Monday, July 12, 2010

Re-evaluate Approval Process for Nuclear Waste Shipment thru' Great Lakes

From the Toronto Star, Monday, July 12, 2010.
Brett Popplewell
Staff Reporter
The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station plans to ship 1,760 tonnes of radiation-laced steel through Lake Ontario — a precedent-setting project that has officials worried on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
On April 1, Bruce Power asked the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada’s nuclear regulator, for a licence to ship low-level radioactive generators from its power plant on Lake Huron to Sweden, where 90 per cent of the metals inside the generators are to be cleansed and resold. The remaining materials that are too radioactive to be recycled will then return to the Bruce plant to be contained for the rest of their radioactive lives.
But the planned journey, which would have 16 decommissioned steam generators travel through the Great Lakes, down the St. Lawrence River and then to Sweden this fall, has municipal officials concerned because they haven’t been given the chance to vet the proposal. If approved, this would be the first time a licence has been issued by the commission to ship nuclear waste through the Great Lakes.
“My frustration for years has been the lack of respect for the Great Lakes. We treat it like a toilet bowl,” said Mike Bradley, mayor of Sarnia. “We don’t give it respect and don’t treat it like there needs to be public engagement.
“The impression that I have is that this is a rubber stamp process. I think it’s unfolding in a manner that is disrespectful to the public process.”
While there is no indication that this shipment is more dangerous than those shipments of hazadarous chemicals that have already travelled through the Great Lakes, and up the St. Lawrence, and across the Atlantic, given that this is "low-grade" nuclear waste, the mayor of Sarnia's signature on a petition calling for a different process than a mere "rubber stamp" with a single individual making the ruling, would do much to change the political climate about this issue.
No one can, today, say an absolute "No" to nuclear power, given our dependency on energy to fire our industrial, commerial and residential operations, yet, the Great Lakes cannot be taken for granted.
Their vulnerability cannot be denied; and their protection has to start somewhere.
If Mayor Bradley could get all mayors from Sarnia to Quebec City to attach their signatures to the same petition, there is little doubt that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission would have to pay attention to the civic leaders, re-assess their approval process for this shipment and for those to follow.
And in the same ounce of ink, Mayor Bradley and the other mayors would have cast a vote for an open, transparent and more thoughtful process for such shipments.
Saving the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence, is not a one-step process; it will take hundreds, if not thousands of little steps to generate the kind of public consciousness that is needed to preserve their water levels and to restore the purity of their waters. Mayor Bradley's signature is a very good first step.

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