Two weeks ago, Martha Kashap joined a group of southerners to visit the Northern Village of Pinehouse, Saskatchewan, demonstrating support for the people there who have been brave enough to stand up to the machinations of the nuclear industry. Here is her first-hand report of what transpired.
On Tuesday, March 19, I drove from Saskatoon to Pinehouse, a five hour drive north, with three other anti-nuclear activists and a filmmaker. We had been asked to come to support those residents of Pinehouse who were facing some portentous meetings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at which both the government and the nuclear industry were going to be unveiling important news to the community.
These meetings were taking place days after the provincial budget was announced. One was being held behind closed doors and the other was open to the public. Oddly, the owner and operator of the local radio station, Vince Natomagan, announced over the air that he had enough people to come and didn’t need anyone else to show up. It was Natomagan who made the original invitation to Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to consider the Pinehouse community as a candidate for a nuclear waste storage site in exchange for remuneration to the community. He also is the head of the Community Liaison Committee and receives an undisclosed “salary” from the NWMO in return for promoting the nuclear waste organization’s goals. He is thought by many in the community to be an intimidating and threatening figure.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization was created by federal law in 2002. Originally given the mandate of dealing with the two million bundles of spent uranium rods which remain toxic for hundreds of thousands of years, it soon narrowed its focus. Its mission became to find a community somewhere in Canada willing to host the country’s only DGR or “Deep Geologic Repository”, its only burial place for high-level nuclear waste. (The DGR would be similar to the one which had been proposed for Yucca Mountain, Nevada, but scrapped by the US government in 2010. The number of DGRs in the world can be counted on the fingers of one hand, as few governments are willing to convince their citizens of their long-term safety.)
The purpose of the meeting Tuesday evening was to present the results of an independent third-party review focused on the safety and socio-economic possibilities of using Pinehouse as a possible site for Canada’s DGR. We arrived at the town hall to find very few community members, but many concerned people had arrived from other parts of Saskatchewan.
Continue reading Martha Kashap’s first-hand account of her experience in Pinehouse.