Japan Nuclear Crisis Fuels Nunavut Uranium Fears

Some people in Baker Lake, Nunavut, are having second thoughts on whether they would want a uranium mine in their area, citing the nuclear plant crisis unfolding thousands of kilometres away in Japan.

Reports of nuclear radiation from the severely damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant in northeastern Japan are weighing on the minds of Inuit and others who plan to attend a public forum on uranium mining Thursday night.

The Nunavut government is hosting the forum as it develops its own uranium mining policy.

Officials from government, the mining industry and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will make presentations at the public forum, which is taking place in Baker Lake because it is located near a proposed uranium mine.

Areva Resources Canada wants to build a uranium mine at its Kiggavik site, 85 kilometres west of Baker Lake in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region. The company’s proposal is currently in the regulatory process.

“I see the tragedy that happened in Japan is tied in … with all these discussions,” Baker Lake Mayor David Aksawnee told CBC News on Wednesday.

Different risks involved

Speaking in Inuktitut, local elder Eugene Niviatsiak said people have become more leery after seeing reports about the damaged nuclear reactor in Japan.

But Barry McCallum, Areva’s manager of Nunavut affairs, said it’s impossible for a uranium mine to have the same kinds of safety risks associated with the Japanese nuclear reactor.

“The kind of accidents you can have in a nuclear reactor is not similar at all to what can happen in a uranium mine,” McCallum said. “So what happened in Japan can’t happen with what’s proposed for Nunavut.”

But some in Baker Lake, a remote hamlet of over 1,700, say they’re worried the Kiggavik site could be providing uranium for nuclear reactors, like the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, around the world.

The public forum in Baker Lake is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. local time.

In the meantime, McCallum said his company will complete the regulatory review process and decide if the Kiggavik project makes economic sense in a few years.

CBC News

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