Darlington Nuclear Generating Station

Showing Up (take 2)

& I’m pretty sure I’ve written before about showing up, & while I sat in court today the thought passed through my mind that my life/Life seems to be all about showing up.

& I was showing up today [November 30th], I did show up, it was a court hearing about the proposed York-Durham incinerator being planned for right down on Lake Ontario, just-just-just west of the lovely (not) Darlington Nuclear Generating Station on beautiful Lake Ontario, & a whole bunch of us showed up – we did! – & it all took hours & hours & I had the thought quite a few times during all those hours that old Charles Dickens really got it right when he said the law is an ass.

The law is an ass, in many ways, & I am betting even those who earn their livings from it would agree with that assertion, but that thought will have to wait for me to pursue it another day perhaps…

& we don’t know yet what the learned judge will decide, but by golly he actually came right out & acknowledged & thanked those of us in the “audience” for our participation, at the end of the court session, which went on for 6 hours instead of the 2 we had thought it would take, with expired parking meters & time for lunch (& some wonderful belly laughs, what fun!) in the coffee shop in between

& during the lunch-in-between I’d picked up a copy of a local newspaper ‘cos it happens to have a photo in it that I thought it would be good to have

& I drove back to my small town Durham Region town & even though it wasn’t really “suppertime,” I was ravenous, & I thought wouldn’t a beer & a burger be nice?

so I went to my decent local restaurant (there aren’t so very many of them in my small-town Durham Region town) & ordered a beer & a burger & I looked through the paper that I thought I only bought for the article/photo of the $75,000 incinerator groundbreaking party

& by golly doesn’t it turn out to have an article about the proposed new reactors at Darlington, & the article is so full of bumph & bullshit that it almost causes me to lose my appetite

& then I’m looking over the book I happen to have with me Dying from Dioxin by Lois Gibbs of Love Canal fame, & I heard Lois Gibbs speak, once, at an IJC (International Joint Commission) meeting, ½ a lifetime ago, or I guess it only seems like half a lifetime ‘cos OMG such a lot such a lot such a lot has happened since then

& I read how dioxin suppresses the immune system (& simultaneously I’m hearing the song “Mercy, Mercy Me” – things ain’t like they used to be, radiation underground) & I’m thinking

“Holy Geez! I came here to GET AWAY from reality, but it looks like reality has chased me down once again, the Universe doesn’t always have the same plan as the one I have, reality is showing up

& I read about dioxin which is produced by municipal solid waste incinerators, by the way, MSW incinerators like the one the big brains (not) in Durham Region are about to have built, & how dioxin downloads into our babies through our breast milk(1), & our babies wind up with more dioxin than we Moms have (‘cos we download our own lifetime load to our babies)

& I read about how endometriosis is on the increase

& then I remember too that today is 2 years to the day from when I was arrested in the federal finance minister’s office along with 6 other activists, & later we were sentenced in this very-very courthouse I am now sitting in for this hearing about a dioxin-producing incinerator-to-be

& I’m actually wearing the same outfit – it’s my getting arrested outfit, apparently, my black jeans & my white shirt, & then I notice the dudes on TV are talking about “movember” & mustaches

& I think, Shit, yeah, isn’t this about prostate cancer awareness or something? (you see how little I pay attention to the “news,” & what’s on television), & think yes, Dave (who was also arrested in the federal finance minister’s office 2 years ago) is gone now, he died of prostate cancer two months ago, & I am absolutely 100% convinced his cancer was caused by his mother’s exposure to lead as a young woman(1), & now he’s gone, & we really couldn’t afford to spare him, you know? & he was only 56 years old

& then I drink some water (my beer is gone & I’d really love to have another but I know I really mustn't) & I drink a few sips & I think

Well, at least this water is not fluoridated, & probably doesn’t have a ton of tritium in it...

& I eat my dill pickle, the last thing on my plate, & I remember my pretty amusing dill pickle story that I love to trot out whenever I can, but you know what? let’s leave that one for another day too, shall we?

& I think again

Yeah. Showing up.

It’s all about the showing up, isn’t it??

& I wonder, are we all showing up?

Are enough of us showing up?

Janet

p.s. & I think I am showing up, on the whole, & it also sometimes seems when all I really want to do for a few hours is stay away, the Universe seems to have another plan in mind for me

show up...show up...show up...show up...show up…

p.p.s. couple years later I am adding this p.s. -- long long after I posted this, I came across this wonderful wonderful item that I now include every week in my e-mails among the "quotes for the week" I try (& sometimes fail) to update weekly:

“4 Rules for Life: Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don’t be attached to the results.” -- Angeles Arrien, U.S. teacher, author (1940 – )


 

(1) Sandra Steingraber’s book Having Faith – An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, Perseus Publishing, 2001, discusses dioxin downloading & maternal lead exposure & lead crossing the placenta.

 

Nuclear Waste Conference: Slimed!

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

<Sept. 21/11.>

Foolish woman that I am, I recently spent 3 full days (Sept. 12-14th) at a nuclear waste conference held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Apparently I am a glutton for punishment???)

The conference was held at Toronto’s downtown Marriott Hotel, & in a perhaps fitting irony, the many small workshops held each afternoon on different aspects of nuclear waste were conducted in a series of small rooms named Trinity 1 through Trinity 5. Trinity was the name given to the U.S. Manhattan Project’s first atom bomb, set off on July 16, 1945 in the New Mexico desert. Ah, life’s odd little ironies, hmmm?

The official conference title was “Waste Management, Decommissioning and Environmental Restoration for Canada’s Nuclear Activities.” It was organized by the Canadian Nuclear Society (CNS) in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) & co-sponsored by the American Nuclear Society, the Argentina Nuclear Technology Association, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, the Chinese Nuclear Society, the Indian Nuclear Society, the Korean Nuclear Society, the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD & the Romanian Nuclear Energy Association. (Yikes! & you should see the conference sponsors & exhibitors list!? Full program here )

I attended the conference at my own expense, as a retiree. No way do I have the kind of $$ for the regular conference fee they were charging. As pointed out elsewhere on this blog, I’ve been “downwardly socially mobile” all my life & live on peanuts, more or less. (Joyfully, I might add; I’m not complaining! )

The conference was for the nuclear industry, not for members of the public & certainly not for activists…although several of us in the latter category did attend. There were no members of the mainstream press present, & for sure I heard some publicity-worthy remarks made that would have garnered attention had the press been there (it is not an accident that media was/were absent, yes?).

I also spent a half-day the following week at OPG (Ontario Power Generation)’s University & College location in Toronto for a discussion about OPG’s plans to “refurbish” the 4 existing reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station east of Toronto (right on the shores of Lake Ontario), at an estimated cost of $8-14 billion. (Other refurbishments currently underway in Canada, at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick & Bruce Power near Owen Sound are each running $2 billion over budget. Somehow, nuke projects always run late, & over budget, don’t they?? The 2 OPG staff members who gave the presentation about the planned Darlington refurbishment, btw, did not mention the expected price tag, & some of the inconvenient facts that should have come out in response to questions asked, such as, for example, how much waste it will generate, were put off.)

Though not a rocket scientist, I generally manage to learn a thing or two everywhere I go, & these two events proved no exception.

The best way to describe how I felt, though, if I try to articulate what it was like to spend 3 days surrounded by talk of nuclear waste, is … slimed. (1)

Yes, this is a nasty, judgmental & insulting thing to say, & no one knows better than I that the foot soldiers of the nuclear industry (quite a # of whom I know personally) are people too – living, breathing human beings like you & me who care for their families & want to “make a decent living.”

But I’m a truth-teller (it’s right there in my job description!), & the only accurate way to describe how I felt is…slimed.

I’ll be doing several postings about the conference – about things I learned, some things you might want (or more to the point need) to know, & lots of awards for the nuclear industry. I love giving out awards!!  (You can find quite a few here, under the Darlington Hearings heading on this blog).

Nuclear industry types (maybe only the bigshots?? I dunno) are very practiced at speaking out of both sides of their faces. They will say with perfectly straight faces (in this case, to quote Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Prez/CEO Michael Binder) things like “We have a real challenge” (as regards the nuclear operations they oversee) & “We’re not going to tax future generations.”

Say what?????

Nuclear waste by its very definition will tax future generations so far into the future you’d be forgiven for thinking human beings are moral cretins for entertaining for even one moment the notion that creating it is anything less than moronic – perhaps even evil. What kind of human being can utter such things without sprouting an immediate Pinocchio nose on the spot??

There was plenty of this kind of talk during the 3-day conference.

For example, Cameco Corporation’s Karen Chovan said one moment that most of Cameco Corporation’s waste is “low level or even very low level,” yet a moment later spoke of sending their 2010 inventory of depleted uranium (DU) to a recycler in the U.S. You’d have thought she was talking about used diapers, not a horrendous substance being used by the world’s militaries to slice through enemy tanks, leaving its traces inside soldiers’ bodies (& civilian ones, “collateral damage” victims, hmmm?) & causing horrific birth defects &…

Well, my mind boggled. It kept boggling & boggling & boggling.

(More on DU here & here & here)

I heard quite a bit about the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) site (very near where I lived for 6 years, btw(2)) – a site generously endowed, shall we say, with “legacy wastes” from the early nuclear years (yes, the Manhattan Project & Cold War era) that leach into the Ottawa River (source of drinking water for the 100s of 1000s of citizens of Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, actually), & I also heard about waste sites (so-called “legacy sites”) in Port Hope(2) & Port Granby, Ontario (on the shores of Lake Ontario).

Nuclear industry people will tell you in the first half of a sentence that most of its waste is “low level or even very low level.” Then, in the next breath they will tell you how many millions or billions of dollars (of taxpayers’ money, btw) the Canadian government is giving them to clean up these “legacy” wastes. With – I repeat – straight faces.

A classic example of cognitive dissonance, something I find one encounters quite routinely in the nuclear biz.

“Don’t worry, be happy!! Our wastes are not a problem! It will only cost billions of $$ to clean up our messes!”

Sheesh.

I heard enough nuclear bromides in those 3 days to choke a horse. (Then I heard more during the Darlington refurbishment session.)

Let’s get on with it, shall we? On to the other posts…

Janet

P.S. On the first day of the conference, there was an explosion at a nuclear facility in the south of France. I only heard about this because one of my colleagues at the conference (Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility president Dr. Gordon Edwards) told our group about it. Not one word about this accident came up at the conference. (You can find some info about it hereIf French is not your first language, take advantage of the Google translating option.)

P.P.S. There are 6 posts altogether on this conference. The others are:

 

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


 

(1) A dear friend of mine tells me her sister used to say “If you sit on a candle, you’re gonna get your arse burned!” These folks in the nuke biz have to be prepared to stand up to the scrutiny the public is more than entitled to put them under, considering the hard truths about nuclear waste – its price tag in $$$ & in unparalleled risks to our fellow humans – both those living now & future generations.

(2) The Chalk River Labs, a sprawling facility built during the 1940s, are downriver from the community of Deep River, a quite stunningly beautiful small town about halfway between Ottawa & North Bay that was established as a bedroom community for the CRL scientists (Manhattan Project era). It is not, shall we say, by accident that the town of Deep River is located upriver (& mostly upwind) from Chalk River Labs…you hear what I’m saying?

(3) Three books I’m aware of that you can read about the Port Hope scene are Blind Faith, by Penny Sanger & Port Hope – Canada’s Nuclear Wasteland & Nuclear Genocide in Canada by Pat McNamara. You will be shocked & appalled at what you learn. But, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton once said, “Truth is the only safe ground to stand on.”

 

Darl. Hearings – Day 4 (Mar. 24): Helen Caldicott, etc.

I attended the opening session of this 3-week hearing into the proposed expansion of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station 3 days ago. Skipped Tues. & Wed., & went back yesterday for the afternoon session of Day 4. Mostly ‘cos Dr. Helen Caldicott was on the agenda…

** Note: if you go here, you can find hearing info such as the public hearing schedule, transcripts, Webcasts, etc. March 24th written transcript here Audio here

Since my mind is not particularly coherent right now, I’m really just jotting down some random thoughts:

  • Boy can government speakers ever be … dull!? Sometimes they actually read every line of their powerpoint presentation, & not only that, they speak in a monotone. Yikes…

  • I, meanwhile, was sneaking peeks at my copy of Alice in Wonderland, Chapter 7 – “A Mad Tea-Party,” since I always find this type of hearing (i.e., nuclear hearings) very reminiscent of going down a rabbit hole & taking part in a mad tea party at which absolutely nothing the nuke folks say seems to make any sense.

  • There sure are a lot of men in the nuclear industry!!! Lotsa men, lotsa dark suits, lotsa “experts.” I suppose a person could muse on why this industry is so male-dominated, & what that says about it…couldn’t one? (even maybe just that it’s a dinosaur…with no insult intended toward those innocent ancient dinosaurs…)

  • If you want to find passion at a hearing such as this one, don’t look for it among the corporate types. Or the government types. Not gonna happen. I think I first noticed this at a meeting of the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes in the early 90’s. The people I came to refer to as “the suits” are so dull you’d think they were already dead. Sheesh…

  • The passion comes from the citizen intervenors. This same IJC meeting I just referred to got very livened up when activist extraordinaire Lois Gibbs came onto the scene. Hooey!!! (I’ve seen the same with David Suzuki. The minute he arrives at any gathering, the energy level takes a huge spike. Talk about passion!!)

  • Yesterday the passion came from Helen Caldicott, medical doctor & very long-time anti-nuclear activist. Lots of compelling testimony from Ms. Caldicott – about the health impacts of exposure to radionuclides, her passion as a doctor for preserving life, evidence from the Three Mile Island & Chernobyl nuclear accidents, & our need as a culture to stop adding these toxins unnecessarily to our world. Feisty lady! At one point she asked, given these deliberations amid the current nuclear crisis in Japan, “Have we all got a case of nuclear psychosis?”

  • Quotable & a vast understatement from Ms. Caldicott: “This is not a benign industry.” She also asked whether the world will end with a bang (nuclear war) or a whimper (endless & ongoing damage to human genetic material from the nuclear industry).

  • The panel? They didn’t even crack a smile when Helen C. made a joke. Yikes, what a serious-looking crowd… (But I have to admit, Chair Alan Graham was more than polite today, both to Helen Caldicott & very long-time Port Hope elder/activist, Pat Lawson. I’ve witnessed CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) head honchos being outright rude at hearings, so this was a welcome thing…

  • There was lots & lots of bafflegab & bullshit today – as usual. One teeny-tiny little thing I noticed was the continual use of the statement “There are no adverse effects from the project.” It strikes me that the tense of this is a little off. How can there be any adverse effects in the present?? It’s in the days ahead that the problems lie…

And finally, after listening to too many suits & too much bafflegab, this little phrase came to me:

Some of us are bought…& some of us are not.(1)

Janet


(1)At the time I was attending the Darlington hearings & writing these blog entries, I had not yet seen the Web site that lays out the salaries of the OPG  bigshots. It was sent to me months later. It’s here. You can see for yourself that some of these folks probably have a bit of a “golden handcuffs” problem. They earn so damn much money, they’d very likely say anything at all!? I actually had no idea how bang on I was, with my "Some of us are bought…& some of us are not" comment!!

 

P.S. Ms.Caldicott quoted Albert Einstein twice. “Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing the power to make great decisions for good and evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” – Einstein (1946) & “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water!” I’m rather partial to this one too: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” - Albert Einstein

P.P.S. It’s all enough to make a person kinda crazy. The money that’s being spent on this exercise? All the staff time? Travel expenses? Accommodation expenses? Meal expenses? This kind of cash could keep an ENGO (environmental non-government organization) going for years

P.P.P.S. Lots of great nuke quotes/resources here