The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission began a two-day hearing into the radioactive shipment on Tuesday, but it has already dismissed environmentalists’ safety concerns.
Canada’s Bruce Power seeks a license to transport sixteen 100-tonne steam generators from its nuclear plant in Owen Sound, Ontario across to be recycled at a facility operated by Sweden’s Studsvik. Each unit will cost about $1 million to transport and the company says it will barely break even on the project.
Bruce Power CEO Duncan Hawthorne told Canadian public broadcaster CBC that shipping the generators to Studsvik’s facility “is an environmentally sound thing to do,” adding that “a gross amount of misinformation” about the shipment was unnecessarily alarming Canadians.
“People talk about the radiation and fear if these things were to break open…[they would] contaminate our drinking water forever and we’ll never be able to use the Great Lakes,” he said. “It’s nonsense. It’s technically nonsense. It’s scientific nonsense.”
Bruce Power explained that the school-bus sized generators emit the same amount of radiation, if a person were to stand next to one for several hours, as a chest x-ray.
The Local’s attempts to reach a representative from Studsvik for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
A letter to the editor published on Wednesday in the local Södermanlands Nyheter newspaper, which–like Studsvik–is based in Nyköping in eastern Sweden, questioned why Studsvik was granted permission for the import since the original terms of the deal stipulated that Bruce Power would take care of the nuclear waste.
According to the letter, authored by an anti-nuclear energy activist, the amount of radioactivity in each cubic metre of the generators is 8 billion becquerels. One becquerel is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second.
Studsvik usually accepts these products three to four times a year and has engaged in this type of work since 1987, according to the company’s website.
About 90 percent of the metal will be decontaminated, melted down and sold to the scrap metal market by Studsvik.
Ten percent must be returned to Bruce Power after about three years for storage due to international regulations concerning radioactive waste management.
Canadian opposition MP Nathan Cullen countered Bruce Power’s claims, telling a press conference, “The nuclear industry will say this is safe. But accidents, of course, happen.”
Environmental groups, opposition politicians and mayors of 100 towns along the proposed route through Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence seaway, fear contamination of the lakes that provide drinking water for 40 million people in Canada and the US.
Terry Lodge, a lawyer representing a coalition of environmental groups, said in a statement, “This hasty, ill-considered proposal has involved little to no planning whatsoever to deal with an emergency involving the sinking of this shipment, containing as it would over 1,400 tonnes of radioactive steam generators.”
The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and the Sierra Club urged the government to order storage of the nuclear waste at the Bruce site in accordance with its original plant refurbishment plan approved by an environmental assessment in 2006.
Canada should not start shipping radioactive waste outside the country, they said.