Opposition groups are sounding the alarm as truckloads of liquid nuclear waste have started arriving in the United States, transported from Ontario’s Chalk River Nuclear Lab.
Between 100 and 150 loads of the highly radioactive material in puncture and thermal-tested casks are expected to move – potentially over the Blue Water Bridge – over four years, opponents say, in armed convoys en route to the Savannah River site in South Carolina for solidification.
Crossings into New York from Ontario represent the most direct path, but the United States Department of Energy has said the routes will be varied for security reasons.
“I wouldn’t want to be stopped in traffic sitting beside that,” said Joanne Rogers, chief of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.
“What if there was an explosion? What if it got into an accident on the bridge? It goes into our water,” she said.
In February the Anishanabek Nation Grand Council – representing 40 communities in Ontario including Aamjiwnaang – and the Iroquois Caucus released statements opposing the plan by U.S. and Canadian governments to truck the 23,000 litres of nuclear waste south.
Critics have questioned why the solidification isn’t done in Canada, to lower the risk of contaminating drinking water in the event of a spill.
“There’s just so much that everybody should be concerned about,” said Rogers.
Meanwhile a memo made public May 12 from the U.S. Defence Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) notes the first shipment happened the week of April 21, and one of the containers the waste was transferred into in South Carolina didn’t provide adequate shielding from radiation.
“Just that the shipments had begun is newsworthy enough we think, but low and behold, they had a problem with the transfer from the shipping cask,” said Kevin Kamps, an activist with anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley Tuesday renewed his concern about the risk to the Great Lakes.
“We could be one of the crossings,” he said, noting another major concern is inadequate long-term planning by the nuclear industry.
“(It) has made billions (of dollars) over the years creating power, and they never appeared to have a long-term plan on how to deal with all these materials and do it safely,” he said.
Kamps has called the truckloads of waste, including weapons-grade uranium and radioactive isotopes generated via medical isotope production “mobile Chernobyls on steroids.”
Returning the uranium to the U.S. stems from a 2012 commitment by the Government of Canada to repatriate the weapons-based material for liability and nuclear non-proliferation reasons, according to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Shipping it in liquid form is unprecedented, Kamps has said.
The transaction comes with a $60-million payout from Atomic Energy Canada Limited, for processing and management, an AECL spokesperson said last summer, noting Canada does not have the technology or facilities to reprocess the material for use in fuel power reactors.
Source: The Observer