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Just say no to nuclear: activists

The Peterborough Examiner: NICOLE RIVA - April 16, 2008

The dangers of radiation, health problems and environmental sustainability took centre stage at a meeting staged by anti-uranium mining activists at Sadleir House yesterday.

Organized by the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium and facilitated by Peterborough group Safe and Green Energy (SAGE), the Citizens Inquiry into Impacts of Uranium Mining was dubbed a neutral hearing by organizers. But of the nearly 40 speakers, there was no one on hand to defend to represent mining companies.

The goal of many participants is to seek a moratorium on uranium mining and exploration in Ontario.

A lack of public debate about uranium mining and nuclear energy was criticized by several speakers, but the executive director of Greenpeace said those groups have said enough.

"The corporations have been heard. They're in the backrooms of the province," said Bruce Cox. "This is one of the few times to hear the other side of the story."

Cox said the four hearings being held by the activists across the province are exactly what is needed to get the government to listen. "What politicians do respond to is public pressure," he said.

Nearly 50 people attended the inquiry's afternoon and evening sessions.

The inquiry was overseen by a panel, said Anna Petry from SAGE, which will gather information from the hearings and present them to Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Former Ottawa mayor and MP Marion Dewar and Fraser McVie, a retired official with the corrections system, made up yesterday's panel.

Anyone wishing to present to the inquiry only had to submit their name by April 1, Petry said, and organizers had no previous knowledge about presentations.

Speakers included concerned citizens, politicians, scientists and activist groups who came from surrounding areas including Port Hope, Haliburton, Toronto and the Bancroft area.

Cox spoke against the province's $40-billion proposed nuclear expansion involving up to eight new reactors and said public discussion is needed to preserve Ontario's natural heritage for future generations.

"All stages (of production) release some form of radioactive waste," he said. "One million years is the life expectancy of high-level nuclear waste."

Presentations from Port Hope residents added a personal feel because of their proximity to the Cameco uranium processing facility, which has had operations curtailed since last July by a contamination leak under one of the plants.

John Miller, from Families Against Radiation Exposure (FARE), described the Cameco situation as being "too close for comfort."

The 1,500 FARE members are working to force Cameco to clean up from an ongoing leakage and keep the community safer.

"Cameco knows the public wants emissions reduced, health testing done and to ensure the site's security," Miller said.

nriva@peterboroughexaminer.com

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