Ontario Power Generation

Nuclear Waste Conference: Slimed!

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

<Sept. 21/11.>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say what?????

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

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

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

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

(More on DU here & here & here)

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

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

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

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

Sheesh.

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

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

Janet

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

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

 

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


 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuclear technology must be phased out, not expanded.

Respectfully submitted,

Sharon Baker, MD, MCFP

Physicians for Global Survival

 

Darl. Hearings: Jeff Brackett Presentation (April 7th)

** published here with Mr. Brackett's permission.

** April 7th transcript here, audio here

My name is Jeff Brackett.

In addition to my written submission, I am thankful for this opportunity to speak with you tonight.

The government of Ontario has decided to build new nuclear reactors at Darlington. It doesn’t know who will supply the reactors, or what the design of those reactors will be. It only knows it wants nuclear reactors. It wants approval for site preparation prior to selecting a reactor. There cannot be a thorough Environmental Assessment on the reactor design, because they will choose the design after the EA is over.

The Government of Ontario has decided that new nuclear reactors will be built at Darlington. It is exerting political influence over this process. It is doing its part.

So now we have an Environmental Assessment that does not recognize the legal requirement to review alternatives to the project. It only browses Ontario Power Generation’s proposed catalogue of reactor designs.

We have an EA into new nuclear reactors without a reactor to assess.

We have a government that wants approval without having to explain here and now just how they will solve the central problem of what to do about high-level radioactive waste.

We have an EA that looks at accident scenarios, but only if they are as OPG calls it ‘credible.’ The Japanese experience involves the uncontrolled accidental release of significant amounts of radiation. OPG seems to believe that uncontrolled accidental releases of significant amounts of radiation is not credible at one of their stations.

That’s just not credible.

I am opposed to the province’s decision to build new nuclear reactors at Darlington and although it feels quite futile, I’ve taken some time off work tonight to come here and tell you so.

As background I will say that in the late 1970’s my wife and I came out from Toronto and bought a home in Oshawa where we raised two kids. I was blissfully unaware of the Darlington nuclear station at that time.

As teen-agers we lived near the Pickering nuclear station and we trusted that nuclear power was safe and clean. Right now there is a billboard near the front of the Darlington property that proclaims that ‘nuclear energy equals clean air.” I guess it’s true that if you tell a lie enough times, people will believe it. We did.

In the 1980’s I learned that nuclear power was not clean. I went to Welcome. I went to Port Granby. I saw for myself how waste from these radioactive toxic dump sites was flowing off-site, across farmers’ fields and directly into Lake Ontario. I went to Eldorado Nuclear and saw the radioactive waste barrels sitting at the Port Hope Harbour. I read Blind Faith, about what happened to Port Hope.

I didn’t want any of that ignorance about radiation risks to threaten my children, so I went to the Darlington Information Centre and read Ontario Hydro’s early environmental impact information for the original project.

I saw how vested interests could amass scientific data and documents to fill a room and still miss the truth.I learned about nuclear spin. The truth is that data can deceive.

I learned that as part of normal routine operations, Ontario’s nuclear stations release radiation to the environment, venting to the atmosphere and flushing it to the Great Lakes.

At the Darlington Information Centre, I learned that even large releases of radiation could be made to look insignificant if the information was framed just so. If an accidental release of tritium exceeded a short term release limit, any competent Ontario Hydro spokesperson could present the spill to the public as an insignificant portion of the monthly release limit, and if that monthly limit was exceeded, they could deftly compare the release to the annual release limit to smooth things over and make it seem insignificant.

To this day, when OPG accidentally looses radiation to the environment, they employ the wiggle words, words like trace amounts, negligible amounts… How about giving the public some credit and openly reporting what was released and the quantity of that release so we can make our own value judgments as to your industry’s significance to our lives?

In Oshawa, our home was 10.2 km from Darlington. The primary planning zone for emergencies at Darlington was 10 km. My children went to school inside the emergency planning zone, but because we lived a block outside the zone, we received absolutely no information on nuclear emergency planning, and there was no plan during an emergency to inform us of where our children might have been evacuated to. With the plans so inadequate and with Darlington coming on-line, and knowing that routine releases would increase our exposure to tritium, we built the 7th Generation time capsule monument at Darlington’s front gate, and we left town.

I heard at these hearings some discussion of traumatic effects that this project might bring. I’m sure mine was not the only family uprooted in some manner by Darlington.

It is disgraceful that these proceedings claim to consider the full life cycle of the reactors up to abandonment of the site, yet as I was told at OPG’s open house meetings on the project, the issue of spent fuel bundles and what to do with them is beyond the scope of this EA. OPG is washing their hands of it. They expect you to set this issue aside. They expect some future EA and a different Joint Review Panel to deal with this. But, hasn’t that EA already happened? Weren’t there ten years of study and no solution found?

We are more than two generations into the nuclear age. By the time new reactors at Darlington reach their anticipated expiry date, two more generations will have passed. Literally, my grandchildren’s grandchildren may be back here in fifty years faced with closing Darlington B, or opening Darlington C, and urging a Joint Review Panel to finally deal with the spent fuel.

It is grossly immoral that the Province of Ontario and OPG would seek approval for site preparation, yet discard this nuclear waste issue on to the shoulders future generations.

I think OPG and the Province like to discard and disregard nuclear waste. Look what they have done with tritium, a waste by-product. They have turned it into a commodity, selling this waste into the marketplace and washing their hands of the whole affair.

As I mentioned, in 1990, as Darlington fired up the reactors, we decided to put some distance between us and routine emissions. We now live 38.4 km from Darlington, in what we hoped would be a tritium-free zone. But OPG’s tritium has followed us.

Tritium from Ontario’s nuclear stations ends up sold by OPG to glow-in-the-dark sign manufacturers like Shield Source Inc. Located at the Peterborough Airport, the Shield Source process is very leaky, rivaling and, OPG might say, exceeding the experience at a full-blown nuclear generating station.

I heard concerns expressed at this hearing about how site preparation might disturb contaminated soil on the Darlington site. In response the CNSC said that the worst contamination of soil found at Darlington is about 500 Bq/l. A Becquerel equals one radioactive disintegration per second.

Soil on the lawn at Shield Source Inc. at the Peterborough Airport has been measured at 1.5 million Bq/l. I could have brought you a shovel full, but I thought better of it.

I thought of bringing you an apple. Perhaps from the apple tree across the road from the Peterborough Airport. They have been measured to contain up to 5540 Bq/l of tritium. Water samples 16 km from the Airport have been found to average 65 Bq/l. Tap water at the Peterborough Airport shows tritium contamination averaging 50 Bq/l. I thought of bringing you all a glass.

One reason we love where we live, in Millbrook, is the abundance of clear, clean water. I admit I was somewhat shocked 20 years ago to see my son’s new friend, 10 years old, lean down and drink from a local stream. There is a natural trust about water, especially when we are so close to the source.

Of course there is natural radiation in the environment. Some would say that life evolved in a radioactive soup, but since the beginning of time tritium in fresh water has been balanced at 1 Bq/l. OPG’s nuclear operations have and will continue to cause dramatic increases in tritium levels in our streams and vegetation. Shield Source is shooting OPG’s tritium up the stack like there is no tomorrow.

The current guideline for tritium in drinking water, as you know, is 7000 Bq/l. So you will tell me these tritium levels are safe. You used to tell me that tritium was safe to a concentration of 40,000 Bq/l. The toxicity of tritium has been recently re-evaluated and the ODWAC (Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Committee) has recommended a new guideline of just 20 Bq/l averaged over 52 weeks. OPG appears to support this recommended guideline.

Tell me this… if tritium hasn’t changed since the beginning of time, why do your guidelines keep tightening to recognize that tritium is more and more dangerous than previously thought, and allowing less and less tritium in our drinking water?

I believe it is the height of arrogance for us to mess with the Earth’s balance. Mother Nature has already set the standard for tritium in drinking water. The standard has been one Bq/l since the beginning of time.

Dramatically elevated levels of tritium in my locale are the direct result of de facto decisions made by the Province and OPG as to how they will deal with radioactive waste.

They have decided to put off their responsibility, the same way they expect this EA and this Joint Review Panel to put off that responsibility.

Now let me tell you…I am reluctant to be here. I don’t want to spend my life banging my head against the political will and the political wall that is unwavering in its support for nuclear power.

When I told friends at work what I was up to tonight, someone asked if I was some kind of expert. Well, you know that I am not. But I don’t need to be an expert to have an understanding of the issues that affect my life.

Years ago some friends and I founded Durham Nuclear Awareness. Our goal was to raise public awareness of nuclear issues. That wasn’t an easy task here, in what could be argued is the nuclear capital of the world. We were often written off as a “special interest group.”

You know, it’s seems to me that while OPG has counted the 1000 swallow nests that will be destroyed during site preparation, they seem to be OK with the genetic intrusions that tritium will impose on Darlington’s birds for generations to come.

You know that if there is one special interest group that we need to consider here, it is those who have not yet arrived, those who can’t speak for themselves.

As Rosalie Bertell said,

“The purpose of the environmental movement is to save the seed. Everything that's ever going to live in this world, whether it's a tree, or a plant, or a fish, or a baby, all into future time, is present right now in the seed. And if we damage that seed, there is no place else to get it. It is our most precious possession, and we have got to think in terms of the seed, because that's the future."

There is one very special “special interest group” all of us here represent. Special members to me are Travis, my 8-year old grandson, Matilyn my 5 year old granddaughter, and a little girl who will make her debut in June.

It is heartbreaking that our government does not concern itself with the ethics of nuclear power.

In closing:

  • We must have a reactor design to assess
  • We must have full consideration of the need for the project and the alternatives to the project
  • We must account for a worst-case accident scenario resulting in uncontrolled accidental releases of radiation, and
  • We must finally take responsibility for nuclear waste.

I urge you to reject the proposal to build new nuclear reactors at Darlington.

Thank you for your time.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Project Cost

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

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

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

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

Alternatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Conclude

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

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

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

Thank you all for your time.

Darlington Hearings: Waste discussion SURREAL

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

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

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

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

Hmmm. I see.

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

Eeeeeeek.

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

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

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

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

And I think, OMG!

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

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

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

Janet

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

Janet