Canada – U.S. court clears way for liquid nuclear waste shipments over Niagara roads via Niagara Falls Review

A U.S. judge has cleared the way for shipments of radioactive waste that could pass through Niagara.

Local environmentalists haven’t given up yet on stopping that plan.

Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Gracia Janes, environment convener for the National Council of Women of Canada, said she remains hopeful that the efforts of U.S. political leaders may yet succeed in stopping the shipments of liquid nuclear waste from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, Ont., a community near Algonquin Park, to a disposal site in Savannah River, S.C., 1,700 kilometres south.

Seven U.S environmental organizations launched a lawsuit against the Department of Energy (DOE) last summer regarding plans for as many as 150 shipments of the material over four years. The lawsuit asked the court to rule that the shipments require an additional environmental impact statement, saying the material has never previously been transported along public roads in a liquid form.

In total, about 23,000 litres of the material — a byproduct of the creation of medical radioisotopes, which includes cesium-137, strontium-90, and plutonium-239 — are to be shipped back to the U.S., as part of a 2010 agreement to repatriate radioactive material, costing the Canadian government about US$60 million.

But last Thursday, the U.S. court supported claims by the DOE in 2015 that the material poses no more danger in its liquid form that it would as a solid.


For instance, she said Indonesia instead uses a method of diluting its nuclear waste with the DOE’s approval, making shipping the material unnecessary.

In a media release issued by the plaintiffs in the unsuccessful law suit, the director of Savannah River Site Watch, Tom Clements, said the same technique used in Indonesia could be used at Chalk River.

“Down-blending and solidifying the waste in Canada would be cheaper, faster and safer than moving this dangerous liquid cargo through dozens of communities,” he said.


But considering recent U.S. government decisions, particularly regarding environmental issues, she said “it’s a little hard to hope that they will make changes.”

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