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Bruce Power cannot ship nuclear waste until permit is renewed

Bruce Power will not be able to ship the 16 radioactive steam generators until they renew their permit with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

As of tomorrow, December 31, 2011,the Welland Canal is officially closed to all vessels, preventing Bruce Power from proceeding with the nuclear waste shipment until the spring.  Bruce Power had planned to ship 16 bus-sized radioactive steam generators from Owen Sound, through Lake Huron and Lake Erie, then along the Welland Canal and through Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway. The shipment would end up in Sweden where Studsvik, the Swedish company contracted by Bruce Power, would decontaminate the waste in order to sell the scrap metal back onto consumer markets.

On February 4th, 2010, Bruce Power had received the necessary CNSC permits to ship the nuclear waste to Sweden. However, the permits are only good for one year and will expire on February 3rd, 2012 – before the Welland Canal re-opens again for the shipping season. The Canal generally re-opens for shipping sometime in March.

In May of this year, Bruce Power withdrew its application to the US Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. They stated they were delaying the shipment indefinitely in order to consult with First Nations. Aside from a meeting with the Chiefs of Ontario in June, it is unclear which communities Bruce Power has met with.

Bruce Power Spokesperson John Peevers recently noted there was no update on the shipment.

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to hold another public hearing on the matter when Bruce Power applies to renew permits to ship the nuclear waste across the Great Lakes to Sweden. The CNSC held a public hearing on September 28-29, 2010. However the CNSC ignored public input and the concerns of the majority of interveners by issuing the permits despite interveners’ opposition.

With the Great Lakes as a commons, it is critical that government departments not only provide an opportunity for the public to provide input on policies affecting our water sources but also to incorporate public input into final decisions. As noted in Maude Barlow’s report Our Great Lakes Commons: A People’s Plan to Protect the Great Lakes Forever, “A true Commons is based on a co-management model and requires true collaboration between community and government and ability of regulatory agencies to implement public recommendations.”

Under the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 29 (2) notes that: States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent. The Canadian government endorsed the UNDRIP on November 12, 2010. However, the CNSC has not fulfilled its duty to consult with First Nations by obtaining free, prior and informed consent.

With the recent news that at least one shipment of highly enriched uranium was transported from the US to Canada without public knowledge, it is even more critical that the public is consulted on the transportation of radioactive materials.

With the upcoming expiration of Bruce Power’s permit in February 2012, the CNSC has the opportunity to protect the Great Lakes as a commons and to uphold Canada’s obligations under the UNDRIP. If and when Bruce Power applies for a permit renewal, it is critical that the CNSC hold another public hearing and actually incorporate public input into their final decision this time around.