Darl. Hearings: Jeff Brackett Presentation (April 7th)

** published here with Mr. Brackett's permission.

** April 7th transcript here, audio here

My name is Jeff Brackett.

In addition to my written submission, I am thankful for this opportunity to speak with you tonight.

The government of Ontario has decided to build new nuclear reactors at Darlington. It doesn’t know who will supply the reactors, or what the design of those reactors will be. It only knows it wants nuclear reactors. It wants approval for site preparation prior to selecting a reactor. There cannot be a thorough Environmental Assessment on the reactor design, because they will choose the design after the EA is over.

The Government of Ontario has decided that new nuclear reactors will be built at Darlington. It is exerting political influence over this process. It is doing its part.

So now we have an Environmental Assessment that does not recognize the legal requirement to review alternatives to the project. It only browses Ontario Power Generation’s proposed catalogue of reactor designs.

We have an EA into new nuclear reactors without a reactor to assess.

We have a government that wants approval without having to explain here and now just how they will solve the central problem of what to do about high-level radioactive waste.

We have an EA that looks at accident scenarios, but only if they are as OPG calls it ‘credible.’ The Japanese experience involves the uncontrolled accidental release of significant amounts of radiation. OPG seems to believe that uncontrolled accidental releases of significant amounts of radiation is not credible at one of their stations.

That’s just not credible.

I am opposed to the province’s decision to build new nuclear reactors at Darlington and although it feels quite futile, I’ve taken some time off work tonight to come here and tell you so.

As background I will say that in the late 1970’s my wife and I came out from Toronto and bought a home in Oshawa where we raised two kids. I was blissfully unaware of the Darlington nuclear station at that time.

As teen-agers we lived near the Pickering nuclear station and we trusted that nuclear power was safe and clean. Right now there is a billboard near the front of the Darlington property that proclaims that ‘nuclear energy equals clean air.” I guess it’s true that if you tell a lie enough times, people will believe it. We did.

In the 1980’s I learned that nuclear power was not clean. I went to Welcome. I went to Port Granby. I saw for myself how waste from these radioactive toxic dump sites was flowing off-site, across farmers’ fields and directly into Lake Ontario. I went to Eldorado Nuclear and saw the radioactive waste barrels sitting at the Port Hope Harbour. I read Blind Faith, about what happened to Port Hope.

I didn’t want any of that ignorance about radiation risks to threaten my children, so I went to the Darlington Information Centre and read Ontario Hydro’s early environmental impact information for the original project.

I saw how vested interests could amass scientific data and documents to fill a room and still miss the truth.I learned about nuclear spin. The truth is that data can deceive.

I learned that as part of normal routine operations, Ontario’s nuclear stations release radiation to the environment, venting to the atmosphere and flushing it to the Great Lakes.

At the Darlington Information Centre, I learned that even large releases of radiation could be made to look insignificant if the information was framed just so. If an accidental release of tritium exceeded a short term release limit, any competent Ontario Hydro spokesperson could present the spill to the public as an insignificant portion of the monthly release limit, and if that monthly limit was exceeded, they could deftly compare the release to the annual release limit to smooth things over and make it seem insignificant.

To this day, when OPG accidentally looses radiation to the environment, they employ the wiggle words, words like trace amounts, negligible amounts… How about giving the public some credit and openly reporting what was released and the quantity of that release so we can make our own value judgments as to your industry’s significance to our lives?

In Oshawa, our home was 10.2 km from Darlington. The primary planning zone for emergencies at Darlington was 10 km. My children went to school inside the emergency planning zone, but because we lived a block outside the zone, we received absolutely no information on nuclear emergency planning, and there was no plan during an emergency to inform us of where our children might have been evacuated to. With the plans so inadequate and with Darlington coming on-line, and knowing that routine releases would increase our exposure to tritium, we built the 7th Generation time capsule monument at Darlington’s front gate, and we left town.

I heard at these hearings some discussion of traumatic effects that this project might bring. I’m sure mine was not the only family uprooted in some manner by Darlington.

It is disgraceful that these proceedings claim to consider the full life cycle of the reactors up to abandonment of the site, yet as I was told at OPG’s open house meetings on the project, the issue of spent fuel bundles and what to do with them is beyond the scope of this EA. OPG is washing their hands of it. They expect you to set this issue aside. They expect some future EA and a different Joint Review Panel to deal with this. But, hasn’t that EA already happened? Weren’t there ten years of study and no solution found?

We are more than two generations into the nuclear age. By the time new reactors at Darlington reach their anticipated expiry date, two more generations will have passed. Literally, my grandchildren’s grandchildren may be back here in fifty years faced with closing Darlington B, or opening Darlington C, and urging a Joint Review Panel to finally deal with the spent fuel.

It is grossly immoral that the Province of Ontario and OPG would seek approval for site preparation, yet discard this nuclear waste issue on to the shoulders future generations.

I think OPG and the Province like to discard and disregard nuclear waste. Look what they have done with tritium, a waste by-product. They have turned it into a commodity, selling this waste into the marketplace and washing their hands of the whole affair.

As I mentioned, in 1990, as Darlington fired up the reactors, we decided to put some distance between us and routine emissions. We now live 38.4 km from Darlington, in what we hoped would be a tritium-free zone. But OPG’s tritium has followed us.

Tritium from Ontario’s nuclear stations ends up sold by OPG to glow-in-the-dark sign manufacturers like Shield Source Inc. Located at the Peterborough Airport, the Shield Source process is very leaky, rivaling and, OPG might say, exceeding the experience at a full-blown nuclear generating station.

I heard concerns expressed at this hearing about how site preparation might disturb contaminated soil on the Darlington site. In response the CNSC said that the worst contamination of soil found at Darlington is about 500 Bq/l. A Becquerel equals one radioactive disintegration per second.

Soil on the lawn at Shield Source Inc. at the Peterborough Airport has been measured at 1.5 million Bq/l. I could have brought you a shovel full, but I thought better of it.

I thought of bringing you an apple. Perhaps from the apple tree across the road from the Peterborough Airport. They have been measured to contain up to 5540 Bq/l of tritium. Water samples 16 km from the Airport have been found to average 65 Bq/l. Tap water at the Peterborough Airport shows tritium contamination averaging 50 Bq/l. I thought of bringing you all a glass.

One reason we love where we live, in Millbrook, is the abundance of clear, clean water. I admit I was somewhat shocked 20 years ago to see my son’s new friend, 10 years old, lean down and drink from a local stream. There is a natural trust about water, especially when we are so close to the source.

Of course there is natural radiation in the environment. Some would say that life evolved in a radioactive soup, but since the beginning of time tritium in fresh water has been balanced at 1 Bq/l. OPG’s nuclear operations have and will continue to cause dramatic increases in tritium levels in our streams and vegetation. Shield Source is shooting OPG’s tritium up the stack like there is no tomorrow.

The current guideline for tritium in drinking water, as you know, is 7000 Bq/l. So you will tell me these tritium levels are safe. You used to tell me that tritium was safe to a concentration of 40,000 Bq/l. The toxicity of tritium has been recently re-evaluated and the ODWAC (Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Committee) has recommended a new guideline of just 20 Bq/l averaged over 52 weeks. OPG appears to support this recommended guideline.

Tell me this… if tritium hasn’t changed since the beginning of time, why do your guidelines keep tightening to recognize that tritium is more and more dangerous than previously thought, and allowing less and less tritium in our drinking water?

I believe it is the height of arrogance for us to mess with the Earth’s balance. Mother Nature has already set the standard for tritium in drinking water. The standard has been one Bq/l since the beginning of time.

Dramatically elevated levels of tritium in my locale are the direct result of de facto decisions made by the Province and OPG as to how they will deal with radioactive waste.

They have decided to put off their responsibility, the same way they expect this EA and this Joint Review Panel to put off that responsibility.

Now let me tell you…I am reluctant to be here. I don’t want to spend my life banging my head against the political will and the political wall that is unwavering in its support for nuclear power.

When I told friends at work what I was up to tonight, someone asked if I was some kind of expert. Well, you know that I am not. But I don’t need to be an expert to have an understanding of the issues that affect my life.

Years ago some friends and I founded Durham Nuclear Awareness. Our goal was to raise public awareness of nuclear issues. That wasn’t an easy task here, in what could be argued is the nuclear capital of the world. We were often written off as a “special interest group.”

You know, it’s seems to me that while OPG has counted the 1000 swallow nests that will be destroyed during site preparation, they seem to be OK with the genetic intrusions that tritium will impose on Darlington’s birds for generations to come.

You know that if there is one special interest group that we need to consider here, it is those who have not yet arrived, those who can’t speak for themselves.

As Rosalie Bertell said,

“The purpose of the environmental movement is to save the seed. Everything that's ever going to live in this world, whether it's a tree, or a plant, or a fish, or a baby, all into future time, is present right now in the seed. And if we damage that seed, there is no place else to get it. It is our most precious possession, and we have got to think in terms of the seed, because that's the future."

There is one very special “special interest group” all of us here represent. Special members to me are Travis, my 8-year old grandson, Matilyn my 5 year old granddaughter, and a little girl who will make her debut in June.

It is heartbreaking that our government does not concern itself with the ethics of nuclear power.

In closing:

  • We must have a reactor design to assess
  • We must have full consideration of the need for the project and the alternatives to the project
  • We must account for a worst-case accident scenario resulting in uncontrolled accidental releases of radiation, and
  • We must finally take responsibility for nuclear waste.

I urge you to reject the proposal to build new nuclear reactors at Darlington.

Thank you for your time.