Shipping Nuclear Waste on the Great Lakes

Bruce Power has announced plans to ship 16 old generators from the Bruce Plant to Sweden for recycling. The 100 tonne generators will be loaded onto a ship in the Port of Owen Sound for their passage through the Great Lakes, then on to Sweden. 90% of the material in the generators will be recycled, with the balance returned to the Bruce Plant to store as low level nuclear waste. The Mayor of Owen Sound, Sarnia, and others have expressed concerns, and believe the plan needs careful study. I think there are legitimate concerns and questions that need to be answered before this plan to move toxic material is approved.

The generators are radioactive, and according to a Bruce spokeman standing next to the generator for two hours would cause no more radiation exposure than a chest Xray.

Has the level of radiation inside the units been measured, and can it be? If water gets into the generator, is it possible that greater levels of radiation would be dispersed?

If a generator went down, and was down for awhile, what would be the impact, if any, on fish? The Great Lakes have a significant sport and commercial fishery, and most of us have had a fish dinner or two from Great Lakes fish. Would there be any danger of bio-accumulation of radioactivity that could affect our food consumption?

If a ship went down, or a crane toppled while loading, and the generator sank to the bottom, would it be safe for divers to attach cables or chains to recover it?

A Bruce spokesman said that if the load went down, they believed that the levels of radiation in the overall lakes would be immeasurable. What about if it went down in Lake St. Clair, a shallow, small lake? Or the Welland canal, or St. Lawrence locks? Would the radiation still be immeasurable?

Much of the water supply for residents of Ontario, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York State is drawn from the Great Lakes. Millions of people rely on this water. How close would the ship pass to water intakes? What would be the local radiation levels near these intakes if the ship were to go down nearby?

I applaud the efforts to recycle the materials, but am not quite sure why it has to go all the way to Sweden to be done. And my guess is that this is likely able to be done safely, with no risk for human health. But this is toxic material, and the care and protection of the water in the Great Lakes is vital. We should demand answers to at least these basic questions before approving this plan.

There is a meeting at the Public Health building in Owen Sound on July 27 at 5PM. Hopefully the answers to these questions will be made public there.

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