SRB

Nuclear Hotseat

I recently came across the 'Nuclear Hotseat' Web site - a site with lots of info & podcasts on it. I immediately warmed to the phrase "nuclear hotseat." (heh heh...)

We are ALL on the nuclear hotseat, make no mistake about that!

Sometimes we even have nuclear facilities in our towns or neighbourhoods that we don't know about!

This is true in Pembroke, Ontario, where a small & visually unobtrusive little company called SRB (located in a residential neighbourhood, btw) makes products from tritium - a dangerous by-product of nuclear energy. Unfortunately for the residents of Pembroke, too many emissions go up the stack & into the groundwater. It should be shut down. Determined activists there have tried for years to do so. Yet most residents of Pembroke seem unaware it's even there. Lots of info about this on the TAP (Tritium Awareness Project) Web site. (I've mentioned SRB in some posting or other on this blog, but have not really written extensively about it. Note: on the TAP site, be sure to use the 'Categories' tab at the right to find lots more content/news stories, etc. & also use the "tags" - i.e, click on relevant words to find articles. Here's a doozy of a story...)

Same deal in Peterborough, Ontario. Another tritium company/polluter: this one called Shield Source Incorporated, or SSI. Tons of recent activism there has led to its near-shutdown - but don't count on it staying dormant for long. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will almost certainly allow it to open again. Or maybe the owner will run away & leave a big radioactive clean-up mess for the locals (he's done this before, down in the U.S.). Find out more here (there is also quite a lot about SSI on the TAP site mentioned above). Ah, now I remember: I wrote a bit about all of this here.

Latest discovery of a nuke facility in the midst of a neighbourhood that I'm aware of is the GE place in Toronto (Lansdowne & Dupont). Big public meeting about it tomorrow! Read up on it here.

Now, here is what I saw on the Nuclear Hotseat site that grabbed my attention:

QUOTE: "If you feel frightened, helpless, depressed, triggered into obsessive or addictive behaviors or any other emotions when you think about Fukushima and what the ongoing radiation release means to the future of life on Planet Earth, only one thing will help you genuinely feel better: TAKE ACTION. DO something.  Write a letter stating your concerns to the president, your senators, your representative, your governor.  Follow up with phone calls.  Stay informed, not only about the current nuclear news but on what activist groups are doing.  Join them in any way you can — donate, forward their posts on social media, comment on blogs, connect with others who are willing to engage in the conversation.  This is no time to be alone.

There are also actions you can take to protect your health and the health of your family.  I’ll be sharing those as well as links to sites that will allow you to do further research by yourself.

The nuclear industry and its political apologists are working their PR firms overtime to convince you that nuclear energy is clean, green, safe and sustainable.  Don’t let them fool you; they are lying.  On this site, you’ll gain access to cutting edge information on nuclear energy, Fukushima, and the ongoing health dangers we face.  My goal is to inspire you to join the battle to turn off your neighborhood nuclear reactor.

As Helen Keller once wrote, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” I invite you to join me and work to get us all out of the nuclear hotseat." END OF QUOTE

I second that invitation!!

Janet

p.s. all these nuclear situations? You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried! It's appalling. It's nasty. It's evil. You really & truly couldn't make stuff like this up if you tried! But see what Howard Zinn had to say, down below. It's all true! (btw too, it was in the pretty little town of Port Hope, Ontario that I first began thinking "You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried!" I wrote about that in a posting called 'Atomic Towns.' All these towns are tied together. For sure, we are indeed ALL on the nuclear hotseat...)

'Quote of the day' with this post: "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience." – Howard Zinn (some good quotations about civil disobedience here)

More from Howard Zinn:

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places -- and there are so many -- where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” - Howard Zinn  <quoted by Rob Brezsny in Oct. 31/12 message>

Nuke-Related postings: full list (not!!)

** this list now long obsolete!! Full, updated list is actually here I certainly never set out to write so much nuclear-related material (or to be an anti-nuclear activist, as far as that goes!? I was supposed to be working on the climate change front!?). Life really is full of surprises, isn’t it?? (It really is what happens when you are making other plans...)

This is (I hope) a complete list of nuke-related postings on this blog. Some nuke-y postings are also listed or compiled by category (e.g. all Steam Generator postings, all Darlington (new build) hearings postings, all Darlington refurbishment-related postingsFukushima postings).

AND, there is a category across the top of the blog called 'No More Nukes!' under which ALL the different categories of nuke-related postings/resources/quotes, etc. are listed. (I hope.)

Be sure to check out the Nuke Resources & for sure, for sure the Nuke Quotes!! There are some real dandies/doozies there. Also, a great Great Lakes Region Nuclear Hotspots map!

I have almost certainly left some out...but not intentionally!? I just don’t have time to read over every single posting on this blog to check it out for possible nuclear content...

Fukushima. Collusion. Only in Japan, you say?

The Japanese Parliament has been told by a panel of experts that the Fukushima nuclear accident of March 11, 2011, was a man-made disaster. It cannot be blamed on the earthquake or the tsunami – but on Japanese culture, human-made error…& collusion. Good articles & short YouTubes here:

 

What has my knickers in a knot right now is the statement “Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.” (from the article here)

Yes. Japanese culture does breed conformity & obedience.

What is our excuse in the other relentlessly nuclear countries?

In Canada, for example, say.

The level of collusion among nuclear industry, politicians & regulators is no less in evidence here.

Those of us who follow the goings-on of the un-aptly-named Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (an oxymoronic title, given the impossibility of “nuclear safety”) are all too aware of this collusion.

Come on, people!

We all know nuclear energy is not safe. Not safe, not reliable, not cheap. Wildly dangerous, wildly polluting & toxic, producing wastes that will remain dangerous for more years than we can even properly begin to conceive of.

Why don’t more Canadian citizens speak up?

Are we too obedient? Or just too lazy? Too complacent? “Too busy?” Too smug?

*****

I have to work a little at not letting nuclear goings-on make my blood boil (having my blood boil seems to be very bad for my own personal sense of equanimity. Heh heh).

But the apathy of my fellow citizens – on all environmental fronts – stuns me. Has stunned me for many years now.

Nuclear issues are complex, I grant you.

Tell me, though, how complex is this?

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has repeatedly licensed a company called SSI (short for Shield Source Incorporated, which is located in the small Ontario city of Peterborough since 1986) to make glow-in-the-dark products, using tritium – a wildly toxic by-product of the creation of nuclear energy. (They also license its competitor company, SRB, in Pembroke, Ontario. Therein lies another, quite similar, tale. Serious, stubborn polluters, both, of local air & water. Licensed over & over again to go on being so.)

Our so-called nuclear safety commission (or “regulator”) has done this knowing that the man who runs SSI used to run another tritium company in Almedia, South Centre Township, Pennsylvania (in the U.S.) by the name of Safety Light Corp. (Safety Light, btw, is one of the daughter companies of the old U.S. Radium Corp. No time to go down that road right now, though it’s an interesting one!) Safety Light had many safety violations while operating in Almedia, & frequently fell behind in its payments to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for site clean-ups that have now fallen to U.S. citizens to fund.

Mr. William Lynch – Safety Light’s head honcho – shut Safety Light down in 2007, leaving U.S. taxpayers on the hook for a $120 million Superfund site clean-up (this figure may be an under-estimate, btw. Nuclear waste clean-ups are wildly, even outlandishly, expensive).

& in 2009, our Canadian regulator once again re-licensed Mr. Lynch’s SSI (which they had been licensing since 1986) – knowing of his company’s safety violations while in Pennsylvania, his departure from tritium light manufacturing in the U.S., & his company’s decision to leave American taxpayers with an impossibly toxic & dangerous nuclear mess by the shores of the Susquehanna River. (If the CNSC didn’t know all this, how come they didn’t know? Either way, it makes them some regulator…eh??)

I think I’ve said enough. I think you can connect the dots here, can’t you? It’s not rocket science.

Everywhere on this planet this horrid (I call it evil) nuclear industry operates, it does so hand-in-hand, i.e., with collusion, among its industry members, local ruling political elites & the so-called nuclear “regulators.”

Relevant quotation/insight from Frank Zappa?

“Government is the Entertainment Division of the military-industrial complex.”

Janet

* Check out the February 2012 Greenpeace report called “Lessons from Fukushima” here 

* For info on SSI in Peterborough, Ontario, go to the Tritium Awareness Peterborough Facebook page & also this page 

* Plenty of information about tritium here & on the Tritium Awareness Project Web site (& also, I expect, on the NIRS & Beyond Nuclear sites) Probably on the CCNR site also.

* Lots of pithy quotations about nukes (also maps, films & other resources) here 

* An incomplete (but still useful) list of groups working on nuclear matters here 

* The essay here compares the lead & nuclear industries & finds 10 common elements.

* As regards U.S. Radium Corp., good luck getting it all straight! They started out in New Jersey (so says Wikipedia) & after leaving a big nasty mess there, moved on to other locations & messed them up too. The Harvey Wasserman & Norman Solomon book Killing Our Own –The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation (available on-line here) has info on the company on page 128.

* You can also check into The Press Enterprise from Bloomsburg, PA to seek out articles about U.S. Radium/Safety Light’s history in Almedia, PA (as well as some of the New Jersey piece of the story) over the years.

Relevant quotation from a Press Enterprise story by Michael Lester: “’The net effect of these corporate and name changes, restructuring and ownership transfers was to limit the liability of predecessor companies and protect their corporate assets while Safety Light maintained an active license,’ says an NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] document.”

** company name changes & re-locations to avoid liability seem to be a common ploy of ... hmmm, maybe any kind of polluting industry?? Not sure about that. I am pretty sure the tritium-using industry is an old hand at it.

'Quote of the day' with this post: “Until we know how to safely dispose of the radioactive materials generated by nuclear plants, we should postpone these activities so as not to cause further harm to future generations. To do otherwise is simply an immoral act, and that is my belief, both as a scientist and as a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.” – Dr Shoji Sawada

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.

 

SG / CNSC: some background…

If you are new to nuclear issues in Canada (although the things I have learned in Canada may very well apply in other countries that use nuclear power), there are a few things it is helpful to know. I’ll mention one or two, & my next post will have some specifics about the steam generator issue (SG) & recent CNSC hearing (you can see a Webcast of the hearing here.)

1. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) claims it “regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect health, safety, security and the environment and to respect Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

Some of us would question that lofty claim. Many of us who've been active on nuclear issues have long found that the CNSC seems to be (to quote the words of NDP Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen, who gave a press conference on Parliament Hill on September 28th, right after another press conference on the SG issue, just before the hearing began) a “lapdog rather than a watchdog.”

CNSC frankly seems to be an agency that exists to promote & facilitate the operations of the nuclear industry. I say this after watching CNSC tribunal members & staff in action for some years now.

CNSC staff look & act very much as though they work for the nuclear industry, rather than for the Canadian public, whose tax dollars mostly pay their very generous salaries. (Complication: the nuke industry also gives the CNSC money in some kind of “cost recovery” scheme that I don’t begin to understand, so the employees, I guess, have a hard time “biting the hand that feeds them.”)

You will never be able to make sense of any nuclear goings-on in Canada without this basic understanding. The CNSC really does not work for you & me – unless you & I happen to be part & parcel of the nuclear industry.

And let’s conclude today’s civics lesson on this point by adding that there are other government agencies that are not independent of industry/corporate-driven priorities. Pesticides & Health Canada & the Pest Management Regulatory Agency spring quickly to mind. I gather Agriculture Canada has a similar dynamic.

We have lots of freedom of speech in Canada (although increasingly the media outlets are owned by a tight-fisted corporate/industry-driven agenda) – but our government is seldom really very much our friend at all. Sad, but true, I’m afraid.

2. The CNSC Tribunal (the bigshots who make the decisions & are paid very handsomely to do so) is heavily dominated by an engineering mindset. Gotta confess, I don’t really even understand what that consists of – but here are 2 things that have been said to me along the way that have helped me somewhat to understand how some engineering minds think…

First was by a fellow who was then employed in the nuclear industry (in a location where frequent heavy water spills made & presumably still make their way into the Ottawa River). In response to a news item on TV, he commented to the effect that “Gosh – we [meaning engineers? Nuke industry insiders?] always thought the ocean could hold all that stuff we dump in it.” I was taken aback. For sure, his royal “we” did not speak for me!! I have never believed that the planet’s rivers, streams, lakes & oceans were meant to be repositories for human garbage, toxins, toxic waste, mine effluent, nuclear waste, oil spills…etc. etc. The next comment that helped me out was when a young man I know who has a civil engineering degree (& another degree; not sure what the other one is; an MBA maybe??) commented to me that engineers are taught to go ahead & do things that are possible to do, without ever stopping to ask themselves what the consequences of their actions will be. In other words, there is no ethical component to their thinking. (They probably dismiss the precautionary principle as just so much frippery; for sure, they do not understand it.)

3. When the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission holds a public hearing, those who wish to “intervene” must usually register their intent to do so a full month ahead, by submitting 4 weeks ahead of time, in writing, the things they plan to discuss at the hearing. This gives CNSC staff plenty of time to prepare for the riff-raff (I’m sure that’s the way they conceive of those of us who oppose their shenanigans) & refute whatever the riff-raff plan to say. I have no idea how many of these employees there are. It appears the organization has gobs & gobs of staff. Lots of Ph.D.’s & “experts” among them. They always speak very, very authoritatively – even when what they are saying is utterly incorrect (maybe especially when what they are saying is incorrect??)

4. The nuclear business is very, very technical & complex. It is so technical & complex that unless you have about 5 Ph. D’s, odds are you will not understand a great deal of it in its full complexity. So, for example, CNSC staffer A who understands health-related matters (& those maybe not all that well, frankly) does not understand how a tritium plume moves underground through groundwater. The “expert” who supposedly understands how tritium plumes move may frankly not understand it at all, since it’s entirely possible that no human being really does understand this (& why should we? Shouldn’t we just stop causing such utterly awful things to happen in the first place???). (For sure the CNSC staff does not understand it; that’s why the migration of the tritium plume underground in Pembroke, Ontario, in the area of the SRB Technologies tritium light operation, has been very inaccurately predicted. And if you have no idea whatsoever what a tritium plume is, lucky you!! You probably don’t live near SRB in Pembroke & haven’t had your well water ruined forever by it!)

Dear me, I seem to be digressing here. My apologies.

Point simply being, CNSC staff is mostly Ph.D.-heavy, but what I would call wisdom-light. They know, as one woman I encountered in the nuclear town I used to live in once put it about some Ph.D. types, “more & more & more about less & less & less, until eventually they know absolutely everything about absolutely nothing.”

(Important point: I know lots of fine folks with Ph. D.’s who are very smart indeed. Not merely book-learning smart, but people-smart & social skills-smart. All-around lovely people - who have ethics & morals & try to exercise them on a routine basis, & who clearly understand what the term "precautionary principle" actually means. Basically it means "Gee, when there are risks of danger to human beings & the environment, put on the brakes & go real slow!")

But the folks at the CNSC seem to have their heads stuck in some kind of … tunnel? There isn’t much light in it, whatever it is they have their heads stuck in. Hmmm. Maybe it’s just that, as Upton Sinclair once so wisely put it, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” There is a whole very, very large nuclear industry on this planet that is staffed by people for whom this remark is presumably very apt.

So. The CNSC staff knows all kinds of arcane stuff about nuclear goings-on. They know policies & quote lots of bewildering acronyms, & can go on at great length about bamboozling things, very little of it indeed easy or even possible for ignorant peasants such as myself to grasp – but the greatly fortunate thing is that there are activists who are wildly intelligent & stubborn & feisty & passionate – & when their communities are threatened by nuclear nonsense of one kind or another (unfortunately, the nuclear nonsense is very, very widespread & nasty indeed), they learn about how all this stuff really works, & then they can take on the nuclear industry & make them look bad.

Of course, usually agencies like the CNSC just go right on ahead & allow the nuclear nastiness to continue anyway – I’ve certainly seen that happen! The citizens of the city of Pembroke, on the Ottawa River northeast of Ottawa, have been unwilling guinea pigs for a massive tritium pollution experiment for 20 years now, & the CNSC a few months ago extended the license of this nasty little business for another 5 years (the TAP – Tritium Awareness Project – Web site has plenty of information on this topic, btw).

But goodness me, do let’s get back to the steam generators, shall we?? Next post….

 

My Religion

<June 18/10>

On my very lovely walk this morning (beautiful day!) along the boardwalk (in the Beaches area of Toronto, Ontario, Canada), I articulated the key tenets of what I guess you might call my “religion.”

They are:

  • Gratitude
  • Walking
  • Community
  • Service
  • Solitude / silence
  • Music [added later; see P.S.]

I could elaborate on each of these, of course. Walking also takes in Nature, love of the Earth, & maybe canoeing, kayaking, swimming & snowshoeing… Community takes in love, family, conversation, smiling, friendliness & friendship. Gratitude takes in joy & leads to a happy spirit. Service takes in activism & caring & doing (which also lead to a happy spirit!). Solitude & silence are things I cannot exist without & sometimes wonder whether others might benefit from a wee bit more of…

& music!! Well – music sometimes catapults me straight from practically comatose, down at the bottom of a Very Deep Pit (or even a not-all-that-deep-but-still-definitely-in-a-pit-pit) into outright exhilaration!!

Janet

p.s. couple weeks later, on July 1st: I’ve been doing this odd nomadic gig lately. Some of the time I’m living out in the boonies, sometimes I’m in the small city of Pembroke, Ontario (up river from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, & down river from leaking “legacy” pollution at the Chalk River nuclear facility; Gee – sure makes me feel better to know the pollution there is “legacy” as opposed to new…or, hmm…..does it??, & home to (notice I am not saying proud home: many of us here are not merely not proud but frankly appalled about) SRB Technologies, a tritium-emitting local business that has just outrageously been issued a 5-year license by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (boy are they un-aptly named!?!?!? Ought to be more like the Canadian Nuclear Danger Commission); check out the Tritium Awareness Project Web site to learn “the truth about tritium”…)

And some of the time I hang out in Toronto, Canada’s largest city & kind of an all-around pretty fun place...

Well.

On my long walk in Pembroke this morning, I observed, as I have on other occasions, how church-y this town is. It has a quite extraordinary number of churches. Off the charts, really!

Not sure what that’s all about, but the limitations of “organized” religion seem more & more apparent to me as the years go by.

I’ve written elsewhere about what I see as the problem with religion.

What sprang to mind this morning as I noticed Pembroke’s considerable churchy-ness is the sort of somewhere-else-ness of most religious teachings. “Heaven” is somewhere else. “Divinity” is somewhere/someone else. “Salvation” is some other time. “Holy” is other places or people.

Me, I’m convinced all these things are right here, right now, always.

Hmmm. In ‘Pulling Down the Pedestals’ & ‘I’m not OK – YOU’re OK’ I’ve written about our tendency as individuals to see others as…better ... more whole…than one is oneself. I don’t think this attitude & the dominance of religion & its “God/holiness/sacredness is somewhere else” message is a coincidence, exactly…

Certainly Eckhart Tolle’s thoughts about presence, & about the pain body (& everything else he talks about!) resonate hugely for me. (I’ve written about ET in a few blog postings Ducks Unlimited’, ‘Pain Bodies on Parade or Oh, To be a duck’ & ‘Flap your wings’, among others…)

Dear friend Lynn has just given me a copy of the book This is It – The Nature of Oneness – Interviews with Teachers of Non-Duality, including Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, by Jan Kersschot.

That phrase “This is it!” resonated for me right away.

All is here right here, right now, in this moment & it is plenty!

The heck, I say, with the fear & poverty mentality we’ve been so immersed & drenched in for so long.

This is It!

p.p.s. weeks later, on July 24th: It became necessary to add that 6th item – music – to the list the other evening when, under the great spirits & energy-enhancing influence of some lovely, sing-y, dance-y, cheerful tunes, I got hours & hours of useful work done, instead of succumbing to the temptation to veg out in front of a movie. Music sure can be magical!! (Pat Conroy said, “Without music, life is a journey through a desert,” and isn't it true??)

p.p.p.s. 'My Religion, take 2' (from a couple years later).

Speaking Truth to Power (power wasn't listening)

I went off to a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearing in Ottawa the other day to “speak truth to power” about a very polluting little nuclear company in Pembroke, Ontario.

As I’d said to a number of friends in an e-mail before the hearing, we would be “speaking truth to power,” as the saying goes – all the while knowing that “power” wouldn’t really be listening.

And so it was. “Power” wasn’t really listening to the members of the public who were there to express their legitimate & long-time concerns. Well, that isn’t strictly true. At times they did actually appear to be listening, but you could sort of see their ears closing up again lickety-split. [Of course, they later did go right on ahead & grant SRB a 5-year license to continue polluting the city of Pembroke.]

I still feel grrrrreat about having said my little piece, though. I was in the awesome company of other activists, all of whom have more integrity in their little fingers than a lot of the folks who were in that room have in their whole bodies.

Of course, as Upton Sinclair said who knows how many decades ago, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

(Is it not so?)

For me, hanging around fellow activists of such intelligence, courage & integrity is very, very energizing. It renders all the work & energy & time one has put into this massive exercise (way over the top, trust me!!) utterly worthwhile.

Some of us had dinner together afterward, and I’ll bet we took our fellow diners in the otherwise quiet restaurant by surprise. We were crazily animated, discovered connections among ourselves we hadn’t realized existed, had lots & lots of laughs – &, quite clearly, were having a ball!

All you folks who “run” the world – the ones with power who are fuelled by greed (& personal insecurity)? I have a message for you:

Being an activist – doing worthwhile work that really matters – with passion & energy & conviction & commitment – is wildly, wildly, wildly enjoyable & rewarding.

Of course, it would be really cool if more often we achieved the kinds of results we were after.

But even when we don’t, hooey! Are we ever in fine company!!

Janet

p.s. Visit the TAP (Tritium Awareness Project) Web site if you’d like to learn "the truth about tritium" - especially the scene in Pembroke, Ontario, home to SRB Technologies, local tritium polluter.

p.p.s. much much later: there is also now a posting called 'Tritium Resources' with lots of tritium info links.

 

‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” – Thomas Sowell

(Yesterday's was “A voice is a human gift. It should be cherished & used. Powerlessness & silence go together.” Margaret Atwood)

 

We Are TOO (Freakin’) Polite!

<Oct. 5/09>

This is a rant about being TOO polite. For sure, just to be clear, I was raised by my parents to be a very polite person. I always (almost always) remember to say my “pleases & thank-you’s,” and dutifully taught my children to do the same.

It’s a form of obedience, really. We are taught from Day 1 (by our parents & if not by them, by our culture) to be very obedient to the rules of our society. Not to “colour outside the lines,” as it were – and to be sure that we “play by the rules” and all that jazz. Yes??(1)

Sure we are. We live in an insanely (obscenely?) voracious culture that is destroying the Earth (a remarkably abundant and beautiful place, by the way, not to mention being our only home), yet we are all so damn polite that not only do most of us not speak up about what is taking place all around us, those of us who do are looked upon as “weirdos.” I know this because I’ve been perceived as a weirdo (by a lot of the folks who know me) for the past 20 years.

There are 3 things I’d like to cite about this being too polite business:

1. What got me started musing on this (again) recently was my attendance at an anti-uranium rally held at Queen’s Park in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) on Sunday, September 27th (2009). Increasing numbers of Ontario citizens have begun to oppose the mining of uranium – and with good reason. The rally was held at our provincial legislature to let our MPP’s (Members of Provincial Parliament) know that we want uranium mining stopped. There were several dynamic speakers to inform those in attendance about the issue & what needs to be done about it (namely, demand a legislated ban on uranium mining for all of Ontario – similar to the bans already in effect in three of our other provinces – British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick – & the territory of Labrador).

Native elder Bob Lovelace told the crowd at the rally that in his view, we Canadians are too polite. He knows a lot about this, having been sent to jail for his part in trying to protect his native band’s territory near Sharbot Lake, Ontario, against uranium exploration. What he said really resonated for me. We are, indeed, much too polite.

If you want to learn more about the Ontario uranium mining scene, go to the Web site of Cottagers Against Uranium Mining & Exploration (CUME) There is also a ton of useful information at the site of CCAMU – the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium.

2. Something that had got me thinking about this politeness business some time ago were the insights I had as a result of attending several Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearings in Ottawa. These were about tritium light facilities in Pembroke & Peterborough, Ontario (the companies are called SRB Technologies and SSI, for Shield Source International, respectively). Oh yes, there was also one on Zircatec Precision Industries Inc. a nuclear facility in Port Hope, Ontario – that I sat in on.

At each of these hearings, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the intelligence and information possessed by the citizen interveners who object to these 3 privately-run, profit-making nuclear facilities. Intervener presentations (firmly limited to 10 minutes per person, although the proponent – that is, the nuclear facility representative – has almost unlimited time and endless opportunities to state his case) are fact-filled, well-researched, and passionate, often, given the fact that their citizens, their neighbourhoods & their communities are bearing the brunt of the emissions and releases from these facilities.

The government-appointed CNSC commissioners seem to have very limited understanding indeed of the complexities (& risks) involved in nuclear technologies. Their knowledge very clearly represents a tiny fraction of that possessed by the citizen interveners (toward whom, btw, their demeanour is extremely patronizing).

My take, overall? These are “kangaroo” courts. They’re a joke. The CNSC does not exist to promote nuclear “safety” for Canadians; it exists to promote the nuclear industry.

I could go on here at length, because I have other insights & strong opinions about the CNSC hearing process – but I won’t.

It does frustrate the heck out of me that a) the “average” Canadian citizen has probably never even heard of the CNSC, has certainly never attended one of their kangaroo courts (oops, I mean hearings), & has no idea what this taxpayer-funded outfit gets up to & b) those of us who oppose these various nuclear operations can talk ‘till we’re blue in the face, present impressive evidence & studies from all over the world, cite human health impacts until the cows come home – but nothing ever changes. We put on our very best clothes, talk very, very politely in the hearings (which I suppose, come to think of it, are a little reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party), and the commissioners (and the CNSC’s very considerable-sized & no doubt well-educated & well-paid staff) go right on ahead & do what they’re going to do – with no apparent real concern for the safety of the Canadian public they are all supposedly being paid their generous salaries to protect.

It was this that got me thinking some time ago now that we are too damn polite

It was either Benjamin Franklin or Albert Einstein (I’ve heard both being credited) who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

So who is it who’s insane here, anyway??

3. All of this motivated me to take part recently in a Greenpeace “Climate Action Camp” to learn about civil disobedience. So glad I went!!

I learned lots, and had a lot of fun, too! It was interesting to be reminded of some of the very early & well-known practitioners of civil disobedience. Jesus Christ was one of its early agents when he kicked the money-lenders out of the temple. There was Gandhi in India, & Martin Luther King & Rosa Parks in the U.S.

Civil disobedience has a very proud history. Henry David Thoreau. Harriet Tubman. Nelson Mandela. Vaclav Havel. And so on & so on. People most of us now recognize as heroes for having put their necks on the line – for going to great lengths, and at considerable personal cost – to speak up very loudly & initiate change on critically important social issues.

Now Greenpeace is making itself heard loudly & clearly on the climate issue, with recent actions in the Alberta tar sands – home of the world’s dirtiest oil.

You can love Greenpeace or not love them, but one thing you have to admit: their stunts get our attention – and they force us to think & become better informed.

If you want to learn more about Greenpeace &/or the Alberta tar sands project, go here Scroll down on the left under ‘What we do’ for tar sands information. GP has also recently commissioned a film about the tar sands. Watch for it! (I believe it’s now making the rounds of film festivals & will be released to the public soon.)

Meanwhile, why not muse on this being too polite business?

Is it really necessary – or wise – or even excusable – that we remain silent – and “polite” – in the face of crimes against the planet – and humanity?

We all have to decide this for ourselves, of course – but surely it’s worth a little thought.

Janet

P.P.S. A while after this (end of November 2009, to be precise), I took part in some "civil disobedience" myself. There are several blog posts about this - good one to start with is 'Busted for Climate Justice.'

P.S. There are other films/YouTubes on the tar sands. I’ve heard of these so far (they are all also listed in the posting 'Tar Sands: Canada's Oil Shame.')

1. “The Dark Side of the Boom: Canada’s Mordor” - here

2. From National Geographic: here

3. “Dirty Oil: Alberta’s Tar Sands Explained

4. Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands. 2 hour documentary.


(1) The blog essays ‘Looking Good’ and ‘Looking Stupid’ speak to this societal dynamic we’re all caught up in from Day 1. So does 'Good Girls & Boys.'