Shipping Radioactive Steam Generators in the Great Lakes

CELA counsel represent the Sierra Club of Canada and the Canadian Environmental Law Association in two Applications for Judicial Review in Federal Court. The Applications were issued March 4, 2011. One Application, brought against Bruce Power, the Minister of Transport, and the federal Attorney General, challenges the export licence issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on February 3, 2011. This licence amended a licence issued in January 2010, which had expired, and which grants Bruce Power permission to export the steam generators and the nuclear substances they contain, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Export and Import Control regulations.

The other Application, brought against the same Respondents, challenges the Transport Licence and Certificate of Transport, also issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, allowing Bruce Power to undertake road and marine transport of the sixteen steam generators and their nuclear substances under a “special arrangement.” This licence was issued February 4, 2011. The sixteen steam generators were used for decades for power production in the heart of the Bruce A Nuclear Generating Station, and when Bruce Power sought permission to refurbish that plant, it then stated the generators were not suitable for recycling and would be placed in the Western Waste Management Facility for interim and medium term storage. Some years later, in late 2009, Bruce Power apparently formed another plan and sought these approvals from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. After extensive expression of public concern, the CNSC held a public hearing in September 2010 on the special arrangement transport licence. Over 75 Intervenors made submissions to that hearing.

These Judicial Review Applications challenge the legality of the Licences, on the basis of non-compliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which the CNSC stated it did not have to apply, as well as on the basis of failure to follow the rules of natural justice in the case of the export licence, and the inadequacy or absence of the CNSC’s reasons for its decisions.

In June 2011, the Federal Court dismissed an attempt by the CNSC to intervene in the judicial review proceedings. However, in August 2012, CELA and Sierra Club Canada were forced to discontinue the applications for judicial review since they had been rendered moot by two developments: (i) both impugned licences expired without being renewed; and (ii) the federal government passed a new environmental assessment law that repealed some of the key statutory provisions being relied upon by CELA and Sierra Club Canada in the court case.

Bruce Power has recently (July, 2013) confirmed that it has no immediate plans to re-seek approval to export the steam generators to Sweden. However, concerned residents, municipalities, First Nations and environmental groups continue to monitor this situation closely in the event that Bruce Power resurrects its proposal to export the steam generators to the United States or elsewhere.

Media Releases

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Denied Intervention in Judicial Review of its Steam Generators Shipping Decision
Environmental Groups Commence Legal Proceedings Against Proposed Shipment of Radioactive Waste Through The Great Lakes
Media Advisory - Shipment of Radioactive Waste Challenged
ACTION ALERT: Voice your concern to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regarding Bruce Power's plan to ship radioactive steam generators across the Great Lakes
Radioactive Steam Generator Shipments Put the Great Lakes and Global Consumer Products at Risk