Intervenor: Vol. 25 no. 2 April - June 2000

Court Updates: MOX Fuel Transports

CELA Battles MOX in Court

On June 26th 2000, on behalf of six environmental and First Nations clients, CELA issued an Application for Judicial Review naming the Federal Minister of Transport as Respondent in respect of concerns about the transport of mixed oxide (plutonium) fuel (MOX) from Russia to Canada, which is expected imminently.

CELA's clients are the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, the Sierra Club of Canada, Northwatch, and Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County. The Judicial Review application is primarily concerned with one aspect of the MOX project, namely, the concern that the Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) will be significantly amended without public consultation.

Transport Canada originally approved the Russian ERAP in November 1999, along with a similar ERAP pertaining to shipment of MOX fuel from the United States, following extensive public consultation. During that consultation, and in the approval documents, Transport Canada stated that the MOX fuel would be trucked from its point of entry into Canada, at Sault Ste. Marie, to Chalk River, Ontario. Explicit statements were made that the fuel would not be flown, but in January 2000, that is exactly what happened. Without public notice or consultation, and contrary to the assertions made to the public, the ERAP was amended to allow the fuel to be flown by helicopter from Sault Ste. Marie to Chalk River.

The Judicial Review application commenced in June seeks to prevent this possibility from occurring for the Russian shipment.

In addition, there are at least two other significant amendments to the ERAP that may be sought by AECL, based on information that has come to the attention of the applicants: three times the approved amount could be transported in one shipment, and there could be significant route amendments.

CELA's clients fear, based on the January experience, that those amendments would again be granted by Transport Canada without public notice or consultation, making the original consultation process meaningless. The Judicial Review application seeks to prohibit such amendments unless Transport Canada gives notice and consults the public. Supporting material is due by the end of July, and a hearing could be held by the Fall. CELA counsel on the application are Theresa McClenaghan and Paul Muldoon, along with co-counsel Paul Bates of Lerner & Associates' Toronto office.

Theresa McClenaghan is a lawyer at CELA