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Public Statements

Letter to The Honorable Cynthia L. Quarterman, Administrator U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration and The Honourable Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment Environment Canada

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Casey Concerned Over Proposed Shipment of Radioactive Material Through the Great Lakes

Joins group of senators in writing a letter to Dept. of Transportation and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

U.S. Senator Bob Casey joined a group of seven senators expressing concern over a proposed shipment of radioactive material through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway by a Canadian Company, Bruce Power Inc. The letters were sent to Cynthia L. Quarterman, Administrator for the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, Marc Leblanc, Secretary of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment for Environment Canada. The senators sent the letters in reaction to Bruce Power's proposal to ship radioactively-contaminated nuclear steam generators through the Great Lakes and United States territory.

In the letter to the DOT, the senators wrote, "The Great Lakes are an invaluable resource to our states, providing drinking water to millions and supporting robust economies. We urge you to comply with both the letter and spirit of the law and reject any proposal that does not protect the Great Lakes or comply with U.S. and international standards."

The senators wrote that the proposed shipment would enter U.S. waters and therefore urged the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) to comply fully and transparently with the Hazardous Materials Transportation Safety and Security Act's requirement that the agency "protect against the risk to life, property, and the environment that are inherent in the transportation of hazardous material in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce."

The proposed shipment of sixteen radioactively-contaminated nuclear steam generators would require several exemptions from international radioactive shipping standards because the shipment would exceed the amount of radioactivity allowed for a single shipment and would not comply with current shipping container requirements.

In the letter to Canadian officials, the senators wrote, "While we understand that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's approval is likely imminent, we believe significant questions remain regarding the shipment. We seek assurances that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Minister of the Environment are conducting thorough and complete reviews of the proposed shipment and data, strictly adhering to international standards, and considering safer alternatives to radioactive shipments through the Great Lakes and contributing radioactive material to the international metal market."

The senators also noted that this decision appears to set a significant new precedent for the use of the Great Lakes for the shipment of radioactive waste, including potentially high-level radioactive wastes.

This shipment of sixteen radioactive steam generators, each weighing close to 100 tons, would be shipped through the Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River before heading across the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden. Much of the metal from the generators would be melted down and sold as "clean" scrap metal for unrestricted use in commercial products. This metal is still potentially radioactively-contaminated and such an operation is not authorized in North America. Any remaining metal would be shipped back to Bruce nuclear power plant in Ontario for on-site storage and/or disposal.

Full text of both letters is below:

The Honorable Cynthia L. Quarterman,
Administrator
U.S. Department of Transportation
Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration
East Building, 2nd Floor
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Administrator Quarterman:

We are concerned about a proposed shipment of radioactive material through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway by a Canadian Company, Bruce Power Inc. The proposed shipment would enter U.S. waters, and we therefore urge the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) to comply fully and transparently with the Hazardous Materials Transportation Safety and Security Act's requirement that the agency "protect against the risk to life, property, and the environment that are inherent in the transportation of hazardous material in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce."

It is our understanding that the proposed shipment of sixteen radioactively-contaminated nuclear steam generators would require several exemptions from international radioactive shipping standards because the shipment would exceed the amount of radioactivity allowed for a single shipment and would not comply with current shipping container requirements. In light of that, we would like PHMSA to address the following questions:
* Does PHMSA have the authority to make exemptions that are not in accordance with the International Atomic Energy Administration's regulations or its own safety standards?
* What are PHMSA's requirements for meeting the two aforementioned standards prior to its approval of a shipment?
* Will PHMSA be complying with the National Environmental Policy Act, and how will the agency ensure public participation and transparency?
* Has PHMSA ever authorized a shipment of comparable size and radioactive content (sixteen nuclear steam generators, or its equivalent)?

Additionally, please provide us any evaluation, review, public comments, and approval documents related to other shipments of radioactive material in U.S. waters. We would also appreciate receiving an explanation of PHMSA's radioactive shipment review and approval process, along with describing the roles of and coordination with other federal agencies, including but not limited to the U.S. Coast Guard and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Finally, please notify us immediately upon receiving a request for revalidation pertaining to Bruce Power's proposed shipment.

The Great Lakes are an invaluable resource to our states, providing drinking water to millions and supporting robust economies. We urge you to comply with both the letter and spirit of the law and reject any proposal that does not protect the Great Lakes or comply with U.S. and international standards. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Russell D. Feingold
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Carl Levin
Debbie Stabenow
Richard J. Durbin
Charles E. Schumer

Cc: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State
Lana Pollack, Chair of the U.S. Section, International Joint Commission
Joseph Comuzzi, Chair of the Canadian Section, International Joint Commission


Mr. Marc Leblanc
Secretary of the Commission
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
280 Slater St., P.O. Box 1046
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5S9

The Honourable Jim Prentice
Minister of the Environment
Environment Canada
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
10 Wellington Street, 28th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H3

Dear Secretary Leblanc and Minister Prentice:

We are concerned about Bruce Power's proposal to ship radioactively-contaminated nuclear steam generators through the Great Lakes and United States territory. While we understand that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's approval is likely imminent, we believe significant questions remain regarding the shipment.

We seek assurances that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Minister of the Environment are conducting thorough and complete reviews of the proposed shipment and data, strictly adhering to international standards, and considering safer alternatives to radioactive shipments through the Great Lakes and contributing radioactive material to the international metal market. Please provide us with any information in this regard, as well as answers to the following questions:

(1) Does Canadian law require that shipments of radioactive material comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) regulations for the shipment of radioactive waste? Does Bruce Power's shipment meet these standards, specifically for total radioactivity limit per shipment and the need for shipping containers for the waste, and, if not, will your agencies deny the application? Are exemptions to the IAEA standards and regulations in the best interests of Canada and the United States?
(2) What steps is the CNSC taking to ensure a complete and reliable list of radioisotopes contained within a steam generator, and to determine the associated radioactive hazards, and other hazards such as toxic heavy metals? Has this information been independently peer-reviewed? It is our understanding that this information is critical to making a sound determination of the waste's classification, and therefore the safety requirements. Can you explain Canada's classification system, the corresponding radioactivity levels, and the differences in minimum safety requirements?
(3) Since a 2005 Environmental Assessment called for long-term storage of the steam generators at the Western Waste Management Facility, what is the justification for changing the original approved plan and will a supplemental assessment be conducted? Will you be considering safer alternatives to radioactive shipments through the Great Lakes, including on-site storage, as well as to contributing radioactively contaminated material to the international metal market? And what plans are in place in case of an accident during loading or transport that results in the steam generators sinking or breaking open?

This decision appears to set a significant new precedent for the use of the Great Lakes for the shipment of radioactive waste, including potentially high-level radioactive wastes. Since the United States must revalidate the proposed shipment, we have urged the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration to reject the application if the proposal does not protect the Great Lakes and fails to comply with U.S. and international standards. We urge Canada to do the same. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Russell D. Feingold
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Carl Levin
Debbie Stabenow
Richard J. Durbin
Charles E. Schumer


Source:
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