Nuclear experts raise concerns over Canada fall-out

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been urged to undertake a formal risk assessment of emerging nuclear technologies by a group of leading experts.

In an open letter sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, a group of nuclear experts, including Peter Bradford, former chair of New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions and former US Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner, warn Trudeau of the potential nuclear risks associated with the building of a new nuclear facility.

The letter spells out concerns over the reactor, which is planned to be built at the site of the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station in Saint John, where it would recycle spent nuclear waste sourced from CANDU reactors. 

The letter, which is also signed by George Washington University research professor and former State Department official Sharon Squassoni, says the risk is the plutonium in the used nuclear fuel could be separated and used to make weapons.

Moltex, the company behind the facility, has separately stated that it does not intend to separate out pure plutonium and hence its product will be “proliferation resistant,” and will not be able to be used to make nuclear weapons. 

Indeed, in an interview with Canada’s National Observer, Moltex CEO Rory O’Sullivan defended his company, calling the letter “biased” and misleading.

O’Sullivan added that Moltex’s goal is to “destroy the hazardous weapons-grade material” that already exists in nuclear waste around the world. According to him, the technology takes spent fuel, puts it through a process called Waste to Stable Salt (or WATSS), and “the hazardous material [is put] into our reactor immediately, and then it’s destroyed.” What’s left is shorter-lasting, low-level radioactive materials, he said.

“I think that objective is ignored in this biased letter,” he said. Thousands of years into the future, nobody would be able to “use that material to make a bomb.”

Justin Trudeau Photo by Adam Scotti (PMO)