Port Hope

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.”

 

NW Conference: Awards! (part I)

<<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

 

This is my 4th post about the nuclear waste conference I attended in Toronto from September 12-14th. This is the fun one – finally!!   

The others are

I might add that awarding prizes to the nuclear industry is something I’ve done before. Under the heading ‘Darlington Hearings’ you’ll find at least 4 postings listed/linked involving awards for folks in the nuke biz.

Being in the anti-nuke biz can get a person down, you see. It can be pretty overwhelming & discouraging work. You have to make it fun somehow! Giving out awards is a way of introducing a little levity into an otherwise crazy-making preoccupation.

OK, here goes! Some awards are pretty much self-explanatory; no further explanation necessary!

Awards for the Nuclear Industry:

  • Barefaced OUTRAGEOUS Use of Language award: A tie between AECL for daring to use the phrase “Leaving an Honourable Legacy” in the same sentence as Port Hope & Port Granby waste clean-ups, & CNSC head honcho Michael Binder for claiming the nuclear industry (or, oops, I guess he meant the CNSC??) is “not going to tax future generations” with the nuclear waste problem. Right! Sure. Got it.
  • Boyish Enthusiasm award to ADM (Assistant Deputy Minister) Mark Corey, Energy Sector, Natural Resources Canada (yeah, a government dude) for his touching enthusiasm about some fences being put up around “some areas [with] real activity” (i.e., radioactivity) in the Bancroft area (post-uranium-mining-related, you understand) & his excitement about the 70-year Nuclear Legacy Liability Program & its $3.2 billion price tag (that is the figure he used, which is not consistent with the $7B figure quoted elsewhere; I guess when you get up into the billions like this, it all gets a little fuzzy??). No matter that nuclear waste will outlive by thousands & 100s of thousands of years any 70-year government program, however excited the not-very-long-term-thinking politicians & bureaucrats may be feeling about it. I betcha Mr. Corey might think twice about buying a cottage or house near those fences he’s so excited about, eh?
  • Buckets & Buckets of Bullshit award – self-explanatory, I’d say…
  • Cognitive Dissonance awards aplenty!! There is so much cognitive dissonance pervading this industry & its various organizations that I honestly have no idea how its foot soldiers are even able to sleep at night. One glaring thing from this conference was the continually repeated claim that the industry is transparent. No one who has paid any attention to the nuclear industry would ever in a million years claim it has even the slightest understanding of the word “transparency.” Come to think of it, there oughta be a Bullshit award! Or even an Outrageous Bullshit of the Century award!!
  • Don’t Worry – Be Happy   !! award to the nuclear industry (in this case, AECL) for basically taking this attitude about the sobering & truly appalling “legacy wastes” in Port Hope & Port Granby. Citizens are supposed to just not worry & be happy because after all, the federal gravy train has come to town & is leaking millions of $$ for a clean-up of all those wastes that are Hey! Not really a problem! Just smile & be happy, everyone!!  
  • Engineering Euphoria / Boys & Their Toys award to the many engineers of the nuclear industry – the profession the nuclear industry rests upon. They’ve always got a way to explain things away, & their boyish enthusiasm for solutions is … well, absurd & foolish, really, let’s just be honest about it, shall we? No solution for nuclear waste 60 years in. No admission that some technologies are just too darn dangerous to stick with. Technological optimism apparently knows no bounds. Even now, post-Fukushima…
  • Fancy Language / Creative Use of Jargon award (weasel words to watch for from the nuclear industry) for their fancy, sneaky use of terms to conceal rather than reveal what they are really up to. Words/phrases to watch for:
    • Below regulatory limits: emissions & spills are always below regulatory limits…have you noticed? They’re always small. Always “not harmful.” Always.
    • Blending: Mixing up different categories of radioactive waste so it can be disposed of in more convenient, less expensive fashion, e.g. into a regular landfill site or an incinerator (yes, burning radioactive materials – quelle idée, huh??)
    • Conceptual model: engineers & their “conceptual models,” eh? Can’t deal with reality, so fire up a conceptual model!
    • Free-release: this is about releasing radioactive materials hither & yon, even into the global scrap metal supply - scroll down to where it says ‘Radioactive Scrap - A Major Environmental Problem’)
    • Legacy wastes: fancy term for the bad old stuff from the good old days, decades ago. Just think, the new waste being created today will one day get to be called “legacy” too!!
    • Refurbish: innocuous-sounding term for spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars to tune up a nuke plant halfway through its operational life (creating a serious shitload of new nuclear waste while they’re at it, btw). See item about refurbishment here
    • Unconditional release: !?!?!?
    • Waste characterization: Fancy term meaning the nuke industry gets to call it whatever level of waste is convenient to them. We all need to remember, though, that “low level” does not mean “low risk.
  • Fox & Henhouse / Lapdog, Not Watchdog award to, of course, our very own dear (not) CNSC. They claim to be Canada’s nuclear regulator, but it’s kind of like leaving the drunk guy at the bar in charge of how much everyone drinks. You know?? The words nuclear & safety don’t belong in the same phrase, for one thing (oxymoron alert!!!), & for another, the CNSC is about as tough on the nuclear industry in Canada as over-permissive parents who permit their bratty offspring to swing from the chandeliers. (I don’t think the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the U.S. is a whole lot different, btw.) Good article Who controls nuclear control agencies?,” written just after the Fukushima accident, about who the nuclear “regulators” are.
  • Golden Handcuffs/ He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune award to OPG head honcho Tom Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell, who earns (well, makes) $1,325,119.04 a year, did a charming imitation of …hmmm…the Mad Hatter maybe?? minimizing the dangers of radioactivity (an “unfounded but perceived fear of radiation”) & making a terribly reassuring pronouncement (not) about safety (“Safety is in fact our foundation”) along with a touchingly (in)sincere statement about how “those who come after us must not be” saddled with the waste problem. (Um, sir, nuke waste will be dangerous for 1 million years! Did they forget to tell you??).
  • How’d They Pull THAT One Off?? award goes to Cameco Corporation. This company (& its predecessor, a Crown Corporation called Eldorado, which is to say our federal government is in this up to its eyeballs & always has been) has created a nasty nuclear disaster in Port Hope (on Lake Ontario), a huge mess now being tackled with public money, & Cameco is selling land to the Port Granby site clean-up folks. They made the waste, made the mess that Canadian taxpayers are paying billions to have cleaned up, reaped huge profits in doing so – & now they sell land for the Port Granby clean-up?? (Am I missing something here??? Guess I should have gone to business school, eh??)
  • Hubris award goes to everyone involved in this secretive, dangerous industry. For lies & deception & the minimization of health & environmental risks from nuclear technologies, & the patronizing of those outside the industry who raise legitimate concerns, & the superior attitudes of industry insiders with their fancy jargon aimed only at shutting down questions & objections. This is an industry with a very seriously dishonest modus operandi (& that is an understatement!).
  • Kool-Aid award for everyone in attendance at the conference (apart from my fellow activist friends) for their brilliant performance of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” – even in the wake of the very recent, unbelievably disastrous Fukushima accident, even in the full awareness of the deeply dangerous nuclear wastes that exist at the Chalk River Labs site, in Port Hope & at Port Granby, & all those sites in the U.S. & Great Britain & the nuclear holocaust that is the ongoing legacy of the Chernobyl accident. Whatever it is that goes into that Kool-Aid, the nuke folks have drunk it down well & deeply. It must be very, very tasty indeed.

Please proceed to NW Conference: Awards! (part II) to finish up with the award ceremony! Next up is the Obfuscation Well Above & Beyond the Call of Duty award…

Janet

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

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.

 

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. 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