Grand Council Chief Hare voices opposition to small modular reactors in order to protect water

Grand Council Chief Glen Hare

NIPISSING FIRST NATION – As a speaker on the leadership panel at the fifth annual Anishinabek Nation Lands and Resources and Economic Development Forum, Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare made clear his opposition to small modular reactors (SMR) being transported on highways or through First Nation lands and to the planned storage radioactive waste at Chalk River.

First Nation leaders noted at the forum that the government wants to push small nuclear reactors on some of the remote First Nations and their concerns about the risks to public safety, the protection of water and that the development of SMRs is too slow to address the climate crisis.

“I asked the minister to work with us and get our input and address our concerns on things like burial of radioactive waste,” Grand Council Chief Hare told the Recorder. “We oppose the transportation of waste and reactors on our highways. If they are going to do this, why not at least tell people in the communities that this is what they are doing, before an accident and a spill takes place and then the community finds out what has been spilled.”

“I asked the minister to work with us and I know they are looking for input on burial of this type of nuclear waste,” said Grand Council Chief Hare. “When they talk about radioactive waste being buried, and keep in mind I don’t like Canada being a dumping site for any of this, I’m asking that this waste be buried at least 150 kilometres from any shoreline. If it ever leaks it will poison all our water supply.” He pointed out the City of Ottawa has passed a motion in opposition to plans for a massive waste dump at Chalk River. People understand importance that having this waste by a shoreline, if it ever leaks it would affect the water, the shoreline, people, food and wildlife.”

“They cannot do this,” stated Grand Council Chief Hare. He explained that, as of now, not one SMR has been constructed and the models considered could take as much as 10 years to develop and are expensive. He noted the country would be stuck with having to figure out what to do with nuclear byproducts that are deadly for a long time. He said the bottom line is the protection of water. 

Anishinabek News reporter Kelly Anne Smith reported on February 24 that Brennain Lloyd, the co-ordinator of Northwatch, endorses the chiefs’ concerns, while the “theoretical new reactors are being promoted.”

Ms. Lloyd has said that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission SMR design reviews are taking place behind closed doors, allowing private sector companies to sell their unproven reactor designs to regulatory staff without any public scrutiny.

According to Anishinabek News, Ms. Lloyd suggested that Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan be asked, “what assurances are you and the Liberal government giving to Indigenous peoples that no new nuclear facilities, including new reactors, will be developed without the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples prior to the beginning of development? So before an environmental assessment or any permitting processes begin?”

As of press deadline Minister O’Regan had not responded.