DOT considering permit for Great Lakes radioactive waste shipment
The U.S. Dept. of Transportation gave notice this week that it has begun considering whether to grant the Canadian company Bruce Power permission to move 16 radioactively contaminated steam generators through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.
In a notice in the March 30 Federal Register DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration wrote that on Feb. 24 Bruce Power asked for special arrangements so that it could transport the large generators for recycling and volume reduction in Sweden.
The initial leg of transport would be by road and entirely within Canada. The steam generators would then be loaded on a vessel in Owen Sound, Ontario for transport to Sweden via Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario and interconnecting waterways as well as the St. Lawrence River. At various times the vessel would necessarily enter U.S. waters. Therefore, under IAEA special arrangement provisions, the U.S. would need to revalidate the Canadian certificate in order to permit transport.
PHMSA is recognized as the IAEA Competent Authority for the U.S. and is responsible for competent authority approval in these cases.
PHMSA intends to conduct a fully independent review of the proposed transport including safety, environmental, and fitness assessments, in consultation with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and U.S. Coast Guard. PHMSA must approve, deny, or institute additional controls regarding
the transport in the request for competent authority approval.
A group of over 70 mayors from U.S. and Canadian towns along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway have warned that this shipment could endanger public water supplies.
Ontario Indians protest plans to ship radioactive waste over Great Lakes
The Union of Ontario Indians will battle a plan to ship 1,600 tons of radioactive waste from the Bruce nuclear power complex to Sweden via the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, the group announced this week.
UOI, a political advocacy organization that represents 39 First Nation communities in Ontario, said that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Bruce Power Corporation failed to properly consult with First Nation communities before approving the plant to ship 16 contaminated steam generators from the Bruce Power complex in Kincardine.
“[M]ost of the Chiefs and Councils who are signatories to treaties all along the Great Lakes were never consulted,“ Southwest Regional Anishinabek Nation Chief Chris Plain said in a statement. “The duty to consult and accommodate must be done with the rights holders and we were never consulted.”
“We will do everything in our power to prevent the Ontario and Federal governments and the nuclear power industry from using our precious waterways as a garbage disposal route,” Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee said. “It is contrary to Supreme Court decisions, our aboriginal and treaty rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the laws of Nature.”
Mayors from more than 70 communities along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway have warned that the proposed shipment has not received adequate environmental review and threatens the water supply for millions people.
The ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan shows that accidents can result in radioactive contamination of water supplies.This week officials in Tokyo warned residents not to let infants drink the tap water because it contains elevated levels of radioactive iodine.
U.S. Dept. of Transportation approval is required for the Bruce shipment to pass through U.S. waters.
Climate change and heavy demand could result in water shortages in the Great Lakes region, a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey warns.
The Associated Press reports:
Just 1 per cent of the lakes’ water is replenished annually through runoff and precipitation, and vast amounts are removed for agriculture, industry, drinking and other uses. Still, the overall supply is so huge that withdrawals have had little effect on the Great Lakes system, the report said.
With a few notable exceptions, urban and suburban development also has not put a serious dent in supplies, although surface water diversions and groundwater pumping have affected some flow patterns over large areas. The 2.1 billion gallons that Chicago diverts from Lake Michigan daily has lowered Lakes Michigan and Huron by about 2.5 inches.
Weather and climate, on the other hand, have significant effects on groundwater and lake levels and stream flow rates, [USGS hydrologist Howard W. Reeves] said. Declining lake levels over much of the past decade resulted largely from drought and warming temperatures that limited winter ice cover and boosted evaporation/
There are examples of human use impacting water availability.
Groundwater pumping in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas has caused local groundwater levels to decline as much as 1,000 feet, and if current trends continue the groundwater level could drop another 100 feet in the next 30 years, the report found.
The USGS analysis combined groundwater and surface-water modeling and found that a single pumping well can affect a nearby stream, even to the point of drying the stream during some of the year.
The U.S. Dept. of Transportation has the authority to block a controversial plan to ship radioactive waste over the Great Lakes.
Last week the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission approved a plan to ship 16-school bus sized steam generators from the Bruce Nuclear Station on Lake Huron to Sweden for reprocessing and reintroduction to the commercial metals market.
The move required special arrangements with Canadian regulators because the generators are so large that no International Atomic Energy Agency approved container can hold them and because the amount of radiation they contain exceeds the limits for shipments under international law.
Because the shipment would pass through U.S. territories in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway en route to Sweden, U.S. approval is necessary.
The agency responsible for oversight of nuclear shipments in the U.S. is DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an agency that has come under criticism recently for its failure to prevent oil and gas pipeline ruptures.
In the final days of his tenure as a U.S. Senator, Democrat Russ Feingold of Wisconsin spearheaded an effort to ensure that the agency doesn’t simply rubber stamp the plan.
Feingold, together with Sens. Robert Casey Jr.(D-PA), Kirsten Gellibrand (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Charles Shumer (D-NY), asked PHMSA to explain how it would handle the request to move the nuclear waste through U.S. waters.
In a Nov. 8, 2010 response PHMSA Director Cynthia Quarterman said the agency would begin considering Bruce Power’s application for a “special arrangement” once the shipping plan was approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Over the past two decades the agency has made special arrangements for the shipping of approximately 40 large nuclear power plant components, she said, but “almost all of the prior U.S. consignments had a lesser radioactive hazard than the proposed Canadian steam generator transport.”
All but one of the previous nuclear shipments appear to involve ocean shipping rather than transport over the Great Lakes.
Quarterman said that PHMSA would solicit input from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before granting Bruce Power an exemption from safety regulations.
Feingold asked whether PHMSA be complying with the National Environmental Policy Act [which requires formal environmental review of federal actions with significant environmental impact] and how the agency would ensure public participation and transparency.
Quarterman stated that the agency would comply with NEPA, but offered no details on actions to engage the public.
“It should be noted that although Canada may approve the initial certificate, the U.S. is in no way bound by their approval,” she said. “The U.S. could require additional conditions or elect not to validate.”
PHMSA must conduct a formal environmental review of the plan, said Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge, who is working with a coalition of U.S. environmental and nuclear watchdog groups intent on stopping the transport.
“This precedent-setting project, if allowed to proceed, will normalize some risky practices that have larger implications for human health and the environment,“ he said. “Bruce Power’s aim is to save money on long-term stewardship costs of radioactive waste by reducing its volume and mixing some of it into recycled metal markets.”
“We believe the proposed shipment manifests as yet unquantified threats to water, the environment and public health in the event of a seal rupture on the generators,” Lodge said. “Radionuclides could enter the Lakes and Seaway, and if so, fisheries and resort activities will be seen as contaminated.”
Lodge said that the transport plans presented by Bruce Power do not detail emergency response measures in the event of a freighter accident and do not include cleanup plans, spill remediation protocols or drinking water protection measures.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has approved a controversial plan to ship radioactive waste from Ontario’s Bruce Nuclear Generating Station through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence seaway.
On Friday the commission announced that Bruce Power will be allowed to ship 16 school-bus sized decommissioned steam generators to Sweden to be recycled.
An organization of mayors from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region and environmental groups on both sides of the border condemned the decision.
“This shipment contains more than 6 times – and arguably more than 50 times – the maximum
amount of radioactivity allowed by [International Atomic Energy Agency] regulations,“ said Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. “Because of this, the CNSC had to make a “Special Arrangement” exempting Bruce Power from those IAEA regulations.”
“By bending the rules, the CNSC has demonstrated that they are champions of the nuclear industry rather than defenders of the public interest – for there is no public benefit to be served by allowing these shipments.”
“… The timing of the shipment will be determined once all of the approvals are in place and conditions are determined to be optimal,” Bruce Power said in a statement.
Patty Birkholz of Saugatuck Township, until recently the most prominent Republican environmental advocate in the legislature, has been tapped by Governor Snyder to direct the state Office of the Great Lakes.
“Senator Birkholz is a tireless advocate for environmental causes,” Gov. Snyder said. “Throughout her entire career she has worked to protect the Great Lakes and all of Michigan’s water resources, and I have no doubt she will continue the fight to conserve the natural resources that make this state great.”
During her three terms in the state house and two in the state senate Birkholz focused on water issues including the adoption of the Great Lakes Water Compact and the passage of state regulations for water withdrawal.
As chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee in 2009 Birkholz worked with environmental and business groups to create a bill that allowed Michigan to retain its wetland permitting program after Gov. Granholm proposed turning the program over to the federal government and appropriations committees in the legislature zeroed its budget.
The Office of the Great Lakes provides the state government and the public with information about the Great Lakes and represents Michigan in discussions with regional organization including the Great Lakes Commission, International Joint Commission, Council of Great Lakes Governors and the Binational Executive Committee.
A group of over 70 mayors from U.S. and Canadian towns along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway is warning that a planned shipment of radioactive materials from the Bruce Power nuclear complex could endanger public water supplies.
Bruce Power operates North America’s largest nuclear power plant in Kincardine, Ontario near the shore of Lake Huron. The company plans to ship 16 school bus-sized radioactive steam generators over the Great Lakes to a metal recycling facility in Sweden.
The Environmental News Servicereports that the mayors of the Cities Initiative say that they are seriously concerned about what they see as flaws in the environmental review of the proposed shipment.
“Safety scenarios do not consider more serious accidents, rely on a series of assumptions, and lack an assessment of ecological risk,” the mayors warned.
“The [Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission] revised staff report confirms many of our concerns,” said George Heartwell, mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and past chair of the Cities Initiative. “However,” he said, “we disagree with the conclusions of the revised report, and feel that an accident involving this shipment does pose a significant environmental and public health risk.”
In addition, the mayors are concerned about the potentially precedent-setting nature of the shipment. They warn that the amount of radioactive waste to be shipped exceeds by 50 times the international allowable limit for a single shipment in inland waters.
The removal of the generators is part of a project to restart two reactors at the complex.
(Jonathan H. Adler)
The NYT reports on the mixed consumer reactions to “environmentally friendly,” low-phospate dishwashing detergents. Consumer produce manufacturers have begun selling low-phosphate detergents in response to laws in several states requiring product reformulation.
The article also notes that the environmental benefits of reformulated products can depend on how consumers respond. Low-flow toilets don’t save as much water if they prompt some users to flush multiple times. Might there be a similar rebound effect with low-phosphate detergents? Perhaps.
Phosphorus in the form of phosphates suspends particles so they do not stick to dishes and softens water to allow suds to form.
Now that the content in dishwasher detergent has plummeted to 0.5 percent from as high as 8.7 percent, many consumers are just noticing the change in the wash cycle as they run out of the old product
“Low-phosphate dish detergents are a waste of my money,” said Thena Reynolds, a 55-year-old homemaker from Van Zandt County, Tex., who said she ran her dishwasher twice a day for a family of five. Now she has to do a quick wash of the dishes before she puts them in the dishwasher to make sure they come out clean, she said. “If I’m using more water and detergent, is that saving anything?” Ms. Reynolds said. “There has to be a happy medium somewhere.”