Joint Review Panel

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: Dr. Baker-Physicians for Global Survival (April 4th)

Good to hear a medical perspective! April 4th transcript here Audio here

Physicians for Global Survival

Darlington New Nuclear Power Plant Project Joint Review Panel

Good morning Mr Chairman, panel members, ladies and gentleman. My name is Dr. Sharon Baker. I have with me two young people and a community member who are also deeply concerned about the future of our planet: Justin and Shawn Hertwig and Don Baker.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am here as a member of Physicians for Global Survival. I have been a physician in Ontario for 26 years. I currently work as a Palliative Care Physician Consultant and Site Chief at University Hospital – London Health Sciences Centre. This includes a position as an assistant professor in the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. I also served for 10 years as an acting Medical Officer of Health in Elgin County.

Physicians for Global Survival is an organization concerned about global health.

I am sure that many of the people in this room have been affected by cancer, whether directly or indirectly. As a Palliative Care Physician, I care for people every day who are actively dying from this devastating disease. Cancer is largely preventable, with education about healthy lifestyle choices and the elimination of toxic substances from our environment.

As a society, Canadians have raised billions of dollars to find a cure for cancer. We walk, run, relay, ride, and row. While these are noble acts, and I applaud these people, still there is no cure. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The insanity needs to end. Our approach to health care has been seriously flawed. We need to move from treating illness, and turn our focus to prevention. April is cancer awareness month. Cancer can be prevented.

Cancer in general is not caused by just one thing - it is multi-factorial. It is the result of the cumulative exposure to carcinogens over time, referred to as a body burden. Carcinogens often work synergistically with one another, to produce cancer. Therefore, the more carcinogens to which a person is exposed over time, the more likely cancer is to develop.

In order to decrease rates of cancer, exposure to known carcinogens must be decreased, period. This is a societal choice.

Radiation is a known carcinogen. This is not debatable. Madame Curie, in her research, taught about radiation, including its potential to be fatal. Exposure to radiation is accumulative. It builds up in biological organisms, including human bodies; the more exposure – the greater the likelihood of getting cancer¹. Humans are constantly exposed to low levels of radiation in the environment, some that can’t be controlled. Attention needs to be directed to what we can control.

Radiation toxicity is accumulative. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. As physicians, we recognize this. We weigh the risk and benefits when ordering X-rays, mammograms, CT scans and radioisotopes. We try to limit exposure to decrease the risk of cancer or genetic defect.

The assignment of “acceptable risk” is completely arbitrary. This approach has more in common with a game of chess, or rolling a dice, than actual science.

Increasing the global burden of radioactivity increases the incidence of cancer. Nuclear technology increases humanity's collective exposure to radiation. The increased risk is not limited to emissions from nuclear reactors themselves. It is also the culmination of all the risks of exposure from processing uranium, the mining, milling and the handling and the management of toxic wastes from all these processes.

Choosing to expand nuclear technology and thus the global burden of radioactivity is like determining that it is acceptable that some people are expendable. That person might be your neighbour, someone in this room or an impoverished aboriginal that you will never meet. Choosing nuclear power puts the sweep of the pen to someone’s or some people’s death sentence. I would not want to live with that responsibility.

The negative impact that uranium mining has upon the environment is gargantuan. The fossil fuel requirements for the mining, milling, refining, enriching and transport of uranium ore are enormous. However, I will only discuss the health risks of radioactivity here.

Uranium miners are exposed to multiple types of excess radiation. This includes a radioactive gas called Radon 220 which is a decay product of uranium. When this is inhaled, it increases the risk of lung cancer.

In the early 20th century, a number of people, primarily women, were employed to paint numbers on watch dials with radium-enriched paint so the numbers would glow in the dark. The women would lick the brushes so that the numbers would be precise. They believed what they were doing was safe. However, many developed painful bone cancers called osteosarcomas, or leukemia, from this radioactive material. This same Radium is also in mines and can be ingested via the dust with the same resulting cancers these watch-makers faced.

The mining of uranium ore results in a destabilized radioactive environment. When mines are abandoned, the water that has been pumped out often re-enters the mine, contaminating the ground water. Milling - extracting uranium from ore - results in further risk of exposure and production of radioactive waste products. These toxic waste products, or tailings, require safe isolation from the environment. In the post-World War II era, in Canada, this sludge was often deliberately dumped directly into our lakes, contaminating the groundwater. Accidental dumping also occurs, as in the 1984 spill of 100 million litres of contaminated liquid at Key Lake, Saskatchewan. Currently, industry is experimenting with ponds and hoping the experiments don’t fail. These tailing ponds will be radioactive, essentially forever. We cannot let our hunger for power be used to excuse leaving a toxic mess for our children to inherit.

The uranium mining industry has still not effectively addressed the issue of contamination that resulted from mines that have been abandoned. For example, contamination remains a problem in the rural community of Deline in the Dene Nation of the North West Territories, and El Dorado at Uranium City in Saskatchewan.

Developing more uranium mining when the unconscionable contamination of the past has not been addressed is a travesty to social justice.

An extensive amount of uranium mining and milling in Canada is done on Aboriginal land, usually without consultation. This a health issue, a human rights issue and a native rights issue.

The nuclear reactors themselves are not innocuous. They are a risk factor for increasing background radiation. Workers are exposed to low dose radiation. The arbitrary figure that has been chosen by many nuclear power facilities as acceptable for worker exposure in one year is equivalent to 400 chest X-rays.

The issue has been studied extensively in Europe. A 15-country collaborative study among workers in the nuclear industry demonstrated that this type of low-dose radiation exposure resulted in a risk of developing cancer that was equal to or greater than the risk of the survivors of the atomic bomb in Japan.

Furthermore, living near a nuclear reactor has been shown irrefutably to increase the risk for children of developing leukemia2. This has been studied extensively in Germany. The closer children live to a nuclear reactor, the more likely they are to develop leukemia before the age of five. There are other toxins in the environment which can cause Leukemia, such as pesticide exposure. Observing clusters of children who have suffered from other toxic exposures does not negate the dangerous effects of living near a nuclear reactor. In fact, the findings of an increase incidence of childhood leukemia are expected. Their parents are more likely to work in the reactor. The chronic radiation levels they are exposed to can affect their sensitive germocytes, resulting in genetic damage. In addition, water containing tritium is released by nuclear power plants into the environment both by planned events and accidentally. On March 16 of this year 73,000 litres of demineralised water was released into Lake Ontario when a pump seal failed at the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. Tritium is dangerous. It binds with oxygen in water. For biological organisms, including humans, this radioactive water is indistinguishable from normal water, and it becomes incorporated in every cell of the body. Tritium has a half-life of 12 years, meaning it can do damage over a long period of time. Moreover, industry data shows spikes in the local measurements of radioactivity when reactors are opened for refuelling.

Nuclear power generating plants also produce radioactive waste that must be stored and guarded essentially forever. Again, the need and greed for power does not justify leaving a radioactive inheritance for generations to come.

While my focus today has been on cancer, we must not forget that accumulative exposure to radiation also causes other illnesses. It contributes to genetic damage, birth defects, immune system dysfunction, diabetes and heart disease.

This issue cannot be addressed effectively without mentioning the possibility for human error. Accidents happen! With all of the marvellous fail-safes and back-up plans, planes still crash, the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated, and patients die from human errors. While accidental leaks of radioactive water are relatively common, serious accidents also happen. There was a significant meltdown of a reactor in Rolphton, Ontario in December, 1952. We have also experienced very serious accidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Tokaimura Japan in 1999. And now our hearts go out to the people of Japan. The accident in Fukushima that began on March 11 is devastating. It humbles us to realize that nature can be relentless and that man-made fail safes can and do fail. People have already died because of this nuclear disaster. Many more will become ill and die. The global burden of radioactivity has increased forever.

While I conclude that the serious risks to Public Health and human life from nuclear technology is indisputable, if doubt did exist we would still be ethically required to follow the “precautionary principle.” The precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. You have seen that there are many scientists who conclude that nuclear power is unacceptably dangerous. We must implement the precautionary principle. Nuclear power must be phased out. This is the same approach that lead to banning cosmetic pesticides in Ontario and many other provinces.

Beyond error, particularly since 9/11, we have lived with the fear of a terrorist attack. This raises a seldom-mentioned point - the astronomical costs of security. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or a nuclear physicist, to do the math.

Guarding nuclear reactors and nuclear waste costs society enormously more than protecting wind towers and solar farms.

The risk of a terrorist attack is low; nevertheless, over $100 million is spent annually in this province on special weapons and tactical forces to protect nuclear power plants and the valuable nuclear bomb-making materials contained within.

The nuclear power plant at Darlington is protected by the Nuclear Division of the Durham Regional Police Force. This plant, as Pickering was in January 2010, is to be transferred to the Ontario Power Generation Nuclear Security Branch.

The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is protected by a privately owned and operated highly trained tactical force larger than the police force of many large Ontario cities.

These tactical team salaries, the extensively high level of training, and the expensive equipment, result in costs that are exorbitant.

The extreme cost of military presence cannot be justified when no other form of power generation requires even a fraction of this defence cost. While the probability of a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor may be low today, the future is unknown. Public funds are better allocated to health care, education and employing people to fix and repair existing environmental problems. Every dollar wasted on expanding and protecting nuclear technology is a dollar diverted from the development of true green energy.

In conclusion, nuclear power is costly. It is costly to human health, the environment and the taxpayer. Nuclear power is a cancer on society. It increases the global burden of radioactivity and human exposure to radiation. Radiation causes cancer. Developing nuclear power will contribute to untimely deaths. Now is the time to turn our attention to prevention.

Nuclear power should be phased out, not expanded.

Thank you.

Respectfully submitted,

Sharon Baker MD, MCFP

References:

This reference list is incomplete; a complete list can be submitted upon request.

1) BEIR VII (U.S. Academy of Science report on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) unequivocally states that “no low level of radiation exposure is safe.”

2)Kaatsch P., Kaletsch U., Meinert R., Michaelis J. An Extended Study on Childhood Malignancies in the Vicinity of German Nuclear Power Plants. Cancer Causes Control 1998; 9: 529-33

Hofmann W., Terschueren C., Richardson D. B., Childhood leukemia in the Vicinity of the Geesthacht Nuclear Establishments near Hamburg, Germany. Environmental Health Perspectives 2007; 115: 947-52

Spix C., Schmiedel S., Kaatsch P., Schulze-Rath R., Blettner M. Case-Control Study on Childhood Cancer in the Vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants in Germany 1980-2003. Eur. Journal of Cancer 2008; 44:275-284

Kaatsch P., Spix C., Schulze-Rath R., Schmiedel S., Blettner M. Leukemia in Young Children Living in the Vicinity of German Nuclear Power Plants. Int. J. Cancer 2008; 1220: 721-26

American Cancer Society. Radiation and Cancer. 2010. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/

CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/MedicalTreatments/radiation-exposure-and-cancer.

"Annual General Assembly Resolution No. 17/2008." Assembly of First Nations. 17 July 2008. Web. 21 Feb 2011. <http://64.26.129.156/article.asp?id=4280>

Caldicott, Helen. Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. New York: The New Press, 2006. Print.

Diehl, Peter. Uranium Mining and Milling Wastes: An Introduction.

2010. http://www.wise-uranium.org/indexu.html.

Environmental Protection Agency. “Understanding Radiation: Health Effects.” 2009. www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/health_effects.html.

Goncharova, Roza. "New insight into cancer risks." Institute of Genetics and Cytology: Belarus, IPPNW World Congress. 2010. Web. http://www.ippnw2010.org/fileadmin/user_upload/

Plenary_presentations/Plen4_Slides_Goncharova_Basel_291008.pdf>.

Harding, Jim. Canada's Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System. Winnipeg, ON: Fernwood Publishing Company, 2007. Print.

London Police. "2011 Budget." Web. police.london.ca/Headlines/Images/2011LPSBPublic.pdf.

McKay, Paul. Atomic Accomplice: How Canada deals in deadly deceit. 2009. Print.

National Research Council of the National Academies. "Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2. 2006."  www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340.

"OPG’s Commitment to Security - Safe Station, Safe Community." Ontario Power Generation. Darlington Nuclear Neighbourhood Newsletter, Dec 2010. Web. <http://www.opg.com/community/activities/newsletters/DN%202010-12.pdf>

Tufts, Heather. 2010. “‘Canada, O Canada!’ Uranium Mining and Indigenous Communities: The Impacts of Uranium Mining on Indigenous Communities.” Native Unity Digest.

"Radiation Exposure Information and Reporting System (REIRS) for Radiation Workers." U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 12 Feb 2008. Web. <http://www.reirs.com>.

Zielinkski, et al. "Low dose ionizing radiation exposure and cardiovascular disease mortality." Low dose ionizing radiation exposure and cardiovascular disease mortality. Study based on Canadian national dose registry (NDR) of radiation workers. Ottawa, ON, 2010.

[27-33] Web. <http://www.ippnw2010.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Plenary_presentations /Plen4_behar_slides_CHRONIC%20LOW%20DOSE%20RADIATION.pdf>

** Dr. Baker's final Darlington submission can be found here

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.

Janet

‘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??)

INTERVENORS’ Awards:

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!!

Janet

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: Carrie L. (March 31st)

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

S T O P D A R L I N G T O N

~The Burden of Truth~

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

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

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

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

Ogwai Osida niwa geh seh dehn,

Onondagaega niwa go wehn jyoh dehn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I responded by saying,

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

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

·Radiation is a carcinogen, meaning that it damages DNA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.


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

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.

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!!

Janet

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.

Janet

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??