Protests by the Mohawks in the U.S. and First Nations, Métis and other groups in Canada have been heard: Bruce Power corporation will delay the shipment of 16 school-bus-size radioactive steam generators through the Great Lakes and up the St. Lawrence Seaway and river while it consults with Natives on both sides of the border.
“Throughout this process, we have tried to communicate meaningful information to legitimate, interested parties. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve successfully met our regulatory obligations, but have not yet met our own standard of providing information to some of those legitimate groups, particularly the First Nations and Métis,” said President and CEO Duncan Hawthorne in a statement on March 29. “For that reason, we have chosen to delay the shipments to allow that information flow to take place.”
Bruce Power did not reschedule the shipment, preferring to “take the necessary time to meet with First Nation and Métis groups to answer any questions they may have about the project,” the company said in a statement.
“The important thing is we do this right, not that we do it quickly,” said Hawthorne.
The company was responding to numerous protests from Native and environmental groups on both sides of the U.S.–Canada border. It started just after the February 4 approval by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, when the Mohawk Akwesasne, Kahnawà:ke and Tyendinaga tribes declared themselves “absolutely, 100% against this plan,” as Tyendinaga Grand Chief Don Maracle put it in a February 9 statement.
The company did not back down from its intention to transport the decommissioned steam generators and did not cite recent events in Japan stemming from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that have caused massive problems in its nuclear plant. But many of the concerns expressed by Natives—that the St. Lawrence River provides drinking water to 40 million people, for instance, and that any spill could lead to permanent contamination—relate to similar issues.
Bruce Power holds that the end result—decontaminated, recycled metal—is worth the effort.
“While recycling this material is the right thing to do, and our regulator has given us a license to proceed, we recognize there is a level of concern among some groups that we want to address before proceeding,” said Hawthorne. “Throughout this process we have tried to communicate meaningful information to legitimate, interested parties. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve successfully met our regulatory obligations, but have not yet met our own standard of providing information to some of those legitimate groups, particularly the First Nations and Métis.”