The mayor of Port Hope, Ont., says an anti-nuclear activist's warning that radioactive waste has contaminated the community's beaches and water amounts to sensationalism.
On Tuesday, Helen Caldicott told a public meeting in Oshawa that the municipality's entire population should be moved because of radioactive soil contamination.
“In a way, your town symbolizes the wickedness of the nuclear fuel cycle, and it's not your fault,” Helen Caldicott told about 300 people. “You should be compensated.”
Mayor Linda Thompson said she's concerned Caldicott's speech has tarnished the historic Ontario town's image.
Thompson said the comments have real estate agents worrying that deals will fall through and people will cancel showings. The mayor said Caldicott's warnings will stop bus tours full of tourists from stopping in the community east of Toronto.
Radioactive soil dating back to the 1930s was spread over the town before stricter regulations were brought into place. Much of the soil was cleaned up in the 1970s, but now there's disagreement over how to get rid of the rest.
A preliminary excavation of more than one million cubic metres of dirt has started in the municipality of 16,000 people on the shore of Lake Ontario about 110 kilometres east of Toronto. It is expected to take 10 years to clean up.
Caldicott said the town should be abandoned rather than deal with the historic uranium waste problems.
Her comments have caused such controversy in Port Hope that she delivered her speech in Oshawa, 50 kilometres away. Sanford Haskill, who leads a group of Port Hope residents concerned about radioactive waste, invited Caldicott to speak.
“I've done my job, ” he said. “Let the people decide if she is counterfeit or real.”
Caldicott is an Australian physician who has been working since 1980 against the “insanity” of nuclear weapons and atomic power, notably with If You Love This Planet, a National Film Board of Canada documentary that won an Academy Award in 1982, and her involvement in International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a group which won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.
Jack Goering, a Port Hope resident since 1961, left the meeting with no solid answers except one: “Certainly to move everybody would not be practical.”
Although federal agencies insist the town is safe, many Port Hope residents want public hearings to air their concerns about the legacy of decades of nuclear industry activity in the area.