Not in our seaway: Mohawks


Michelle Lalonde, Montreal Gazette

Date of publication: 
1 October 2010

The Mohawk community of Kahnawake is determined to stop a plan by an Ontario nuclear power station to ship 16 massive steam generators along the St. Lawrence Seaway for recycling in Sweden.

“The fact that the seaway was built through our territory without our approval in the first place is bad enough,” said Clinton Phillips, the chief responsible for environmental issues on the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.

“To use it to transport nuclear waste literally through our backyard would be adding insult to injury in a huge way. There is absolutely no way we’ll stand for it.”

Council spokesperson Joe Delaronde said the community has no plan to physically block the project, but will join Mohawks in Akwasasne to try to persuade the federal government to cancel it.

He said the council intends to pass a resolution Monday to formally oppose the transportation through Mohawk territory of any nuclear fuel or waste products.

Concerns about toxic waste spilling into the St. Lawrence have been heightened by Tuesday’s leak of about 35 barrels of diesel fuel into the river from a conduit owned by Suncor Energy’s refinery facility in Montreal East.

Suncor spokesperson Michael Southern said yesterday the cleanup for that spill was almost complete, while an investigation into what caused the leak continues.

“It is clear that one of the four lines that connect the refinery to the dock was breached,” Southern said, adding all four lines have been shut down during the investigation.

This kind of accident has environmental groups as well as residents along the river asking questions about projects that might affect water quality.

Bruce Power official John Peever said the plan to ship generators from the southwestern Ontario nuclear plant to Sweden for recycling poses no danger of radioactive material spilling or escaping.

The steam generators, weighing about 1,000 tonnes each, are considered low level radioactive waste, he noted. Radioactive components are sealed within two-inch thick, steel shells. Peever said there are no “credible scenarios” that would cause the release of dangerous levels of radioactive materials.

The plan is to haul the generators on flatbed trucks from the Bruce facility to Owen Sound, Ont., to be loaded onto a special ship. From there, they are to be shipped from Georgian Bay through the Great Lakes, along the St. Lawrence Seaway, and on to the Studsvik nuclear recycling facility near Nykoping, Sweden.

There, the generators’ steel shells are to be cleaned, melted and mixed with other recycled steel from non-nuclear sources. The resulting steel ingots can then be sold for reuse.

Empty metal tubes (called U-tubes) inside the generators that held heavy water remain radioactive. These are to be shipped back to the Bruce facility for storage. The project reduces by about 90 per cent the volume of waste stored at the Bruce facility.

Peever called the project “revenue neutral” in the long term. The goal, he said, is to reduce waste. This week, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which regulates Canada’s nuclear industry, held two days of public hearings on the project in Ottawa. A decision on whether to license the project is to be rendered within 30 working days.