the DGR and that they were not happy with it. 

"This has raised concerns that the results may have been compromised through bias," he said, "in that it (preamble) stated that the project provides the highest level of safety, the project will go through rigorous environmental and licensing reviews and that it will provide significant economic benefits to residents."

Chief Kahgee explained that SON had unique interests in the proceedings including the relevance of transportation, stigma, human affects and cumulative affects assessment. 

"We have concerns that the proposed DGR has the potential to impose risks on our rights, interests and way of life," he said, "We have relied on these lands and our people originated here. Our ancestors are buried in this territory including on the very site where the DGR is proposed, as confirmed by OPG." 

According to Kahgee, historical treaties were solemn agreements between the First Nations and the government of the day to share access to the land, preserve peace and provide protection for people within the territory.  He explained that the treaties are based in Canada's constitution and are recognized in International Law.

"Our territory sustains us in many different ways including our very identity," he explained. "The Saugeen people and our culture cannot be separated from this place.  We are making great efforts for our people to continue to practice their traditional way of life."

Kahgee pointed out that the First Nation are now using their lands and waters for "... modern expressions for us to sustain ourselves."  He explained that two areas that are being developed are the commercial fishery and a growing tourism economy.

"We have secured our fishery and will restore it and rebuild it to a significant place in our culture."  explaining that a substantive agreement had been signed with Ontario in January of this year that allows First Nations to basically control commercial fishing in the waters of Lake Huron.

He added that a working group had been established to develop fishery benefits for the community through acquiring new equipment, cold storage units, processing, marketing and distribution of fish that would provide employment, revenue and training for First Nations.

Under the terms of reference, agencies are to be identified to employ the terms and provide the necessary capital required to implement the business plan. 

"We are not yet convinced of the safety of the DGR project and do not believe that all the socio-economic affects are known and we have made detailed submissions that OPG has not understood." 

According to Kahgee, there are significant gaps in key aspects, such as transportation despite the fact it has been a key concern. 

"We also have not had the justification for long-lived intermediate level waste and we have just learned that the project will expand to include decommissioning waste from Pickering," he said.  "This appears to be a very significant change.  Finally, we do not know how this fits into the larger picture of nuclear waste management and how it includes used nuclear fuel".

"This is critical ... our people cannot and will not consider accept two projects in isolation.  We do not have a picture of this project in front of us.  There is not a sufficient record for our communities or the panel to make a decision."

Kahgee also disagrees with OPG and some mayors on what constitutes a willing host community.  "A host is not the municipality in which the project is located," he said. "Risks do not stop at municipal boundaries.  Radiation does not respect town lines.  Our people are being asked to accept this project in the heart of our territory and to accept a 'forever' project."

He also wasn't convinced when it came to OPG's argument that this generation must take responsibility and shield future generations from the burden of dealing with nuclear waste and that action must be taken now and the DGR accomplishes those goals. 

"I do not believe rushing to bury this waste will protect future generations rather, if we do not proceed with care and caution, we will only shift the burden to future generations forever," said Kahgee. "For this reason, we must take care and only after the most complete information determine if this is the best possible solution."

Kahgee, like many others, pointed out that OPG said the current waste management facility has operated safely for many years. 

"We should not rush into the project of the DGR," he reiterated. "There are still so many questions outstanding ...  this is a forever project and we owe it to our future generations to get it right."


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Chief Randall Kahgee

Legal Counsel, Alex Monem, then went on to say that the definition of the scope of the project had changed in many ways and the project, with the changes, was not before them.   He pointed out that according to the Joint Review Panel, transportation issues are out of the scope of the review.  "I would submit," he stressed, "that these are, in fact, part of the scope and have been omitted by OPG."

"What is clearly emerging," he said, "is that key aspects are not defined and the scope has changed dramatically.  OPG has expressed its intention to include decommissioned waste from Pickering to the DGR."

According to Monem, given the combination of concerns and changes made in the scope of the project, there wasn't a mature application before the panel.  "We do not have a mature application before us to accept this proposal and ultimately for this panel to accept this proposal."

Waste inventory and characterization, plans for retrieval and the geo-scientifc plan are critical for the safety case but are largely undefined. according to Monem.  "They are critical and are not detailed enough to the point where the panel must recommend approval for the project and for SON and the public to express their confidence in the project."

"We are being asked to accept the deferral of key issues until subsequent stages of development ... that is, after Licenses are approved and even after construction has begun.  This is not acceptable," he said adamantly.   "It is a 'trust us' approach that SON has feared from the outset"

"If we allow licensing approvals and construction to begin without clear definition of the project ... we are in risk management rather than risk avoidance.  This is not precautionary.  It will be a situation of immense pressure to 'fix' problems instead of admitting that there are flaws and not proceeding any further."

Monem went on to say that the consequences of the changes to the scope of the project are not understood. "We do know this is a significant waste system and how soon will it be filled before there is a view to expansion."

He also raised the scenario or possibility that OPG might decide not to place low level waste in the DGR but use it only for intermediate and decommissioned waste, particularly, the long-live.  "If that decision was made, would OPG even have to make a new application?  This is patently unacceptable.  The DGR must be understood and cannot simply be the door for more waste coming into SON territory.  Expanded use of the DGR is not the base of the application or public acceptance."

Therefore, according to Monem, "The application as presented by OPG is no longer accurate and, in many ways, describes a purpose very different than OPGs  original intention."

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Thursday, September 26, 2013