Darlington Refurbishment: why not?

** Note: be sure to check out the Darlington Daze link for a short series of postings about the Darlington refurbishment hearing that took place in early December 2012. Refurbishment: such a nice, innocuous-sounding word, isn’t it? At the Free Dictionary site it’s defined as ‘To make clean, bright, or fresh again; renovate.’

In the context of nuclear reactors, the dictionary definition is not really so very-very helpful, as it turns out. What the folks in the nuclear industry mean when they talk about reactor refurbishment is not so much renovate as re-build. It’s pretty much like starting from scratch – & there is quite a bit about the process that is deliberately kept murky for the unsuspecting public.

(Well now, hmmmm. I am not so sure we should be using the word “unsuspecting” about “the public” – I actually think the public is very very very suspicious of all things nuclear. And rightfully so. But the nuclear industry (& the governments that stand behind it, because make no mistake, our governments do stand behind it!) has a vested interest in keeping us from digging too deeply into the details of nuclear projects.)

So, right now the government of Ontario (with tacit, quiet approval from our very nuke-friendly federal government) plans to subsidize (that is, use our tax dollars to pay for) a massive long-term project to “refurbish” the reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. They are prepared, it would appear, to spend $8 - 14 billion (of our money) on this venture, in order to extend the life of the DNGS out to 2055.

Yikes, eh? Yikes & sheesh. Never enough money anymore for schools or libraries or health care or … fill in the blanks, here, Reader – but that much $$$$ to re-build nuclear reactors? What is wrong with this picture?? Well, quite a lot, as it turns out.

Refurbishments cost a boatload of money taxpayers’ money that in my view & the view of many would be much better spent investing in renewable energy & also the common sense (but perhaps not very “sexy”) conservation & energy efficiency measures some of my colleagues were pushing for 30 (or more) years ago now. Please don’t give me the nonsensical line that nuclear energy is clean & green; that is so patently absurd that I doubt even those who claim it actually believe it as they are mouthing the words (nuclear wastes that will be strewn about the planet & dangerous to humans & all other forms of life for up to a million years… clean & green??? Give me strength!?) Good item on another planned (& now aborted) refurbishment here.

Extending the life of this nuclear plant means years & years more routine emissions (yes, nuclear plants emit nasty stuff routinely), affecting the air & water & people & environment in the area around the plant. The DNGS happens to sit on Lake Ontario, source of drinking water for several million people, quite a situation when you think about it, hmmm? (The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper site has plenty to say about impacts to the lake. Check out just one example here.)

The risk of radiation exposure to workers increases during refurbishment activities. “Because of the nature of the work being performed, collective dose to workers during refurbishment activities will be higher than during normal operations.” This is a quote from Ontario Power Generation (OPG)’s so-called CMD 12 H13.1. If you want to pursue this thread, I’d suggest you consider Googling “workers exposed to radiation at bruce power” & check out what comes up (you can also go here & do a search on this topic).The nuclear industry does some pretty fancy dancing to conceal radiation exposures to its workers, I am sorry to report.

The Fukushima accident taught us that nuclear accidents happen because of human error – what you can call “institutional failure,” & also because of the collusion between so-called “regulators” & the nuclear industry that makes so very very much money making this extraordinarily dirty form of energy (the blog posting here gives some great links you can check out to find out what has been learned from Fukushima). There would unfortunately be plenty of opportunity for plenty of human error during the extended lifetime this so-called “refurbishment” (if it were to go forward) would grant the Darlington nuclear plant.

Ontario Power Generation & its so-called regulator have done utterly insufficient planning for the possibility of nuclear emergencies. A report here from the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) will convince you of this, & you might also want to consider reading the Feb. 2012 Greenpeace International report ‘Lessons From Fukushima.’  Given that nuclear accidents are now taking place on the average of one every 10 years, it is hardly reasonable or sensible to not plan properly for what to do should one take place in this very heavily populated area just to the east of Canada’s largest city (& situated on Lake Ontario, source of drinking water to several million people).

Waste-waste-waste: It’s all about the waste, Silly!! (It always has been!?) Refurbishments do this one major thing that you never hear anyone talking about publicly: They make a boatload of very dangerous, very long-lived nuclear waste, which, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, there is no solution for!! 60 years of nuclear power, I’m not sure how many failed processes & studies & initiatives (or how many billions of $$$ spent on same) – & still, no solution! A person might get impatient & want to remind “the powers that be” of that very old, very simple common sense saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Translate that into a remarkably simple solution for this vastly nasty stubborn, dangerous legacy of nuclear waste on Planet Earth: for the love of God, stop making it!!

Guess what happens to the waste? Well, there is no solution for the backed-up collection of used fuel rods (i.e., high-level waste) hanging around at our nuke plants, for one very BIG & quite dangerous situation. And, since it is the nuke industry that decides how nuclear waste is categorized (as in, low level, intermediate & high-level), they are getting pretty creative with their definitions & their rules. They use words like “blending,” & they ensure that regulations get passed that allow increasingly toxic radioactive wastes to land in regular landfill sites. Then too, there’s the incineration of some nuclear wastes (one wonders, for example, how keen the people of Tennessee are to be on the receiving end of nuke wastes from New Brunswick being sent down to them for burning? Yup. & btw it happens closer to home here in Ontario, also). And then too, with the industry scheme to bury high-level (& also lower level) wastes in so-called “deep geological repositories” (on the shores of the Great Lakes) what this will translate into is increased transportation of nuclear waste all over hell’s half-acre. Via who knows what methods – road…rail…barge…? Yech! Doesn’t sound like too pretty a plan to me…how about you? How keen are you to have really dangerous nuclear wastes trekking their way through your community??

Forgive me if it always seems like simple common sense to me that, when something is a really serious problem, you stop doing it. For example, my ex-husband & I used to spray poisons on our lawn back when our children were small & we didn’t know any better. Once we got wise to how foolish & dangerous this was, we stopped lickety-split…pretty simple, right??

Nuclear energy is a huge problem, because it makes a great big expensive & horrifically toxic mess all along its entire lifecycle (useful graphic of the nuclear fuel chain here; very neat initiative called 'Breaking the Nuclear Chain' here!)

We simply have to get this monster stopped – the sooner the better.

So I say an emphatic No thanks!! to the proposed reactor refurbishment plans at Darlington (& to the proposed “new build” there also, of course). Please, please, please quit throwing our money into the ground for these dangerous, preposterous & frankly immoral projects!!

The more of us who stand up to be counted on this issue, the better that will be, fellow citizens.

You got that?


p.s. I’m an obsessive collector of quotations (take a look here to see what I mean). There are oodles of awesome nuke-related quotations here. One of my very favourites is this: “Electricity is but the fleeting byproduct of nuclear power. The actual product is forever deadly nuclear waste.” – Michael Keegan, long-time Michigan, U.S.-based anti-nuclear activist

p.p.s. in addition to the nuke quotes, there are many nuke-related postings (one on nukes & climate change here) & resources on this blog. To find a list of groups active on nukes, go here (I add to all these postings when I receive new info; if you have some, send it along!!) One group with tons of info is the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. Go to that site & put in the word ‘refurbishment’ & see what comes up…

p.p.p.s. You may also want to check out the Greenpeace page here about what’s wrong with Darlington. Lots of good info, for sure!!

p.s. # 4:  You can also take a look at my own recent posting ‘Darlington Refurbishment Resources’ here for a small summary of helpful information resources.

p.s. # 5: If you like, take a look at this document that lays out the salaries of the over-$100,000 crowd at Hydro 1 & Ontario Power Generation (OPG) for 2011 (2012 figures due out soon, I guess). You can see why nuclear bigshots work really hard to perpetuate their jobs & the industry. These folks take home really serious bucketloads of cash… (Head honcho Tom Mitchell: $1.8 million/year).

p.s. # 6: Oops…big thing I forgot to mention!! Refurbishments don’t just cost a bundle & create tons of nuclear waste, they are also always over-budget & late. Fresh article on that here 

‘Quote of the day: “Fukushima happened in a country which is probably the most rigorous, in terms of technology, in terms of scientific care, in terms of an accountability system. And if it can happen in Japan, Fukushimas can happen anywhere. The point about nuclear is that accidents don’t happen in any nuclear power plant because of the calculation about your fission material. They happen because a generator stops. They happen because a cooling tower stops. They happen because of small mechanical failures which you can’t predict. But in the case of nuclear, which is a stupid technology because all you’re doing is creating fissionable material, creating radioactive material, using radioactive material, to boil water. The power doesn’t come from nuclear, the power comes from the water. Now, there are safer ways to boil water.” – Vandana Shiva, Ph. D., philosopher, world-renowned environmental thinker, activist, physicist, feminist, philosopher of science, writer & science policy advocate. Source of quote (plenty more humdingers here )

Darl. Hearings: Carrie L. (March 31st)

I presented my remarks to the Darlington New Nuclear Plant  Project Joint Review Panel right after Carrie Lester last Thursday evening. Her remarks were so ... heartfelt...so moving...so articulate, I prefaced my own remarks to the JRP by saying I felt Ms. Lester had said it all & there wasn't much left for me to say. Thanks, Carrie, for letting me post your presentation!


~The Burden of Truth~

Greetings to the members of the Darlington New Nuclear Power Plant Project Joint Review Panel, and audience members,

My name is Carrie Lester, from Toronto. I am “Onkwehonwe” which is the Bearfoot Onondaga from Six Nations.

In regards to Nuclear Energy, as simply a human being of this planet, my Mother Earth, your Mother Earth, I am going to address the Burden of Truth as it applies to our health all of our health. My health; the health of my family and friends; the health of your relations, and my relations; the health of the soil, the air, the water in and around Lake Ontario, where I live, and where my ancestors on my mother’s side have lived for thousands of years.

Segoli – Ga’un’ghwa Desa’na:sga’qua gia:jih,

Ogwai Osida niwa geh seh dehn,

Onondagaega niwa go wehn jyoh dehn

(That’s my name, my clan, and my nation).

There was a time when there was no cancer sickness here on Turtle Island. It arrived with the settling of the newcomers, and their need to do things faster, better, more ‘efficiently’, but that detached from the connection to Mother Earth, with the continued industrialization of the land, as was being practiced on the other side of the world.

Toxic waste from industry has infiltrated our world, from so many different sources, that we here in an urban setting find it difficult to be able to pinpoint exactly where each industrial toxin has come from, and what each toxin will do to us; however, the people from places like Fort Chippewa in Alberta know exactly where their cancerous poisons are coming from: the Tar Sands.

I recently attended a funeral for a friend; no, let me correct that: I attended TWO funerals ... for friends of mine whom I had got to know through my children, their school, and after school activities. After attending both funerals, I discovered that there were two other funerals that same day, from the same neighbourhood. I also learned of three other deaths of parents whom I had only briefly known, but who had also died recently ... within the past two years. All of them were parents in their late forties / early fifties with children in their late teens / early twenties. They all died from cancer. They all had raised their families in that same neighbourhood for those twenty years.

This neighbourhood was not in Clarington, or Bowmanville, or Darlington; but it was in Toronto. It had been an industrial area during the Second World War, but had since become a rather prestigious neighbourhood, with many tear-down bungalows becoming two-story million dollar homes.

Just before hearing of the deaths of these friends, I had attended a film screening / book launch of Sandra Steingraber’s story called “Living Downstream”, which, if you are not familiar with, is the story of, in general, how we are ALL now living downstream from some pollutant, and in particular, it is Sandra’s story of her survival with cancer, and wondering when it will come to get her again. It is also a story of discovery for Sandra, as she begins to question her cancer, and other cancers in her neighbourhood, and then the clusters of cancers throughout her state, and neighbouring states, and finally that of the whole of America, with a brief look at Canada and then how it can be applied to any community throughout the world.

I had also been to another book launch right after the Living Downstream film / book. This one was called 'Sea Sick', and was about the condition of the earth’s ocean the one ocean that is surrounding us, and what we have to the lifeblood of our Mother, the Earth.

One of the daughters of my friend who had died posted a message on her Facebook, asking everyone who has been affected by cancer in one way or another to pass on her message of hope, hope for a cure to come this year so that nobody else has to die from cancer, from how she had seen her mother’s body ravaged with this cancer. And she posted this to all her contacts on her Facebook.

I responded by saying,

“... it's not so much that a cure is needed (although that would be nice) ... it's that we must stop the lifestyle that produces it. We've contaminated our Mother Earth so horribly in only 150 years of the billions of years that this world has been in existence. The Industrial / Chemical / Technological Revolutions have all got us to this point. The toxins are everywhere now ... not just in our water, air and land, but in the cosmetics and hygiene products, our clothes, bedding, paints, plastics, toys, baby products, etc, etc ... a ‘cure’ will not take away all these toxins burdening our bodies ...“

Now, this is the part of my talk in which I was going to list a series of facts about the nuclear industry, such as:

·Radiation is a carcinogen, meaning that it damages DNA

·Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, and is a waste product in the nuclear industry

·Canada’s allowable (1) levels for tritium (2)are quite a bit higher than other countries: 7,000 bq/l, compared to 100 bq/l in the EU, and 740 bq/l in the USA.

However, all of those statistics you already know. You have your own panel of (dispassionate – according to me) ‘engineering experts’, and you have been hearing from the (‘passionate’) public for the past week and a half, who are individuals like myself, and non-governmental organizations who just want you all to see where all of this horrible experiment has gone wrong. It doesn’t matter how many allowable ‘bequerels’ or ‘milliseverts’ of this or that are in our water, or air, or soil. What matters is that we just stop putting it there. There is no safe, allowable level of radiation. Period.

We have been contaminating our Mother Earth with this cancerous element ever since ‘engineers’ and physicists learned how to split the atom. And what was it the ‘experts’ said at that time when they saw what they had done?

Well, to quote from Paul McKay’s book called Atomic Accomplice:

Einstein said, “The unleashed atom has changed everything, save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”

And Oppenheimer said, “Now I am become Death, Shatterer of Worlds.” – and his military munitions expert who wired the detonators for the Trinity bomb test said, “Now we are all sons of bitches!”

So what should I talk about instead? Well, how about: how we should move on from here? How about if our direction of discussion turns from: how much radiation are we willing to subsidize from an industry that will contaminate our family and friends with; to a life-style without such consequences? How about if we talk about renewable energy sources, and reducing our consumption of energy?

We are creative beings – we don’t have to destroy our Mother in the process. People have already come up with plans to have a 100% renewable energy grid by the year 2027 – that’s probably about the time that a brand new reactor would take to be built and be up and running, but it would be far less costly in financial cost, and in living organism cost. Who are those people? Well, one group that I know of which has well documented plans are the people from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, another is Greenpeace, and also the Pembina Institute.

We have the technology and the creativity to combine all these different energy systems: Solar, wind, combined heat and power, our own hydro electric plus imports from Quebec.

I work at a school, an elementary school. I am a teacher’s assistant. When I sit in on a science lesson and the topic comes to their Living Things unit, the curriculum states that there are Living Things and Non Living Things – Biotic and Abiotic. And that, my friends, is the problem. In Indigenous cultures around Mother Earth, there are no “non living things”. Everything has life, has spirit. To think otherwise, allows people to disregard the very soil, air and water of our Mother, this planet Earth, and contaminate her, and everything on her, and in her, and around her. I always point this out to the students in the class. The students are our future, but we are their present … and they take direction from us and trust us to do responsible and ethical things.

Mother Earth is NOT a stable, static being. She is continually moving and reshaping herself. She thrusts, and writhes, and twists, and turns. And if I may say so, she farts, and belches, and vomits. She needs to breathe, and stretch and grow. Confining her in cement and asphalt; drilling in to her to remove her organs, and her blood, and her oils and lubricants is the death of us all. She is fighting back at our brainless and thoughtless ‘control’ that too many of us thought that we had over her. She quakes and trembles continuously, all over.

A large seismic eruption may not happen here in ten or twenty or even fifty years. It may take a hundred, two hundred, five hundred years, but this radioactive waste is here forever, and it is a ticking time bomb. Even if we stop using nuclear energy all over the world now, we still have the horrible after effects of what we have built up so far. The thousands of tons of radioactive contamination that has been stored at the 500 or so nuclear plants around the world is still going to be a problem. It wouldn’t take much for those containers to be breached by any number of Mother Earth’s bodily functions, not to mention the decay of the container itself over time.

We need to wake up and stop the nonsense. Stop funding the destruction of our planet. Stop funding the death of your family and friends.

Thank you.

(2) National Network on Environments and Women’s Health, August 2009 – Women and Water in Canada: The Gendered Health Effects of Chronic Low-Dose Exposures to Chemicals in Drinking Water: page 30 – Tritium levels down from 40,000 Bq/L in 1970’s to 7,000 Bq/L in 2000’s.