NW Conference: Words ‘R Important!

<<December 2011: The Ottawa Citizen (Canadian newspaper based in our capital city) is doing a series on nuclear waste.>>

<Sept. 22/11.>

(NW = nuke waste)

I’m a person who’s kind of big on words. Words…phrases…quotations. I came up with a few phrases I wanted to highlight from the nuclear waste conference I attended recently. (My opening, explanatory post about the conference is here.)

The idea of “bumper stickers” came from Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Prez/CEO Michael Binder, at the hearings held last year about Bruce Power’s proposed radioactive steam generator shipments through the Great Lakes & Atlantic Ocean for so-called “recycling.”

Bumper Stickers, from the Nuke Industry side:

  • Don’t worry; be happy!     
  • Fukushima was a wake-up call. We hit the Snooze button! (Dr. Binder said the first part; the snooze part is mine).(1) (2)
  • Going forward! (vastly overused phrase; what, did they think we were all going to start going backward???)
  • It’s only ‘legacy’ waste! (see Fancy Language/Creative Use of Jargon award).

Bumper Stickers, from ours:

  • Boys & their toys, eh?
  • Duh!! (in response to so many statements, including CNSC staff person Don Howard’s profound observation that “Even in the design phase you have to plan for minimization” of waste. You’re just getting that now??)
  • Engineering Euphoria Alert!
  • Gotcher Hipwaders On? (Lotta s-it to wade through here!)
  • Hubris Alert!
  • It’s the WASTE, Stupid!
  • Lip Service Only!
  • Nuclear Emperor: Still No Clothes!
  • Told you so!
  • You wanna store it in YOUR basement??

Nuclear Industry Phrases to Watch For (& what they really mean)

  • Benchmarks (we move the bench all the time; whenever we feel like it!)
  • “Characterization” of the waste (meaning, the way we talk about the waste will determine how we dispose of it. If we call it “low level,” we get to throw it in your local landfill site – or burn it. Or add it to the world’s scrap metal supply. Or, hey, we’re creative! Count on it, we’ll think of even more ways to ensure that nuclear waste is everywhere!)
  • Conceptual model (we can’t promise to make things work properly in the REAL world, but we sure LOVE our conceptual models!!)
  • Free-release” (this is what we plan to do, so count on having LOTS of radioactive waste in the air, water, ground, oceans, consumer products…you name it!)
  • Legacy wastes / legacy liabilities (this is humongously dangerous nuclear waste, but if we call it “legacy” it doesn’t sound nearly so nasty, does it??)
  • “Relatively large volumes of low-level radioactive waste” (& low-level means whatever the nuclear industry feels like having it mean, pretty much. So, 2 things here: “Relatively large volumes” is pretty strong language for a nukehead, & low-level does not mean low risk)
  • Robust safety case (if we say it is robust, it must be, eh?? Fukushima was “robust,” but…well, shit happens, eh?)
  • “Significant nuclear legacy liabilities” is how Frank Doyle, President of the Canadian Nuclear Society, spoke of the wide variety of nuclear wastes now needing attention. (This probably constitutes a huge admission from this industry, actually.)
  • The 3 R’s waste hierarchy/reprocessing. If we decide to call it “recycling” you will have to love us for it!! And btw, we don’t want to do it in the right order, namely 1st Reduction, 2nd Reuse & 3rd Recycling, ‘cos then we’d have to actually stop making the waste in the first place.)
  • Unconditional clearance criteria (hmmmm…don’t much like the sound of that!)

Did You Really Just SAY That??

  • “Learning by doing, we create the base for the future.” – Dr. Robert (Bob) Walker, Senior VP at AECL (Atomic Energy Control Limited), Chalk River Labs. (What he was really saying was, we’ve been screwing up like crazy for decades, but we’ve finally caught on that nuke waste is nasty stuff.)
  • “Once you learn to fake sincerity, you can do anything.” – NASA's Keith Peecook in speaking of the community outreach program regarding the decommissioning of the Plum Brook Reactor Facility in Ohio.I only wish I were making this up. I was stunned to hear him say these words – quickly followed, admittedly, by his comment that you need to be honest with neighbouring members of the public, since they will trust you more & let you off a little more lightly when you tell them about the nearby tritium plume or … whatever – if you have been decently open with them previously. You will have “money in the trust bank.”
  • “Transport risk is quite high.” – Pauline Witzke of the Nuclear Waste Management Office (NWMO = a creation of the nuclear industry), speaking of trekking nuclear wastes around Ontario. (Duh. Duh, duh, duh.)
  • “We are finding things as we go along that we hadn’t quite expected.” – Mark Corey, Assistant Deputy Minister, Energy Sector, Natural Resources Canada, in speaking of some of the nuclear wastes at Chalk River. (He also said, in reference to uranium tailing waste near Bancroft, Ontario, “There were some areas that had some real activity”(radioactivity, that is to say). He was quite excited about the fact that a fence has since been put up. A fence?? To safeguard uranium waste???? Doh. Too bad birds & other critters don’t respect fences – or read, eh?? (Mr. Corey, btw, receives a Boyish Enthusiasm award.)

Say WHAT???

  • “Do enough monitoring but not too much” – phrase used by M. Rhodes, Canadian Standards Association (who btw wins an Obfuscation award).
  • François Bilodeau from Hydro Québec allowed as how refurbishment activities at the Gentilly-2 plant (the province of Québec’s only nuclear power reactor) – activities projected to cost $2 billion – will generate 5 times the amount of waste that they already have on site. Note: notice how the word “refurbish” has a nice innocuous sound to it, hmm? Here we go again, with nuclear language. Scrape away that pretty-sounding outer shell to discover the real crud underneath…
  • There are things that were “probably thought to be pretty clean in the 1960s that were ‘left in the environment’ for storage.” – Joan Miller, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited staff person, speaking of the Chalk River site northwest of Ottawa. Left in the environment?? Hmmmm…but hey – what’s a little Strontium-90 between friends??(1)
  • “We’ve got to use strategies of minimization – including the use of clearance levels.” – Don Howard, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (In other words, we gotta lower regulatory standards on what can be released into the environment & “free-release” radioactive waste into regular landfills, the air, consumer goods, etc. etc.)
  • This one takes the prize!!! At a small workshop led by Keith Peecook, from NASA (National Aeronautics & Space Administration), during which he was describing the activities involved in the decommissioning of the NASA Plum Brook Reactor Facility in Ohio, Peecook revealed in response to a question that this facility cost $5 million to build back in 1958. It took 1.68 million “man-hours” to decommission, in 2010 dollars, & cost…wait for it… $250 million.

Janet

p.s. Other posts on this conference are

 

p.p.s. Very important paper on what the nuke industry is up to in the report 'Out of Control - on Purpose."


 

(1) Dr. Binder’s powerpoint presentation from his speech at the conference is on the CNSC Web site here

(2) Article 'For nuclear, Fukushima was just a bump in the road' here

(3) Yes, there is Strontium-90 in the Ottawa River at the Chalk River Labs site. There were 3 or 4 workshops on this … “issue.” It doesn’t seem to greatly concern anyone, but…if this is the case, why all the workshops & all the studying that’s being done??? You gotta ask yourself, eh??