Dear Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

** I sent the letter below to Ontario's Environmental Commissioner <commissioner@eco.on.ca> last Friday, after learning he is declining to take on any role with respect to Bruce Power's proposed shipment of 16 radioactively-contaminated steam generators. I also carbon-copied a number of (Ontario) provincial politicians - including my own Member of Provincial Parliament & our premier, Dalton McGuinty (those e-mail addresses are provided below). No response as of yet! I may soon "recycle" my letter & send it to some federal politicians. (I also have yet another letter to write; this one to the members of the federal government's Natural Resources Committee, who will be hearing from witnesses about all this on March 8th & March 10th, in Ottawa. The e-mail address to use to send letters to them is <RNNR@parl.gc.ca>

February 24, 2011.

Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario:

I hear you are declining to make any comment on Bruce Power’s proposed shipment of radioactive steam generators through the Great Lakes (source of drinking water for 40 million people), citing it a federal responsibility.

I don’t wish to be impolite – I know you are often an ally to those of us who work on environmental issues – but this seems a little wrong-headed to me.

Bruce Power operates in Ontario. Their plant is located in Ontario. The power generated from the Bruce Power (BP) nuclear generating station is used in Ontario. The waste is housed in Ontario. If this shipment (only the first of many, by the way) goes ahead, school-bus-sized & highly radioactive steam generators will be loaded up & transported to nearby Owen Sound (also in Ontario), where they will be loaded onto a ship & begin their long journey – in Ontario, and then parts beyond.

If there is any kind of accident at any point (on the first shipment or on any of the projected future ones), people all over the world will wonder why this project was given the go-ahead. They will ask, “Where were the watchdogs?”

We know that “incredible,” un-anticipated accidents do happen. We know that the other BP assured the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2009 that an oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon site was “unlikely.” And that an environmental impact study was therefore waived. We all know about the tragedy that this irresponsible oversight led to.

Of course too, a big and mostly not-well-understood aspect to this plan of Bruce Power/CNSC’s is that Canada’s nuclear waste is going to wind up in the global scrap metal supply. The United Nations has reported on this growing problem. It is a fact – and a very frightening one – that the company that will be “recycling” (reprocessing, to be accurate – not really recycling) our steam generators refuses to say where the metal will go. Many of us now know that radioactive contaminants are landing in unusual places (i.e., consumer goods). I for one do not wish to hear of a child or grandchild of mine winding up with radioactive metal in her or his mouth. I’m betting you wouldn’t either!

As an activist, I’ve been watching politicians for 20 years now. I’ve grown tired of the “political football” game our so-called leaders engage in routinely.

And, as a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) watcher who has seen this supposed guardian of Canadians’ safety in action, blatantly ignoring safety risks and most particularly health impacts in communities and situations too numerous to name, the last organization I wish to leave this critical shipping decision to is the CNSC!

Like you, I live here in Ontario. Clearly, our provincial government is up to its eyeballs in the generation and transmission of nuclear energy; this cannot be denied! Isn’t it past time for those who are ducking and dodging responsibility for this Bruce Power/CNSC plan to really step up to the plate and prove they are responsible? Heck – I’d like them to prove they are paying attention!

The proposed shipment of radioactive steam generators must be stopped! Federal politicians who are members of the Natural Resources Committee will be learning more about this issue in Ottawa on March 8 and March 10th.

But since this shipment represents only the proverbial tip of the iceberg, I’d say we need all hands on deck!

With this letter I’m sending you a document called “Radioactive Steam Generators: 15 Facts Parliamentarians Need to Know.” I beg you: take the time to read it over carefully, let its contents sink in, and then contemplate how to help keep this potential Titanic of a project from setting sail.

Martin Luther King once said “Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular – but one must take it simply because it is right.” Joseph Campbell said “Once you know the difference between right and wrong, you have lots fewer decisions to make.”

Seems to me the right decision here is to harness all of our psychic, moral and physical energy to put a halt to this plan to sail dangerously radioactive wastes through the drinking water of 40 million people – and then, well beyond. (And not once, mind you, but repeatedly…)

Please don’t take part in this gigantic game of “pass the buck”! You – and millions of us on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border – indeed, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean – might very well live to regret – very deeply – your refusal to speak up.

Sincerely,

Janet McNeill

P.S. If this shipment does go ahead, it will establish three precedents, each having far-reaching political implications:

PRECEDENT ONE: It will be the first time that Canada has exported or imported radioactive wastes from a refurbished or decommissioned nuclear reactor.

PRECEDENT TWO: It will also be the first time radioactive wastes from nuclear reactors have been shipped through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

PRECEDENT THREE: It will be the first time that radioactive waste materials from Canadian reactors have been introduced into the world’s scrap metal market.

In addition, the proposed shipment would contradict explicit assurances given during a 2005-2007 Environmental Assessment in which Bruce Power and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) staff declared that the steam generators are radioactive wastes, which cannot be recycled “for safety and environmental reasons.” The steam generators were to be sent to the Western Waste Management Facility (at the Bruce site) for storage in perpetuity.

c.c.

  • Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal <l.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org>
  • Ontario Environment Minister John Wilkinson <jwilkinson.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org>
  • Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey <ljeffrey.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org>
  • Premier Dalton McGuinty <dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org>
  • Jerry Ouellette (Prov. Conserv. Nat. Resources critic) <jerry.ouelletteco@pc.ola.org>
  • Howard Hampton (Prov. NDP Nat. Resources critic) <hhampton-qp@ndp.on.ca>
  • Toby Barrett (Prov. Conserv. Env. critic) <toby.barrett@pc.ola.org>
  • Peter Tabuns (Prov. NDP Env. critic) <tabunsp-qp@ndp.on.ca>