SG / CNSC Interventions…# 3

I’ve been talking about the steam generators from Bruce Power in Ontario & the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearing held in Ottawa this past week on Bruce Power’s plan to ship 16 radioactive steam generators through a multitude of waterways to Studsvik, Sweden (Note: Webcast of the hearing can be viewed here.) My previous posts, SG/CNSC Interventions 1 & 2, gave some background info, including my “intervention letter” to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission & what I intended to say to the CNSC.

This post contains the remarks I scrambled to make once I was in Ottawa. Having taken prepared remarks, I found they were not quite adequate in light of all the things that came up during the hearing, so I did a major re-write. Here is what I actually wound up saying:

"I guess you could say that the theme of my remarks is “down the rabbit hole.” I don’t wish to be rude, but every time I attend a CNSC hearing, I get the sensation that, like Alice in Alice in Wonderland, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. The sensation comes over me very quickly.

As I began reading the CNSC Staff CMD [Commission Member Document] on this proposal, I learned that the steam generators are categorized as “Surface-Contaminated Waste” – yet are said to have no surface contamination. Plain language? Hmm…

I have spoken to you before, as you know, & have confessed that I am not a scientific or technically minded person.

Crazily enough, after hours & hours & hours of taking part in this hearing & listening to CNSC staff explain & defend the proponent [Bruce Power]’s plans, I find myself feeling more bamboozled, not less.

Plain speaking is not the term that comes to mind, down here in the rabbit hole.

For me, trust is the overarching issue here.

Bruce Power expects us to take them at their word.

CNSC staff expect us to believe their assertions & claims.

Bruce Power is a company that previously reported their steam generators to be radioactive waste that must remain on-site. A company that recently exposed its workers to radiation.

Bruce Power’s chairman seems to me to have a very cavalier attitude about his plan to completely change the fate of the steam generators.

He commented yesterday that concerned citizens like myself – who spend hours & hours & hours of our personal time on issues like this one & in my case, attend CNSC hearings entirely at my own expense – should be “rebuked” for researching & expressing our legitimate concerns. I’m having a hard time placing my trust there.

Studsvik – the company taking the waste – [words not exact here – I was winging this at the last minute] – is not prepared to indicate where the metal that is released will be going.

CNSC staff have a disconcerting way of appearing not to work for the citizens of Canada (& our safety), but for whichever nuclear proponent is currently before them. They go to strenuous lengths to defend & explain – in this case Bruce Power’s – plans – taking us all down the rabbit hole as they do so.

Trust? There was an “administrative error” reported at the last minute. An isotope of plutonium was left out of the staff CMD.

Trust? Yesterday, when asked when they became aware of Bruce Power’s plans, the CNSC person who responded clearly replied “April.” Yet Bruce Power requested their export license in January. I have a copy of an export license from CNSC that is dated January 26, 2010.

Has the staff…”forgotten” that this license was issued in January? Is someone lying?

Upton Sinclair once said “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

That just kind of comes to mind right about now.

I often find the language used by CNSC … not at all “scientific,” but weak – especially for an organization that lays claim to being terribly scientific.

Words often used:

  • Small (spills are always “small.”)
  • Low (risks of the nuclear proponent’s activities are always “low.”)
  • Acceptable (plans are always “acceptable.”)
  • Adequate (proponents’ plans & security measures are always “adequate.”)


Such anemic reassurances might seem more attuned to a Boy Scout exercise than to the activities of an industry whose wastes will remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds or thousands or even 10’s of thousands of years.

Assurances with a little more “oomph” & conviction would be of great comfort.

I really wish I could trust Bruce Power & CNSC staff. All their apparent “reassurances” underwhelm me. Their talk yesterday about other dangerous cargoes on the Great Lakes make me even more concerned, not less so.

My letter to you [my original “intervention letter”] is about radioactivity in metal. In consumer products. As I pointed out, I learned of this only recently. I’d be happy to share with you the policy of the Steel Manufacturers Association. It was from an executive there that I learned about nuclear facilities in the U.S. being dismantled & “recycled” into consumer goods.

I went recently to buy some cutlery for my daughter as a wedding shower gift.

Stood in the store aisle, looking at all the items “Made in China” & wondering if it has radioactive material in it.

Martin Luther King said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

For me personally, keeping silent about having radioactive waste made into consumer products is something I cannot do. My eventual grandchildren might not be too happy with me about it either. Chowing down with their toxic knives & forks. “A little plutonium with your Cheerios, Susie?”

Possibly nuclear industry & CNSC tribunal & CNSC staff personnel are comfortable with the idea of having radioactive metal in their children’s mouths (think braces) & on their bodies (think zippers & snaps) – but it doesn’t work too well for me when I think of my now-grown daughters & my potential grandchildren.

I agree with everyone here who has said that if Bruce Power wants to proceed with this plan, there has to be a new Environmental Assessment.

This project (yes – I am calling it a “project”(1) is precedent-setting, & it requires thorough scrutiny.

To conclude:

Bruce Power has the unfortunate acronym “BP.”

That other BP we’ve all heard so much about recently assured the U.S. Dept. of the Interior in 2009 that an oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon site was “unlikely.”

An environmental impact study was waived.


The steam generators at the Bruce have been sitting there for a very long time. There is no need & no justification for rushing into an ill-advised project (yes – it sure sounds like a project to me!)

Ready, Fire!!.........Aim is not the right order in which to do things.

For reasons involving

  • legal
  • procedural
  • moral/ethical
  • safety &
  • scientific

grounds, I believe the CNSC must put this plan on the back burner."

(1) CNSC staff know that a new “project” would require a new Environmental Assessment, so they deny that changing the plan from leaving the steam generators on-site at Bruce Power to loading them onto trucks, trucking them to Owen Sound, loading them onto a ship, taking the ship through a multitude of waterways, including the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River & Atlantic Ocean constitutes a … “project.”

I did warn you it was very much down the rabbit hole, did I not???