By Barb McKay
Government representatives from Michigan are raising concerns that the state has been largely ignored in the process for the proposed deep geologic repository project for low and intermediate level waste.
Michigan Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood and State Representative Sarah Roberts were in Kincardine on Monday to present at the Joint Review Panel public hearings at the Kincardine Legion. The pair spoke to media prior to the afternoon session and acknowledged that Michigan has no jurisdiction over the proposed project, but said that Michigan simply hasn’t had a voice in the process.
“We are trying to tell Michigan’s story,” Hopgood said.
He said that public engagement and education south of the border has been inadequate and the public there has questions.
“The more people you talk to the more concern is raised,” Hopgood said. “We want to ensure that through this process Michigan concerns are addressed.”
With 40 of 83 counties bordering the Great Lakes, the Michigan representatives say other sites should have been considered. Hopgood said that a 2009 U.S. report indicates that nearly a quarter of Michigan’s economy is directly related to the Great Lakes. He said there is still much that is unclear and, as a result, he and Roberts have put their support behind support for the Request for Rulemaking regarding decommissioned nuclear waste, which was filed by thirty Canadian and American civil society organizations last week. The request calls for the hearings to be suspended until OPG clarifies the actual volume and types of radioactive wastes it plans to store at the facility.
Roberts, who resides in St. Clair Shores, on Lake St. Clair, said a concern is that the lakes are the state’s primary source of drinking water. She said what OPG is embarking on is completely new ground.
“There isn’t a precedent yet for this and we believe there is a better location for this,” she said. “We think they should do the work and find it.”
Neal Kelly, a spokesperson for OPG, told The Independent Monday that Michigan has been included in the process.
“Michigan staff has commented on the case,” he said. “We have spent a lot of time in Michigan.”
While Hopgood said OPG’s outreach to Michigan has been closed door meetings with select politicians and bureaucrats, Kelly said OPG and the Nuclear Waste Management Commission (NWMO), which is managing the project, have spoken with state representatives, staff and media.
“Any questions they raised we answered,” he said, adding that OPG reached out to the public and welcomed any questions.
Hopgood said he respects the process taking place in Kincardine and he and Roberts were here to contribute to it. Roberts said education and discussion will be ongoing in Michigan and she hopes the state will have more involvement.
“The United States and Canada share many miles of beautiful shoreline and we both care about protecting this valuable natural resource,” she said in her presentation to the panel. “We also share a deep commitment to collaboration when it comes to protecting our Great Lakes, which is evidenced by our involvement in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the International Joint Commission. We know it is in our best interest to protect our water and to work together with the other Great Lakes states.”