Northern Saskatchewan can breathe a little bit easier since November 21st 2013, when Pinehouse and English River First Nation were released from the grip of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). Since 2010, the administrations of those two communities had been in site selection process with NWMO to bury millions of highly radioactive nuclear fuel rods – the waste product of nuclear reactors – which is exponentially more radioactive than the uranium taken out of the ground.
NWMO’s presence was unknown to many in the north until May 9, 2011, when a regional Elders Circle convened south of Pinehouse at Muskwa Lake for the stated purpose of finding solutions to youth suicide, was instead hijacked by paid, local NWMO liaisons who promoted nuclear waste storage as the answer to suicide. Ten Elders immediately got up and left, breaking the circle. As a result of this desecration, two weeks later, people from Beauval and Pinehouse came together and formed the Committee for Future Generations, the mandate of which was to raise awareness about the hazards of nuclear waste, and to stop it from coming to Saskatchewan. Today, CFFG networks around the world.
Since 2011, thousands of people across northern Saskatchewan, the province and the country, found out what NWMO hoped they never would, which is that we are their last-ditch attempt to bury this extremely hazardous waste out west. Manitoba already legislated a ban and Alberta and B.C. refuse it. Deep geological storage of nuclear waste is an experiment, with vulnerable people as NWMO’s guinea pigs. There is no functioning nuclear waste repository in the world, and scientists do not agree that burying this extremely hazardous and long-lived fuel is the best solution. One accident, one mistake, would mean radiating our water, land, animals, fish and plants; once that happens, it is forever – there is no such thing as “clean up”. The amount of fuel involved in the Fukushima meltdown is a tiny fraction of what would be buried here. The industry’s own charts predict temperature of buried fuel to reach 220 degrees Celsius, over twice the boiling point of water, and as a NWMO official himself told us: meltdown of just a thermos-sized amount of nuclear waste would contaminate not only all of northern Saskatchewan but northern Alberta, Manitoba, and the North West Territories as well. Is that threat the legacy we want to leave for our grandchildren to live with?
As a result of the Committee’s efforts to raise awareness, by summer of 2011, over 60% of eligible voters in Pinehouse and English River had signed a petition against nuclear waste transportation and storage. The 7000 Generations Walk Against Nuclear Waste travelled 850 kms from Pinehouse to Regina, educating and gathering signatures along the way. Resolutions against nuclear waste in Saskatchewan have been passed by the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women’s Circle Corporation, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Canoe Lake First Nations, La Loche Village Council, the N-12 Trappers Fur Block, the Beauval Co-op Fishers, the Wild Rice Growers and the Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association. In May 2012, the CFFG travelled to Regina where an MLA presented over 12,000 signatures from more than 250 communities to the Saskatchewan Legislature. 88% of Saskatchewanians taking part in the UDP hearings three years earlier had voted “No” to nuclear waste storage. Yet still, Premier Brad Wall continues to support NWMO’s mandate. His latest move is to promote nuclear reactors in northern Saskatchewan.
Although Pinehouse and English River are no longer in site selection process, NWMO short-listed Creighton to continue on to the next phase, so the threat still remains in the north. Among NWMO’s reasons for not shortlisting Pinehouse and English River were: community vision not aligning with nuclear waste storage, opposition from groups that live with the land and opposition spreading information. So the Committee is celebrating by ramping up its efforts to raise awareness on the east side. Underground nuclear waste storage should not be wished on anyone, as no container could possibly remain intact over the life of this lethal material which can last over a million years. The best solution is to store it above ground where it can be monitored, and to stop its production. Scores of people in the Creighton area have already contacted the CFFG wanting to organize grassroots there to oppose NWMO and kick them out of the north for good. Water is Life, and unites us all. NWMO counts on our silence. Do the research and have the conversation: our future generations are depending on us!