Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has been approved to intervene at a hearing before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission [CNSC] regarding a plan by Bruce Power to ship radioactive waste through the Great Lakes. LOW has substantive and procedural concerns regarding this proposal. Waterkeeper will speak to the Commission on the second day of a hearing that will take place September 28 and 29 in Ottawa. Details of the hearing times and location can be found here.
Bruce Power has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a licence to transport 16 steam generators that were removed from service at Bruce A to Studsvik, Sweden, for processing and recycling. Bruce wishes to transport the generators by road to the Public Port of Owen Sound, then by ship through Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden.
Prior to decommissioning, the steam generators were located adjacent to and above the nuclear reactor at the Bruce plant, penetrating the reactor vault. They are each 11.7 metres tall, 2.5 metres in diameter, and weigh over 100 metric tonnes. While in service, one system of tubes running through each generator carried heavy water, which contains tritium, while a second series of tubes held light water that was converted to steam. The contact with heavy water and tritium within the tube system contaminates the generators, so that upon decommissioning, they are considered low-level radioactive waste. According to Bruce Power’s application for this licence, the generators are contaminated with 3.86 TBq of radioactive material, including americium-241 and -243, carbon-14, curium-244, cobalt-60, cesium-137, europium-154, iron-55, niobium-94, neptunium-237, plutonium-238, -239, -240, and -242, and strontium-90.
In response to significant public concern regarding the potential environmental and social impacts of the proposed shipment, the CNSC has decided to hold a public Commission hearing on the matter. Before it can issue a licence under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act [NSCA], the Commission must be satisfied that Bruce Power has made adequate provision for the protection of the environment and for human health and safety.
As we enter a new era of dealing with large volumes of radioactive waste from a number of decommissioned reactors, the way this licence application is handled by the CNSC will set a precedent for the way waste is handled in the future. The Commission’s decision regarding Bruce Power’s application will have long-term implications for the health of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, and for the way Canadians can use public waterways.
1. The licence should not be issued to ensure that our lakes and rivers are not opened up to potentially harmful radioactive shipping activity.
2. All impacted jurisdictions and international bodies should be consulted and heard before a licensing decision is made.
3. Public notification and comment opportunities must be provided for all applications to transport radioactive waste on water.
4. If a licence is to be issued for a proposal that does not meet the technical criteria of “project” in the Inclusion List Regulations, detailed information supporting that conclusion should be provided to the public.
5. Proponents should not be able to radically change disposal plans that have been presented and approved as part of an EA outside the context of an EA.
For more detail on these recommendations, please read Waterkeeper's full comment here.