Pickering: Flirting with Disaster (4) - Regulator Reasoning

So, the past 3 posts here have been about the Pickering “hold point” “public” hearing (1) held on May 7, 2014 at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) main office on Slater St. in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. The posts:


The written transcript of the hearing, btw, is now available on the CNSC Web site, here.

Just want to provide a small but telling example of how this body – the CNSC – works.

The tribunal bigshots always sit way up front in the room, on high, as previously explained in the posting ‘How CNSC hearings work.’

They have a large staff (not sure how big, but I suspect the salaries are plenty generous too) that they count on to do research for them, do all kinds of tasks related to the many nuclear operations/facilities in Canada (e.g. there are CNSC staff on-site all the time at the nuclear plants), & answer the questions that are raised at these hearings.

Here's an interesting exchange from the recent hearing.

Head honcho Dr. Binder asks, following up on a question from Commissioner Velshi, “From a layman perspective, I hear it now all the time. People say “Okay, the nuclear business, NPPs [nuclear power plants], have been around for 50 years, three events, 50 over three, that’s a probability.” And the industry keeps saying, “No, no. It’s not.” But I've never seen a good rebuttal that explains why this is not the right way of calculating probability, or is it? So it would have been nice if somebody can actually come up with some explanation why. And I understand the evolution of the industry and I understand all those things. But it's not explained with -- some pretty interesting people will come up and say that's the probability. Every, I don't know, 15 years or so you're going to have an accident like that. What do you say to that?” [See transcript, Pg 130-31.]

OPG Chief Nuclear Engineer Mark Elliott (salary = $520,000/year, paid for by Ontario taxpayers) has already replied to Commissioner Velshi, conveying that the Three Mile Island accident & the Chernobyl accident are more or less irrelevant (so long ago, you know), but that “the Fukushima is relevant. We learned that events, especially external events, can be beyond what we had previously considered, and that's a real -- that's a real learning. And that's why we put so much emphasis on the Fukushima action plan and building that into our PSAs [Probabilistic Safety Assessments]. So yes, we've had a number of events in the industry. I think the Fukushima is really the relevant one and we've addressed it.” [Transcript Pg. 130]

Binder asks the CNSC staff to comment on all this, & Dr. Rzentkowski goes at it with his customary zeal, saying basically, since no CANDU reactors have blown up yet, the risk is zero. (To quote him exactly: “… we can say the risk is zero, because there was never a significant accident in the CANDU fleet.” [pg 132])



I guess this means that since I have never been blown up by a ... whatever, or hit by a ... whatever, that I am at zero risk of these things ever happening? Holy smokes. Where are the rocket scientists when you really need them?? Not at a CNSC hearing, that’s for sure (especially when any self-respecting member of the aware public could have shot all this down in 2 minutes, only, yes, I was forgetting, at this so-called public hearing, the public was not allowed to speak).

Notwithstanding that OPG’s Mark Elliott had just finished telling them that Fukushima is very relevant – and that all those expensive Fukushima-related “enhancements” have been made – and that everyone in the room knows perfectly well the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are NOT CANDUs (they are General Electric-built boiling water reactors), it appears the tribunal members have already gone back to sleep as far as this issue is concerned.

& the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party rolls on!

As though a 3-year old child has thrown a tantrum, his manipulative parents have quickly placated him with a chocolate bar, & now peace reigns again.

It’s not remotely “scientific.” It's not even vaguely rational. & it's not the slightest bit "mathematical."

It has nothing to do with statistical probabilities … or even with common sense, quite frankly.

& that is how the guardians of “nuclear safety” in Canada watch out for you & me, fellow Canadian citizens.

I for one live 23 km/14 miles from the nuke plant in question, & I am not reassured in the slightest.

  • It’s shocking
  • It’s scandalous
  • It’s outrageous.


& if we ever do have a disaster here (increasingly likely, given the age of this creaky old nuke plant under discussion, which the Nuke Boyz clearly have every intention of pushing farther & farther & farther beyond the 210,000 hours it was designed for), the industry gets to walk away & leave the mess – the clean-up, the economic chaos, the social chaos – to the Canadian taxpayer.

Because that’s how this whole disastrous set-up is set up.

If I sound a little shrill from time to time, please bear with me, alright?

We need a lot more Canadians to sit up & pay attention. How this so-called “regulator” is “more of a lapdog than a watchdog,” & how we could easily have a homegrown Canadian nuclear disaster right on our very own doorsteps. (Toronto's doorstep, that is. The doorstep(s) of the Greater Toronto Area.)

Argh. Argh, argh, argh.


‘Quote of the Day’ with this post: “There has not existed the slightest shred of meaningful evidence that the entire intervention process in nuclear energy is anything more than the most callous of charades and frauds.”Dr. John Gofman (M.D., Ph. D.) in his brilliant book “‘Irrevy’ – An Irreverent, Illustrated View of Nuclear Power,” published in 1979.

** tons more great nuke quotes here & yet more here!

** From the Introduction in Fukushima – The Story of a Nuclear Disaster, by David Lochbaum, Edwin Lyman, Susan Q. Stranahan, and the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“The story of Fukushima Daiichi is a larger tale, however. It is the saga of a technology promoted through the careful nurturing of a myth: the myth of safety. Nuclear energy is an energy choice that gambles with disaster.

Fukushima Daiichi unmasked the weaknesses of nuclear power plant design and the long-standing flaws in operations and regulatory oversight. Although Japan must share the blame, this was not a Japanese nuclear accident; it was a nuclear accident that just happened to have occurred in Japan. The problems that led to the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi exist wherever reactors operate.

Although the accident involved a failure of technology, even more worrisome was the role of the worldwide nuclear establishment: the close-knit culture that has championed nuclear energy – politically, economically, socially – while refusing to acknowledge and reduce the risks that accompany its operation. Time and again, warning signs were ignored and brushes with calamity written off.” <Page vii>

“…What part of Fukushima don’t you understand? If you don’t make the modifications [re: safety & emergency planning] you run the risk of destroying the fabric of a country. It happened at Chernobyl, and it’s happening right now in Japan…” – Arnie Gundersen in an interview with Al Jazeera on March 27/14.

“It’s impossible to totally prevent any kind of accident or disaster happening at the nuclear power plants.  And so, the one way  to prevent this from happening, to prevent the risk of having to evacuate such huge amounts of people, 50 million people, and for the purpose, for the benefit of the lives of our people, and even the economy of Japan, I came to change the position, that the only way to do this was to totally get rid of the nuclear power plants.” – former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Toshimitsu Homma of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency stated recently [April 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada] at an international conference on Emergency Management that the most important lesson of Fukushima was that before the accident, “There was an implicit assumption that such a severe accident could not happen and thus insufficient attention was paid to such an accident by authorities.”

[1] At this “public” hearing, though, members of the public were not actually allowed to speak. That’s some kind of a public hearing, eh?? Members of the public were allowed to send in letters 15 days ahead – but no speaking up at the hearing.