First Nations across Quebec and Ontario are trying to block shipments of highly radioactive plutonium through their communities.
Kahnawake is concerned about one shipment scheduled to pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway some time this fall.
Also upset is the Serpent River First Nation on the north shore of Lake Huron in Ontario. A second shipment would travel by truck through Serpent River’s land.
Both shipments contain a mixture of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium oxide. The U.S. Energy Department wants to ship the material to a Canadian government reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, about 160 kilometres north of Ottawa.
There, the material would be burned in a new experimental procedure.
Canadian and U.S. officials insist the shipments will be safe, though they aren’t saying when they will occur because of the potential terrorist threat.
But Chief Earl Commanda of Serpent River said his community doesn’t need the added worry because it already suffers from increased rates of lung cancer and thyroid disease since uranium mines opened on its land in the 1950s.
Wildlife has also been decimated by the estimated 250 million tons of uranium-laced waste in the area, Commanda said in an Associated Press report.
The community has joined environmental activists who promise to stop the shipment. “It seems like we’ve become kind of a nuclear sacrifice zone,” said Commanda.