Nuclear Hot Spots along the Great Lakes

May 13, 2013

The millions of people who get their fresh water from the Great Lakes might be surprised to learn the region is home to a widespread nuclear industry. As WBFO's Chris Caya reports, a new threat to the Lakes is potentially brewing.


"Great Lakes United" and the "International Institute of Concern for Public Health" drew up a "Nuclear Hot Spots" map showing nearly a dozen radioactive storage facilities around the Lakes, including West Valley south of Buffalo and the Lake Ontario Ordinance Works in Niagara County. The Great Lakes also supply cooling water for 38 nuclear power plants in the U.S. and Canada.

"In addition to that what's important to recognize is that supporting those nuclear power plants is mining to get the uranium. So up on the north end of Lake Huron we find the radioactive waste leftover from mining that has happened in the past," said  John Jackson with Great Lakes United.

Jackson said the nuclear industry's impact on the region has never been studied. 

Four new power plants are proposed on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Jackson says the search is underway for high-level radioactive waste burial sites along the Canadian shoreline.   

"The power plant for example that's in Quebec City, or the power plant that's in New Brunswick would be loading their high level radioactive fuel onto freighters, shipping them in through the St. Lawrence River, down Lake Ontario, over through the Welland Canal, Lake Erie and up into Lake Huron and even on to Lake Superior with these shiploads of high level radioactive waste," said Jackson. 

Jackson said the potential for a spill is substantial considering every year freighters run aground at the bottom end of Lake Huron north of Detroit.  

"If you get that sort of accident in the Great Lakes you can't collect that up. You can't quickly grab it out of the water. It's going to spread far and wide," said Jackson.

As Jackson says, the Great Lakes are all one system and "we're all in it together."

The Nuclear Hot Spot map's available at the Great Lakes United Website.