Communities are reaffirming their commitment to protect the Great Lakes from nuclear waste shipments, despite new challenges from the federal government’s omnibus budget bill.
Late last week Sierra Club Canada and the Canadian Environmental Law Association announced that they were withdrawing their applications for judicial review of permits which allowed Bruce Power to ship nuclear waste to Sweden.
In April 2010, Bruce Power applied for permits with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to ship nuclear waste through the Great Lakes to a treatment facility in Nyköping, Sweden. Bruce Power contracted Swedish company Studsvik to ‘decontaminate’ the radioactive waste and sell the scrap metal back onto open markets. The plan threatened to contaminate the drinking water of Owen Sound and other communities around the Great Lakes. Despite the opposition of city mayors, US senators, First Nation communities, residents and environmental and other groups, the CNSC issued transport permits, which have since expired.
Introduced in the spring, the omnibus budget bill (Bill C-38) makes sweeping changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) as well as other environmental legislation. Under the new CEAA, Bruce Power’s plan would not trigger an environmental assessment as it would have under the old Act.
“The Anishinabek Nation Chiefs in Assembly still stand united and oppose any proposals or applications with the intent to export nuclear waste or radioactive contaminated equipment to other provinces or countries by either land or water,” says Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee. “The Great Lakes were never negotiated by treaty and we have inherent and treaty rights to all our waterways. Neither the Nuclear Safety Commission nor Bruce Power can guarantee that a disaster will not happen with this shipment. The spillage of any hazardous waste would infringe on our constitutionally-protected rights to fish, hunt, and gather lake-based traditional foods and medicines.”
“Our position hasn’t changed,” says Chief Clinton Phillips, who holds the environment portfolio for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke. “The Mohawks will continue to stand in solidarity with the overwhelming majority of people, Native and non-Native alike, who live along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence. We are greatly disturbed that the Canadian government, under C-38, could conceivably sweep environmental issues under the rug with little or no opportunity for public input. This is irresponsible, insidious and, most of all, it sets a very dangerous precedent.”
“It is a disgrace that environmental safeguards are being eroded in Canada but we affirm communities’ right to say ‘no’ to harmful shipments of nuclear waste across our precious lakes,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians. “We stand in solidarity with First Nations and other communities and will not let Bruce Power’s shipment cross the waters of the Great Lakes.”
“CARGOS continues to oppose the project to ship these radioactive generators through the Great Lakes from the port of Owen Sound,” declares Sharen Skelly from CARGOS (Citizens against Radioactive Generators in Owen Sound). “We do not want the Great Lakes nor any fresh or sea waters to be the shipping grounds for nuclear waste. If Bruce Power applies for the appropriate licenses to continue with this project we will take whatever peaceful action is necessary to stop this.”
“We find the abrogation of environmental stewardship by the Canadian government to be particularly disturbing as it pertains to shipping radioactive waste of Steam Generators on the Great Lakes,” states Michael Keegan with the United States Coalition for a Nuclear Free Great Lakes. “We are committed to working with First Nations and Canadian communities to protect the lakes from radioactive waste.”
Patricia Marida, chair of the Sierra Club’s Nuclear Free Ohio Committee states, “Ohio does not want or need radioactive shipments coming through Lake Erie, the shallowest and most vulnerable of the Great Lakes. We are particularly concerned because NEWGreen, a radioactive materials “cleaning and refurbishing” business on Lake Erie in Ohio, may be the recipient of Canadian steam generators. We do not want Canadian radioactivity in Ohio’s air, soil and water.”
“We owe it to all future generations to keep dangerous radioactive reactor wastes out of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence waterways,” says Kay Cumbow, of Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, (CACC), a Michigan-based U.S. organization. “A serious accident during transport could potentially devastate large areas of these critical waters for millions of years - waters that First Nation, U.S. and Canadian communities and ecosystems utterly depend on.”
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