Darlington hearing

Darlington (Refurb) Hearing

In early December (Dec. 3 - 6, 2012) I attended 4 days of CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) hearings on the proposed refurbishment of the 4 nuclear reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station (DNGS) 60 or so kilometres east of Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Toronto, btw, is Canada’s largest city & home to 2.6 million people). I am posting this as a posting, but am also using the heading ‘Darlington Daze’ up along the top of the blog, with the postings listed below it as “pages.” (It’s OK; no need for you to understand this technical stuff – just use the links below to find the posting/s you’re interested in, & you’ll be away to the races.)

Here is a list of my Darlington refurbishment-related-or-inspired postings:


There were several more essays I wanted to write, but just haven’t managed to get to (cloning would be ever-so-useful, wouldn't it??    ):

  • Did you know? (One key one here)
  • Egregious Bullshit (OMGoodness; so very, very much of it!?)
  • Elephants Not Mentioned
  • Nuclear Fairy Tales / Myths (Main one? “It can’t happen here.”)
  • Open Secrets
  • OUTRAGEOUS (so many things; Ontario Power Generation or OPG salaries to name just one)



p.s. Darlington New Build hearings (which took place March 21- April 11, 2011) postings on this blog are all listed here

p.p.s. Other nuke-related stuff on Janetsplanet that may be of interest:


'Quote of the day' with this post: “There has not existed the slightest shred of meaningful evidence that the entire intervention process in nuclear energy is anything more than the most callous of charades and frauds.” – Dr. John Gofman, M.D., Ph.D.  in Irrevy” – An Irreverent, Illustrated View of Nuclear Power <pg 125> [many more Gofman quotes here]

Darl. Hearings: Dr. Baker (PGS) ~ Final Submission

NOTE to anyone who got here by querying "health effects in Elliot Lake" or similar queries: you may want to consider also having a look at the posting 'Uranium: Got 46 minutes?' ***************************

** Dr. Baker's submission printed here w. her permission, of course! Her first submission is here Lots of Darlington-related postings listed here

Once again I would like to thank you for the opportunity of having presented my submission to the panel.

You have heard from a number of physician, scientists and other citizens who are deeply concerned about the risks of expanding nuclear power. As presented in my submission, numerous scientists and physicians, including myself, have extensively reviewed the scientific literature and have come to the unwavering conclusion: there is no safe level of radiation exposure. The vast literature that I have personally reviewed includes the report theHealth Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2.”

The National Research Council panel found a linear dose curve, meaning that the higher the dose, the greater the likelihood of developing cancer. However they also recognized that “a single radiation track (resulting in the lowest exposure possible) traversing the nucleus of an appropriate target cell has a low but finite probability of damaging the cell’s DNA.”

Cumulative exposure increases the risk. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. The interpretation of the BEIR report given by Patsy Thompson, a toxicologist working for CNSC, was biased and misleading at best and not supported by a large number of the scientific community.

The evidence of increased risk to children living near a nuclear reactor of developing leukemia is also overwhelming and irrefutable. An analysis of the data presented by Rachel Lane, an epidemiologist for CNSC, and Patsy Thompson on March 31, which denies this connection, is both circular and flawed. Not expecting an outcome does not negate an outcome. Furthermore, finding other clusters of children with leukemia is completely irrelevant. In a world riddled with carcinogenic toxins, this too is expected and should be addressed. This does not negate the evidence that children living near a nuclear reactor are at higher risk of developing leukemia.

Ms. Lane also referred to studies done in Canada and stated “there is no substantive evidence that there are any adverse health effects related to environmental radiation exposures from these facilities.” In fact the studies are minimal, and lack medical collaboration, but do suggest possible health risks which require further study and improved design. There is no substantial evidence that environmental radiation exposures from these facilities are safe.

Additionally we are still discovering the devastating consequences of the Chernobyl disaster to human health and life. This nuclear disaster resulted in contamination of a large area of land, numerous deaths and many suffering from illnesses including thyroid cancer, leukemia, brain tumours, congenital defects and mental deficiencies. The data that Ms. Lane presented to the panel on March 31 on Chernobyl is not consistent with a recent report published by the New York Academy of Sciences. Russian and Ukraine physicians state that there have been almost one million people who have died as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. Ms. Lane claimed the “official” death count as 4000. Where the numbers are so far apart, there is good reason to doubt the accuracy of what we are being told.

The health dangers of radiation are clear. All the processes in the mining, milling, refining, and enriching uranium - and running the nuclear reactor - increase exposure to radiation, even when using Canadian standard precautions. Nuclear tailings and waste are also a particular risk to the environment. Nuclear technology increases individual exposure and the global burden of radiation. This will increase the incidence of cancer and other diseases linked to radiation exposure. Risks include cancer, genetic damage, birth defects, immune system dysfunction, diabetes and heart disease.

According to the Ontario Diabetes Database, there is a higher incidence of diabetes in the Central East Local Health Integrated Network, LHIN 9, than in Ontario in general. The incidence was particularly high in the region near Pickering. Diabetes is becoming a global pandemic and there is much blossoming evidence that radiation exposure, including from nuclear reactors, is contributing to this. While there is not substantial evidence to conclude that the nuclear reactors at Pickering and Darlington are responsible for this local increase, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that there might be a risk. It is consistent with evidence that the local population is exposed to increased levels of radiation and that that radiation is causing negative health effects. Based on the “Precautionary Principle,” this, alone, is substantial evidence to call for a moratorium on nuclear expansion.

The Precautionary Principle states that if there is a possibility of harm to a population or the environment from an action, we should not proceed with that action.

In my own practice as a Palliative Care Physician, I have seen a number of patients with cancer, particularly breast and lung cancer, who were living either in the area of the Bruce Nuclear reactor or in the Pickering/Darlington/Port Hope region at the time of their diagnosis. Just as smokers often quit smoking after they are diagnosed with lung cancer, many of these people left the area that they felt contributed to the etiology of their cancer. I have also had patients who spent many years in Elliot Lake and later developed lung cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic carcinoma or lymphoma. I know firsthand that there are no studies identifying, tracking, reporting or investigating any of these people.

There is cost to human health and to the taxpayer. The reactors at Darlington were almost $10 billion over the original budget. We spend well over $100 million a year in just protecting nuclear reactors in Ontario. We are squandering tax dollars on private armies. Investment in safe forms of sustainable technology pale in comparison. If health concerns were not enough to make using nuclear energy to boil water unacceptable, financial concerns should surely bring the industry to a halt. Every dollar wasted on expanding and protecting nuclear technology is a dollar diverted from the development of renewable, sustainable green energy.

We cannot continue to live in denial of the possibility of a significant accident happening in Canada. We have had numerous accidents.

There was a significant meltdown of a reactor in Rolphton, Ontario, Chalk River, in December, 1952. At that time the core was damaged. There was also an accident at Chalk River on May 24, 1958 in which fuel was damaged.

A severe nuclear event occurred in Pinawa, Manitoba in November, 1978. The reactor which was cooled by a type of oil, terphenyl isomer, experienced a major coolant leak as one of the pipes developed a hole and 2,739 litres of oil escaped.

It took several weeks for workers to find and repair the leak. Much of the leaked oil was then discharged into the Winnipeg River. According to Dr. Agnes Bishop of the Atomic Energy Control Board, (later the CNSC), the fuel reached high temperatures.

Although the temperature did not hit the meltdown level, it did result in three fuel elements being broken, with some fission products being released. The accident, which many consider significant especially to the health and safety of the people of Manitoba, was not reported for several years.

An attempt was made in 2000 to have the full report from this accident made public, but Atomic Energy of Canada refused, and labelled it “Protected.”

We may never know what radioactive carcinogens were vented or released into the air and water. There has been no systematic medical response to investigate or follow potentially affected workers or the local population.

On 9th August 1989, at the Pickering reactor an accident resulted in a mechanic being exposed to six times the yearly industry accepted radiation limit. Another worker who was standing nearby was also exposed. The workers were replacing a radioactive control rod, which is moved in or out of a reactor to control the nuclear process, when a radiation detection device one of the men was holding went off scale. It was later discovered that the equipment being used by the men was designed for training and did not contain lead, which provides workers with some shielding from radiation.

In early October of the same year, 1989, human error resulted in operations workers mistakenly putting Tritium-contaminated heavy water into the heat transport system of the Unit 2 reactor at the Darlington nuclear station.

Of interest, a significant accident was reported at Fukushima, Japan that same year.

Additionally, as many as 217 workers were exposed to radioactivity at the Bruce nuclear power station while refurbishing a reactor in November 2009. Again, no details have been released and there has been no systematic medical response to investigate or follow these workers.

Accidents and leaks continue. On March 16 of this year 73,000 litres of demineralised water were released into Lake Ontario when a pump seal failed at the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. While this accident is considered by the industry to be small, it is a significant health risk and demonstrates once again that the Canadian system is not perfect.

Frequent leaks of contaminated water have also been a significant health risk at uranium mines and tailing sites. One example occurred in November 1989, when there was a 2-million litre spill of radioactive water at Rabbit Lake, Saskatchewan, due to a faulty pipe burst. The spill remained undetected for 14 hours even though there were Atomic Energy Control Board inspectors on site.

Moreover the current tragedy in Fukushima, Japan is of great importance. Already people have died; food, water and air have been contaminated. Every day we are hearing more about the impact of the local crisis and international consequences. We still have more to ascertain. This disaster has permanently increased the global burden of radiation and must not be repeated. Ontario has recently been found to have increased levels of radiation. The origin and significance of this must be evaluated. If governments and industry refuse to learn from history, it will repeat itself.

While it appears that the risk of terrorism is small, based on the amount we spend defending nuclear reactors, it is not negligible. The very technology which prevents the need for opening fuel cells has also been equated with an increased risk of theft, diversion and terrorism. Fuel can be removed from CANDU reactors at any time without shutting down the reactor, and the fuel elements are substantially smaller and more portable than is the case for LWRs (Light Water Reactors). In a LWR, the entire reactor core is a single large pressure vessel containing the light water, which acts as moderator and coolant, and the fuel arranged in a series of long bundles running the length of the core. In CANDU the pressure and the fuel bundle are contained in much smaller and lighter, easier to fabricate tubes. The CANDU technology has its own significant risks.

An accident or terrorist event in the Toronto vicinity would be devastating. A Public Health response is not ready for such a catastrophic occurrence. In medicine we do not perform a procedure unless we are prepared for the worst possible outcome of that procedure. We are not prepared for a nuclear accident.

In order to promote unbiased scientific method and uphold the principle of democracy, we desperately need studies in Canada on the health risks of nuclear power that are not in the control of the nuclear industry. We need to respect and value differing scientific opinion, not just those of nuclear physicists and industry representatives.

The nuclear industry has provided the Review panel with interpretations of data from their perspective. The scientific and medical communities are not in consensus with their biased and narrow-focused opinions. While CNSC and OPG officials have attempted to minimize the risks, they have not proven safety. The “Precautionary Principle” must be implemented. We need to invest in safe, sustainable, renewable energy now. The hunger for power does not justify leaving a toxic, radioactive inheritance for generations to come.

Nuclear technology must be phased out, not expanded.

Respectfully submitted,

Sharon Baker, MD, MCFP

Physicians for Global Survival


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.


Darl. Hearings: Louis Bertrand (April 1st)

Been meaning to post 3 more presentations from the Darlington hearings. Here they are, finally - starting with this one, Louis Bertrand's on April 1st. Most of us don't understand the limitations of computer software - but Louis sure does!! Btw, you can find the April 1st transcript here (audio here )

Concerns with software based instrumentation & control systems


Mr. Chairman, members of the panel, good morning.

My name is Louis Bertrand. I am a professional engineer and I live in Bowmanville. My engineering experience is in electronic product design including embedded software as well as information technology and information security

M. le président et membres de la commission, je vous souhaite bonjour. Je m’appelle Louis Bertrand. Je suis ingénieur professionel et j’habite Bowmanville. Mon experience en génie comprend le design de produits électroniques, ainsi que l’informatique et la sécurité des données.

My presentation this morning will deal with my concerns regarding the safety and reliability of instrumentation and control systems based on embedded microcontrollers and the software running them.

Ma présentation ce matin traite de mon inquietude au sujet de la securité et de la fiabilité des systemes de saisie de données et de controle a base de logiciels pour microprocesseurs imbriqués. A cause des termes techniques, je dois continuer ma présentation en anglais mais si on me pose une question en francais, j’essayerai dans la mesure du possible d’y répondre pareillement.

The New Nuclear Darlington Environmental Impact Statement section 7 submitted by the proponent considers the mitigation and effects of accidents, malfunctions and malevolent acts. It is my observation that the language used to describe these potential events shows that the designers consider them highly unlikely. However, the increased complexity and failure characteristics of software based instrumentation and control systems (I&C) leads me to ask whether or not some new scenarios for accident initiating events have been overlooked or underestimated.

The EIS and additional responses provided by the proponent make reference to several software quality assurance standards such as CSA N290.14 (Qualification of Pre-Developed Software) and CSA N286.7-99 (Quality Assurance of Analytical, Scientific, and Design Computer Programs) as well as AECB draft regulatory guide C-138(E) (Software in Protection and Control Systems). However, the guidance in those documents is prescriptive and they cannot provide the level of detail and completeness currently required to develop safety critical software and firmware systems.

Coffee Mug (c. 1982)

Weinberg’s Law: If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.

It also concerns me that an article on forensic engineering, the discipline of failure analysis, in January/February 2011 edition of Engineering Dimensions, the magazine of Professional Engineers Ontario, does not mention software as a potential factor in failures (Mastromatteo).

Yet software failures occur on a regular basis and occasionally lead to serious injury or death, as the 1986 Therac-25 accidents demonstrated (Leveson, 2006).

An Investigation of the Therac-25 Accidents

Author(s): Nancy G. Leveson and Clark S. Turner (abstract by Philip D. Sarin)

The Therac-25, a computerized radiation therapy machine, massively overdosed patients at least six times between June 1985 and January 1987. Each overdose was several times the normal therapeutic dose and resulted in the patient's severe injury or even death. Overdoses, although they sometimes involved operator error, occurred primarily because of errors in the Therac-25's software and because the manufacturer did not follow proper software engineering practices.

Overconfidence in the ability of software to ensure the safety of the Therac-25 was an important factor which led to the accidents. The Therac-20, a predecessor of the Therac-25, employed independent protective circuits and mechanical interlocks to protect against overdose. The Therac-25 relied more heavily on software. Moreover, when the manufacturer started receiving accident reports, it, unable to reproduce the accidents, assumed hardware faults, implemented minor fixes, and then declared that the machine's safety had improved by several orders of magnitude.

The design of the software was itself unsafe.

Obviously, since that series of tragic accidents, the discipline of software verification and validation has made great strides. However, regulatory agencies are still required to maintain oversight of providers of safety critical software, as occurred in a recent case of radiation therapy equipment malfunction (Bogdanich).

April 8, 2010

F.D.A. Toughens Process for Radiation Equipment


The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it was taking steps to reduce overdoses, underdoses and other errors in radiation therapy by strengthening the agency’s approval process for new radiotherapy equipment.

In a letter to manufacturers, the F.D.A. said its action was based on a recent analysis of more than 1,000 reports of errors involving these devices that were filed over the last 10 years.

The F.D.A. will no longer allow new radiotherapy equipment to enter the market via a streamlined approval process that sometimes involved the use of outside, third-party reviewers, Dr. Alberto Gutierrez, the F.D.A.’s director of in vitro diagnostic device evaluation and safety, said in an interview. That process, he said, was instituted in the 1990s to reduce the agency’s workload and speed approval time.

Most of the reported problems — 74 percent — involved linear accelerators, computer-controlled machines that generate high-powered beams of radiation that target and destroy cancer cells.

Problems with computer software were most frequently cited as a cause for the errors, according to the letter sent Thursday by Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Software quality assurance standards promoted by CSA, the US DOE and other public safety agencies are part of the requirements for safety critical software. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to ask if current methodologies have kept pace with increasing complexity.

The problem of identifying postulated initiating events (PIE) has been considered as a key issue in the safety of new nuclear reactors (TSO, section 4.3). Since the PIEs drive the design and acceptance criteria, it is important to identify as many of them as possible. Chapter 7 of the EIS details several postulated accident scenarios but they involve physical accidents or mechanical failures, not software or firmware malfunctions.

Since 1993, when the Darlington NGS was completed, software and computer technology has blossomed to provide us with a globe-spanning Internet, mobile devices and new integrated circuit technology. The complexity of software systems is ever increasing, as is the pace of change in the platforms for development and operation.

Safety approaches in the nuclear industry has been to make cautious incremental changes in design and operating procedures.

(Nancy G. Leveson, 2003)

“Although the terminology differs between countries, design basis accidents for nuclear power plants in the U.S. define the set of disturbances against which nuclear power plants are evaluated. Licensing is based on the identification and control of hazards under normal circumstances, and the use of shutdown systems to handle abnormal circumstances. Safety assurance is based on the use of multiple, independent barriers (defense in depth), a high degree of single element integrity, and the provision that no single failure of any active component will disable any barrier. With this defense-in-depth approach to safety, an accident requires a disturbance in the process, a protection system that fails, and inadequate or failing physical barriers. These events are assumed to be statistically independent because of differences in their underlying physical principles: A very low calculated probability of an accident can be obtained as a result of this independence assumption. The substitution of software for physical devices invalidates this assumption, which has slowed down the introduction of computers (although it has increased in the last few years).”

The entire support system for the software operating devices and systems in the generating station, including the physical hardware, networking environment, operating system and development tools, is in itself a complex system that must be examined as an extension of the generating facility itself. The development tools include editor, compiler, testing suite as well as the library of pre-existing modules necessary to support the actual programs. Those library modules, which may be developed by third parties, provide communication, user input, display and computation for the control software, as well as device drivers.

Taken together, this collection of hardware, software and network components is at least as complex as the operation of a nuclear reactor, the generating apparatus and their auxiliary systems. I believe there is cause for concern about the specification, design, validation and verification, and long term maintenance of this collection of systems.

2.Dealing with complexity and the potential for software errors

2.1.Hardware and soft errors

Integration densities are such that entire microprocessor systems can be built on a single system on chip (SOC). However, constantly shrinking integrated circuit geometries and lower operating voltages mean that these systems are more susceptible to soft errors caused by ionizing radiation and electromagnetic interference. This should be flagged as a common cause risk that could potentially affect any software-hardware system or device.

Contemporary SOC microcontrollers integrate CPU, EPROM to store the program binary code and control coefficients, sufficient RAM to run the program as well as necessary peripheral devices: analog-to-digital converters, timers, digital inputs and outputs and communication interfaces. The level of integration comes from reducing the geometry of transistors and interconnects on chip, as well as reducing the power dissipation of individual transistors by lowering the supply voltage to 3.3 volts or lower. These operating voltages are significantly lower than earlier standards.

With smaller IC geometries and lower voltages, the risk of soft errors caused by ionizing radiation is increased. A single event upset (SEU) occurs when an ionizing particle injects a current in a transistor sufficient to change the state of a memory element (Baumann, 2004). There are two modes for a soft error to occur. The first involves the direct change of a binary memory element (flip-flop, static or dynamic RAM cell) to its opposite state (“zero” to “one”, or vice versa). In the second, the ionizing radiation causes a combinational circuit to exhibit a transient incorrect output. If the transient persists across a clock edge, this transient state can be latched by a memory element and becomes an SEU. The higher the system clock frequency, the more likely the transient will be clocked in by a memory element.

Although the major concern about radiation exposure is for military or space based systems (satellites, probes), exposure at ground level is expected from background radiation as well as cosmic rays. Operation inside a nuclear facility increases the likelihood of soft errors (National).

The reduced size of transistors, lower operating voltages and increased CPU clock frequencies can increase the probability of soft errors in embedded microcontrollers powering mission critical devices. A system in which many similar devices with the same microcontroller type, or even the same semiconductor process technology, could be vulnerable to common cause failure due to the internal operation of the microcontroller.

2.2.Software complexity

As the number of microcontroller based instruments and control systems increases, so does the complexity of the software operating each one. The need to validate and verify the software becomes more important while at the same time becoming more difficult.

The first challenge is validation, which asks if the software correctly models the desired behaviour (Kelly, 2008). Subsequently, the challenge is to verify that the software is developed to the specifications required by the model.

The validation challenge involves subject matter experts in nuclear operations communicating their requirements to software developers, and the software developers in turn successfully translating those requirements into correctly operating programs.

Testing requires several concurrently applied techniques (Kelly, 2008; AECB, 1999):

·Regression testing: over time, tests and procedures are developed that test for the resolution of known problems and defects. The collection of tests is systematically applied to new versions to ensure that previous issues were not inadvertently re-introduced by the latest modifications;

·Code inspection: the source code is verified by others independent of the original programmers;

·Formal methods: methods to prove correctness such as those used by David Parnas in the control software for the existing Darlington NGS (Kelly, 2008);

·Randomized testing: a randomly selected sequence of inputs is presented to the software under test in an effort to flush out the most likely failures.

However there is no guarantee that these methods will detect and prevent all potential initiating events due to software defects.

2.3.Network complexity

An unforeseen consequence of networking safety critical systems with other systems was discovered as a result of a SCRAM incident at the Browns Ferry 3 reactor (NRC, 2007). Excessive network traffic caused a variable-frequency drive controller for a pump to malfunction. The abnormal network traffic was due to the failure of another device, a condensate demineralizer, on the same network that flooded the network with packets.

A word about how network devices operate. When a device receives a data packet, it must read the packet from the network and examine the destination address to decide whether or not it is the intended recipient and if it should receive the packet. If not, the device simply discards the packet. Even though most of the network traffic was not intended for the VFD controller, it had to devote some processing time to examine each incoming data. The extra processing load overwhelmed the controller and caused it to become unresponsive. The VFD controller was thus unable to process a command to increase the flow of cooling water and the control room procedure called for a manual SCRAM.

The problem was resolved by partitioning the network with firewalls to isolate the safety critical systems from the rest of the network and limit the amount of traffic the device could see on its wire. However, it's only in hindsight that the solution at Browns Ferry 3 seems obvious. It is standard practice to compartmentalize networks using firewalls and routers to isolate subnets within an organization to limit the spread of computer worms and automated attacks.

This begs the question, what about the future? What network problems will arise in new networks as more data is transferred over IP networks instead of discrete wiring? What happens to realtime requirements with more diverse traffic? Networks nowadays can carry voice and video, in addition to the traditional instrumentation and control data streams. The number of networked devices is far greater, multiplying the number and nature of networked interactions between software based devices.


Programmable logic controllers (PLC), ubiquitous in process control applications, are not immune to the ramping up of software complexity. Most now use embedded microcontrollers to execute programs compiled from on-screen representations of ladder logic networks. The ladder logic compiler used by the designer must meet the criteria set out in standards for design programs (for example, CSA N286.7-99). In addition, there must be assurance that PLC firmware will execute the compiled program correctly. A common cause fault in the PLC firmware that executes the simulated ladder logic diagram could cause all controllers with similar firmware to fail under the same circumstances. PLCs are networked with dedicated embedded microcontrollers as well as control consoles and data recorders, bringing an additional level of risk to their operation.

2.5.Maintenance over the life cycle of the station

The operating span of the NND is expected to be 60 years before decommissioning. 60 years ago, stored program computers were experimental oddities mostly powered by vacuum tubes.

Programmers in the 1970s would have scoffed at the idea that their COBOL programs would still be in use a quarter century later and causing anxiety at the possibility of programs suddenly finding themselves in the year 1900 the day after December 31, 1999. The point is that the pace of technological change is so fast that the current design would have to be "future proof", an impossible task.

Another serious issue is maintaining the development system for the devices in use at the generating station over the lifetime of the devices themselves if any maintenance, bug fixes or other modifications to the running program are required. The woes of maintaining obsolete hardware and operating systems are compounded by the need to maintain the programming environment virtually frozen in time. The development knowledge of the original programmers must also be captured as part of the development environment.

3.Threats and attacks

The common cyber-attacks reported on the news would not be expected to affect safety critical systems as it is assumed that they are isolated from the Internet, an elementary precaution.

However, the possibility of a successful attack, though remote, cannot be dismissed as a “not credible”. Several factors could enable such an attack:

·Increased availability of small wireless personal devices (smart phones, wireless PDAs and tablets). As those devices become smaller yet more powerful, it is not unrealistic to postulate an attack from inside mediated by a wireless access point unwittingly installed against network management rules.

·Ubiquitous small portable memory devices able to introduce malicious programs (a.k.a. viruses) into the protected network environment

·A successful “publicity” attack on a non-safety related computer (e.g. air sampling beyond the fence line) could damage the proponent's reputation for safety. Any protestation that the system in question was of trivial importance would be lost in the noise resulting from a newspaper headline that screams “Nuke plant computer hacked”.

3.1.Future threats and attacks

Cryptographic protocols that depend on computationally expensive attacks for their security must not only offer protection against current attacks, but those expected in the future, when exponentially faster processors become available. A recent development is widely distributed computing over the Internet, as pioneered by the SETI@Home project (SETI@Home). Thousands of otherwise idle computers could be harnessed to recover encryption keys for secured communications, for example those that enable virtual private networks (VPN) access internal networked computers over the Internet.

3.2.Malevolent acts

Although the proponent has spelled out mitigation measures for various accident, malfunction and malevolent act scenarios, the use of expressions like "not credible" or "beyond design basis" would make an information security expert cringe. Such language gives the impression that events will unfold in an orderly and predictable manner, and generating station personnel only need to refer to their training scenarios to respond to any foreseeable emergency.

Software faults don't follow obvious rules. A soft error in a critical section of code can have an unpredictable effect. A common cause error triggered by a rare combination of inputs could affect a number of devices running similar hardware or firmware.

Attackers don't follow rules. Actually, they deliberately break the rules. Computers have given them the tools to make complicated attacks easy by automating the procedures into attack scripts. The Internet has made it easy to attack any other computer on the Internet since they are all virtually next door to each other (Schneier). Isolating safety critical networks from the Internet is a natural precaution but there can be no guarantee that the supporting systems are sheltered from attack.

It is not sufficient to test for expected conditions because security flaws are often in code that is rarely executed, or conditions that never naturally arise.

3.3."What if" thinking

The only way to identify postulated initiating events (PIE) due to malicious software is to change one's frame of mind from "not credible" to start asking open ended stimulating questions like, “if it were to happen, how could it start?”

"What if" thinking requires designers to put themselves in the roles of attackers, similar to what penetration testing professionals do to audit network security for their clients.

This kind of thinking is creative, playful and hopes to break rules. By engaging in this kind of exercise, the mind is freed of pre-conceived notions of what's possible and what's not. "One-in-a-million" events can suddenly become more probable, or links between apparently unrelated events and conditions can be seen as part of a larger chain of causality that could potentially lead to an accident.

To illustrate this, let me describe a commonplace programming error known as the buffer overflow attack, so called because it causes a data to be copied beyond the allocated bounds for a string of text characters. The text characters copied beyond the bounds are likely to overwrite data that belongs to another part of the program, unrelated to the text buffer itself. This behaviour is what makes software errors difficult to analyze, and with consequences even harder to predict.

Our hypothetical programmer expects that passwords are never more than a hundred characters long. For safety, he allocates 1,000 characters for his buffer. The attacker asks "what happens if the password contains more than 100 characters?" The program is safe up to 1,000. But what happens when the attacker supplies 10,000 characters? Attackers break rules.

This technique has been one of the most prevalent attacks on the Internet and it is devastatingly effective, often leading to a complete takeover of the system by the attacker (Schneier,P.207). Conventional testing would not detect this error. In normal operation, a reasonable length password is presented and either accepted as valid or rejected. It's only when absurd input is provided that the program fails.

What if the compiler on a software developer's workstation was compromised to inject malicious code in all programs processed by the compiler? At the binary code level, the effects of the change would be hard to detect because the code is not human readable.

It is important to attempt to foresee all possible attacks because, as defender, all defenses must be impenetrable. For the attacker, the job is simpler: only one attack needs to succeed.

4.Conclusion and recommendations

My submission presented concerns that I believe are credible and realistic considering the current state of the art of software development, the complexity of embedded operating systems and control programs, and ubiquitous networking.

Therefore I strongly recommend that this panel reject the proponent's application unless the proponent can supply a realistic and practicable plan for safety critical software and firmware that:

·Tests the finished software or firmware against unusual or absurd input conditions or states, in order to flush out hidden defects that could be exploited by a malicious attacker.

·Runs probabilistic tests to simulate soft errors due to single event upsets caused by ionizing radiation in low power, high integration digital integrated circuits.

·Detail the threat and risk assessment methodology to identify software based postulated initiating events.

·Outlines the management approaches that would be in place to ensure that the configuration of software and firmware based devices and that of the network itself as documented and that changes to individual components and network topology are managed through a suitable review and deployment process.

·Maintains the software development tools throughout the lifecycle of the software itself, and that future replacement software be developed respecting the original requirements and any additions or adjustments thereto. If the development tools are upgraded or migrated to a newer development platform, the plan should detail how the upgraded tools will be tested to produce correct binary code.

Some final thoughts

There are some people in this province who have convinced themselves of some pretty remarkable things. Some have convinced themselves that nuclear is unquestionably safe, while others have reviled wind power as harmful to health and the environment. Beliefs such as these stand reality on its head.

Without presuming what this commission will decide or how, I would ask that a critical look be applied to the unspoken assumptions that the nuclear industry has thought of all the threats and risks.

Risk Assessment

The discipline of risk assessment itself should come under scrutiny. To my understanding, in its simplest form, risk assessment attempts to model the likelihood of a harmful event and the consequences of such an event. It’s a simple multiplication. The result is then balanced against the potential benefits to society and provides the basis for a go / no-go decision, or the expense and effort of additional mitigation.

It information technology, if I have a web server that services 100 clients, and I know that the probability of a successful attack is one per year, and I also know that it costs me $10,000 in staff time and compensation to my clients for downtime for each attack, I can quantify this risk into a dollar amount and use that to estimate the worth of prevention or mitigation measures: in this case, $10,000 / year is my cost. It would make sense to buy a backup tape drive for $5,000 if I knew it would mitigate by restoring my server faster. Could I justify spending $20,000 on a firewall and intrusion detection system?

With nuclear, the calculation goes off the rails. The probability of an accident is admittedly very low. The consequences would not only be tragic, but extremely costly to the station, the surrounding area and to the economy of the province and of Canada. The simple multiplication no longer applies. You are multiplying infinitesimal probabilities with enormous damages to get an intermediate number. However, because of the difficulty in estimating either factor, the result is meaningless.

At a presentation to Clarington Council in 2009, Dr. Chris Olsson (Stantec) told the council in response to a question that “Risk assessment is not the science to tell you that it is safe”.

A Word About Fukushima

In the news, there is talk about the 50 (or is it 300) nuclear workers who are desperately battling to restore the failing systems in the damaged reactors. Their families are justifiably concerned for their health and safety.

To me this personalizes the nebulous side effects of nuclear power. We know that someone, somewhere will get sick because of radioactive emissions, but we can’t tell whether or not a particular case affecting a specific person was caused by nuclear power.

In the case of Fukushima, the causes and effects are tragic and my heart goes out to those workers and their families.

The accident also demonstrates that we are playing with forces that, if they escape the normal control parameters, are clearly beyond our ability to control - especially with something as fragile as computer software.

Mr. Chairman, members of the panel, I thank you for your attention and welcome your questions.

M. le president, commissionaires, je vous remercie de votre attention et j’acceuille bien vos questions.


AECB - Atomic Energy Control Board. "Software In Protection And Control Systems", Draft Regulatory Guide C-138 (E), October 1999

Baumann, R.C. "Soft Errors in Commercial Integrated Circuits", International Journal of High Speed Electronics and Systems, Vol.14 No.2 (2004) 299-309 (In Schrimpf, R. D. and D. M. Fleetwood, "Radiation effects and soft errors in integrated circuits and electronic devices", World Scientific, 2004 - ISBN 981-238-940-7

Bogdanich, Walt. "F.D.A. Toughens Process for Radiation Equipment", The New York Times, April 9, 2010, on page A12 of the New York edition. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/09/health/policy/09radiation.html?_r=1 (Viewed Feb. 19, 2011)

CSA N286.7-99, "Quality Assurance of Analytical, Scientific, and Design Computer Programs for Nuclear Power Plants", Canadian Standards Association, March 1999 (Cited by Kelly, 2008)

Leveson, Nancy G. "White Paper on Approaches to Safety Engineering"April 23, 2003 http://sunnyday.mit.edu/caib/concepts.pdf (Viewed Feb 20, 2011)

Leveson, Nancy G. and Clark S. Turner (abstract by Philip D. Sarin), "An Investigation of the Therac-25 Accidents" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 2/16/2006 National Academy of Engineering http://www.onlineethics.org/Resources/Cases/therac25.aspx (Viewed February 20, 2011)

Kelly, Diane and Rebecca Sanders. "Assessing the Quality of Scientific Software" , First International Workshop on Software Engineering for Computational Science and Engineering, Leipzig Germany, May 2008.

Mastromatteo, Michael. "Engineering detectives go to the heart of the matter," Engineering Dimensions, Professional Engineers Ontario, January/February 2011

OPG Response, EIS IR 54 (Resubmission) and IR213:Regulatory Documents, Codes and Standards, Appendix 1B to Attachment A, File name: "9 July 2010a.pdf"

Regulatory Documents

·C-138(E) Software in Protection and Control Systems (October 1999)

Codes and Standards

·CSA N290.14 Qualification of Pre-Developed Software for use in Safety-Related Instrumentation and Control Applications in Nuclear Power Plants

·CSA N286.7-99, Quality Assurance of Analytical, Scientific, and Design Computer Programs for Nuclear Power Plants, Canadian Standards Association, March 1999 (Also cited by Kelly, 2008)

National Semiconductor, "Radiation Owners Manual" Undated http://www.national.com/analog/space/rad_ownersman (Viewed Feb 20, 2011)

NRC - Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Effects of Ethernet-Based, Non-Safety Related Controls on the Safe and Continued Operation of Nuclear Power Stations", US NRC Information Notice 2007-15, April 17, 2007.

Schneier, Bruce. "Secrets and Lies: Digital security in an networked world", John Wiley & Sons 2000 ISBN 0-471-25311-1

SETI@Home project "About SETI@Home", undated, http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/sah_about.php (viewed Feb 20, 2011)

TSO "TSO Study Project on Development of a Common Safety Approach in the EU for Large Evolutionary Pressurized Water Reactors", 2001, EC EUR 20163

Darlington Hearings Over!!

Friday, April 8th was the last day of the 3-week hearings into the proposed building of 4 new nuclear reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station near the town of Courtice, outside Toronto, Ontario.

Hallelulia!! I’ve been blogging about these hearings for weeks, & still have a few items I intend to add to the special section on the hearings, but my overall feeling is … relief!!

That, “OMG it feels good to stop bashing my head against a brick wall” feeling…you know what I mean??

There was an almost holiday atmosphere in the hearing room on Friday afternoon – among both those of us intervenor types who attended more of the hearings than is surely really good for a person’s mental health, &, pretty clearly, also among JRP (Joint Review Panel) members & CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) staff who must all have been just about going nuts to be away from their families & homes for so long.

I have said repeatedly that the hearings have felt quite surreal. An escalating nuclear crisis has been taking place in Japan throughout the hearing process, & to many of us, the prospect of entertaining the idea of expanding nuclear capacity at this time is, well, foolhardy, to say the very least (absurd, actually).

Anyway. It’s been quite the slog, to put it mildly, & my own only intermittent access to the Internet has made it all doubly & triply challenging for me personally.

So…I’m greatly relieved the hearings are finally over, & while I have no faith in the impartiality of the panel to put a stop to this proposed nuclear expansion, I do hope & believe my own mental health will improve somewhat now that life can return to … “normal” – not that “normal” is what it used to be, given the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan.

Here in Canada we are simultaneously well into a federal election campaign, &, given the character of our political situation, this too seems surreal.

I guess maybe surreal is … “the new normal.”

I do look forward to blogging about some more, shall we say “ordinary” things in the days ahead.


‘Quote of the Day’ with this post: “After last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico & now the Fukushima Daiichi ‘‘gempatsu shinsai,’’ people must realize that business as usual is not an option. To claim that nuclear energy has a future represents a colossal failure of our collective imagination—a failure to imagine the risks involved & a failure to imagine how we could do things differently. If future generations are to say that there was a silver lining to the cloud of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, it will be because human beings now looked beyond their recent history and chose to build a society that was not subject to catastrophic risks of human making.” – Philip White Tokyo-based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center

*** Lots of good nuke-related quotes/resources here


Darl. Hearings – Last Day, Final Awards

April 8 – Day 17 & the last day of the Darlington New Nuclear dog & pony show:

  • CNSC = Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • JRP = Joint Review Panel
  • NWMO = Nuclear Waste Management Organization
  • OPG = Ontario Power Generation

Also note: You can go here to find transcripts & audio & Webcast of the hearings.

Holy smokes! (I am repeating myself…)

The day began with a review of the “undertakings” that the JRP has … ordered undertaken during the panel hearings to dig up relevant reports & things. Most of the undertakings seem to be relatively meaningless, in that one doubts seriously that panel members will pay any attention to anything that doesn’t serve their agenda anyway, and/or when CNSC staff pass along whatever they’ve turned up, they bafflegab it so severely that everyone has fallen asleep by the time they’ve finished bafflegabbing it, or is quietly banging her/his head on a brick wall to staunch the pain of having to listen to so much meaningless CNSC staff nonsense/nukespeak.

More awards I feel are due…

CNSC Staff

Not ENOUGH Cancer award to CNSC staffer Patsy Thompson, who read a long statement in response to one of the aforementioned “undertakings.” She appeared to be saying, more or less, “Yes, it is true that radiation causes cancer. But how much cancer does it cause?” I guess what she meant was that her paycheque rests on the assumption that the nuclear industry doesn’t really cause enough cancer for them to own up / give a rat’s ass.

ALARA / ALARM award to aforementioned Patsy Thompson for reassuring us all that nuclear plants work hard to emit as little as possible. After all, they try hard to adhere to their ALARA principle. (Their ALARA principle, btw, stands for "As Low As Reasonably Achievable, economic & social factors taken into account." Needless to say, the economic interests considered are those of the nuclear industry, not that of the public, or public health). I believe the ALARA principle, as defined by the nuclear lapdog…oops, I mean watchdog, really ought to be re-named the ALARM principle. For sure, we cannot trust the nuclear industry to really look out for us, & we should ALL be alarmed at their cavalier attitude toward routine nuclear emissions, spills, public health, potential accidents, & long-lived nuclear waste for which no secure containment exists except in the fuzzy minds of nuclear industry personnel whose paycheques depend on this naïve, ill-placed, childlike & highly un-scientific, utterly baseless faith.

ROBUST LANGUAGE awardif we just repeat the word “robust” often enough, then apparently, this will make it so! Members of the nuclear industry say it a lot, so I guess it must be so!! It’s a robust industry; the reactors are robust; safety measures are robust…right. (For sure, we do know that nuclear waste itself is robust – very, very robust!!! It’s gonna be around FOREVER!)

WAITING…WAITING…WAITING award to the nuclear industry, that keeps ever so patiently waiting & waiting & waiting for a “solution” to the problem of long-lived nuclear wastes, & keeps expecting all of us to also keep waiting & waiting & waiting for a solution to these wastes that will be in their merest infancy in all of our lifetimes & will remain dangerous for my grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren…& beyond.

JRP Panel Members:

DISPOSABLE PEOPLE award to Mme. Beaudet for her “sensitive” response to a local person’s heartfelt query as to “Where do we go?” in the case of a potential nuclear accident at Darlington. I will try to find the part in the transcript to get her exact words, but she seemed to be saying more or less “Don’t worry, be happy!” Or basically “Hey, dude, I’m sure you can find a friend to go & live with!”

AFFABLE GRANDAD award to JRP Chair Alan Graham who, after listening to the incredibly articulate & feisty young intervenors (who won the “Out of the mouths of babes” award; see below) & after hearing his fellow panel members bat some dumb questions back & forth, assured the young folks that they too can grow up & work in “the industry” (i.e., the nuclear industry). He said this twice & then corrected himself to broaden his language to “industry,” but Mr. Graham pretty clearly assumes it is the fond wish of ALL young people to grow up & work in the nuclear industry (I guess the money must be really REALLY good, eh??)

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it” (Upton Sinclair) award overall to all members of the Joint Review Panel & all OPG & CNSC staff & all participants in the nuclear nonsense for their apparently very thick skulls & impervious brains.

I DON’T GET IT / WE LIKE TO PAY LIP SERVICE if not any actual real concern award to JRP member Mme. Beaudet for her very imperfect grasp of the meaning of the precautionary principle. Mme. B. is invited to generously share this award with everyone in the nuclear industry for talking about how they buy into the precautionary principle & then go right on barging ahead making more nuclear waste that we have no reasonable solution or even reasonable assurance of ever properly safeguarding.

THAT OLD ENGINEERING MINDSET award to JRP member Pereira, who asks a group of young pro-nukers (all of whom work for OPG) – & with a straight face, btw, how they will safeguard nuclear waste created by the proposed new reactors at Darlington (as though these young folks know any better than the older ones how anyone can possibly promise to keep nuclear waste safe for a million years. No one on the planet can do that, so why long-time engineer dude Pereira would ask a bunch of engineers still wet behind the ears how they can do it…. Well. The mind boggles, hmmm? Magical thinking, perhaps…).

THE BIG DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY award to the Joint Review Panel members for their apparent assumption that, if a local mayor & a business organization & … whoever else… say the idea of nuclear expansion is great, they therefore represent everyone in the area. (This puts me in mind of my own birth family – highly dysfunctional, like so many, hmmm? Just ‘cos my Dad might have claimed “Our family all agrees everything is cool here” sure doesn’t mean it was so…you know??)


IT ISN’T ALWAYS WINDY & IT ISN’T ALWAYS SUNNY (& nuclear waste is FOREVER but I ain’t gonna worry my pretty little head about THAT) award to the intervenor who makes his income from nuclear energy & wants to be sure that the new build will move ahead (this person also commented “nuclear leads the way when it comes to safety,” giving him runner-up position for today’s Cognitive Dissonance award; see below).

CREATIVE LANGUAGE award to the young engineer who has such overwhelming confidence in nuclear energy & the ability of the nuclear industry to find a “willing host” community to host a deep geological repository for long-lived nuclear wastes that he has staked a career on it. After all, he asserted, they have a “conceptual study” of the possibility of properly minding nuclear wastes for a million years. (Wow!! Then I guess the problem is solved………right???? It’s all about those “conceptual studies,” eh??)

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE OFF THE CHARTS AWARD to the young nuclear engineer who says he is relying on the NWMO (a creation of the nuclear industry, btw) to safeguard current & future generations. Tied with the contractor who looks forward to lotsa cash in the future, for saying “nuclear leads the way when it comes to safety.” (Have I not been saying for weeks now that the proceedings here are SURREAL?????????) I dunno how many people get killed making solar panels & wind turbines – but I am betting not too many!?!? No million-year wastes, either, hmmm?

OMG SHE JUST SAID “TRUST PERMEATES THE ORGANIZATION” award to a young nuclear engineer whose naivete is very touching indeed…if very very very severely – not to mention dangerously – misplaced.

NO JOBS ON A DEAD PLANET award to the young nuclear engineers & also to the local provincial Member of Parliament who touts the 3200 jobs that will be created by the Darlington New Nuclear project. While a nuclear crisis in Japan escalates, the impacts of which will affect all human beings on the planet for many-many decades to come, all these folks can think about is jobs, jobs, jobs. (None of these dudes seem to be able to “get” that investment in conservation & efficiency & renewable energy strategies/projects has tremendous potential to create new jobs that are sustainable jobs – not jobs that negate even the very possibility of a future!)

BINGO award to the other young engineer who stated that he is not aware of any “willing host community” that has volunteered to take the high-level, long-term waste that already exists, never mind the potential waste of 4 new reactors at Darlington.

I DIDN’T RUN SCREAMING FROM THE ROOM award to me once again, for listening to the young engineers talk confidently about their ability to safeguard nuclear wastes for a million years, having clearly not heard OPG staff’s UNDERWHELMING testimony on the day waste was discussed, with their confident, strong assertions that “We are looking into containers” & “We are learning as we are going along.” Egad…

THE NUCLEAR EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES / OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES award to the young (very young!! High school age) & feisty intervenors who told the panel that, contrary to assertions by OPG that the public has been consulted, they have indeed not been consulted, & since they are the ones who will wind up having to pay all of their lives for the high costs/ongoing debts of nuclear power & be saddled with the-waste-that-is-forever, & also bear the health impacts, NO THANKS to any more nuclear reactors!! Hats off to these young people; what an inspiration!

CAN’T WE JUST START TELLING THE TRUTH?? award to the various citizen intervenors who pointed out that we humans need to dispense with our “technological optimism” & adopt the precautionary principle & the polluter pay principle & acknowledge the deadly risks of nuclear energy & the permanence of nuclear wastes & the reality of already-existing nuclear wastes leaking into Lake Ontario & rising cancer rates & the very real possibility of more nuclear accidents (& the fact that there have been many un-reported “near-misses” at nuclear plants) & that accidents by their very nature occur when we least expect them & finally, the utter immorality of an industry that does so much damage at every stage from uranium mining to refining to nuclear energy creation to routine emissions & finally, the waste-that-is-forever.

I could probably go on with awards forever, readers gentle & otherwise, but…enough already!!


p.s. For example, I should no doubt have handed out a “Shit happens!” award to the nuclear industry. That is perhaps their overall explanation…excuse…rationale...for all the harm their industry causes. Or maybe “Shit happens; suck it up, suckers!!” Or…. “Give Your Head a Shake.” I dunno. I am shaking my head…

Some Quotes for Today:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it” – Upton Sinclair

“No degree of prosperity could justify the accumulation of large amounts of highly toxic substances which nobody knows how to make “safe” and which remain an incalculable danger to the whole of creation for historical or even geological ages. To do such a thing is a transgression against life itself, a transgression infinitely more serious than any crime ever perpetrated by man. The idea that a civilisation could sustain itself on the basis of such a transgression is an ethical, spiritual, and metaphysical monstrosity. It means conducting the economic affairs of man as if people really did not matter at all.” – E.F. Schumacher

“29 years after passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, 36 years after the repository search began, 54 years into commercial nuclear power, and 69 years after Fermi first split the atom during the Manhattan Project, the U.S. still has no safe, sound, permanent storage plan for high-level nuclear wastes.”Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear

“Authorizing construction of new nuclear reactors without first constructing a radioactive waste disposal facility is like authorizing construction of a new Sears Tower without bathrooms.” ~ Dave Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service

“Telling the truth is like making oxygen.” – Joanna Macy

** Lots of great quotes in a variety of categories in the ‘Quotation Central! section. Nuke quotes here

Darl. (New Build) Hearings – Apr. 4: Tweedle Day! (+ awards)

April 4 – 1st day of 3rd & final week of the dog & pony show.

  • CNSC = Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • JRP = Joint Review Panel
  • OPG = Ontario Power Generation

Also note: You can go here to find transcripts, Webcast & hearing schedule for/of the hearings. April 4th written transcript is here Audio recording here

Holy smokes!

The award-winning behaviour at the Darlington New Build hearing on Monday, April 4th, was right off the charts – so mind-boggling, in fact, that I will probably not return for days & days. My bullshit-tolerating circuits have been completely & utterly blown…

Lotta categories today!

The Joint Review Panel itself gets awards, some of the presenters get awards, CNSC & OPG staff (inevitably) get awards, & I am going to give myself at least one award (hey, why not, eh??).

First up were 2 very pro-nuclear presentnerds (OMG, I just made up a new word from a typo!?) from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) , whom I have very impolitely nicknamed Tweedledum & Tweedle-Dumber (in my notes I was referring to them as Bozo # 1 & Bozo # 2, but my Mom would say that’s really rude, so I’ll stick with TWD # 1 &TWD2)

1st up – Presenters’ Awards:

Fallacy of the Century award to the 2 Tweedles for their assertion that nuclear energy is the only answer for the climate change challenge.

I am so dim I am an argument against what I am arguing FOR award to TWD2 for his comment that he & others formed the thought some years ago that, if it isn’t safe to build a nuclear plant so close to a large population centre, it shouldn’t be built at all. BINGO, Tweedles 1 & 2 & Tweedles everywhere!!

Moral Vacuity Award of the Year award to TWD2 for dismissing concerns about nuclear emissions from nuclear plants because after all (he said), they are less than we would get from medical treatment. He gets 2 of these, actually – the 2nd for his rhetorical question “What will people remember 10 years from now (i.e., 10 years post-Fukushima nuclear accident), tens of thousands of deaths from the tsunami or a nuclear plant that had to be retired early?” (Yes, he actually said that!!)

Rocket Science Award (Not!) award goes to TWD # 1 for his brilliant statement that the good thing about nuclear waste is that, unlike the nuclear material that is still in the ground (as though all the man-made nuclear waste from nuclear projects pre-exists, in the ground), we know where it is. (I’m not kidding! He actually said this!!)

Rocket Science Award (Not!) # 2 award goes to TWD2 who made a very “scientific” comment about how, when he worked for Ontario Hydro in the 1970s, he worried more about his wife & son travelling in a car on the 401 than he did about nuclear accidents at Pickering.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil award to the Tweedles for their utter inability to see any harm in nuclear energy, & their utter inability to grasp the utter immorality of the idea of creating dangerous wastes that will remain dangerous for a million years…

Note: I have awarded the “I have steam coming out of my ears” award to me, myself & I, after having to listen to the 2 Tweedles for their utterly preposterous, mindless, un-scientific & amoral claims that nuclear energy is the only way to deal with climate change, & their dismissal of the risks of nuclear emissions of any & all kinds. I kind of wanted to ask how a person whose groundwater has been contaminated with tritium (or a person whose entire territory has been ruined by uranium mining) would find comfort in Tweedle-ish pro-nuclear bromides & empty assurances – but I’d left the room in disgust & so missed my opportunity.

2nd Up – CNSC Staff Awards:

CNSC staff outdid themselves today!! By 11 AM, & after only speaking for about 5 minutes, CNSC staffers Barclay Howden & Dr. Patsy Thompson have been awarded a record # of awards for a record small amount of time:

Bafflegab Extraordinaire / I just went to sleep award goes to Barclay Howden & Patsy Thompson for their extraordinary, over-the-top ability at bureaucratic bafflegab in response to panel member Pereira about abandoned uranium mines. No information whatsoever about destroyed lives, rivers, lakes, people in the wake of uranium mining, & by the end of their little monologues, any of us listening had gone soundly to sleep, bored out of our skulls, heads aching from trying to actually extract anything sensible or comprehensible from all their bullshit. (Okay, Mom, sorry – nonsense).

How do you sleep at night? award to the aforementioned CNSC staffers who, gosh, now that I think of it, maybe DON’T sleep at night! They stay up all night, practicing their bafflegab & bullshit routines. Glad I figured that out!! I’d been wondering for years how they are able to make so much nonsense dance on the head of a tiny little pin.

Weasel word award to CNSC staff for their use of the word “legacy” to minimize the existence of very long-term (I mean permanent, actually) environmental damage & environmental & human health hazards from uranium mining (& all & sundry other nuclear operations). Calling it “legacy,” in CNSC-speak, means “We are being very, very good boys & girls NOW & we must not be blamed or held accountable for all that dangerous & despicable stuff we used to do in the past & will very likely go right on doing as long as is humanly possible & bleah-bleah-bleah-bleah-bleah – is everyone asleep yet?”

3rd Up – Joint Review Panel Awards:

Affable Chairman Award to Mr. Alan Graham. Mr. Graham (an ex-politician) is truly admirable as Affable Chairman of the Month (maybe even year). He is almost unfailingly polite & patient, & his apparent naïve enjoyment in assigning “undertakings” & especially in assigning the correct # to each new undertaking is downright touching. The meaninglessness of most of these undertakings is…well…never mind. It is the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, after all…

Cutting through CNSC bullshit & bafflegab to ask about a particular study cited by the … shall we say, low-toned CNSC staffer Dr. Patsy Thompson award goes to panel member Mr. Pereira. This man has special abilities to listen to OPG & CNSC staff nonsense (OPG & CNSC staff have Ph. D’s in Bafflegab & Bullshit & presumably JRP members have studied this curriculum as well) & manage to squeeze out a relevant-seeming question – usually a leading question aimed at establishing that nukes are just grand (it could alternatively be called the Foxes Minding the Henhouse award). I myself have sometimes run (almost) screaming from the room to stick another needle in my eye rather than listen to more CNSC staff bafflegab…

Leading Question award also goes to panel member Pereira, an engineering & ex-AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada) dude who pretty clearly favours the continued use of nuclear energy & whose bias in this regard is somewhat noticeable.

Ooops, darn, I sure wish I hadn’t asked THAT question award to member Mme. Beaudet for asking York University prof Jose Etcheverrez (sp???) about the intermittency of solar/wind power. His incredibly lengthy, detailed & informative answer blew us ALL out of the water…

Staying alert, awake &, apparently, even interested award while listening to stultifying babblegab from CNSC & OPG staff who speak in monotones & repeat their catchphrases & jardon endlessly, & especially for having to listen to the passionate interventions from members of the public who DO see evil, hear evil & speak evil when it comes to nuclear nonsense – & continue to feign interest or concern. Shoot, as I type this, I realize we oughta be talking Academy Awards for these folks!!

4th Up – OPG Staff Awards:

Gotta admit, I’m getting a bit tired of this whole exercise, so OPG staff get just 2 awards today…

Literacy award to Mr. Albert Sweetnam, Executive Vice President of the Darlington New Nuclear Project, who proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, after hearing the brilliant presentation by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) that pretty much established that the multiple-year, who-knows-how-many-millions-or-billions-spent Environmental Impact Statement OPG submitted as part of the federally-mandated Canadian Environmental Assessment Act requirements, is a botch, could … wait for it!! actually read a statement from the OPG Web site. Well done, Mr. Sweetnam (1)!!! We were all soooooo impressed …

Robot award – do I even need to explain this???? (Okay, okay. They look like humans. They dress like humans. They walk sorta like humans. But… they speak like robots. Now, gotta say, CNSC staff are a very, very close 2nd for this award. Oh heck, let’s just call it a tie, shall we?? The 2 staffs can share it…)

Finally – another award to myself:

For NOT running screaming from the room. I DID leave in disgust more than once, I must admit, & was tempted more than once to put a needle in my eye rather than listen to any more nuclear nonsense…but didn’t actually scream on the way out (at least, not out loud). I might have huffed & puffed a little, & there may have been some steam coming out of my ears, but … I didn’t scream!! (Mom, you’d have been so proud of me! :)  )

Please do note, readers gentle & otherwise, if you go here on the CNSC Web site, you can locate transcripts & Webcasting of the hearings.

p.s. Did I mention that the Emperor STILL has no clothes??? THAT award keeps right on giving!!

p.p.s. & hey, I also failed to mention that the intervenors from York University's Faculty of Environmental Studies, Physicians for Global Survival, Libby Racansky, the NGOs Pembina Institute & the Canadian Environmental Law Association & finally, Zach Ruiter - were awesome & inspiring. Thanks a ton to all of you!!


(1) You can check out Mr. Sweetnam’s salary here, btw. A mere $686,238.00 per year, poor fellow!!

Darl. Hearings: Janet M. (aka me - March 31st)

March 31, 2011.

Members of the Joint Review Panel, OPG & CNSC staff & fellow members of the public:

I appreciate the opportunity to make this presentation to the Darlington New Build Joint Review Panel.

As I laid out in the outline I submitted in February, my presentation will consist of the following:

  • Introductory remarks
  • Comments on the limitations of the review process
  • Comments on projected costs & overall economics of this project
  • Nuclear fuel chain issues & implications
  • Issues of public trust
  • Concluding remarks

Introductory Remarks

I’ve been an environmental activist for more than 20 years now. I’m also a former long-time resident of Durham Region & spent most of my adult life in Durham Region & the Greater Toronto Area.

It was never my intent to become involved in nuclear issues & I’ll explain in a moment why I did. Most of my years of activism have been focused on waste, pesticides, cancer prevention & climate change initiatives.

It’s relevant that I am a mother. Concern for my children’s future began even before they were born, naturally enough, & the threats to their future seem to have multiplied exponentially.

Now that they are adults who might like to have children of their own one day, I have the motivation to keep on working on environmental issues – even though sometimes I’d like to just stop & pull the covers over my head – the way so many “ordinary people” seem to do.

I’ve been thinking for a couple of days now about panel member Mme. Beaudet’s question to Mark Mattson, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper President, about reaching “ordinary people” in this process.

For sure I am one of the ordinary people in the sense that, unlike so many of my brilliant colleagues who’ve spoken at this hearing, I am not a technical person. I don’t really have a clue how nuclear energy & nuclear power plants work. I’m not scientifically minded & I’m not mathematically minded, either.

I could never engage with an engineer about technical matters involving reactors, & most of the CNSC staff could silence me pretty quickly with their jargon.

But here’s the thing. Although I am not technical, I do have an ear for language, & I can still see pretty well. I can often tell when I’m being deceived, & I can spot when an Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. I often recall that Jane Jacobs (internationally known for her work on urban issues) once said, “Always be prepared to believe that experts are stupid. They very often are.”

I’m a big believer in telling the truth, & in drawing attention to elephants in the room. This doesn’t always make me popular, of course! Sometimes we humans are pretty invested in leaving those elephants alone – whether on big scary matters like nuclear energy, or the “small” ones in our personal lives.

As regards telling the truth, I recall that Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers, once said “Speak your mind, even when your voice shakes.” …. so that’s what I am trying to do. Sometimes my voice does shake – it may very well be shaking now – but if we human beings are going to keep on living on this planet (something I am less & less convinced is going to be possible in the long-term), I think more & more of us are going to need to start telling the truth.

Now, as to how & why I became involved in nuclear issues.

After 24 years in Durham Region, I moved to Deep River for 6 years. Friends I made in Renfrew County told me about the little company in Pembroke that makes glow-in-the-dark products using tritium from CANDU reactors. The things I learned about the tritium pollution in air & groundwater in Pembroke shocked me deeply. That’s what motivated me to start attending Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings. It’s been very illuminating!

The Limitations of This Review Process

The limitations of this process have been covered quite brilliantly by other intervenors – Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Northwatch, the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, Greenpeace, & others.

I would like to call attention to the document called Public Hearing Procedures (no file or document #) that states, in Section 1, ‘Background Information,’ that the proposal is “for the site preparation, construction, operation, decommissioning and abandonment of up to four new nuclear reactors” etc. etc.

The use of the word “abandonment” certainly sends up a red flag for me! I’m not sure how we can reasonably talk about “abandoning” nuclear reactors whose contaminants & waste will remain radioactive & dangerous for thousands & thousands of years. As far as I’m aware, the nuclear industry has no real experience in the safe decommissioning of used-up nuclear plants. The use of the word “abandonment” is a bit shocking to me, for sure.

In Section 2 of that same document, under “Role of the Panel,” it refers to this “environmental assessment of the complete life cycle of the project.” Again, I’m not sure how we can be properly said to assess the complete life cycle of a project whose carrying out involves the creation of dangerous wastes that will remain dangerous not just for my grandchildren’s grandchildren, but for their grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren… & perhaps beyond?? It seems a little preposterous, then, to me, to make this claim about the “life cycle” of the project.

There are other aspects of this plan for new nuclear reactors that I have trouble buying into. “Bounding scenarios.” “Multiple technology approach.” “Credible accident scenarios.”

The language all sounds more than a little absurd! It sounds like fancy jargon that intends not to illuminate or tell the truth, but to do quite the opposite. To cover up & obscure the truth.

I doubt very much that the BP oil spill – or the current nuclear crisis in Japan – would be classified as “credible accident scenarios.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. As one of the aboriginal speakers said on Monday, the unthinkable does indeed happen…

I have felt quite often during this hearing process that, like Alice in the story of “Alice in Wonderland,” I must have fallen down a rabbit hole. Some of the testimony I hear puts me in mind of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

OPG testimony on Tuesday about their ability to safeguard dangerous nuclear wastes for hundreds of thousands of years is an excellent case in point. I am not in the slightest reassured! In fact, OPG staff members’ inability to really get their heads around the really, really long-term storage challenge is frankly sobering & even downright scary to me.

I recall that a previous intervenor, Dr. Fairlie, called on the nuclear industry to demonstrate humility, not hubris, at this most extraordinary time, considering the escalating nuclear crisis in Japan.

Given the current nuclear crisis, this whole panel experience seems almost surreal. I doubt that I am alone in feeling this sensation.

As for the failure of this process to properly investigate non-nuclear alternatives, I’m reminded of Thomas Alva Edison – father of the light bulb – who said “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ‘til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Of course Edison very likely had no idea we’d come up with the madness of nuclear energy!

Comments on the projected costs & overall economics of this project

Many intervenors have by now made comments on this as well.

I do not recall how many millions of dollars over budget the first generation of reactors at Darlington came in at. (I do recall that an engineer friend of mine once said that if the money spent building the Darlington reactors had been put into solar panels for all the houses in Durham Region, Darlington wouldn’t have been needed. This friend is a nuclear engineer, by the way…)

How many millions of dollars over budget are all the current nuclear refurbishment projects? Some mind-boggling # that truly does boggle the mind so much that we “ordinary people” lay it aside almost casually & forget about it. We’ve heard it so many times before…

And yet, it is genuinely scandalous, really, isn’t it??

I also wonder how it is possible for OPG to give any realistic estimate of the costs for decommissioning reactors when, from what I gather, decommissioning nuclear facilities is not exactly “proven technology.”

Finally, I want to register my extreme frustration that, if all the money that’s been spent on this project had been put into research & implementation of conservation & efficiency measures (which have been known about for decades now, after all!) & renewable energy sources, a great many more jobs would have been created & they would be sustainable jobs.

The money that is being spent to conduct this hearing process would very likely fund a really efficient environmental non-governmental organization for years. So much waste of human energy, psychic potential & our hard-earned tax dollars! It’s enough to make a person weep….

Nuclear fuel chain issues & implications

I’m aware that you have chosen not to consider the entire nuclear fuel chain to be an integral part of your deliberations. But talking about building new nuclear reactors & failing to consider the rest of the stages involved is kind of like saying we’re going to undertake to protect fetuses from fetal alcohol syndrome – without bothering to talk to the fetuses’ mothers about giving up drinking!

Dave Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service has said “Authorizing construction of new nuclear reactors without first constructing a radioactive waste disposal facility is like authorizing construction of a new Sears Tower without bathrooms.”

The nuclear fuel chain is… bad news. Human health & the environment are damaged at every turn.

It is not precautionary at any point, & simply claiming it is so will not make it so.

The biggest single problem with the nuclear fuel chain, it seems to me, is the waste that will be created & left for future generations to “manage.”

It seems to me we have a moral duty as human beings to behave in such a way that future generations will be possible. A duty many of us are really only paying lip service to, I’d say.

We heard Dr. Caldicott speak last week, about the damage to children in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. We all know there will be vast damage to the as-yet unborn in the wake of the current Japanese nuclear disaster.

I wonder about the possibility for future generations to survive at all, considering the overwhelming burden of nuclear pollution that already exists – never mind the bizarre & irresponsible notion of creating yet more.

We cannot properly deal with the wastes that have already been created. As has been pointed out by Mr. Kamps from Beyond Nuclear, “29 years after passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, 36 years after the repository search began, 54 years into commercial nuclear power, and 69 years after Fermi first split the atom during the Manhattan Project, the U.S. still has no safe, sound, permanent storage plan for high-level nuclear wastes.”

Nor, as we all know, does Canada.

In my opinion, put very very simply, nuclear energy is immoral.

I believe we have a moral duty to stop messing with it.

Issues of public trust

We know that the public does not trust the nuclear industry. We didn’t before Chernobyl, & we haven’t since. We didn’t before the accident in Japan & of course, we do so even less now.

I’m not sure that this matters much to the nuclear industry. Or to our governments.

There seem to be forces at work here that I don’t really understand.

I do believe, though, that one problem is an engineering mindset that is not serving us well.

I’ve had some interesting encounters with engineers in the past few years. Some of them have said things that have blown my mind.

One who used to work at the Chalk River nuclear facility expressed surprise that it had become clear that the ocean could not withstand all of humanity’s assaults on it. All the pollution we have dumped in it, & continue to dump in it. I was taken aback. He was serious! He thought we could go on & on & on using our precious water bodies as dumping grounds.

Another engineer (two, actually) outright denied what the retired, radioactive steam generators at the Bruce Power plant contain. It was pretty much a “Please! Don’t confuse me with the facts” conversation. The piece of paper I was showing them had information that had been provided by OPG – but these engineers were sure they knew better!

Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil. This is a very dangerous mindset.

The nuclear industry seems to damage people at every stage along the way. People who live near uranium mines get sick. Bodies of water are destroyed forever. Workers at the Bruce were recently exposed to radiation.

Nuclear accidents happen & the public is lied to about the extent of the damage.

A previous speaker at this hearing (one of the articulate First Nations speakers on Monday) said, “No one is listening to us.”

We have good reason not to trust the industry.

Concluding Remarks

I’ve amended my remarks since I first wrote them. I was feeling pretty angry when I wrote my first draft.

Now we have another nuclear disaster, & now we have an opportunity to make this a watershed moment in human history. It may well be too late to save us, but it sure seems to me we ought to at least try!

I haven’t done a lot of stints in the corporate world in my working life. I do still have a powerful memory of one meeting I was part of, in my last corporate role.

I sat looking around the room at all the very bright & energetic people who were in the room & who were really working their butts off on the project we were engaged in. Well above & beyond the call of duty, for sure.

I thought, “Holy smokes. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could harness all the energy of all these brilliant minds to do the things that really need to be done to fix up the planet??”

And I’ve been having that thought again here, during the past days of hearings.

There’s a real “us & them” mentality at work here. It’s adversarial, & it sure doesn’t help us solve problems.

Last year I read an amazing book called Country of My Skull – Guilt, Sorrow & the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa, about the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. I recall from time to time (when I’m not feeling angry about what a mess things are & wondering about & blaming who is responsible for all these messes) that we really are all in this together, & that keeping on with the us & them dynamic isn’t going to take us anywhere we really want to go.

I can’t help but wish we’d use this time now, in the wake of this horrendous Fukushima nuclear disaster, to put our minds to a little “truth & reconciliation.” Put all our bright minds together & find solutions – not keep making more & more problems.

I’m terribly naïve – I know that. We environmental activists are idealists. I guess somebody has to do it!

Einstein, as we all know, said “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water!” He also said “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.”

While I have no expectation that this panel will actually decide to put a halt to this project, that is what I very much hope you will do.

Earlier this week, on Monday, after I left the day’s hearing here, I went down to the gate at the Darlington Generating Station, where I looked at the plaque on the monument that was erected by the Nuclear Awareness Project group in 1989. The group put a time capsule in the ground & then put up a monument over top of it.

The plaque reads:

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next 7 generations.” – from the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee/Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy.

“This monument marks the opening of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors – we borrow it from our children. The time capsule contained herein shall be opened after 7 generations, in the year 2129. The capsule contains information reflecting the debate on nuclear technology.

Our children shall judge us.”

It is surely so.

Thank you.

Darl. Hearings: Angela B. (March 31st)

I'm posting Angela Bischoff's presentation to the Joint Review Panel - with her permission.

Presentation to the Darlington Joint Review Panel - Mar. 31, 2011 – Angela Bischoff

Thank you to the Panel, and all the participants in the room and online for hearing my presentation today. My name is Angela Bischoff and I work with the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. We are a coalition of health and environmental organizations, faith communities, municipalities, utilities, unions, corporations and individuals working for cleaner air through a coal phase-out and a shift to a renewable electricity future.

I organized an event last night at a club in downtown Toronto called Nuclear in the Spotlight. 100 people came out to learn what’s happening now in Fukushima, to share our fears, and quite literally, to celebrate the end of the nuclear age. We learned about how the industry and governments lied to us following the Chernobyl catastrophe, and how they’re downplaying the risks associated with Fukushima. We learned about the contamination of the pacific ocean bordering Japan, and how there is no safe dosage of radiation, meaning that supposedly diluting toxic radioactive elements in the ocean or in the atmosphere is no consolation. And we learned that private investors worldwide are pulling their investments out of nuclear projects, and governments around the world are now questioning their continued massive subsidization of new nuclear projects.

Meanwhile, here in ON, our gov’t continues in its dogged commitment for 50% nuclear, which of course means that green technologies will be relegated to the sidelines, capped. There will be little place on the grid for renewables to grow. This would explain why there has been no public assessment of alternatives to this proposed Darlington new build project. Politics is trumping precaution and even economics. Usually, in environmental assessments, need and alternatives are included the process, but not here. This is unacceptable.

With that, I’m going to proceed to speak to issues of cost and alternatives. I will assert that this project is not about providing Ontarians with cost-effective clean electricity supply, but rather is a desperate attempt to save Canada’s nuclear industry.

Project Cost

In the 60’s thru the 90’s, Ontario Hydro’s profits from its water and fossil power generating stations subsidized the losses of its nuclear reactors. In fact, the cost of producing nuclear electricity was 7 times that of producing water power. In 1999, as a result of the cost overruns and the poor performance of its nuclear reactors, Ontario Hydro was broken up into five companies. All of its generation assets were transferred to Ontario Power Generation (OPG). However, in order to keep OPG solvent, $19.4 billion of Ontario Hydro’s debt or unfunded liabilities associated with electricity generation facilities was transferred to the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation (an agency of the Government of Ontario) as “stranded debt” or “unfunded liability.”

Since 1999, Ontario consumers and taxpayers have paid almost $20 billion to service that debt (of $19.4 billion), yet we still owe almost $15 billion. This has not proven a good financial investment.

OPG is now proposing to re-build the reactors at its Darlington Nuclear Station. According to OPG, the Darlington Re-Build will have a capital cost of $8.5 to $14 billion. But every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone way over budget. On average, the real costs of Ontario’s nuclear projects have been 2.5 times greater than the original cost estimates. Therefore, if history repeats itself, the real cost of the Darlington Re-Build will be $21 to $35 billion, or 19 – 37 cents per kilowatt hour.

Furthermore, and the reason of these hearings, the cost of the proposed new-build projects at Darlington came in at $26 billion for 2 reactors. This gave the Energy Minister “sticker-shock” and the procurement process was postponed. The provincial gov’t then passed the buck to the federal gov’t, asking them for subsidies. In other words, Premier McGuinty is asking taxpayers in Vancouver and Halifax to subsidize new nuclear reactors in Ontario. To their credit, the Harper gov’t hasn’t budged on this request. Indeed they’ve taken it a step further and put AECL up for sale, for which there are no bidders. The future of AECL is at stake with this new-build project, and that’s why I say politics is trumping precaution.


Fortunately, there are numerous less costly, less risky and more sustainable ways to meet our electricity needs. The lowest cost option to meet our energy needs is energy efficiency. By reducing our demand for grid-supplied electricity, energy efficiency investments will make it easier for us to obtain 100% of our grid-supplied electricity from renewable sources.

Since the summer of 2006 our peak demand for electricity has fallen by 7%; and it is forecast to fall by a further 6% in 2011. Nevertheless, our electricity consumption per person is 35% higher than New York State’s. And therefore we still have a huge untapped energy efficiency potential which we must aggressively pursue. At a cost of 2.3 – 4.6 cents per kilowatt hour, energy conservation and efficiency are a bargain.

On the supply-side the lowest cost option to meet our electricity needs is to simply stop wasting natural gas. Virtually every home, building and factory in Ontario uses natural gas to provide just one service, namely, heat. It is much more efficient to use these same molecules of natural gas to simultaneously produce two services, namely, heat and electricity. This is what combined heat and power plants do.

Combined heat and power plants can have an overall energy efficiency of 80 to 90% which is much better than the 33% efficiency of a nuclear reactor. And as a result of their very high efficiency, combined heat and power plants can meet our electricity needs at a cost of approximately 6 cents per kWh. That is, less than 1/3 the cost of a new or re-built nuclear reactor.

In terms of renewable electricity, Ontario’s lowest cost source of renewable electricity is water power imports from the Province of Quebec.

Last year Hydro Quebec’s exports to the U.S. exceeded the total output of our Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. However, our imports from Quebec were miniscule. This doesn’t make sense.

There are two important facts to note with respect to Hydro Quebec’s electricity exports. First, in 2009, the average price of Quebec’s export sales was 6.5 cents per kWh. Second, according to the National Energy Board Act, Ontario has the right to import electricity from Quebec at the same price that the Americans are paying.

Therefore it doesn’t make sense to invest tens of billions of dollars in nuclear power when we can import renewable electricity from Quebec at less than 1/3rd the cost.

I’d like to draw your attn. to the report I’d attached with my written submission called Power Options: A review of ON’s options for replacing aging nuclear plants. It was produced by the OCAA in 2009. It states: Over the next 12 years, ON will need to replace 60.4 billion kWh of electricity produced by nuclear generators that will have reached the end of their productive lives by 2021. This report finds that decreased electricity demand, thanks to increased conservation efforts, could eliminate the need to replace 47% of the nuclear power generation that will have reached the end of its service life by 2021. According the OPA, the cost of reducing demand by investing in energy efficiency is approx. 2.7 cents per kWh.

Wind power when integrated with Hydro Quebec’s hydro-electric generation resources has the potential to provide ON with sufficient firm, reliable renewable electricity to replace 100% of end-of-service-life nuclear power generation by 2021. The cost of electricity from large-scale land-based wind farms in southern ON is 9.6 – 13.5 cents per kWh.

Natural gas-fired CHP plants could also provide 100% of our required replacement power by 2021 at a cost of 6 cents per Kwh.

All these electricity options are compared with new nuclear which comes in well over 20 cents per kWh.

To Conclude

If approved, this nuclear new-build project will lock Ontario into nuclear reliance for decades, denying us the swift and necessary transition to the renewable energy age that this era of climate change and declining resources demands.

The proposed project should not proceed without a full public review and assessment of all project costs against other energy options.

For all these reasons, I request that OPG’s proposal to build additional reactors at the Darlington site be rejected.

Thank you all for your time.

Darl. Hearings – March 29: WASTE Day: Awards (x 2)

I’ve been blogging about the 3-week nuclear hearings now taking place in Courtice, Ontario.

** Note: if you go here, you can find hearing info such as the public hearing schedule, transcripts, Webcasts, etc.

Courtice is a small community east of Toronto; host to the gargantuan Darlington Nuclear Generating Station that is situated right on the shores of Lake Ontario. The hearings are part of the Environmental Assessment process Ontario Power Generation (OPG) & its licensing body, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), is required to take part in as they make plans for 4 new reactors at the Darlington site (all of this at the behest of the Ontario provincial government, btw).

Taking part in hearings involving nuclear projects always puts me in mind of going down a rabbit hole, à la Alice in Wonderland. A certain Mad Hatter Tea Party ambience is unmistakable.

I’ve said it many times before: there is really no adequate way to describe what this kind of hearing is like. (I’ve written about CNSC hearings in blog postings listed under the Steam Generator heading up at the top of this blog, & in a posting called ‘Speaking truth to power.’ I’ve been very upfront with CNSC tribunal & staff about my rabbit hole analogy.)

I’ve posted recently about placards & awards during these hearings.

The other day I told some folks in Toronto that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission seems to have a somewhat limited vocabulary.

Favourite & very frequently-used CNSC words:

  • SMALL: Spills are always small (even when they’re big!)
  • LOW: Risks of nuclear activities of any sort whatsoever (including spills) are always low.
  • SAFE: Nuclear operations of any kind (including spills & emissions) are always safe & without health risk to members of the staff or public.
  • ACCEPTABLE: Nuclear proponent’s plans are always always always “acceptable.”
  • HIGHLY REGULATED: CNSC always claims the nuclear industry is “highly regulated,” but since they just kind of make up their own rules, I say, “Yeah, sure, right…”

Considering how truly risky nuclear activities genuinely are, I always say CNSC language is pretty goshdarn MINGY. UNDERwhelming…

Ok. A quick review of the placards I’d like to hold up at CNSC hearings (where we are much too polite to actually do so, & of course would get kicked out of the proceedings for):

  • Bafflegab!
  • Bullshit!
  • Obfuscation Alert!
  • Doh!
  • Turn off the lie machine!

And more awards I would like to generously offer after last Tuesday (March 29, 2011)’s presentations, which were focused on the issue of nuclear waste. [Note: transcripts & Webcast of this entire hearing can be found here Please also note that presentations by citizen/NGO intervenors have been amazing!  The Dr. Helen Caldicott one on March 24th was excellent, as was the SAGE (Safe & Green Energy) one by Dr. Ian Fairlie on March 28th. The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper one on March 28th was blow-you-right-out-of-the-water brilliant. First Nations presenters, also on Monday, March 28th, were awesomely articulate & inspiring.] The Northwatch intervention on the nuclear waste issue was also a show-stopper & generated a great deal of discussion (all of which, for my own part anyway, served to illustrate how shockingly shallow the nuclear industry’s understanding of nuclear waste actually is. Genuinely shocking…)

Understatement of the Millenium award goes to Joint Review Panel member Pereira for his brilliant observation “There are a number of challenges to be met” with respect to the proper, safe storage of high-level nuclear wastes that will be generated at the proposed new reactors.

I can’t believe you just said that! award to the OPG staffer who “reassured” panel members & the public with these shining statements about the need for containers that will last a million years: “We are looking at containers” & “We are learning as we are going along.”

OMG! & these are the folks who are “protecting” us from wildly hazardous & preposterously long-lived nuclear wastes!?!?

It leaves a person almost speechless…doesn’t it??

Other awards I recommend:

  • Robot award – multiple possible recipients among both CNSC & OPG staff & heck, let’s be generous here – the 3 JRP panel members too.
  • Lead face award – as above.
  • Asbestos award – ditto.
  • Cognitive Dissonance award to everyone employed in the nuclear industry. And all of the rest of us human beings for pretending the nuclear industry is “looking after us.” And especially to the OPG staffer who had the effrontery to state that OPG does not wish to put the burden of nuclear waste onto future generations. Talk about cognitive dissonance!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
  • Pseudo-science award to CNSC staff for their consistent use of such deeply scientific phrases as “Tritium releases are very low.”
  • Skating on VERY thin ice award – multiple possible recipients (including all of us! Our entire species seems to be skating on mighty thin ice, I’d have to say).

Finally, to the entire nuclear industry:



I even decided to give myself an award:

The “I can’t believe I didn’t run screaming from the room when OPG staffer Laurie Swami used the phrase ‘bounding scenario’ for the 506th time” award.

(I had decided I’d rather stick a needle in my eye than hear her use this ridiculous phrase one more time.

And I’m not really all that much into sticking needles in my eyes…you know??)

Enough for now…


Darlington Hearings: Waste discussion SURREAL

I've lost track of what day # it is at the Darlington hearings. (the Darlington New Build hearings from March-April 2011, that is.) ** Note: if you go here, you can find hearing info such as the public hearing schedule, transcripts, Webcasts, etc.

I'm not down there today. I'm having a bit of a meltdown day. Seem to be having slightly more frequent personal meltdowns of late. Lots of reasons, I guess. The nuclear disaster (Fukushima). The Darlington hearings. My own presentation there last night (preparing for it, giving it, etc.) On the strictly "personal" side, I'm back in the area I lived in for 24 years & left 8 years ago. Lots of memories, many of them rather bittersweet.

Tuesday at the Darlington hearing was ... almost scary. The presentation about nuclear waste by 3 presenters for Northwatch was fantastic. I'm always proud to be associated with these brilliant activists. Their grasp of the technical side of nuclear operations is astonishing. (Tues. March 29th hearing transcript here Audio recording here )

The OPG (Ontario Power Generation) staff responses about OPG capability to safeguard nuclear wastes for a million years were pretty sobering. One staff member said they were "looking into containers."

Hmmm. I see.

And then commented "We are learning as we are going along."


I bet even some of the nuclear advocates in the room were sobered by OPG's clearly rather shallow understanding of the (no doubt insurmountable) challenges of properly "managing" nuclear wastes for a million years.

Well. I'm sitting in a cafe as I write up this posting.

I've been having a ... somewhat unsettled day. Needed a bit of a break after a number of challenging days.

Now I am overhearing some women talk on at great length about their hairstyles & the challenges of maintaining them.

And I think, OMG!

I guess this is what "ordinary people" concern themselves with (all the while they are also talking on cell phones &/or reading to one another from messages on aforesaid cell phones).

I guess I never will understand this world....

Well. I'll try to do another posting soon. It might be time to hand out some more awards. A little levity is always a good thing, hmmm?


p.s. As regards the personal challenges to maintain my equilibrium, I recall that Joanna Macy said in her brilliant book World as Lover, World as Self Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal, “It is good to realize that falling apart is not such a bad thing. Indeed, it is as essential to evolutionary and psychological transformation as the cracking of outgrown shells.” Another favourite Joanna Macy quote: “Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.”

p.p.s. Lots of great quotations about nukes here


Darl. Hearing, Day 7 (Mar. 28): Pride, Inspiration, Disgust

Another day on Darlington (i.e., Monday, March 28th). The whole gamut of emotions. Even some quiet tears…

** Note: if you go here, you can find hearing info such as the public hearing schedule, transcripts, Webcasts, etc. Transcript for March 28th is here Audio recording found here

The SAGE (Safe & Green Energy – a Peterborough, Ontario-based group) presentation by Dr. Ian Fairlie (from London, England) was excellent. It was a delight for me to hear Dr. Fairlie explain why the CNSC’s use of the term “dose” is really just so much nonsense. (Techno-idiot me has never understood what the term millisievert means. As he explained, it really doesn’t mean much; it’s mostly a handy term for nuclear industry types to bandy about with gay abandon, while concealing the truth about how much radiation we are all actually being exposed to by nuclear plants/installations of this & that type, here, there & everywhere). He asked the panel for humility, in the face of the nuclear disaster in Japan – not hubris.

The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper intervention was blow-you-out-of-the-water awesome, & if life on this planet (& nuclear hearings) made any kind of sense at all, the darn Joint Review Panel of this crazy farce would have closed down its tent & skulked out with heads bent in shame. With the OPG & CNSC staff right behind them, tails between their legs… (more Waterkeeper info on this project here )

But this is a process not unlike the Mad Hatter's Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland, where nothing makes sense, the ground is tilting dangerously, the questions asked bear no relationship to reality & the answers given illuminate nothing & are merely preposterous non-sequiturs.

Well. I cited pride in the blog title. The pride came from the awesome presentations by groups proving that the nuclear Emperor has no clothes. (He really doesn’t, of course, & what’s more, never did.)

The quiet tears came when I looked over a brochure left outside the hearing room by someone from Port Hope. It’s called “Nuclear Garden,” about an art installation by Michèle White. Impressionistic paintings of spent nuclear fuel, inspired by Monet & Constable, & text that outlines the surreal nature of life in pretty small town Port Hope (Ontario), where small town innocence & ambience collide surprisingly with nuclear nightmare.

The tears were almost welcome alongside the emotion-less, overly “logical” & mind-numbing language of the OPG (Ontario Power Generation) & CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) staff, who can somehow magically take fierce & wildly-articulately expressed concerns from the most intelligent, inspiring speakers & somehow soon transmute them into a perplexed & perplexing dull & gray bafflegab.

Inspiration came from the groups already mentioned, & then some over-the-top truth & more inspiration from First Nations presenters whose passion could be viscerally felt in a room where suddenly one could hear a pin drop.

Inspiration – admiration – sheer human fellow feeling from one Canadian to another. In this case, Canadians who have been here for thousands of years longer than we latter-day (mostly) white immigrants, who often seem to arrogantly suppose that everything we believe & think & do is somehow superior to the sensitivities & experiences of aboriginal Canadians. I was ashamed of the way the panel members patronized these awesome First Nations representatives – who not only out-spoke any panel members or OPG/CNSC staff mouthpieces, but whose dignity & intelligence ought to have humbled us all.

Which brings us, finally, to disgust. I had to leave the room in disgust when, after the First Nations individuals had left the room, a CNSC staff person began to detail “proof” of the so-called “consultation” with aboriginal groups, proudly rhyming off the numbers of emails & pieces of regular mail that had been sent to aboriginal groups.

& this after having just heard expressed so movingly, eloquently & sincerely, how appallingly poorly our governments have “consulted” with aboriginal groups.

I felt sick, embarrassed, &, as I say, disgusted.


This hearing process is a surreal one. I’ve said it before about CNSC hearings. You really can’t imagine how outright cuckoo they are, until you have attended one. The up & down roller coaster ride of sheer … illogic – well, really, I find it impossible to describe.

Ah well. Tomorrow is another day. (At least, we fervently hope so!)



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)


(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

Placards for Nuclear Hearings

I’ve attended too many hearings of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (an oxymoron of a title if ever there was one; geez, I guess even Homer Simpson would know better than to put the words nuclear & safety in the same phrase!) & now most recently the opening sessions of the “Darlington New Nuclear Plant Project” being presided over by the Joint Review Panel (JRP).

** Note: if you go here, you can find hearing info such as the public hearing schedule, transcripts, Webcasts, etc.

The setting is always very formal &, frankly, more than a little intimidating for the average human being (I’d hazard a guess that this is deliberate, btw).

The bigshots are seated “up high” at the front of the room, with all their supporting staff to their right & left, while we mere “peasants” sit obediently down lower, in front of their greatnesses.

I invariably wind up wishing things would get a little rowdier. People in kangaroo suits. Maybe a Mad Hatter or two walking around, uttering nonsensical things. (Attending one of these gatherings is very much like going down a rabbit hole, à la Alice In Wonderland; hence my rabbit hole reference & my frequent internal “Off with their heads!!” thoughts…)

Here are just a few placards I’d love to see the “peasants” hold up when the bullshit quotient goes right over the top (which is most of the time, anytime the current nuclear “proponent” has the floor):

  • Bafflegab!
  • (or, less politely, Bullshit!! Not to mention WTF???????)
  • Obfuscation Alert!!
  • I can’t believe you just said that!!!!!!
  • How's about turning off the lie machine?
  • Let’s not forget the uranium, eh??
  • It’s the WASTE, Stooooopid!!


P.S. I say, all future such gatherings should be conducted with everyone sitting around in a circle. No fancy suits allowed. Attire? Jeans & T-shirts. It would very soon become apparent who the real “experts” are, hmmm?


*** Before I could get these 2 postings up, I heard about the Greenpeace protesters who stopped the hearing this morning. Good onya, dudes!! Wish I was there with you. Extraordinary nonsense like nuclear energy & its phoney hearing process absolutely require extraordinary means to get public attention!!!


Darlington Hearing: Awards Announced!

(Awards for the nuclear industry, that is...)

Yesterday I attended the opening afternoon & evening sessions of the 3-week “Darlington New Nuclear Plant Project” being conducted by the “Joint Review Panel.” This is taking place in Courtice, Ontario, a few kilometres due north of the already-existing Darlington 4-reactor nuclear facility that’s been in operation for 12 or so years now.

** Note: if you go here, you can find hearing info such as the public hearing schedule, transcripts, Webcasts, etc.

(CELA - the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper & Northwatch had asked the panel - very eloquently, btw - to delay the hearing, due to recent/current events in Japan, in order to gather relevant information that could then be included in the panel deliberations. This request was refused, as I had rather assumed it would be...)

I wished I’d been wearing a kangaroo suit, to illustrate that these kinds of hearings are mere kangaroo courts. (For any not familiar w. this term, it just means the proceedings are a sham & the conclusion a foregone one. We’s all just wastin’ our time, ‘cos we know darn well what the end result will be…)

Being a “word person” myself, I particularly notice the way the nuclear industry (& its paid minions, Ontario Power Generation or OPG & the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or CNSC) employs language.

These folks could teach graduate level courses in obfuscation! How to use fancy language to spew nonsense &, dare I say, bullshit – to make it look like they are “experts” in nuclear matters & have got it all figured out.

Well. As I sat listening to OPG do its bafflegab routine, these are some of the possible award ideas I came up with:

Acronym Creation Award The nuclear so-called “experts” get a gold star for their continual ongoing creation of fancy acronyms! One of the latest is PPE. It stands for “Plant Perimeter Envelope.” The PPE is somehow related to the “bounding framework” that allows the planners to leave out things in their planning that just aren’t convenient for them to consider.

Bore ‘em to Death Award If you can’t convince ordinary intelligent people with actual facts & truth, & can’t even fool ‘em with all your fancy acronyms & technical language, BORE THEM TO DEATH with your monotone recital of boring & unbelievable bullshit. Bleah bleah bleah bleah bleah… (I swear, if there had been a boredom thermometer in the room, it would have burst its containment vessel when OPG presenters were doing their bit. I’m pretty sure I heard the snort of someone caught out snoring…)

Cognitive Dissonance Award for spewing verbal bafflegab that is way-way-way off the charts of anything resembling truth & accuracy – all the while maintaining a straight face as you do it.

Creative Language Creation Award for terms like PPE (see above) & phrases such as “credible accident scenario.” The nuclear industry gets away with what amounts to murder by doing their planning for possible disasters by only considering what they call “credible accident scenarios.” The problem, of course, is it’s always the incredible accidents that actually crop up…

Language Twister Award OPG (& their licensing body, the CNSC) are forever claiming to be “open & transparent” when they are anything but. Here’s a beauty they’re using about the Environmental Assessment process & plan for the proposed new reactors at Darlington: it’s a “technology-neutral” plan. You have to have a law degree & a doctorate in Nuclear Industry Bullshit to understand all this nonsense, btw, & I am very upfront about the fact that I have neither. I personally will never be able to “get” how you can call the planning process for nuclear reactors “technology-neutral.” Oughta be more like morality-neutral, if you ask me…

Robust Language Award for bullshitters who seem to think if you simply call something “robust,” that will necessarily not just make it so, but will also make it believable to the most major skeptic. I guess we are all supposed to fall all over these brilliant planners & “just trust them” & their preposterous claims. Gee. If you say it’s robust, then it must be…eh???

The super-duper VACUUM award goes to all the foot soldiers of the nuclear industry who operate in a complete moral & ethical vacuum. That noisy sucking sound you hear is the sound of all moral & ethical considerations of the real consequences of the creation & use of nuclear energy being sucked right out of the room. The world, actually. And, hmmm….also the sound of millions & billions of taxpayers’ dollars being sucked out of all us unwitting citizens.


p.s. Ah, dear Reader. Just think of what could be accomplished if only all the mental & intellectual & spiritual energy...not to mention all those financial resources...wasted in this deadly & immoral industry...were put to use on finding real solutions to the world’s problems….hmmmm??? Kinda breaks a person’s heart to think about it too much, doesn’t it??