The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is blasting what it calls "misinformation" and "fearmongering" about its decision to allow Bruce Power to transport 16 decommissioned nuclear steam boilers through the Great Lakes to Sweden for recycling.
"The word nuclear, every time it appears... there is the fearmongering," said Ramzi Jammal, executive vice-president of the nuclear watchdog.
In a rare technical briefing, Jammal and three other high-ranking commission officials say the shipment was routine and completely safe.
Before granting the power company permission, the commission ran through a series of "implausible" scenarios.
Among them was the possibility of the boilers cracking open and contaminants leaking out — a near-impossible event according to Patsy Thompson, CNSC director general of environmental and radiation protection and assessment.
"At no time, if there is an accident and radioactive material is released, would there be a situation where drinking water supply plants would be at risk," Thompson said.
The level of radiation coming out of the sealed boilers was well below even a medical dose of radiation, the officials said.
'We are not reassured'
But that was cold comfort to David Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, an umbrella group that advocates on behalf of municipalities along those waterways.
"We are not reassured," he said. "I think it is unfortunate that they have chosen to characterize opposition and questions about the shipment as fearmongering."
The issues being raised are legitimate, Ullrich added.
Quebec has concerns about the shipments as well. The provincial national assembly is drafting a motion that will ask the federal government to review the CNSC's decision and, if necessary, overturn it.
"We want just the federal government to make sure that this decision is the right one," Quebec Environment Minister Pierre Arcand told the CBC.
That motion will be debated next week.
The commission last held a technical briefing of this sort after Sept. 11, 2001.