Steam Generators: Parliamentary Hearing, Day 1

So, I’m in Ottawa (Canada’s “capital city” & home of our federal government…yes, the one that seems to be imploding as we speak, but never mind…).

I’m here to listen to the hearings of the RNNR Committee (our federal government’s “Standing Committee on Natural Resources” & no, I don’t understand the acronym either).

Opposition to the Bruce Power (BP eh?) plan to ship 16 radioactive steam generators to Studsvik, Sweden has been steadily mounting since last summer.

While our federal government is dominated by a right-wing, pro-business & anti-people party & agenda, we do have some elected officials of other parties (other than the Conservatives, I mean) – in this case the NDP (New Democratic Party), Liberals and Bloc Québecois who, unlike our ruling party, actually give a darn about environmental issues.

So. The motion to have hearings on this passed, some months ago now, & here we are!

(Watch the hearing here )

On Day 1 (Tues., March 8th) I was struck by the crazy gender imbalance in the hearing room. I didn’t actually do a head count, but it has to have been about 98% male. Lorraine, the woman I sat with (a person whose life has been very much affected by the down side of the nuclear fuel chain, & who has written about her experiences very eloquently indeed), commented “Is this a funeral for the steam generators, or what?”

We were among the very few women in the room, which was filled with men in dark suits. (I wonder if any of the men noticed how alike they all look, dressed like that. Maybe that’s what they want? To all look alike?? Beats me. Whatever…)

The “proponents” of the steam generator plan had their say. The usual stuff. “It’s all fine.” “Don’t worry, be happy! It’s all safe.”

A person did kinda need her hip waders….

(You can watch the hearing here )

Dr. Michael Binder, head honcho of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) tribunal (the tribunal is the group that makes the decisions, based on what the CNSC staff have told them) – well, Dr. B. had a bit of a hissy fit, accusing those who are leading the opposition to the Bruce Power plan of being “professional” anti-nukers.

Pretty funny to hear Binder & BP CEO Duncan Hawthorne, with their undoubtedly 6-figure incomes, accuse the shipment opponents of only doing the work because they are paid for it! Did we just go down a rabbit hole, or what?? I know not one single environmental activist who earns a 6-figure salary!? (All the folks I know do the work we do because we believe in it. Imagine that, eh? My own income last year from paid work amounted to a rather low 3 figures, btw. Everything isn't always about the money, you know!)

Well. CNSC & Bruce Power said their piece. According to the CNSC, the BP plan is… wait for it... “acceptable.” The planned security measures are (you guessed it!) acceptable. (Talk about damning with faint praise!)

Dunno about anyone else, but I find CNSC’s reassurances entirely underwhelming.

To be continued! Day 2 hearing coming up shortly….


p.s. Lots of steam generator-related posts here

p.p.s. Good list of news items about Day 1 here

p.p.p.s. Author David Michaels, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health in the Department of Energy, comments in his book Doubt is Their Product – How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health (2008) that the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the U.S.) “is overly sympathetic to the commercial reactor operators. This is not surprising; government agencies are often advocates for certain commercial interests.” Now, ain’t that the truth??