Darlington Refurbishment: why not?

** Note: be sure to check out the Darlington Daze link for a short series of postings about the Darlington refurbishment hearing that took place in early December 2012. Refurbishment: such a nice, innocuous-sounding word, isn’t it? At the Free Dictionary site it’s defined as ‘To make clean, bright, or fresh again; renovate.’

In the context of nuclear reactors, the dictionary definition is not really so very-very helpful, as it turns out. What the folks in the nuclear industry mean when they talk about reactor refurbishment is not so much renovate as re-build. It’s pretty much like starting from scratch – & there is quite a bit about the process that is deliberately kept murky for the unsuspecting public.

(Well now, hmmmm. I am not so sure we should be using the word “unsuspecting” about “the public” – I actually think the public is very very very suspicious of all things nuclear. And rightfully so. But the nuclear industry (& the governments that stand behind it, because make no mistake, our governments do stand behind it!) has a vested interest in keeping us from digging too deeply into the details of nuclear projects.)

So, right now the government of Ontario (with tacit, quiet approval from our very nuke-friendly federal government) plans to subsidize (that is, use our tax dollars to pay for) a massive long-term project to “refurbish” the reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. They are prepared, it would appear, to spend $8 - 14 billion (of our money) on this venture, in order to extend the life of the DNGS out to 2055.

Yikes, eh? Yikes & sheesh. Never enough money anymore for schools or libraries or health care or … fill in the blanks, here, Reader – but that much $$$$ to re-build nuclear reactors? What is wrong with this picture?? Well, quite a lot, as it turns out.

Refurbishments cost a boatload of money taxpayers’ money that in my view & the view of many would be much better spent investing in renewable energy & also the common sense (but perhaps not very “sexy”) conservation & energy efficiency measures some of my colleagues were pushing for 30 (or more) years ago now. Please don’t give me the nonsensical line that nuclear energy is clean & green; that is so patently absurd that I doubt even those who claim it actually believe it as they are mouthing the words (nuclear wastes that will be strewn about the planet & dangerous to humans & all other forms of life for up to a million years… clean & green??? Give me strength!?) Good item on another planned (& now aborted) refurbishment here.

Extending the life of this nuclear plant means years & years more routine emissions (yes, nuclear plants emit nasty stuff routinely), affecting the air & water & people & environment in the area around the plant. The DNGS happens to sit on Lake Ontario, source of drinking water for several million people, quite a situation when you think about it, hmmm? (The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper site has plenty to say about impacts to the lake. Check out just one example here.)

The risk of radiation exposure to workers increases during refurbishment activities. “Because of the nature of the work being performed, collective dose to workers during refurbishment activities will be higher than during normal operations.” This is a quote from Ontario Power Generation (OPG)’s so-called CMD 12 H13.1. If you want to pursue this thread, I’d suggest you consider Googling “workers exposed to radiation at bruce power” & check out what comes up (you can also go here & do a search on this topic).The nuclear industry does some pretty fancy dancing to conceal radiation exposures to its workers, I am sorry to report.

The Fukushima accident taught us that nuclear accidents happen because of human error – what you can call “institutional failure,” & also because of the collusion between so-called “regulators” & the nuclear industry that makes so very very much money making this extraordinarily dirty form of energy (the blog posting here gives some great links you can check out to find out what has been learned from Fukushima). There would unfortunately be plenty of opportunity for plenty of human error during the extended lifetime this so-called “refurbishment” (if it were to go forward) would grant the Darlington nuclear plant.

Ontario Power Generation & its so-called regulator have done utterly insufficient planning for the possibility of nuclear emergencies. A report here from the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) will convince you of this, & you might also want to consider reading the Feb. 2012 Greenpeace International report ‘Lessons From Fukushima.’  Given that nuclear accidents are now taking place on the average of one every 10 years, it is hardly reasonable or sensible to not plan properly for what to do should one take place in this very heavily populated area just to the east of Canada’s largest city (& situated on Lake Ontario, source of drinking water to several million people).

Waste-waste-waste: It’s all about the waste, Silly!! (It always has been!?) Refurbishments do this one major thing that you never hear anyone talking about publicly: They make a boatload of very dangerous, very long-lived nuclear waste, which, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, there is no solution for!! 60 years of nuclear power, I’m not sure how many failed processes & studies & initiatives (or how many billions of $$$ spent on same) – & still, no solution! A person might get impatient & want to remind “the powers that be” of that very old, very simple common sense saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Translate that into a remarkably simple solution for this vastly nasty stubborn, dangerous legacy of nuclear waste on Planet Earth: for the love of God, stop making it!!

Guess what happens to the waste? Well, there is no solution for the backed-up collection of used fuel rods (i.e., high-level waste) hanging around at our nuke plants, for one very BIG & quite dangerous situation. And, since it is the nuke industry that decides how nuclear waste is categorized (as in, low level, intermediate & high-level), they are getting pretty creative with their definitions & their rules. They use words like “blending,” & they ensure that regulations get passed that allow increasingly toxic radioactive wastes to land in regular landfill sites. Then too, there’s the incineration of some nuclear wastes (one wonders, for example, how keen the people of Tennessee are to be on the receiving end of nuke wastes from New Brunswick being sent down to them for burning? Yup. & btw it happens closer to home here in Ontario, also). And then too, with the industry scheme to bury high-level (& also lower level) wastes in so-called “deep geological repositories” (on the shores of the Great Lakes) what this will translate into is increased transportation of nuclear waste all over hell’s half-acre. Via who knows what methods – road…rail…barge…? Yech! Doesn’t sound like too pretty a plan to me…how about you? How keen are you to have really dangerous nuclear wastes trekking their way through your community??

Forgive me if it always seems like simple common sense to me that, when something is a really serious problem, you stop doing it. For example, my ex-husband & I used to spray poisons on our lawn back when our children were small & we didn’t know any better. Once we got wise to how foolish & dangerous this was, we stopped lickety-split…pretty simple, right??

Nuclear energy is a huge problem, because it makes a great big expensive & horrifically toxic mess all along its entire lifecycle (useful graphic of the nuclear fuel chain here; very neat initiative called 'Breaking the Nuclear Chain' here!)

We simply have to get this monster stopped – the sooner the better.

So I say an emphatic No thanks!! to the proposed reactor refurbishment plans at Darlington (& to the proposed “new build” there also, of course). Please, please, please quit throwing our money into the ground for these dangerous, preposterous & frankly immoral projects!!

The more of us who stand up to be counted on this issue, the better that will be, fellow citizens.

You got that?


p.s. I’m an obsessive collector of quotations (take a look here to see what I mean). There are oodles of awesome nuke-related quotations here. One of my very favourites is this: “Electricity is but the fleeting byproduct of nuclear power. The actual product is forever deadly nuclear waste.” – Michael Keegan, long-time Michigan, U.S.-based anti-nuclear activist

p.p.s. in addition to the nuke quotes, there are many nuke-related postings (one on nukes & climate change here) & resources on this blog. To find a list of groups active on nukes, go here (I add to all these postings when I receive new info; if you have some, send it along!!) One group with tons of info is the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. Go to that site & put in the word ‘refurbishment’ & see what comes up…

p.p.p.s. You may also want to check out the Greenpeace page here about what’s wrong with Darlington. Lots of good info, for sure!!

p.s. # 4:  You can also take a look at my own recent posting ‘Darlington Refurbishment Resources’ here for a small summary of helpful information resources.

p.s. # 5: If you like, take a look at this document that lays out the salaries of the over-$100,000 crowd at Hydro 1 & Ontario Power Generation (OPG) for 2011 (2012 figures due out soon, I guess). You can see why nuclear bigshots work really hard to perpetuate their jobs & the industry. These folks take home really serious bucketloads of cash… (Head honcho Tom Mitchell: $1.8 million/year).

p.s. # 6: Oops…big thing I forgot to mention!! Refurbishments don’t just cost a bundle & create tons of nuclear waste, they are also always over-budget & late. Fresh article on that here 

‘Quote of the day: “Fukushima happened in a country which is probably the most rigorous, in terms of technology, in terms of scientific care, in terms of an accountability system. And if it can happen in Japan, Fukushimas can happen anywhere. The point about nuclear is that accidents don’t happen in any nuclear power plant because of the calculation about your fission material. They happen because a generator stops. They happen because a cooling tower stops. They happen because of small mechanical failures which you can’t predict. But in the case of nuclear, which is a stupid technology because all you’re doing is creating fissionable material, creating radioactive material, using radioactive material, to boil water. The power doesn’t come from nuclear, the power comes from the water. Now, there are safer ways to boil water.” – Vandana Shiva, Ph. D., philosopher, world-renowned environmental thinker, activist, physicist, feminist, philosopher of science, writer & science policy advocate. Source of quote (plenty more humdingers here )