Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program

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

 

NW Conference: Awards! (part II)

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

<Oct. 12/11.>

  • NW = Nuclear/nuke waste
  • AECL = Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
  • CNSC = Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • OPG = Ontario Power Generation

 

Other posts about this conference are:

 

 

Awards for the Nuclear Industry (continued)

(Part I, A – K, is here)

  • Obfuscation Above & Beyond the Call of Duty award to CSA (Canadian Standards Association) staff person M. Rhodes for a completely & utterly incomprehensible presentation on CSA Guideline N292.5 – a “Guideline for the exemption or clearance from regulatory control of materials that contain, or potentially contain, nuclear substances.” (check it out here! If you've got $200, they'll let you buy a copy!!) More from the conference program: [The guideline] “was recently developed to address a need for guidance on approaches for clearance [italics mine] and of materials from facilities licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) consistent with Canadian and international recommendations. This guideline is also applicable to determining if an activity associated with materials that contain nuclear substances is exempt from requiring a CNSC licence. The guideline summarizes [are you snoring yet?] the regulatory requirements associated with the exemption and clearance [italics mine] of materials and provides a graded approach to designing a survey based on the risk of residual contamination being present.” In layman’s terms, this appears to be about an industry committee having loosened regulations for radioactive materials to be “re-characterized,” & thus released with less (or no) scrutiny or oversight. I think. (Note that this man has won the opposite of a plain speaking award, & that I was completely unable to cut through his incredibly dense jargon-speak.) When asked how the so-called “public consultation” on this took place, Mr. Rhodes replied that it was posted on the CSA Web site. What?? That’s what the nuclear industry/CNSC calls public consultation??? Yikes. (Surely there are rules about public consultation?? As in, um, you have to actually consult the public???)
  • Overused Phrase of the Week award goes to almost every single speaker at this 3-day conference, not one of whom, if I am not mistaken, failed to use the phrase “going forward” – quite as though they were entitled to some kind of prize for … for going forward (instead of backward? Or sideways?? Or, hmm. Maybe down a rabbit hole?? I dunno. I am just sooooooo tired of this hackneyed, overused phrase).
  • Plain Speaking award – 4-way tie here. François Bilodeau from Hydro Québec, who admitted the refurbishment of the Gentilly-2 reactor will create a huge amount of new waste. Adrian Simper from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the UK, who was upfront about the fact that there is a VERY BIG mess of nuke waste there. (Program reads: “The UK’s nuclear legacy is a major public liability, and arguably represents the largest, most important environmental restoration programme in Europe.” (See article here) Tom Mitchell, OPG Prez & CEO, who admitted, “Nuclear waste is growing” & alluded to the “increased waste from refurbishments.” Finally, CNSC Prez/CEO Michael Binder allowed as how “We have tended to be secretive” & that “most of our conferences are us talking to ourselves” & have not included the public or the press. True story!
  • Pollyanna award – to M. Laraia of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for his skimming-very-much-along-the-surface talk about decommissioning work at Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Plant & various other locations, & his cheerful exhortation to “Be creative!” (Hmmm. Possibly his award should be for “Providing Practically No Details.”)
  • Preposterous Suggestion of the Week award to the man in the audience who suggested that nuclear waste shouldn’t be called waste – as though calling it something else would render it less dangerous. Of course it would also then be less of a concern to all those foolishly misguided members of the public (that’s us, btw) who are scared out of our wits about waste that will require careful handling for, count ‘em, one million years.
  • Refreshing Frankness award to the speaker – Ian Barnes, I believe his name was – who in discussing the decommissioning of a “redundant UK Research Facility” (AWE Aldermaston; he didn’t mention what had gone on there; not sure I want to know!) stated that an aspect of the work was “on program, which is quite unusual with decommissioning” (this right after having stated that building rubble was being released with 95% certainty of the “waste classification.” Only 95% certainty, with radioactive materials?? Yikes).
  • Rocket Science (not) / Doh!! award to many of the speakers at the conference, who seem to think they should get a prize for acknowledging the brilliant insight that, when you are dealing with nuclear projects, you need to “think about waste all the way through, not just at the end.” (Geez, & I thought I’m not a rocket scientist!?)
  • Screw the Taxpayers!! award to the nuclear industry (& our government) for, is it … $16 billion in federal tax $$ to the Nuclear Waste Management Office (NWMO)?? How much to the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program?? $7 billion? How much for Port Hope & Port Granby? Chalk River Labs clean-up & decommissioning costs? Taxpayers’ money, folks!! They make the waste & the profits, we get to own the wastes, & pay the clean-up costs. Quite the deal, eh? Remember that old phrase ‘corporate welfare bums’??
  • Surreal Moments award goes to – the nuclear industry!! For their “Investigation of Tritium in Groundwater” workshop at this conference. I was there! Both at the workshop & at a # of CNSC hearings that have been held regarding this preposterous situation – in the flesh, as it were. I am also intimately aware of the long, sick history of the SRB company in Pembroke, Ontario that makes glow-in-the-dark products from tritium & whose goings-on led to this ever-so-dry workshop at a nuclear industry conference where the hired gun consultant, hired to do a study & later report to this conference, utterly failed to mention how the excessive tritium emissions were discovered at great personal effort & no doubt considerable psychic cost by citizen activists who persistently went to the CNSC over years & years & years & gave about a zillion pounds of their flesh & their time to force this company to at least greatly reduce its tritium-emission-spewing (we wish they’d shut the sucker down, but at least their efforts have resulted in a massive reduction of emissions). Near the end of the workshop, someone asked how the company had managed to reduce its emissions so substantially. Guess who had to answer the question? One of those same citizen activists who has given thousands (or 10’s of thousands) of hours of his personal time over the past 20+ years to protect not only his own children’s health, but that of all the citizens of Pembroke, Ontario. Phew. Yes, I’m a little passionate about this issue, the very one that brought me to awareness of how the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission operates, how very down-the-rabbit-hole/Mad Hatter’s Tea Party the whole nuclear business is. It was surreal to hear this sanitized little workshop – this dry little consultant’s spiel – about a very, very serious situation – & hear no background whatsoever (not one single word) about the citizen activism that led to such big changes at SRB in Pembroke, & also led to the CNSC carrying out the Tritium Studies Project ...which cost Canadian taxpayers who knows how many millions of dollars, & at the public launch event of which I recall CNSC staffer Dr. Patsy Thompson sheepishly admitting that the groundwater plume had not been predicted accurately, based on CNSC's "computer modelling." I call it all the Grand Tritium Experiment. The GTE. Citizens of Pembroke, guinea pigs for the Grand Tritium Experiment. Unconscionable.
  • Team Player award to … gosh, let’s just give it to everyone in the nuke industry, shall we? The industry’s many foot soldiers are outstanding in their efforts to prop one another up, even in the face of preposterous lies & secrets, & are experts at not asking one another inconvenient questions that might lead to…actually telling the truth.
  • 3 R’s Waste Reduction Hierarchy Highjacking / We can spin that one! award for disingenuous talk about how the nuclear industry is “doing the right thing” by beginning to talk about “recycling” nuclear waste. The posting ‘Recycling: The Good, The Bad & the Ugly’ delves into this & provides links for further information.
  • Understatement of the Year award – 3-way tie here. Frank Doyle, President of the Canadian Nuclear Society (the organization that put on the conference), who said in his opening address that there is a wide variety of wastes & “significant nuclear legacy liabilities” to deal with (a huge admission from the nuclear industry, actually) & CNSC Prez/CEO Binder for two of his remarks: “Public confidence [about the nuclear industry] is waning” & “The March 11th event in Japan was a wake-up call” & finally, Tom Mitchell, Prez & CEO of OPG, who acknowledged that the accident at Fukushima is “humbling” to the nuclear industry, with its intimation that “the unthinkable might happen.”
  • Utter Obliviousness to Reality award – self-explanatory…no??
  • What a MESS!? award – self-explanatory, yes?
  • Wizard of Oz award – the nuclear genie, the nuclear expert, the nuclear booster – the politicians, the industry people who have shoved & continue to shove nukes down our throats – they are all like the Wizard of Oz. Smoke & mirrors. Sound & fury, signifying nothing. Nothing but destruction, that is. Yours, mine – even their own. They get the prize. (We get the ruined environment, incredibly long-lived waste, & the cancers – & all the heartbreak & pain associated with all those illnesses & deaths & losses).
  • You Want it in YOUR basement?? – self-explanatory, I’d say…

Awards for the Activist Crowd:

  • Can’t believe we stayed through the whole darn thing! award or, alternatively,
  • Didn’t run screaming from the room! award
  • Digging through jargon & bullshit & fancy language award
  • I TOLD YOU SO award for all the truths the environmental community has been telling for years that the nuke industry is finally having to admit to publicly (not that these mild admissions are much comfort, you understand; the waste is still there & it still has to be safely contained for a million years…), or alternatively,
  • It’s the WASTE, Stupid!!just as the environmental community has been saying all along!
  • Telling the Truth award – for telling the simple unvarnished truth, a truth any 6-year old could tell you: no nuclear power is safe.

Awards for the General Public

  • Deer in the headlights / Deeply snowed award for falling prey to nuclear bullshit / bafflegab / snow jobs / jargon. (It’s pretty easy to do!)
  • Deeply puzzled award (Why is it we taxpayers are footing the bill for all this nuke waste clean-up again??)
  • Enemy of the People award (what any person living in a nuclear community would receive for speaking up / truth-telling. See Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People).
  • Innocence & naivete award for finding the secrets, lies, deceptions & nastiness of the nuclear industry simply too much to attempt to fathom or swallow.
  • Quotation of the Year award to Frank Zappa for this gem: “Government is the Entertainment Division of the military-industrial complex.” Hooey!!!

 

The final post about this conference is here.