"We have only recently discovered radioactivity," he said. "It's arrogant to think we're smart enough to know what it will do to life on this planet over such a long time."
Larry Kraemer, mayor of Kincardine, says most of his constituents don't share those fears. The risk of radioactive pollution is "so low as to be almost unimaginable," he said. "The people here draw their drinking water from the lake. We're certainly not going to take any chances with it."
Kincardine is among several small communities hugging the shoreline in southern Ontario's Bruce County, which has miles of sandy beaches popular with tourists — particularly from Toronto, about three hours southwest. The downtowns are lined with shops, restaurants, parks, museums and woodsy footpaths.
The area's first nuclear plant was built in the 1960s in countryside north of Kincardine. The sprawling Bruce Power site now has eight reactors and employs about 4,000 people. Kraemer says about half the jobs in his town of 12,000 are connected to the industry.
"We don't have the knee-jerk reaction when someone says 'nuclear' that other people do," said Joanne Robbins, general manager of the chamber of commerce in nearby Saugeen Shores. "We grew up with it."
Beverly Fernandez, leader of the group that started the online petition, lives in Saugeen Shores but admits she's focusing on rally opposition outside the area because the industry is so popular in Bruce County — which she dryly labels "the nuclear oasis."
Company specialists say the waste would be placed in impermeable chambers drilled into sturdy limestone 2,230 feet below the surface, topped with a shale layer more than 600 feet thick. The lake's maximum depth in the vicinity of the nuclear site is about 590 feet.
But Charles Rhodes, an engineer and physicist, contended seeping groundwater would fill the chamber in as little as a year, become contaminated and eventually reach the lake through tiny cracks in the rock.
"It's only a question of how long, and how toxic it will be when it gets there," he said in an interview.
Kraemer, the Kincardine mayor, said naysayers should be grateful his town is willing to shoulder a burden few others would accept.
"Opposition without responsibility is just a little too easy," he said.
Ontario Power Generation: http://opgdgr.com/
Opposition group: http://www.stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.com/
Follow John Flesher on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JohnFlesher .
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