Mohawks vow to stop nuclear shipments

Native communities along the St. Lawrence say they are ready to do whatever is necessary to stop nuclear waste shipments that will pass through their traditional waterways.

Mohawks vs. nuclear shipments

11 years ago
Communities along St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes want a stop to nuclear waste shipments passing through their waterways 2:22
A used steamboiler from a nuclear reactor is lowered by crane at Bruce Power's facility at Tiverton, Ont. Bruce Power wants to ship 16 of the boilers to Sweden for recycling and refurbishing.
Native communities along the St. Lawrence River say they are ready to do whatever is necessary to stop nuclear waste shipments that will pass through their traditional waterways.

Mohawks from Kahnawake, near Montreal, and Tyendenaga and Akwesasne in Ontario joined two environment groups Tuesday as they announced they will seek a legal challenge to a plan to ship used reactor parts through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) earlier this year approved Bruce Power's request to ship 16 decommissioned nuclear steam generators to Sweden for recycling.

In the case of Kahnawake, the ship carrying the parts will pass 30 metres from their village as it transits the St. Lawrence Seaway at the Lachine Rapids.

"We're prepared to do whatever's necessary in the coming months to stop this," warned Kahnawake Grand Chief Mike Delisle and then added, "first and foremost we are going to take legal action and stand with our white brothers and sisters who have opposed this through the court system."

Assessment sought

The Canadian Environmental Law Association and Sierra Club Canada say a full environmental assessment must be done before a license to transport can be granted, and on Tuesday they said they are asking the Federal Court of Canada to review the CNSC's decision.

"We have watched over the last five years the Canadian environmental assessment process and Canadian environmental law be steadily eroded and steadily reduced to less and less importance," said John Bennett, the executive director of Sierra Club Canada, at a news conference in Ottawa.

The Mohawks don't buy the CNSC's assurance that there is a negligible risk of an accident and contamination.

"[There have been] a good dozen times, if not more than that, where I've actually heard two ships grinding together as they pass one another" on the St. Lawrence, recounted Clinton Philips, Kahanwake's environmental portfolio chief.

Fuel from the freighter Richelieu washes ashore after it ran aground in the St. Lawrence Seaway south of Montreal in July, 2010. Mohawks from nearby communities fear a similar accident during nuclear shipments. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)
Delisle can recall at least three times in the last 10 years when ships have had accidents near the village. Just last summer, the Canada Steamship Lines freighter Richelieu veered off course, hit bottom and tore a hole in its hull spilling about 200 tonnes of bunker oil into the seaway.

"Everybody drinks from here. People use this for recreation. Water is a basic necessity in life," worries Philips.

Bruce Power said it is surprised at the uproar.

"This, frankly, has received a lot more attention than the actual content of what we're doing warrants," said Duncan Hawthorne, Bruce Power's CEO. Hawthorne asserts that there are people who will always be against the nuclear industry no matter how much he tries to prove it is safe.

"They are the usual suspects, as I refer to them. The people who act as though Chernobyl was yesterday," adds Hawthorne.

Bruce Power and the CNSC appeared before the House of Commons natural resources committee Tuesday to explain the shipment and the decision. First Nations, municipalities and anti-nuclear groups will appear before the committee on Thursday.