The transport licence that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) issued to Bruce Power to ship 16 radioactive steam generators to Sweden will expire on February 3, 2012. Bruce Power had planned to use Swedish company Studsvik to ‘decontaminate’ the radioactive waste and sell the scrap metal back onto open markets. The most radioactive parts of the generators would be transported back to the Great Lakes and stored near its nuclear power plant on Lake Huron.
Bruce Power has been largely silent on the issue since it withdrew its application with the US Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration last May. While they delayed the shipment indefinitely to consult with First Nation communities, it is unclear which communities they are meeting with.
If Bruce Power applies to renew its licence, the Canadian Nuclear Safety and Control Act calls for the CNSC to hold another public hearing.
“If Bruce Power wants to forge ahead with this plan, the CNSC should respect the public’s will and stop the shipment,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “This is an opportunity for the CNSC to begin a needed shift in Great Lakes governance by genuinely listening to public input and consulting with First Nations.”
City mayors, US senators, First Nation communities, residents and environmental groups opposed the plans. The CNSC held a public hearing at the end of September in 2010 where interveners raised concerns about the precedent setting nature of the shipment, the threat to the Great Lakes and the lack of an environmental assessment despite changes to original plans of leaving the waste on-site. Even though the majority of interveners opposed the shipment, the CNSC ignored public input and issued the transport licence anyway.
The shipment has also drawn international attention. Twenty European civil society organizations sent an open letter to Canadian, US, UK, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish governments demanding that they put a stop to the nuclear waste shipment. Over 101,000 people in Canada and around the world signed a petition calling on the Ontario government to “stand up for the safety and protection of the public and our shared environment by banning all nuclear shipments on the Great Lakes.”
The Council of Canadians is calling for the Great Lakes to be declared a commons and a public trust. Barlow’s report Our Great Lakes Commons: A People’s Plan to Protect the Great Lakes Forever says that “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.”
“With the threat of pollution, invasive species, fracking and bottled water extraction, there is an even greater need to apply the precautionary principle in the Great Lakes Basin,” says Emma Lui, water campaigner, Council of Canadians. “The CNSC has a duty to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians as well as the environment and Bruce Power’s shipment is a clear threat to both.”