Don Howard

Nuclear Humour

So, although I am not managing to get much written about nuke stuff lately (hmmmm. I’m not getting much written about anything; it is apparently not a prolific writing time just now), it is still very present in my mind. That damn nuclear industry, eh?? They just don’t know when to quit. When to fold ‘em. You might think Three Mile Island, Chernobyl & Fukushima (not to mention a ton of other accidents & incidents, here, there & everywhere, all over the globe) would give these … people (I wanted to say morons, but I said people instead, okay?) pause. (I actually believe this industry is evil, but never mind, so what, eh? What difference does it make what I think about it?? Not a single solitary bit of difference, quite clearly.)

Okay. Lots to do. Let’s cut to the chase.

Nuclear humour.

I saw a statement recently from Don Howard, a nuclear something-or-other specialist with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (don’t even get me started on that oxymoronic term).

He was speaking about the current search for places in Canada to store what is called “high level” nuclear waste.

“As we produce fuel, we produce waste. We keep storing it and storing it. At some point in time, you have to find a disposal mechanism,” he said. “We have to go out and find (a long-term solution) so we don’t leave the legacy to future generations to deal with.” (from a Sudbury Star article here)

 “…so we don't leave the legacy to future generations to deal with.”

Now that’s pretty rich, wouldn’t you say???

Nuclear waste – expected to remain dangerous for, oh, only a million years or so – stored in places (in some cases) near major bodies of water, & calling this NOT leaving a “legacy to future generations to deal with.”

Pretty funny, in a gallows humour-ish sort of way…hmmm?

Well, what can I say. An industry as mixed up as this one, I guess we can expect their brand of humour to be a little, um, off the wall…eh?

Janet

p.s. speaking of Fukushima, this recent item may be of interest: ‘Commission Calls Fukushima Nuclear Crisis a Man-Made Disaster’ 

p.p.s. & speaking of nuclear humour, this is absolutely a must-see!!! One minute YouTube called 'Tritium Give-Away Days.' Laugh-out-loud funny (I guarantee it!!) item from the ever-hilarious (Canadian TV personality) Rick Mercer.

'Quote of the day' with this post: “Electricity is but the fleeting byproduct of nuclear power. The actual product is forever deadly nuclear waste.” – Michael Keegan, long-time Michigan, U.S.-based anti-nuclear activist (plenty more nuke quotes where that one came from!!)

NW Conference: Words ‘R Important!

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

<Sept. 22/11.>

(NW = nuke waste)

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

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

Bumper Stickers, from the Nuke Industry side:

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

Bumper Stickers, from ours:

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

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

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

Did You Really Just SAY That??

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

Say WHAT???

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

Janet

p.s. Other posts on this conference are

 

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


 

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

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

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

 

NW Conference: Kool-Aid & other insights

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

<Sept. 22/11.>

NW = Nuke waste

Other posts on this conference are

I’ve been to an awful lot of environmental conferences over the past 20+ years – but this was my 1st nuclear industry one ever.

So I learned a few things:

  • Nuclear industry conferences run on time! (There may be tons of completely inappropriate optimism & plans & statements & engineering euphoria & … hmmm, well, deception… but they run ‘em on time!!)
  • Nuke industry events (I guess any industry events) are a heck of a lot more extravagant than the conferences I’m used to! Fancy location, accommodations, meals, you name it (I bet we activists have more fun, though!)
  • Radioactive waste is not defined in the Nuclear Safety & Control Act (so explained Don Howard of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or CNSC). In other words, the nuclear industry gets to play around & fuzzify what is classified as low-level, intermediate level & high-level waste (see ‘Nuclear Industry Phrases to watch for – & what they really mean’ in previous post. (This is a recurring theme in the nuke biz, btw: the way the industry uses loose terms & shifts the goal posts around in the absence of public scrutiny).
  • Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for the costs of dealing with the nuclear wastes left behind in Chalk River & Port Hope & Port Granby (& everywhere else, I guess!).  I haven’t quite figured out how this works. The industry gets the profits, we citizens/taxpayers get the building overrun costs, the refurbishment costs, & the costs of handling the waste. (Geez, lucky us, eh? Not. )
  • The degree of collusion between the nuclear industry & our government is mind-boggling!! Mark Corey, Assistant Deputy Minister, Energy Sector, Natural Resources Canada, spoke at the opening of the conference. His boyish, golly-gee enthusiasm about nuclear energy was touching, if more than a little misguided. He’s very excited about the tar sands, too. “We’re really lucky in Canada to have it,” he said. (It made me think that the joke-y alternative name for Natural Resources Canada that some friends & I came up with recently must be pretty bang-on: Grab the Resources & Run! Or maybe Exploitation Central.)
  • Very serious boatload of money to be made in this industry!!!! If you have lots of boyish/girlish enthusiasm & a startling lack of interest in connecting the dots, the nuclear industry certainly has a job for you. Not just a job, mind you – a career! Involving hefty pay & benefits packages, too. (Just be sure to leave those moral/ethical sensibilities back in the sandbox where they belong, OK?) If you want to get a sense of what the OPG (Ontario Power Generation) bigshots earn, have a look at this Web site (scroll down to OPG). Wish I had the figures for the AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.) crowd too – I’m sure their bigshots make plenty too.
  • There is something maybe sort of like a “frat boy” dynamic among the engineering-dominated crowd one encounters in the nuclear industry (this industry runs on “engineering euphoria”). Lots of enthusiasm for complicated technologies & machines. Seemingly also a corresponding lack of independent or critical thinking. I guess the money is so good that one does not stop to question the ethics/morality of what one is taking part in.
  • Kool-Aid. I’ve reached the sad conclusion that nuclear industry bigshots (& maybe littleshots, I dunno) have simply swallowed some kind of Kool-Aid that others of us have never found to our liking. The Kool-Aid apparently enables the drinker to deal with the overwhelming cognitive dissonance this industry positively brims with. Nukes are safe! Waste is not a problem! (or, alternatively, it is, but we’ll solve it! It’s been 60 years & we haven’t solved it yet, but Hey! We are “can do” people; keep waiting; we’ll solve it!) It takes millions/billions of $$ to clean up, but…don’t worry; be happy (while we take the money & run!).
  • What does the nuclear industry have in mind for dealing with the planet’s dangerous burden of long-lived nuclear wastes? Looks like there are 3 key strategies:
    • Export (from Canada to the U.S. in some cases & maybe the other way around, I dunno. Not sure what they will do elsewhere. Same kind of thing, very likely.)
    • Incineration e.g., export waste from the Point Lepreau refurbishment project in New Brunswick, Canada to Tennessee in the U.S. – for burning. I wonder how the folks in Tennessee feel about that?? Burning waste from Fukushima; quick 2-minute YouTube about this here
    • Free-release (nuke waste, nuke waste everywhere!!!!!)

Some Stuff You Might Not Know

  • Nuclear energy is very, very good for the economy. Not so good for the environment, mind you, & not so good for the taxpayers who are on the hook for cost overruns & nuke waste clean-ups – & not in the slightest bit good for human health – but it sure does create a lot of jobs & “economic activity”! (Tell that to communities where people are sick from nuclear operations, eh?? They might think it’s time for a new kind of economics & an end to this voodoo kind that doesn’t seem to give a damn about people. Schumacher’s brilliant quotation about this, here, springs to mind.)
  • There seems to be a black hole inside the brains of nuclear promoters where simple common sense does not penetrate. CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) President Michael Binder seems naively puzzled as to why the public is terrified of nuclear energy & nuclear waste. Maybe the big paycheque knocks out brain cells or fries brain circuitry.
  • Lots of fancy language! Some of these dudes can talk for 20 minutes without uttering a single intelligible sentence (& I have a pretty decent grasp of the English language, you know??). See Awards post, Obfuscation award for details on M. Rhodes, Canadian Standards Association dude who could win a contest in how to pepper a talk with acronyms, use enough jargon to choke a horse, & fuzzify a seemingly straightforward conversation such that no one within 10 miles can make sense of a word he says.
  • Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program From the conference program: “In 2006, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and Natural Resources Canada began implementing a $7B CDN, 70-year Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program (NLLP) to deal with legacy decommissioning and environmental issues at AECL nuclear sites.” Etc. Pssst. If you’re a Canadian taxpayer, guess what? You’re paying for it!!
  • Obfuscation: The nuclear industry uses fancy language to make things deliberately obscure so peasants like you & me will just buzz off & leave them alone. One teeny-tiny example: we want to talk about radioactive waste. Radioactivity in the environment. Health impacts from radioactive pollution. They talk about radiation, & how it is everywhere. “There is an unfounded but perceived fear of radiation. Radiation is a natural part of life,” gushes Tom Mitchell, President & CEO of Ontario Power Generation (annual salary: $1,325,119.04) at the nuke waste conference. Typical nuclear industry fuzzifying B.S. (This goes hand-in-hand with complete minimization of health impacts. Don’t worry, be happy!! What’s a little cancer between friends?? Or a little Strontium 90? Or maybe quite a lot of tritium, eh??)
  • We Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for nuclear waste clean-ups in Port Hope, Port Granby, Chalk River & goodness knows where-all else (I suspect there are plenty of locations). One speaker at the conference (Ken Nash from the nuclear industry-created Nuclear Waste Management Office) brightly suggested that those who benefit from nuclear energy have to pay. He meant taxpayers! Yikes! I guess he doesn’t see all those salaries being paid to all those nuclear hotshots & bigshots & littleshots, & the risks entailed as being something the industry itself needs to worry its pretty little head about. It’s up to you & me to pay for all that, & we are paying for it, dear Reader; we are indeed!
  • The nuclear industry appears to finally be admitting – using carefully crafted, understated language – that they have created a very large mess of nuclear waste on this planet. This would be a laudable & welcome development if one sensed that they plan to clean it up, finally, in responsible fashion. What one sees instead (as mentioned above) is that the real plan is to minimize-minimize-minimize. Lower standards & regulations. Call dangerous wastes by another name so they sound sweeter – & release them, release them, release them. This is an industry with a very, very severe hubris problem.
  • Finally, something I had known, but which was strongly reinforced: this is one depressing, difficult & discouraging issue to deal with; not gonna lie to you! It could make you go right cuckoo. But you know what? Ignoring it won’t make it go away. If it weren’t bad enough that the nuclear industry has blanketed the planet in nuclear waste for the past 60+ years, they now plan to add insult to injury by spreading it all over every square inch of our one & only planet, & our lives. More public involvement is needed!!

Janet

p.s. Highly recommended viewing for the full A- Z take on the nuclear industry – the 8-part short film “Knocking on the Devil’s Door – Our Deadly Nuclear Legacy.” The posting here also lists a decent # of groups I’m aware of in North America that are active on nuke issues (& they can all use help!!).

p.p.s. ‘Nuclear Roulette: The Case Against the “Nuclear Renaissance' is an excellent resource! (I donated a copy to my local library.)

p.p.p.s. Another good read: Killing Our Own – The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation by Harvey Wasserman & Norman Solomon (1982). Sobering, scary, essential reading!

p.s. # 4: Very important paper on what the nuke industry is up to in the report 'Out of Control - on Purpose."

p.s. # 5: Fact sheets on nuke waste here (down below the Scream YouTube).

# 6: Plenty of good nuke-related quotations here