Great Lakes nuclear shipment further delayed

Bruce Power has withdrawn its request to U.S. authorities to transport 16 decommissioned nuclear steam generators through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway to Sweden for recycling.
Bruce Power has withdrawn its U.S. application to ship spent nuclear steam generators through the Great Lakes to Sweden.

Bruce Power has withdrawn its request to U.S. authorities to transport 16 decommissioned nuclear steam generators through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway to Sweden for recycling.

The Ontario private nuclear generating company needs permission from both Canada and the U.S. before proceeding.

The shipments, which would carry 16 school bus-sized, radiation-contaminated steam generators from Tiverton, Ont., through the Great Lakes and across the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden for reprocessing, were approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on Feb. 4, but still face stiff opposition.

Bruce spokesman Steve Cannon said no timeline has been set for when Bruce Power might reapply in the United States.

The latest move comes six weeks after Bruce Power said it was delaying its shipping plans so it could consult with critics.

Bruce Power wants to address critics' concerns

Cannon said this proves to First Nations communities that Bruce Power is serious about addressing their concerns.

"Part of it is sign of good faith with the First Nations and Métis," Cannon said. "We want to have those conversations. We want to make sure that they know we're serious."

That's welcome news to one of the plan's fiercest critics, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.

The shipments would pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Kahnawake territory. Ships pass just a couple of hundred metres from Joe Delaronde's desk at the Mohawk Council office.

Along with Mohawks in Akwasasne and Tyendinaga, Kahnawake Mohawks have led the protest against the shipments.

"They're [Bruce Power] saying after their announcement … they mentioned they're going to be consulting with native groups. But we're wondering why they didn't do that in the first place?" wondered Delaronde.

He believes concern around nuclear waste — following the nuclear accident in Japan — might have prompted Bruce Power's decision.

"Bruce Power didn't count on that happening. No one did. But it is certainly not helping their cause," he said.

Bruce Power said it will take time to meet environmental critics, local municipalities and aboriginal groups to discuss its plan, but Delaronde said Mohawks are skeptical as is the mayor of Sarnia, an Ontario community on the Great Lakes.

"It's a false retreat. All they're doing is reacting to the fact that there has been an uprising in the Great Lakes from so many groups and organizations and they have every intention of pursuing this," said Mike Bradley.

Environmentalists and local governments have also raised concerns about the shipment.

Bruce Power has said that each generator has less than an ounce of radioactive material and would be welded shut to prevent leaks.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission said it believes Bruce Power is qualified to carry out the operation and that its plan will adequately protect the environment and the health and safety of the public. The CNSC called the risk to the public "negligible."

The head of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility believes the crisis in Japan is the reason why Bruce Power is further delaying the shipment.

"I think Fukushima was a wake-up shock to people about the possibility of spills of radioactive material into the environment," said Gordon Edwards.