Communities split over nuclear shipments

Hearings into Bruce Power's plan to ship old nuclear steam generators through the Great Lakes to Sweden revealed a rift between municipalities on the route.
A used steamboiler from a nuclear reactor is lowered by a crane at Bruce Power's facility at Tiverton, Ont., near the Bruce Peninsula. Bruce Power wants to ship 16 of the boilers to Swededn for recycling and refurbishing. (Bruce Power image)

Hearings into Bruce Power's plan to ship old nuclear steam generators through the Great Lakes to Sweden revealed a rift between municipalities along the route.

Representatives from Bruce County — home to Bruce Power's nuclear power plant — told a Commons committee Thursday they support the shipment.

"My conclusion is the probability of radiation exposure to the population is for all intents and purposes practically zero," assured Dr. Hazel Lynn, medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit.

That was in stark contrast to testimony from David Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, an umbrella group that advocates on behalf of more than 70 communities on the U.S. and Canadian  sides of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

"Bruce Power says there is zero risk … no risk. I'm not aware of anything in life that has no risk," Ullrich told MPs on the natural resources committee.

The MPs are holding hearings into the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) decision earlier this year to allow Bruce Power to ship 16 decommissioned nuclear steam generators to Sweden for recycling.

Ullrich's organization is dead-set against the shipments. It wants a full environmental assessment of the entire project. Their main concern is what will happen if there's an accident and steel boilers sink and break open and radioactive dust is released. The Great Lakes provide drinking water for 40 million people.

But Bruce County Warden, Mike Smith, says he was not consulted on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative's decision to oppose the shipment.

Smith  believes there is negligible risk presented by the generators. He attributes Bruce County's comfort with the plan to the fact that many Bruce Power employees live in the County and are familiar with the nuclear power industry.

The committee held two days of hearings into the plan and heard from Bruce Power and the CNSC on Tuesday. The company plans to ship a total of 64 old boilers over the next 20 years as it upgrades its nuclear power plant near Kincardine, Ont.

But it's facing stiff opposition to the plan even though the CNSC granted it a licence on Feb. 4.

Chief Christopher Plain from the Union of Ontario Indians said members of his group are dead against the plan and pointed out there are several Supreme Court decisions to back up their claim that aboriginal people must be properly consulted over anything that affects their environment.

"The CNSC  has failed to do its constitutional duty to consult with aboriginal nations," he told the committee.

Mohawk communities along the route in Ontario and Quebec are vowing to block the shipments if their appeals for a proper environmental assessment and consultation aren't met. The shipments still need approval from officials in the United States.

With files from CBC's Margo McDiarmid