01 January 2012

Controversial nuclear shipping plan remains on hold:

Bruce Power's nuclear generating stations, on the shore of Lake Huron.
TORONTO — A controversial plan to ship 16 decommissioned nuclear steam generators across Ontario's Great Lakes and eventually to Sweden for recycling continues to remain on hold, nearly two years after it was first proposed.

This week, Bruce Power, Canada's only private nuclear power operator, said there was no update on what it will do with the school bus-sized generators left over from a refurbishment of its Bruce A nuclear reactor.

"From our perspective, there's really nothing to say on this as the status has not changed," company spokesman John Peevers wrote in an email.

The company has not ruled out the idea of a shipment but would not elaborate on what other alternatives it was also considering.

If a decision is not made soon, Bruce Power will lose two licences approved by Canadian Nuclear and Safety Commission (CNSC) allowing for the transport of the 1,760 tonnes of radiation-laced steel to be moved through Ontario roadways to the Great Lakes, up the St. Lawrence Seaway and across the Atlantic Ocean.

Currently, the generators remain housed in Kincardine, Ont., about 250 kilometres northwest of Toronto.

The company has always maintained that the most eco-friendly way to dispose of the large generators is to send them where 90 per cent of the materials can be recycled.

It says the entire shipment only contains low-level nuclear waste — the equivalent of 16 grams or the size of a tennis ball.

Last spring following numerous community meetings organized by Bruce Power and the national nuclear watchdog, including two days of hearings in Ottawa, the company unexpectedly announced it was withdrawing its U.S. application for transport permission until it could consult further with concerned First Nations and Metis groups.

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, one of the groups opposed to the shipment, says it has yet to be contacted by Bruce Power nearly nine months later.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club Canada and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, filed for a judicial review of the proposed shipment with the Federal Court. The Ottawa court will hear the case in March 2012.

The groups argue that the CNSC should have done an environmental assessment of the proposed transport. One was done when Bruce Power originally indicated they wanted to keep the generators on-site, but the regulator did not order a second review once those plans changed.

"What this suggests under Canadian environmental law is that you can do a bait and switch," said John Bennett, the executive director of the Sierra Club.

One of the major concerns is that if this transport goes ahead, it will pave the way for further similar shipments with little government or environment oversight.

"Basically, by Bruce Power making an indirect application to do one thing — they're actually changing Canadian policy on nuclear waste storage, transportation, and recycling and certainly that warrants a lot of further investigation," he said.

Hundreds of municipalities across Ontario, Quebec, U.S. and the U.K. and Sweden have publicly opposed the shipment, citing concerns over the potential for radioactive material to leak into water systems.

Gordon Edwards, co-founder of the Montreal-based Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, said recycling the generators will mean that the radioactive-laced metals — however minimal — will be mixed in with metals used to make consumer goods.

Source: Vancouver Sun. By Linda Nguyen (linnguyen@postmedia.com). 20 December 2011

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