Update: Canada Approves Plans to Ship Radioactive Waste Through the Great Lakes

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.

Sign the Petition

Sign the petition urging authorities to prohibit the shipment of nuclear waste through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. 

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.


Related Stories: 

Water is Life: Mother Earth Water Walk 2011

What’s in Your Water? Nuclear Waste, Coal Slurries and Industrial Estrogen

123 Tons of Nuclear Waste Enter Germany



creative commons


Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M7 years ago

I am Canadian and cannot believe that the government have given the go ahead in shipping these Nuclear Generators. I signed every petition I could find. This is just so dangerous and the fact that they haven't listened to the indigenous people infuriates me. I have never agreed to the seal hunt, and every year I sign petitions against it.
"It is the power of capital that builds and destroys things of beauty." Caetano Veloso

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

I can only hope that the U.S. does not approve this plan. As we saw in the Gulf, "accidents WILL happen." A radioactive Great Lake (s) would be lovely ... for how many years? And let's not forget about crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

Kelsey C.
Kelsey S7 years ago

Damn Canadians. Seal hunts, water pollution, and they're supposed to be better than us.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado7 years ago

Keep Canada clean!

Carlos L.
Carlos L7 years ago

Canada is going backwards in many things, sadly. It's a shame.

Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago

What's going on with Canada these days?

Borg Drone NO MAIL
Past Member 7 years ago

another intelligent decision made by Idiots Huh..

Cyn Sopel
Cynthia Sopel7 years ago

When are people going to understand that whatever ANY government wants, they will do it regardless of how the people feel?!! I'm Canadian and don't support nuclear energy which supplies 50% of my province's energy.

I certainly do not support the seal hunt, either; never ate seal in all of my life like most Canadians. The seal hunt is all about a closed door deal my Canadian government made with the Chinese. Do you realise how much pull the Chinese have here in North America? Our government has never asked the Canadian people for our input or how we feel. That's because they don't give a damn about us!!

IT'S ALL ABOUT BIG CORPORATIONS AND BIG MONEY THAT CONTROL OUR GOVERNMENTS LIKE PUPPETS. It's sad, disheartening and shameful for all of us. What a mess we're leaving our children in...

Janet R.
Janet R7 years ago

Why can't they just put them on a C-41 transport plane and fly them to Sweden? Doesn't this mean that they will be crossing the Atlantic as well to get to Sweden? That could be dangerous too. Perhaps they could just recycle them in Canada. It seems like there are many alternatives to this plan. Finally, we shouldn't let Canada do anything here in America while they are clubbing those poor, innocent seal cubs to death to export to China or Japan or where ever.

Elizabeth P.
.7 years ago

What are these people thinking?

Oh, wait -- apparently they're not ...