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Nuke shipment draws protest: generators would travel through lakes

By Dave Batta Gello, The Windsor Star November 25, 2010

WINDSOR, Ont. A plan to ship 16 decommissioned steam generators laced with radiation through the Great Lakes -- including the Detroit River -- is on the verge of being rubber-stamped by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, critics of the plan said Wednesday.

Despite a public outcry, Bruce Power Inc. is poised to transport 100-ton generators from the shores of Georgian Bay through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway to a destination in Sweden where they are to be recycled.

The unprecedented shipment of nuclear material in the lakes has triggered protests among environmentalists in waterfront cities on both sides of the border.

"We really don't think it's a good idea," said Derek Coronado of the Citizens Environment Alliance in Windsor.

"The freshwater resources we have with the Great Lakes are far too important to risk on such a scheme as this. We also think if they get approval, this will be a prelude to much more."

The final public feedback period set by the federal nuclear safety regulator concluded Monday. A decision must be handed down within 30 days.

"It's literally not known what's inside these steam generators," said Michael Keegan, chairman of the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes based in Monroe, Mich. "They have estimated, but not gone inside to measure the radiation.

"They measured from the outside and took a total of two samples from the 16 generators and determined they were all classified as low-level waste and no radiation risk. That's just one of the things suspect. I feel their methodology was shoddy."

The public has been denied access to documents pertaining to Bruce Power's plan, Keegan said.

"I think (the nuclear safety regulators) have been captured by the industry," he said. "I'm not going to be surprised when they turn this out and say they see no showstoppers.

"We will try to challenge it legally on the U.S. side. What we would really like to see is politicians step forward and take responsibility. The interests of the people are not being served."

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has received 32 submissions from the public, said spokesman Aurele Gervais.

If approval is granted it's only for a one-time shipment -- any further movement of radioactive material by the company would require a new application.

The only avenue of appeal is a review in federal court, Gervais said.

Coun. Percy Hatfield, a member of the Windsor-Essex County Environment Committee, said opponents fear Bruce Power will ship the generators immediately upon receiving approval, possibly before Christmas.

"That makes it a much greater risk now," he said. "They were going to do it in warmer weather, now we are getting into December when the gales are blowing.

"If there is a problem we will have to live with it forever. This is stuff that doesn't go away."

Hatfield agrees with many critics that the company should store the generators in a safe site.

But the point of shipping the steam generators to Sweden for recycling is to reduce the amount of radioactive materials being stored by the company, said Murray Elston, vice-president of corporate affairs at Bruce Power.

Whatever can't be eliminated in Sweden will be returned by ship to the company.

"Hopefully, we will get permission from the commission so we can reduce the volume we have to store here permanently," he said.

The material must go to Sweden because there is no Canadian firm doing similar work, Elston said.

Bruce Power -- which is paying the Swedish company $16 million -- also will not take any chances with the weather should approval be granted in December.

"Everybody should know we will ensure safety first," Elston said.

Copyright (c) The Windsor Star

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