Bill C-38's first victim: Groups forced to drop court action against radioactive waste export

Aug 16 2012

OTTAWA – As a direct result of Bill C-38, Sierra Club Canada and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) are withdrawing their applications for judicial review of permits issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to allow Bruce Power to export 1,600 tonnes of radioactive waste (containing plutonium and other radionuclides) through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway to Sweden.

“Our court case is the first victim of Bill C-38,” said John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada. “Our quest for environmental justice and democracy, however, is far from over.”

Sierra Club Canada and CELA turned to the courts in 2011 after the CNSC issued two permits to Bruce Power without conducting an environmental assessment in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (in effect at the time). The permits were issued despite serious objections and concerns presented to the CNSC by numerous organizations, individuals, municipalities, and First Nation communities.

"The judicial review applications requested the Federal Court quash, or set aside, the permits, but the permits themselves have now since expired and Bruce Power must re-apply if it wishes to proceed with this project,” said CELA lawyer Richard Lindgren. “More importantly, the former Act was repealed by Bill C-38, and the key questions of statutory interpretation raised in the judicial review applications are no longer relevant under the new Act.”

The judicial review applications are now being discontinued without being heard by the Federal Court because they have effectively been rendered moot by the federal government’s recent passage of Bill C-38. Among other things, Bill C-38 repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in its entirety and replaced it with new, far narrower environmental assessment legislation (now in force) which does not require a federal environmental assessment for this type of project.

"In our opinion, Bruce Power is attempting to pull a bait-and-switch that threatens communities and changes Canada’s policy on nuclear waste without any public input or debate,” said Mr. Bennett.

During the 2005 environmental assessment of the refurbishment of the Bruce nuclear plant, Bruce Power clearly stated that waste generated from the project (including decommissioned steam generators) would be stored on-site at a facility operated by Ontario Power Generation. CNSC approved the refurbishment project and the work was undertaken. Nevertheless, Bruce Power applied in 2010 to the CNSC for permits to export 16 radioactive steam generators to a private Swedish facility. Each generator is the size of bus and weighs about 100 tonnes. After being processed in Sweden, approximately 400 tonnes of the most contaminated materials are to be shipped back to Canada, and 1,200 tonnes will be melted-down and sold as scrap metal.

Sierra Club Canada and CELA are urging organizations, communities and individuals to petition the federal government to immediately expand the list of projects that require an environmental assessment under the new Act to include environmentally significant projects - such as shipping 1,600 tonnes of nuclear waste through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway!

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For more information, please contact:

John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada
Tel: 613-291-6888 Executive.Director@sierraclub.ca

Richard Lindgren, Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association
Tel: 613-385-1686 r.lindgren@sympatico.ca

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