Great Lakes groups raised questions after a transport route for high-level radioactive waste from the LaSalle nuclear power reactors in Illinois to the “port of exit” at Port Huron, Michigan was uncovered by a watchdog group.
The groups say the implication of the port of exit is the waste would either be moved by ground travel into Canada or be transferred to water transport on the St Clair River and the connecting waterways to the Great Lakes.
A news release on Aug. 3 from Beyond Nuclear referred to a letter dated July 13 from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to “Secured Transportation Services." The letter refers to an application under 45-day review by the NRC for a highway transport route for lethal high-level radioactive waste — irradiated fuel.
The letter was discovered on July 23 among 467 documents on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s online ADAMS library, under what Beyond Nuclear described as "an obscure title."
The number of transports was not given.
Port Huron is named as a “port of exit” not a point of exit — usually cited for road shipments.
Also, the letter only refers to shipping from central Illinois to Port Huron by a land route. It does not address how the waste would move from the port.
“We have serious concerns about shipping high-level radioactive waste from Exelon’s LaSalle reactors to a port city,” said David Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service. “Except in cases of extreme emergency, we believe that irradiated fuel should only be moved once for permanent isolation.”
“Why are these lethal wastes being moved? Is it for storage elsewhere? Experimentation or testing? How much waste and how many shipments will travel over the route in the five years for trucking on roads and seven years for rail shipments that NRC would approve?” asked Diane D’Arrigo, of Nuclear Information and Resource Service.
Another question: Why send the waste to Port Huron?
Port Huron is on the St. Clair River, part of critical connecting channels linking the Upper and Lower Great Lakes. A ground route could take the waste over the Blue Water Bridge, which crosses the St. Clair River, or by rail through a tunnel that connects the United States and Canada.
“A spill, release or fire here or near waterways that flow into the St. Clair River could potentially ruin one of the largest fresh-water deltas in the world — the St. Clair Flats — and potentially poison forever, drinking water and freshwater ecosystems for up to 40-plus million people of the Great Lakes, including residents of Canada, the U.S., U.S. tribes, First Nations and other Indigenous Peoples,” said Kay Cumbow of Great Lakes Environmental Alliance.