Council objects to nuclear shipments through Fair Isle Channel

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.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.