Nunavummiut to be consulted on nuclear waste

“We do not want to see the dumping of nuclear waste in Nunavut:” Akesuk



Nuclear power has been produced in Canada since 1964, and so has nuclear waste. A nuclear industry association is now visiting Canadians in 30 communities to find out what ordinary citizens want to do with it.

The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is coordinating four community sessions in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Nunavik and Labrador.

On December 7 and 8, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization will stop in Iqaluit to hold two information sessions and one public discussion on the topic.

The meetings are not meant to suggest that nuclear waste should be stored in the Arctic, but several people are taking the opportunity to present their opposition to that idea.

“We do not want to see the dumping of nuclear waste in Nunavut or the Arctic,” Olayuk Akesuk, Nunavut’s minister of environment, told the legislative assembly last Friday, in response to a question by Kugluktuk MLA Joe Allen Evyagotailak.

Heather Ochalski of Baker Lake launched an online petition in “opposition to the dumping of nuclear waste in Canada’s Arctic” as soon as she heard about ITK’s research last Wednesday evening, and is surprised at the response.

Less than two days later, the petition had 64 signatures. One week later, that number had climbed to [252].

“We’re surprised at the response we’re getting,” Ochalski said, speaking on behalf of herself and her sister, who together run the Igloo Talk online discussion forum found at

“This is clearly demonstrating that many Inuit are opposed to storing nuclear waste in the Arctic.”

Ochalski, who now lives in Ottawa, started the petition to involve people who may not be able to participate in the public forum in Iqaluit. She plans to submit the petition to ITK one week before the forum takes place.

The public consultations are the result of the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act passed by the federal government in 2002.

The act requires producers of nuclear waste to study options for storing nuclear waste, and to make recommendations for long-term management of that waste to the federal Minister of Natural Resources by Nov. 15, 2005.

The NWMO is asking the public to consider three options for dealing with nuclear waste.

The first is to continue to store the waste at nuclear reactors. This eliminates the dangers of transporting nuclear waste, and means not having to go through the trouble of finding a new storage site. However, nuclear reactors were built on sites that are good for nuclear reactors, and are not necessarily suitable for storing waste.

The second option is centralized storage, above or below ground. This would allow technicians to choose a suitable location, although the site could be contentious.

The third option is “deep geological disposal,” where waste is stored deep underground, with the goal being that the waste will be safely hidden for thousands of years. This final option is the cheapest – because there are no long-term monitoring costs – but it is also unproven.

There are 22 nuclear reactors in Canada: 20 are in Ontario, one in Quebec and one in New Brunswick.

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