7th December 2019
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Council objects to nuclear shipments through Fair Isle Channel

, by , in News

Shetland Islands Council is to write to national and foreign goverments in an attempt to stop nuclear shipments through its territorial waters which are planned to take place soon.

Councillors at this week’s environment and transport committee declared themselves wholly opposed to the proposed shipments, which will involve 16 (and eventually 32) redundant radioactive steam generators being taken from Canada to Sweden for decontamination and recycling. The route would take the ships through the Fair Isle Channel.

The steam generators would come from Canada’s first private nuclear operator Bruce Power and go to the firm of Studsvik in Nykoping, Sweden. The firm would decontaminate around 90 per cent of the materials, sell the scrap metal on the open market and return the remaining waste to Canada.

The meeting heard that the radioactivity within the bus-sized generators, which include materials such as cobalt-60, caesium-137, plutonium, americuim and curium, is six times the maximum allowed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for shipment. However this restriction has been waived by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, a move described by councillor Rick Nickerson as “strange”. It breached international regulations and amounted to exporting waste to other countries.

The council agenda outlined the risk from the generators if the vessel was involved in a collision or fire, and also the likelihood of radioactivity getting into the Baltic environment through decontamination and recycling. The Baltic is already the most radioactive sea in the world.

Mr Nickerson said there would be a threat if the vessel lost power, and pointed out that contamined material could find its way back into products such as washing machines.

He also said the Canadians should be capable of coping with the redundant generators themselves. According to the council, there is sufficient space at Bruce Power to store the generators in line with the principle of being stored as close to the site as possible. The need for the shipments has not been demonstrated and would set an “unwelcome precendent”, although councillor Josie Simpson and Mr Nickerson said it would lend weight to the campaign for the retention of emergency towing vessels.

Members agreed to write to the Scottish and Westminster governments urging them to refuse permission for the shipments through their territorial waters. Councillor Allan Wishart said it was up to the governments to look after their territorial limits.

The council will also write to Canadian and USA governments to urge them not to allow the shipments and to assert that radioactive waste should be dealt with near its place of origin. A letter will also be sent to the Swedish government to try to prevent the recycling of scrap metal onto the open market.


About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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  1. Jeff Miller

    These are not ‘redundant’ steam generators. They are old. Inefficient. VERY lightly contaminated.

    Each weighs in at over 100 tonnes and is the size of a school bus. Each also contains no more than 6g of radioactive material. that’s 6g out of 100,000,000 g. Each generator is made of steel over an inch thick, is welded shut, and could sit on the bottom of the ocean for quite a while before there was any possibility of failure. The only reason that they even have to apply for a special liscense is because they do not fit in preexisting approved containers. That’s all. They’re no more dangerous than a cargoship carrying smoke detectors.

    The idea is to remove the contaminated metal, and recycle the 90% of the material that is NOT contaminated. The other 10% (the contaminated metal) would be returned to Canada, in an approved container, and without all the hubbub. Have a drink and relax. There’s far worse things out there for you to get your panties in a knot about.

  2. Colin Hunter

    They’re such a bunch of pathetic busybodies, they feel they’ve got to make a song and a dance about what other people may be doing to take the heat of their own failures and shortcomings! Most of our esteemed councillors wouldn’t know what a “Steam generator” was if it bit their arse! There was a similar Hoo Haa about some old US Navy ships that were due to be towed to somewhere on Tyneside (If my memory serves me) to be dismantled, but the tree huggers put the kybosh on it because of percieved problems with “contamination”. Do our councillors really think that, if there was any risk to health, that men would actually work on such projects, and put their lives at risk in the process? Let alone the dreadfull danger that it would pose, passing within 10 miles of Sumburgh head! I’m quaking in my shoes!

  3. ian Tinkler

    Tavish Scott is a bit the same. An atomic pile is something you get from sitting on a fence too long! Does Shetland truly deserve these idiots, pure scientific stupidity, environmental and ecological ignorance?

  4. W Conroy

    I am surprised that people are not worried about this and are instead using it as another opportunity to lash out at our Councillors. (C’mon people – we don’t need another reason, they give us enough to moan about!)

    At the end of the day this is still radioactive contaminated material that exceeds the legal shipping levels coming through the waters off Shetland. Can we be sure of the safety of these vessels? Can we say that the weather won’t take a turn for the worst or that the vessels won’t have a problem such as a fire or collision? Is it worth the risk?

    Mr Miller states in the comments above “The only reason that they even have to apply for a special license is because they do not fit in preexisting approved containers” – They also needed a special licence because the levels of radioactivity of the shipment exceed legal limits set out by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material.

    He also states that “they will remove the contaminated metal, and recycle the 90% of the material that is NOT contaminated”. This too is incorrect – Studsvik state that 10% of the MOST radioactive parts will be shipped back to Canada, the remaining 90% will be cleansed and resold. The UN Economic Commission for Europe and the Steel Manufacturer’s Association have condemned this practice of recycling. The waste from cleansing this material will either end up in the Baltic or remain in the material which will be recycled.

    “They’re no more dangerous than a cargoship carrying smoke detectors.” – I wouldn’t fancy one of these in my home! – According to Murray Elston, vice-president of corporate affairs at Bruce Power “If a person stood within a couple of metres of one of the generators for a two-hour period they would have received (radiation levels) similar to a chest X-ray”.

    Each of these generators contain thousands of small tubes through which the primary coolant flows. Those tubes have the same type of contamination that all the other pipes in the primary cooling system have – fission products that emit beta and gamma radiation and transuranic elements such as plutonium, which emit alpha radiation. They are relatively harmless inside the steam generator assuming there are no holes (Bruce Power states that any holes in these shells will be welded shut and coated with a protective substance before transport), but once outside in the environment they are very dangerous and remain so for a very long time.

    Maybe the risk is slight, maybe the possible damage would be minimal… All I know is I would rather they followed the law and kept their dirty laundry on their own doorstep!

  5. Gordon Harmer

    Dear oh dear our poor council cant do right for doing wrong, what are we going to have a go at them about next, the weather maybe. For once they are being proactive on our behalf by trying to stop this cargo passing through our local waters.
    These steam generators may only be lightly contaminated but they are contaminated and if for some reason they ended up on the sea bed in Shetland waters all hell would be let loose. Firstly some jobs-worth in a government environmental department would slap a no fishing zone of who knows how many hundred miles around the wreck.
    Next every body and their dogs would would be up in arms that the council allowed the contaminated cargo to pass through Shetland waters. Our fishermen have a difficult time as it is trying to make a living with all the rules and regulations forced on them. They don’t need a man made disaster which could be totally avoided by our council taking the action they have.
    I just wish the council would be a bit more proactive when experienced people who know what they are talking about make them and us aware of safety issues at the port of Sullom Voe.

  6. ian Tinkler

    They’re no more dangerous than a cargo ship carrying smoke detectors.” – I wouldn’t fancy one of these in my home. Burn to death or have a smoke detector. Says it all Mr. W Conroy. Tritium in a smoke detector is absolutely harmless unless you eat it, inhale it or inject it. Fire will kill you very fast. Are you really that stupid? Before being frightened of radiation learn some physics and understand the dangers. If you want to do some good and eliminate dangerous substances, campaign about alcohol, obesity and nicotine, these are the real dangers in society. Our recent nuclear disaster in Japan is nothing like as lethal as Scotland’s alcohol problems. Put things in perspective and ignore ignorant elected fools of the SIC and anti nuclear ignoramuses.

  7. Mike Smith

    I’d like to know what qualifies Mr Jeff Miller especially, and also Mr Hunter to debunk the concerns of the council?
    Are you nuclear experts gents?

    Personally I don’t like the idea of this TOXIC waste going through or near the Fair Isle channel, you only need look as AIS (ship tracking system) on an average 24 hours to see close-quarters situations, throw in some extreme weather – which can does come “out of nowhere” (i.e. not forecast) as Shetland and Orkney islanders can testify to.
    Add in the removal of the Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs), funded by Government through the MCA, at the end of this month, replacing them with an ad-hoc idea of begging for help off the offshore industry to their standby vessel(s) when needed, which incidently won’t work – it’s not their primary role, even if the OIM will agree to release them from their contractural duty.
    It all mounts up to real potential for a disaster.

  8. W Conroy

    Mr Tinkler – Again you seem to be choosing to take the sad route and slag off someone elses opinion or comment rather than actually contributing anything relevant… What do alcohol, obesity and nicotine have to do with this radioactive material?

    From your comments like “fire will kill you very fast” I can only assume that you seem to be under the impression that I was saying I wouldn’t have a smoke detector in my home… Are YOU really that stupid? Obviously I was talking about the radiated generators!

    Yes I am frightened of radiation and I did take the time to learn something about the dangers of these generators – maybe you should take your own advice…

    As far as me doing some good, eliminating dangerous substances or putting things in perspective – maybe I could suggest you spent less time on your anti SIC political campaign and actually add something relevant to the discussion in hand?

  9. ian Tinkler

    Mr Conroy, is it too much for you to understand. These steam generators posse no risk to you, or anyone else. The risk of radiation damage from them is far less than sitting in Shetland sunshine. SIC aptly demonstrate their stupidity and ignorance yet again. Agree with them if you must but at least show some sense, perspective and intelligence. As stated before, demenstrate your scientific ignorance if you must but do not expect it to go unchallenged. By being so frightened of things you do not understand you fail to perceive the true dangers facing society. Not a single person in Japan has died of radiation poisoning in Japan since Fujiyama. Literally tens of thousand of Scots have die from the affects alcohol, obesity and nicotine each and every year.

  10. Gordon Harmer

    Ian do you really believe the Japanese would publish figures confirming the deaths of workers at Fujiyama who have died from radiation poisoning. Surely you being of superior intelligence to rest of us you must know that people can suffer from radiation sickness for a lengthy period before they die.
    As you show such animosity and malice towards the present council why don’t you stand for the council in the next election. Better still why don’t you stand for every council seat here in Shetland, think of the money saved when you win. One councillor with knowledge superior to that of the whole of the present council and only one wage to pay.
    No need for cutbacks no mistakes ever again we will be the envy of every other council in Britain, I think I will email this idea to Mr Simpson.

  11. Ian Tinkler

    Go to it Gordon.

  12. W Conroy

    Again Mr Tinkler witters on about my lack of sense, perspective, intelligence and scientific ignorance then fails to show any knowledge on the generators being discussed and instead carries on moaning about the council, alcohol, obesity and nicotine.

    Why stop at local council? With his superior intellect and knowledge base surely Prime minister is the job for him! (once his posse shows him how to use a spell checker and he demenstrates how to use it…)

  13. ian Tinkler

    Sorry about the spelling, Mr. Conroy. I thought the argument was about your fears regarding the steam generators. I am at a loss how to redress your “lack of sense, perspective, intelligence and scientific ignorance, with reference to radiation hazards created by the steam generators…However; I repeat again you need fear not the steam generators. Even if one were left in your sitting room, the radiation would not penetrate as far as your bathroom. There you could cringe in absolute safety. As for the Shetland Fair lsle channel, the only danger they would pose to anyone would be the crew of the ship transporting them if they stubbed their toes on them. If the stood next to them, unshielded, for a few hours the radiation dose would be that of a single chest x ray, not usually a lethal dose in my understanding. I hope this allays your fears. Please note, no reference to The SIC in this response.

  14. W Conroy

    And I didn’t realise it was supposed to be an argument about my fears Mr Tinkler!

    What you seem to fail to comprehend is I never said that I feared for my health at this ship passing through our waters – I stated the radiation levels of these generators, regarding the contents of the generators said “once outside in the environment they are very dangerous and remain so for a very long time.” and said “Maybe the risk is slight, maybe the possible damage would be minimal… All I know is I would rather they followed the law and kept their dirty laundry on their own doorstep!”

    I did state I wouldn’t fancy one in my home and that 2 hours (not “a few”) next to one would equal a chest x-ray… there are 24 hrs in a day and 365 days in a year – I’m no genius like you Mr Tinkler but in my book that adds up to a lot of chest x-rays! In your understanding does that start to add up to a lethal dose?

    I too am at a loss how to redress your lack of fear regarding the generators however I reference you to my first post which outlines the reason for my fears.

    I realise now I am wasting my time trying to explain my concerns to you Mr Tinkler although I must admit I’m not sure whether you’re just being ignorant or what with your invincible attitude towards radiation you’ve spent too much time unprotected next to the x-ray machine at your work for you to comprehend the possible repercussions of these generators sinking in the waters off Shetland.

  15. ian Tinkler

    The possible repercussions of these generators sinking in the waters off Shetland would be absolutely minimal. In comparison to normal levels of background radiation they would to all intents and purposes would be undetectable and of no risk to anyone. As previously stated put your fears into perspective, you will never be at risk of standing next to a steam generator for two seconds, let alone two hours. As stated before, although it appears beyond your comprehension, the real risk of premature death is not these generators but, alcohol, nicotine and obesity. Not on the political agenda to confront the real killers in modern society. Far more politically correct in Scotland to be a nuclear ignoramus and campaign about the evils of nuclear power. You are right you are no genius, on that one thing we do agree!

  16. Gordon Harmer

    Not being a scientist or a person of superior intellect I decided to research the shipment of these alleged harmless steam generators. I found a very interesting piece submitted by the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility on these very generators, the link is, http://www.ccnr.org/CCNR_Submission_1.pdf.
    I have copied a small section of the report which makes very interesting reading and I think totally vindicates our councils proposed action.

    The CNSC has ample technical and procedural reasons for withholding permission for this shipment. First and foremost, the shipment exceeds the maximum recommended limits for radioactivity in any single shipment. It is our understanding that this would be the case even if the steam generators were shipped one at a time. This being so, the CNSC is not obligated to
    grant a licence to Bruce Power, and, in our view, should not do so

  17. ian Tinkler

    Just for once get up to speed Gordon. Not being a scientist does not does not justify ignorance and referencing out of date data. If you must pass comment be in date and accurate.
    License to transport, Feb. 4, 2011. “The Commission (CNSC) is satisfied that Bruce Power’s application meets the international regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Canadian requirements of the Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations for a special arrangement,” the release reads. “The Commission is therefore satisfied that the risk to the health and safety of the public and the environment posed by the proposed activity is negligible.”
    For a copy of the full CNSC decision, please go to: http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca

  18. Gordon Harmer

    Just trying your tactics Ian, as a practitioner of said tactics you saw through them right away.
    I notice you refer to using out of date data being ignorant, does this apply to yourself when you you have been guilty of this in the past. Or is a superior intelligent scientist allowed to use out of date data when debating the building of wind farms in Shetland.

    Really sad news about the grind Ian its a pity the Sea Shepherd did not stay longer in Faroe it would have made a difference what ever I think about them.

  19. ian Tinkler

    So you intentionally tried to deceive, Gordon. That I have never done. Making a mistake is one thing, deliberate deception, quite another, better go drive a bus!

  20. W Conroy

    I may not be a genius like you Mr Tinkler, but it seems to be you that’s having trouble grasping what the conversation is even regarding instead choosing to keep verbally abusing anyone with an opposing point of view without offering any evidence or even seeming to know any information on the subject at hand. Even properly reading what someone else has written seems to be a difficult task for you to process correctly!

    I tried to keep it in simple terms for you to understand Mr Tinkler but yet again you failed to grasp my point so I’ll try to make it even easier for you to understand.

    I repeat – I DO NOT fear for my health from these generators. Please stop wittering on about how safe I would be near one and how “stupid” or “ignorant” I am for fearing this.

    Although this again seems beyond your comprehension I will repeat – I am NOT interested in discussing obesity, tobacco, alcohol or politics. Please refrain from repeatedly mentioning these subjects also – This was supposed to be a discussion about the steam generators.

    I fear for the repercussions of physically allowing this material through our waters. Like anything else once a precedence is set others will follow. When countries make up their own minds what to do (instead of following the laws set by International bodies who are knowledgeable on the subject) things can get out of control. Before we know it countries ignore more laws as it’s convenient to them to do so and more ships with even more contaminated or hazardous material are passing through our waters.

    As I stated before these generators contain tubes of radioactive material more harmful to the environment than the generator casing. I fear this radioactive material may end up in the waters off Shetland and the possible as yet unknown repercussions from this (shipping/ jobsworths/ecological damage/whatever else)

    Before you go on again about how harmless these generators are consider this – If these generators are as harmless as you incorrectly believe them to be why would Bruce Power pay so much money and go through all this trouble to dispose of said generators?

    Just because the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission granted a special license to transport these generators doesn’t mean it is safe to do so – Of course the Canadians want rid of the radiated material! The International Atomic Energy Agency says this is not safe for transport. The UN Economic Commission for Europe and the Steel Manufacturer’s Association have condemned this practice of recycling as they consider even the cleansed material to be unsafe for use.

    But of course I forget that “stupid” and “ignorant” people like the International Atomic Energy Agency aren’t as knowledgeable as you on the subject of radiation – Maybe you could help out in your spare time when you’re not too busy running the council?

  21. Gordon Harmer

    Ian you are far to clever to make mistakes, or so you would have us believe. Also the amount of times you have done it there is no way it was ever a mistake.

  22. ian Tinkler

    No, I am no genius, Mr. Conroy but not quite as stupid as some. I would ask, you if you are able, to reference any formal objection for this transportation, from any of the atomic agencies you mention. If a single pertinent, internationally recognized, nuclear or atomic authority has raised a formal objection to this transportation I will apologies for thinking of you as ill informed and scientifically ignorant, scaremonger. Otherwise I will consider this correspondence is over. Post Script: You state in your letter “Of course the Canadians want rid of the radiated (actually radiating) material!” In fact, The Canadians have requested the return of all the contaminated material after removal from the generators for storage in Canada. If you had taken the time to read the previous letters in The Times, you would and should have known that. Ignorance is such bliss!!

  23. W Conroy

    Sigh… Mr Tinkler… Again all you do in your post is prove you have failed to properly read anything the times or anybody else has written and instead choose to argue while continuing to be misinformed.

    The Canadians haven’t “requested the return of all the contaminated material after removal from the generators for storage in Canada.” like you state. I refer you back to my first post.

    I see I am wasting my time even responding to you as you don’t even read my replies so please do think of me as ill informed and scientifically ignorant while I continue to think of you as an insulting troublesome busybody who has nothing better to do than troll people on the internet as you have no life.

    Ignorance must be such bliss… I am jealous!

  24. ian Tinkler

    Mr. Conroy, I would ask, you if you are able, to reference any formal objection for this transportation, from any of the atomic agencies you mention. If a single pertinent, internationally recognized, nuclear or atomic authority has raised a formal objection to this transportation I will apologies for thinking of you as ill informed and scientifically ignorant, scaremonger. I will ask you again. The only formal objection to the shipping of these containers, I can find is from that well known bunch of masterminds, the SIC and perhaps yourself!

  25. W Conroy

    And Mr Tinkler I would ask you if you are able to understand that these safe limits for transporting this type of material are set by the IAEA for a reason. These rules were made by people who are experts in their field. If their rules say it’s unsafe to do so then I’m sure it is! Or maybe I should ignore these experts and just listen to you…

    As far as me referencing a formal objection from the IAEA (The only atomic agency I have mentioned which you would know if you actually read my responses) – As the IAEA haven’t met to be able to raise this issue I can’t provide you with their objections as of yet but they are meeting on 17 – 21 October 2011 to have an international conference on this very subject – the safe and secure transport of radioactive material. I’m sure they will provide you with the formal objection you seem to require then.

    As far as I am concerned our correspondence is over – Unlike you I actually have a life and have better things to do than explain common sense to an internet troll busybody who has proven time and time again that they can’t even read properly!