Pavlov and Thumb-area lawmakers call for halt to proposed Canadian nuclear waste facility

PORT HURON—State Sen. Phil Pavlov and other Thumb-area lawmakers announced measures Monday to stop the construction of a Canadian nuclear waste dump and strengthen the state’s protection of natural resources against radioactive waste.

The legislation, to be introduced in Lansing on Tuesday, would ban the importation of radioactive waste into Michigan and call on President Obama and Congress to weigh in on the development of a nuclear waste disposal facility in Kincardine, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron.

Pavlov also announced the creation of an online petition, www.ProtectLakeHuron.com, and encouraged residents throughout the Thumb and the state of Michigan to sign the petition and add their voices to the call for presidential action.

“This proposed facility would pose a critical threat to the health of the Great Lakes and other natural resources throughout Michigan,” said Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township. “I take very seriously my duty as a legislator to protect our natural resources and public health. That is why I will continue to fight the development of this site and ask my fellow residents to join in this effort.”

Concurrent Senate and House resolutions call on the president, the secretary of state, and Congress to take the appropriate procedural steps to submit a letter of reference or request a binding decision from the International Joint Commission (IJC), the official organization appointed to prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the Great Lakes. A second concurrent resolution would urge the Great Lakes Commission to study the impacts of the facility and take a formal position on it.

In addition to banning the importation of all radioactive waste, a bill in the package would extend Michigan’s current ban on nuclear waste disposal to include Class C radioactive waste—the most dangerous form of low-level nuclear waste. The bill also would create the 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.

“I will ask the board to set an aggressive timetable and conduct public hearings on the matter to determine a wide range of potential impacts,” Pavlov said. “This information-gathering effort and the conclusions from the panel can help bring to light key potential risks from the proposed facility and hopefully help to attract additional national and international attention to calling the facility to a halt.”

The other package sponsors joined Pavlov in unveiling this plan.

State Rep. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township, said, “Building a nuclear waste dump less than a mile from one of the largest freshwater sources in the world is a reckless act that should be universally opposed. We all need to work together—local, state, U.S. congressional and Midwest leaders—to try to convince Canadian officials to do the right thing and stop the plan.”

State Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, added, “The Great Lakes are Michigan’s most valuable natural resource, not only for our ecosystem but for our economy as well. Michigan has a long history of protecting this resource and that’s what we are joining together to do today.”

Tens of millions of United States and Canadian citizens depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water, fisheries, tourism, recreation and other industrial and economic uses. Placing a permanent nuclear waste burial facility in Kincardine, Ontario could lead to a leak or breach of radioactivity from the facility or to a similar pollution incident, which could severely harm the ecology of the Great Lakes, perhaps permanently.

“Michigan’s Great Lakes are one of our most prized resources, and we have a responsibility to protect them,” said state Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, R-Columbus. “This legislation does just that. It prioritizes the conservation of our beautiful water and everything that comes with it. With great things come great responsibility, so let’s step up to the plate and care for the Great Lakes to the best of our ability.”

State Rep. Paul Muxlow, R-Brown City, added, “These measures put the debate into a scientific forum, which allows for public comment. 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.”

Under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, the IJC, made up of individuals appointed from the U.S. and Canada, is authorized to address international matters relative to the U.S. and Canadian interests in protecting the Great Lakes. An important part of the treaty enables either nation to submit a letter of reference to the IJC for their debate, research and investigation regarding issues having the potential to impact the health of the lakes.

The concurrent resolutions pertaining to the IJC urge the legislatures and governors in the seven other Great Lakes states to submit the same request for the U.S. to invoke IJC provisions.

Pavlov said he will request that the IJC hold hearings in key locations that will be adversely affected by the facility proposed by the Canadian company Ontario Power Generation.

The measures have already gained national attention and praise from key conservation groups.  

“Burying nuclear waste a quarter-mile from the Great Lakes is a shockingly bad idea—it poses a serious threat to people, fish, wildlife and the lakes themselves,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “We support this legislative package that asks Canada to reconsider its plan to store large amounts of radioactive waste on the shores of Lake Huron. It’s time to go back to the drawing board to find a solution that doesn’t put our Great Lakes, environment, communities and economy at risk.”

James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, added, “The unique elements of the project, such as its nearly unprecedented reliance on limestone to contain emissions from nuclear waste and, most notably, the site’s proximity to Lake Huron, demand that Ontario Power Generation (OPG) take seriously its obligation to consider alternative sites. Unfortunately, the process employed and supporting information provided by OPG to this point do not reflect sufficiently careful analysis of alternative sites.”

“As we all get ready to take our families boating, swimming and fishing in the Great Lakes this summer, the implications of this proposed project are really brought home,” said Erin McDonough, executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.  “We appreciate the leadership Senator Pavlov and his legislative partners are showing in proactively addressing the serious issue of burying nuclear waste along Lake Huron’s shoreline.”  

The legislation will be introduced in Lansing on Tuesday and throughout this week.