SAGE

Darl. Hearings – March 29: WASTE Day: Awards (x 2)

I’ve been blogging about the 3-week nuclear hearings now taking place in Courtice, Ontario.

** Note: if you go here, you can find hearing info such as the public hearing schedule, transcripts, Webcasts, etc.

Courtice is a small community east of Toronto; host to the gargantuan Darlington Nuclear Generating Station that is situated right on the shores of Lake Ontario. The hearings are part of the Environmental Assessment process Ontario Power Generation (OPG) & its licensing body, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), is required to take part in as they make plans for 4 new reactors at the Darlington site (all of this at the behest of the Ontario provincial government, btw).

Taking part in hearings involving nuclear projects always puts me in mind of going down a rabbit hole, à la Alice in Wonderland. A certain Mad Hatter Tea Party ambience is unmistakable.

I’ve said it many times before: there is really no adequate way to describe what this kind of hearing is like. (I’ve written about CNSC hearings in blog postings listed under the Steam Generator heading up at the top of this blog, & in a posting called ‘Speaking truth to power.’ I’ve been very upfront with CNSC tribunal & staff about my rabbit hole analogy.)

I’ve posted recently about placards & awards during these hearings.

The other day I told some folks in Toronto that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission seems to have a somewhat limited vocabulary.

Favourite & very frequently-used CNSC words:

  • SMALL: Spills are always small (even when they’re big!)
  • LOW: Risks of nuclear activities of any sort whatsoever (including spills) are always low.
  • SAFE: Nuclear operations of any kind (including spills & emissions) are always safe & without health risk to members of the staff or public.
  • ACCEPTABLE: Nuclear proponent’s plans are always always always “acceptable.”
  • HIGHLY REGULATED: CNSC always claims the nuclear industry is “highly regulated,” but since they just kind of make up their own rules, I say, “Yeah, sure, right…”

Considering how truly risky nuclear activities genuinely are, I always say CNSC language is pretty goshdarn MINGY. UNDERwhelming…

Ok. A quick review of the placards I’d like to hold up at CNSC hearings (where we are much too polite to actually do so, & of course would get kicked out of the proceedings for):

  • Bafflegab!
  • Bullshit!
  • Obfuscation Alert!
  • Doh!
  • Turn off the lie machine!

And more awards I would like to generously offer after last Tuesday (March 29, 2011)’s presentations, which were focused on the issue of nuclear waste. [Note: transcripts & Webcast of this entire hearing can be found here Please also note that presentations by citizen/NGO intervenors have been amazing!  The Dr. Helen Caldicott one on March 24th was excellent, as was the SAGE (Safe & Green Energy) one by Dr. Ian Fairlie on March 28th. The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper one on March 28th was blow-you-right-out-of-the-water brilliant. First Nations presenters, also on Monday, March 28th, were awesomely articulate & inspiring.] The Northwatch intervention on the nuclear waste issue was also a show-stopper & generated a great deal of discussion (all of which, for my own part anyway, served to illustrate how shockingly shallow the nuclear industry’s understanding of nuclear waste actually is. Genuinely shocking…)

Understatement of the Millenium award goes to Joint Review Panel member Pereira for his brilliant observation “There are a number of challenges to be met” with respect to the proper, safe storage of high-level nuclear wastes that will be generated at the proposed new reactors.

I can’t believe you just said that! award to the OPG staffer who “reassured” panel members & the public with these shining statements about the need for containers that will last a million years: “We are looking at containers” & “We are learning as we are going along.”

OMG! & these are the folks who are “protecting” us from wildly hazardous & preposterously long-lived nuclear wastes!?!?

It leaves a person almost speechless…doesn’t it??

Other awards I recommend:

  • Robot award – multiple possible recipients among both CNSC & OPG staff & heck, let’s be generous here – the 3 JRP panel members too.
  • Lead face award – as above.
  • Asbestos award – ditto.
  • Cognitive Dissonance award to everyone employed in the nuclear industry. And all of the rest of us human beings for pretending the nuclear industry is “looking after us.” And especially to the OPG staffer who had the effrontery to state that OPG does not wish to put the burden of nuclear waste onto future generations. Talk about cognitive dissonance!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
  • Pseudo-science award to CNSC staff for their consistent use of such deeply scientific phrases as “Tritium releases are very low.”
  • Skating on VERY thin ice award – multiple possible recipients (including all of us! Our entire species seems to be skating on mighty thin ice, I’d have to say).

Finally, to the entire nuclear industry:

THE EMPEROR STILL HAS NO CLOTHES award.

**********

I even decided to give myself an award:

The “I can’t believe I didn’t run screaming from the room when OPG staffer Laurie Swami used the phrase ‘bounding scenario’ for the 506th time” award.

(I had decided I’d rather stick a needle in my eye than hear her use this ridiculous phrase one more time.

And I’m not really all that much into sticking needles in my eyes…you know??)

Enough for now…

 

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