Bruce Power has been approved to ship 16 100-ton nuclear generators from its peninsula on Lake Huron through Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, down the St. Lawrence River and across the Atlantic to a company called Studsvik in Sweden for recycling into consumer goods.
Hundreds of people along this route had raised opposition to the approval as Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearings proceeded into the winter.
“It’s pretty scary stuff,” Tom Fuhrman, president of the Lake Erie Region Conservancy, said. “It would seem that we should be competent to move some old boilers but what if?”
The old generators will be recycled into scrap metal market for unrestricted public use when they reach Sweden.
“We always believed this was the right thing to do to reduce our environmental footprint and we are pleased the soundness of our case has been verified by the CNSC,” Bruce Power President Duncan Hawthorne said in a news release.
The company said the generators are considered low-level radioactive waste.
Despite the massive warnings from politicians, environmentalists and a worried public, a CNSC press release said it was “satisfied that the risk to the health and safety of the public and the environment posed by the proposed activity is negligible.”
Fuhrman, who once worked for company that shipped a large boiler to southern Texas, said the risk of an accident is very real. The steel boiler traveled down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River to sink in the Gulf of Mexico.
A coalition of mayors from Ontario, Quebec and eight U.S. states united as the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative expressed disappointment in not being listened to. Its analysis revealed that a spill from the radioactive material in the Great Lakes area could exceed federal standards for fresh drinking water, an indicator that would affect all the life dependent on the water.
The St. Lawrence River is a border between Canada and the U.S. and the water is under the jurisdiction of both countries. Bruce Power will now need to obtain a permit from U.S. authorities, who could still require additional conditions or choose not to approve the plan.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will be responsible for overseeing the transport. According to PHMSA Director Cynthia Quarterman, they will be consulting with the U.S. Coastguard and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before exempting Bruce Power from safety regulations.
Watchdog groups are still worried about the precedent this will set in terms of risky procedures that could be disasterous to people and the environment.
“We believe the proposed shipment manifests as yet unquantified threats to water, the environment and public health in the event of a seal rupture on the generators,” said Terry Lodge, an attorney working with some of the groups.
“Radionuclides could enter the Lakes and Seaway, and if so, fisheries and resort activities will be seen as contaminated.”
He also noted that Bruce Power’s proposal did not include an emergency response plans, cleanup plans, protocols for spill remediation or measures to protect drinking water.
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For more information about concerns over the shipment and the use of radioactive materials in consumer goods, read the previous post Criticism Surrounds Plans to Ship Radioactive Waste through Great Lakes for Recycling into Consumer Goods.