The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) held a public hearing in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on September 28/29 to discuss the Bruce Power proposal to ship 16 (eventually 32, & eventually who knows how many) radioactive steam generators [SG] through the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence River & Atlantic Ocean to Sweden (Webcast of the hearing is found here.) So they can be “recycled” into scrap metal & contribute to the increasing world problem of radioactive metal contamination (want some radioactive cutlery? Maybe radioactive braces in your kid’s mouth? Yeah. I mean, Hell no!!)
There were tons of wildly articulate intervenors, with interventions by First Nations representatives, some mayors, many activists & representatives of NGOs on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. Many attended in person; some gave their interventions by phone.
Some relevant things that came out at the hearing:
What’s the big rush?? Bruce Power mothballed these reactors way back in ???? I’m not sure how far back it goes. 15 years, I believe it was said by one of the Tribunal members. The Bruce Power plan was to keep them at the Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) on the Bruce Power site. And not require the use of public roads even in moving them there, btw. All of a sudden, we begin to hear back in April 2010 that the Bruce has had a change of plan. The 16 (& eventually 16 more) radioactive generators (previously asserted to be not recyclable, for safety & environmental reasons) are to be hauled by truck from the WWMF to Owen Sound, loaded on a ship, & make their way thru the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence River & Atlantic Ocean to Sweden.
It would seem the main reason for the rush is so this can be done before Bruce Power’s export license (issued January 26th, 2010) expires. Presumably too, the rush is about sneaking this through before it was really noticed, so the precedent could be set, quietly & sneakily laying the way for future shipments. Please note, the CNSC did not originally intend to hold a public hearing on this matter. They only decided to do so after a very large amount of noise began to be made about it by citizens, mayors & municipalities & First Nations groups in the area.
If the reactors have been sitting there for this long already, what the heck is the big rush??
Consultation: CNSC staff seem to have … forgotten?? Not had time?? to properly consult with First Nations communities in the area. Nor have they consulted with American citizens whose communities would be affected in the case of an accident (40 million people take their drinking water from the Great Lakes, bodies of water & an incredible global fresh water treasure we can hardly treat in a cavalier fashion). Nor have they consulted with the Province of Quebec, whose citizens & communities also stand to be affected. (More than 30 mayors of Quebec municipalities have passed resolutions against the transport of the steam generators, btw. As well, for the record, 70 member cities of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative have expressed their opposition to Bruce Power’s plans. Not to mention 7 U.S. Senators, no less, as of Friday, October 1st.)
Safe? CNSC staff assert that the shipment would be “safe.” They argue that there is no need for an environmental assessment (EA) to take place to fully investigate the huge change in plans for these generators, because no “project” is involved. I’m not sure whether this is a legal technicality involving the “triggers” for an environmental review, or pure kindergarten semantics on the part of CNSC staff. To me, this looks like not merely a project, but a massive project with massive possible implications that require wildly detailed & careful scrutiny.
The intervention by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) took issue with CNSC’s assertion that there was no “trigger” for an EA.
As I pointed out in my remarks to the CNSC, “Bruce Power has the unfortunate acronym ‘BP.’
That other BP we’ve all heard so much about recently assured the U.S. Dept. of the Interior in 2009 that an oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon site was “unlikely.”
An environmental impact study was waived.
Change in federal policy: one of the wildly articulate & intelligent intervenors at the hearing pointed out that the CNSC seems to have taken upon itself the role of developing federal policy regarding the export of nuclear waste. She asked, did they do this deliberately? Shouldn’t the federal government have a say in such a huge & presumably policy-driven undertaking? Is this what the Canadian public wants – to have the CNSC (or Bruce Power) decide upon & implement a policy of exporting our nuclear wastes? Surely this is a matter that requires serious deliberation. And consultation with the Canadian public.
The weight/health impact of the radioactive substances: Bruce Power head honcho Duncan Hawthorne speaks very dismissively of the radioactive contents of the 16 steam generators (which each weigh 100 tons, I understand). He says they weigh 64 grams, the size of a tennis ball. Sounds innocuous, doesn't it? Only problem is, nuclear materials pack one heck of a punch! Their weight is a red herring. It might be better to give an estimate of how many hundreds of thousands of cases of cancer could be caused by the plutonium inside the steam generators, if released into the environment. And btw, the staff information provided to the public before the hearing contained a large error. Their table outlining the internal radioactive contents had left out a plutonium isotope. So their estimate was off by 50%. Oops. (Very major "Oops" seem to keep coming up with companies whose acronym is BP...)
Bruce Power’s EA (Env. Assessment) from 2005/6: As Dr. Gordon Edwards (Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility) pointed out in his intervention to the CNSC hearing on the steam generators on Sept. 29th, in the December 2005 Bruce A Refurbishment EA Study Report (Volume 1), Bruce Power had offered an assurance that transfer of “all radioactive wastes” (including steam generators) “will occur entirely within the Bruce Power site and not require the use of public roads.” Slight change to the plan now to ship them on public roads from the BP site to the port in Owen Sound, hmm? AND, during the same EA process, BP had advanced the possibility of a steam generator drop, both during loading/uploading operations (remember!! this is based on their plans to transfer the SGs within their own site – not via public roads to a dock & onto a ship & halfway around the world, through a multitude of rivers/lakes/waterways!) & had stated that the containers “are designed to survive a 4-metre drop with minimal loss of contents.” Not too much comparison with their new/current plans to take the now-supposedly-safe SGs & traipse them all over the globe (but hey! CNSC staff say this is not a “project,” remember…). Dr. Edwards’s reminders to Bruce Power, CNSC staff & CNSC tribunal members about this material in the EA at the Sept. 29th hearing struck them all dumb(1). Not a word was offered in explanation or rebuttal on these points.
U.S. Senators in opposition: this as of Friday, Oct. 1st. Washington, D.C.—“Citing transportation risks of radiological releases during shipment of radioactive wastes on the irreplaceable Great Lakes, and questioning the wisdom of “recycling” radioactive metals into the consumer product scrap metal recycling stream, seven U.S. Senators from Great Lakes States [Russell Feingold (D-WI), Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Durbin (D-IL, Assistant Senate Majority Leader), and Charles Schumer (D-NY)] have sent letters to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), as well as the Canadian federal government (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Ministry of Environment), urging that full environmental analyses be carried out before permits are issued for this risky shipment of radioactive Canadian nuclear steam generators to commence. PHMSA has recently come under fire due to its close ties to the industries which it is supposed to regulate, as well as for high profile and even deadly oil pipeline leaks and natural gas pipeline explosions.”
For additional background, see:
Great Lakes United Web page with Letter to Governments, Resolution & background materials: <http://www.glu.org/en/campaigns/energy/nuclear/steam-generators>
Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility - http://www.ccnr.org/ Once at the Web site, add #SG after the URL, or scroll down until you come to the heading: Radioactive Steam Generators
Sierra Club of Canada
(1) CNSC staff (like me!) can generally go on at great length. Fortunately in my own case, I think, even the average Grade 6-er can understand what it is I am saying (even when I'm being a tad dense). In the case of CNSC staff, whose language is so acronym & technical-language-laden, one virtually needs an interpreter. But I tellya – hearing them all struck silent the other night was a pretty cool thing!!!!!