nuclear industry


Couple days ago I listened to the most recent Fairewinds Energy Education podcasts (all the podcasts are listed here). I learned about a nuke plant called Oyster Creek (in New Jersey) that has a damaged pipe (post-Hurricane Sandy) that could lead to serious problems if it breaks altogether. A special investigation team from the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) has been dispatched to Oyster Creek in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The plant is the only one in the U.S. without “a modern High Pressure Safety Injection System.” As also explained by Arnie Gundersen, the plant is the oldest operating nuke plant in the U.S. (lots more on the podcast!!) (A 2nd NRC team has gone to Turkey Point in Florida due to a similar problem which was not, I understand, due to Hurricane Sandy.)

This is all very disconcerting.

Then too, there are 3 plants on long-term shutdown in the U.S. – Fort Calhoun (Nebraska), San Onofre (California) & Crystal River (Florida) – that are still paying employees to keep them … hmmm. Keep them safe, I suppose.

But the thing is, ratepayers (in Canada we usually call them taxpayers) are paying hundreds of millions of dollars per year to keep these plants going while they are … not going.

Did I already say that taxpayers are paying for this??

Did I also mention that the nuclear industry makes GOBS of money every year (wish I knew how much; it would stagger us all, no doubt; we’d probably faint dead away in droves) & they do this by making energy in a preposterously dirty & dangerous way & not only do we all wind up being exposed to the toxic by-products of the entire nuclear fuel chain in a variety of ways, we get stiffed with the costs for the long-term waste that will still be dangerous to all living creatures long after there are any living creatures left, even (maybe at least partly because of all the nuke waste mess on the planet).

If that doesn’t make you annoyed or disgusted, consider that “ratepayers” are paying out $750 million per year to keep the staff at the Crystal River plant in Florida paid while the plant is on shutdown & “containment problems” are being sorted out.

San Onofre in California is also paying out close to $200 million per year in its “highly paid employment program to pay engineers to not produce power” … or words to that effect.

If this was my tax dollars at work so engineers can not work, I’d be pissed. (Of course I am pissed about the nuke scene in Canada … but that’s another story…)

What do I recommend?

  1. Listen to Arnie’s podcast. This one & others. (They are less than half an hour long, btw.) Become informed. Get a little mad. Take action. Raise your voice! You’ll be in fine company if you do!! (This blog posting provides a list of active groups you can check into.)
  2. Donate some money to Fairewinds so Arnie et. al can continue to provide us with the essential information he is so generously providing us with. Every donation counts!
  3. Donate some money to the Red Cross!! Hurricane Sandy did an awful lot of damage. Those of us who were not directly affected (or even those less so) need to pitch in. Donating will make you feel good, I absolutely promise you  .


As a well-known saying goes, Action is the best possible antidote to despair. I say it again & again, because it happens to be true!!


p.s. a day or so later: this posting is a bit lame, for which I apologize. I had only sporadic Internet access when I posted it & my life is kinda crazy lately (slight understatement). I really want you all to listen to the podcast, OK?? Arnie says important stuff. One seriously important thing he says is this: the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (called the Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission by many, kind of like the way I call the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission first of all an oxymoron - there is no such thing as "nuclear safety," folks!! - so I call it the Canadian Nuclear DANGER Commission. Anyway, what Arnie sez is this: the NRC has no intention of increasing safety post-Fukushima. It would cost the nuclear industry too much $$$. The NRC (& the CNSC in Canada) are far too concerned with making $$$ for the nuke industry to tighten up safety standards. What they really care about is profit for the nuke boyz. They don't really care about you & me. Arnie is an ex-nuke industry boy (as it were) himself. So he really knows what he's talking about....... We all need to get fussed up about this......OK???

p.p.s. also of some relevance to us here in Canada as our own so-called "nuclear regulator" prepares to license Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to build 4 new reactors & refurbish the existing ones is the lack of sufficient emergency planning down at Oyster Creek in New Jersey. Ontarians, take note! (see CELA report on this.)

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “So, organize. Teach the young. Teach the not so young. Recognize that this is a political problem & that problem lies in the law of the United States. It’s time to end the nuclear age, not to continue and expand it. I’m counting on all of you. ” – Dr. Judith Johnsrud, radiation & nuclear power specialist & long-time American activist, from a speech [many, many other great nuke-related quotes here]

Honorary Doctorates

<June 3/11>

On today’s glorious bike ride alongside Lake Ontario, it came to me that I’d like to award a series of honorary doctorate degrees to a number of individuals & groups/organizations that are fine upstanding examples of some wonderful (sometimes awful) human qualities/tendencies/achievements.

To the podium, PULLESE!

  • All my women friends – for doctorate degrees in “We sure know how to have fun!!” We have challenging families/lives/partners/jobs/divorces/illnesses/you-name-it – but we sure still know how to laugh & have fun!

  • Failure to thrive awards to a # of people for whom I feel considerable compassion for their persistent failure/refusal to grow & to open themselves up to the great joy & potential that is available to all of us here on Planet Earth – provided we choose to yank our heads out of our own backsides, choose joy, & learn to live in the present moment!

  • Ph.D.’s in Deliberate Obfuscation/Deceit to the nuclear industry in general (Geez, probably MOST corporations, as far as that goes) & the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in particular for cloaking their operations in secrecy & deceit & junk science & high-falutin’ pseudo-scientific jargon so “average” citizens will stay away in DROVES – & allow them to keep right on with their planet-destroying, nuclear waste-creating, inevitable nuclear accident-making (& clearly very-very-very profitable) efforts to ruin our beautiful planet forever. Creeps.

  • Ph.D.’s in human excellence to the 10’s & 100’s & 10’s of 1000’s of stubborn, brave, determined souls who do NOT ignore the evidence of our eyes & ears that our wonderful, incomparable, abundant, beautiful planet is being hacked & polluted to bits. We may lose “the war” but we will sure go down trying!!! & caring, & being inspired by one another to keep right on keeping on.

  • Ph.D.’s in Pooh-Poohing to all those people/institutions feeling the need to persistently pooh-pooh (& otherwise block) any signs of growth or inspiration or change among the people/institutions in their lives – & who hang on to their power, such as it is – in their too-often successful attempts to impose their own failure to grow/change/evolve on people & a world they only claim to love & care about. Bums.


‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “Don’t fight forces – use them.” – Buckminster Fuller

Runners-up:“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Albert Einstein, 1879 – 1955) &

“Life is change...Growth is optional...Choose wisely...” (Karen Kaiser Clark) &

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the one most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” (Charles Darwin)

Uranium Mining: Nukes' Little Secret

The nuclear industry has all sorts of secrets (& lies). One of the big ones is the nastiness of uranium mining: the environmental damage it causes, the human health impacts, & the messes it leaves behind.

I'm not particularly knowledgeable about it, so I'm not going to say much. Just going to point readers to a few sites where they can learn more.

The U.S.-based Earthworks group has a 2-pager called "Uranium Mining 101." You can find it here.

Earthworks also has a longer report on uranium mining, called "Nuclear Power's Other Tragedy - Communities Living with Uranium Mining."

There is a very powerful & disturbing 12-minute YouTube about uranium mining in Australia here. I want to praise this tiny film for its hard-hitting lessons & world-renowned experts (Dr. Rosalie Bertell & Dr. Helen Caldicott). I also want to warn potential viewers about its very disturbing images of babies born with severe birth defects caused by in-utero exposure to depleted uranium (a man-made substance that personifies evil, in my view). Well worth seeing & sharing around.

The book "This is My Homeland" (edited by Lorraine Rekmans) is about the impacts of uranium mining on the Anishinabe people of the Serpent River watershed, near Elliot Lake, Ontario (Canada). It's a moving story, well told, in a diversity of voices.

You can also find plenty of information about uranium (& lots of other nuke-related topics) at the Web site of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.


p.s. the 47-minute NFB (National Film Board) documentary "Uranium" is a fabulous resource & introduction to this topic!!! Watch it on-line here

'Quote of the day' w. this post: “You can guarantee that mining uranium will lead to nuclear waste. You can’t guarantee that mining uranium will not lead to nuclear weapons.” Anthony Albanese, Australian Labour Party, quoted in New York Times, Aug. 2, 2006

Weeding, Walking & Overthinking

Been doing a little garden weeding lately. One of the thoughts I’ve had while doing so was that I bet the ‘creeping charley’ “weed” in many relationships is probably simple lack of appreciation of one’s partner (or call it “taking one another for granted”; take your pick!). Another thing: sometimes you pull a weed & are taken aback by all the root it brings along with it. So much going on underground, not obvious or even visible to the naked eye. We humans have a lot going on down underground too, don’t we? We are kind of like icebergs. So much going on underneath, at the subterranean level...


Well, on my walk this morning (too hot, too hot!!), my thoughts were all over the map – although admittedly, this is not terribly unusual. What’s unusual is my doing a blog post that is basically a jumble. So shoot me!


One thought was that I feel kind of pulled in two lately. There are things I sort of feel I “should” be doing, given the state of the world (which is, in short, pretty scary! Economic disasters, nuclear disasters, climate change…need I go on??). But my heart seems to be pulling in the opposite direction. What is a person to do??

Well – I usually allow my heart to lead, so I guess I’ll keep right on doing that. One step at a time, one day at a time. As fully “in the moment” as I can be.

Which reminds me of something else that keeps coming into my mind lately.


I suspect most of us overthink. We think we can “control” things – ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, etc. – so we make intricate plans, many of which fall apart spectacularly on a moment’s notice when circumstances (i.e., real life) comes along & says “Oops – sorry! Best change those plans!!”

I’ve learned (the hard way of course, the way I seem to learn all my lessons) that while one does of course have to make plans in this life, there is sure not much point in being overly invested in them!

I sometimes see people building up an elaborate set of interconnected arrangements, all based on one particular assumption that very early in the game proves to be utterly mistaken. Oops! Back to Square 1.

Too many plans/assumptions/expectations/judgments… all keeping us from living “in the moment” (see ‘Zen story,’ below, to get a real pointer to in-the-moment living).


A thought about breaking all the rules also came to mind. I seem to be constitutionally incapable of playing life “by the rules.” It isn’t willfull – it’s just apparently wired very deeply in me, this inability to stay “inside the lines.” I’m very, very poor at conformity. I’ve tried, honest!

I used to feel a little apologetic about this. Not anymore. Turns out quite a few people envy me my life for its freedom. So now, instead of apologizing for my unusual life, I’m doing my best to celebrate it.

It also occurred to me that there are some folks who fault me for not playing “by the rules.” If playing by the rules is what our corrupt governments & corporations are doing routinely (seems to be, eh?), well what can I say?? Doesn’t look so much like it’s working, exactly, from where I sit.


And, since being an anti-nuclear activist is part of my “job description,” as it were, I can’t help but make a segue to the nuclear industry. Now there’s an industry where a little (or a lot) of overthinking might have been a good thing, eh??

Instead of thinking far down the road to the consequences their shenanigans & thoughtlessness/arrogance would lead to, these characters have relied (continue to rely) on what my friend Steve calls “technological optimism.” They are filled with “engineering euphoria” (thanks, Gordon, for that gem). This industry has poisoned our Earth so thoroughly that I am no longer able to even imagine much of a future for the human race (of course, between climate change, nuclear pollution & a devastated ocean/water bodies of all kinds, hope just seems to keep receding & receding, doesn’t it?)

What is a person to do??

I know I did a blog post with that title once upon a time. Maybe I’ll re-read it now, & hope I said something in there insightful enough that it will help me now.

On that note, here ends this jumble of a blog post!


‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “We are not meant to fit in, we’re meant to stand out.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

P.S. Two great authors very worth reading on the subject of living in the moment, with links to posts I’ve written about them:

P.P.S. The ‘Zen story’ I promised: “A man travelling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man then saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other…………… How sweet it tasted.”

Turning off the Lie Machine

<try # 2>

“Turn off the lie machine” is a brilliant slogan I came across in the wonderful Anne Lamott book Grace (Eventually) – Thoughts on Faith, in the essay “Bastille Day.” She explains that her Dad had published a book in 1967 called The Bastille Day Parade, in which he’d had “protesters carry signs that say ‘Turn Off the Lie Machine.’” (This essay is awesome! I just re-read it, & it made my day!! It’s brilliant, compassionate, wise & so funny. It makes me want to grab Anne Lamott & give her a great big hug. Thank goodness there are people like this woman on the planet!!! Perhaps there is hope for us????)

“Turn off the lie machine.” Isn’t it brilliant???

I can think of lots & lots of corporate & political & government types I’d love to see “turn off the lie machine.” Of course, I’d most especially like to see the nuclear industry turn off the lie machine (especially right now, in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan…).

But it sure isn’t just “bigshots” who need to stop telling whoppers.

We all do.

At least, that’s what I think.

I know I personally have led a very privileged life. (I was born & raised & have always lived in Canada, btw.)

Unlike many millions of people around the world, there is so much I personally have always been able to “take for granted.”

Privilege, I’ve noticed, seems to lead to feelings of entitlement. We begin to feel entitled to the “goodies” & the privileges. As though we are owed these things.

And goodness me, on that note, could I ever go off on a very long tangent! But I won’t. I’m going to keep myself very reined in here…

I would dearly love for all of us – especially those of us who’ve led & lead lives of privilege – to muse deeply & honestly on “the lie machine.”

Because I think we are all (certainly pretty much everyone I can think of) implicated in it.

I am, for sure!

I own a car, & every time I turn it on, I’m taking part in a lie that says I am entitled to use a lot of the earth’s resources & contribute to climate change in this way (far as I can figure, dear Reader, there is no such thing as “ethical oil.”)

When I consume too much electricity, or fossil fuels in any of their myriad modern forms, I am helping keep the nuclear plants (that I hate) open.

You see what I’m saying?

That darn lie machine is all over the place… isn’t it??

I think it would be very very useful for all of us to stop bullshitting ourselves. & each other.

I heard someone say recently that he wants to move into a more sustainable kind of living arrangement, but doesn’t want to give up any of his customary “comforts.” As though he is entitled to those comforts – some of which no doubt contribute to the climate change that causes flooding & storms & destruction in other parts of the world (the blog post ‘What is a person to DO??’ references the film ‘Climate change: does anybody care if Bangladesh drowns?’). I know my own “comforts” do…

I think we do all face, in the days to come, the loss of material “comforts” we have taken for granted.

I suspect it may even be true that our species has a terminal cancer. And I sometimes ask myself, does it really matter when one has a terminal diagnosis, if one casts off the lies one has always believed in, & has some sort of spiritual epiphany – even at the very last minute?

& for me, the answer to that question is, “Yes. It does.” (I don’t know why I believe this. But for some reason, I do.)

So. I’ll go on trying to tell the truth. & encouraging corporate pillagers of ALL stripes to “turn off the lie machine.”

And also encouraging myself to turn off the one I’m hitched up to – as in, recognizing my own lies & hypocrisies.

And I think until we all work at turning off the lie machine, the lies will just keep on & on & on & on & on & on.


p.s. truth & freedom go together, btw. Very cool song about that...

Quote of the day with this post: “Lies are infinite in number, and the truth so small and singular.” – from The Lacuna, a fascinating novel by Barbara Kingsolver (pg. 247)


Darlington Hearing: Awards Announced!

(Awards for the nuclear industry, that is...)

Yesterday I attended the opening afternoon & evening sessions of the 3-week “Darlington New Nuclear Plant Project” being conducted by the “Joint Review Panel.” This is taking place in Courtice, Ontario, a few kilometres due north of the already-existing Darlington 4-reactor nuclear facility that’s been in operation for 12 or so years now.

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

(CELA - the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper & Northwatch had asked the panel - very eloquently, btw - to delay the hearing, due to recent/current events in Japan, in order to gather relevant information that could then be included in the panel deliberations. This request was refused, as I had rather assumed it would be...)

I wished I’d been wearing a kangaroo suit, to illustrate that these kinds of hearings are mere kangaroo courts. (For any not familiar w. this term, it just means the proceedings are a sham & the conclusion a foregone one. We’s all just wastin’ our time, ‘cos we know darn well what the end result will be…)

Being a “word person” myself, I particularly notice the way the nuclear industry (& its paid minions, Ontario Power Generation or OPG & the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or CNSC) employs language.

These folks could teach graduate level courses in obfuscation! How to use fancy language to spew nonsense &, dare I say, bullshit – to make it look like they are “experts” in nuclear matters & have got it all figured out.

Well. As I sat listening to OPG do its bafflegab routine, these are some of the possible award ideas I came up with:

Acronym Creation Award The nuclear so-called “experts” get a gold star for their continual ongoing creation of fancy acronyms! One of the latest is PPE. It stands for “Plant Perimeter Envelope.” The PPE is somehow related to the “bounding framework” that allows the planners to leave out things in their planning that just aren’t convenient for them to consider.

Bore ‘em to Death Award If you can’t convince ordinary intelligent people with actual facts & truth, & can’t even fool ‘em with all your fancy acronyms & technical language, BORE THEM TO DEATH with your monotone recital of boring & unbelievable bullshit. Bleah bleah bleah bleah bleah… (I swear, if there had been a boredom thermometer in the room, it would have burst its containment vessel when OPG presenters were doing their bit. I’m pretty sure I heard the snort of someone caught out snoring…)

Cognitive Dissonance Award for spewing verbal bafflegab that is way-way-way off the charts of anything resembling truth & accuracy – all the while maintaining a straight face as you do it.

Creative Language Creation Award for terms like PPE (see above) & phrases such as “credible accident scenario.” The nuclear industry gets away with what amounts to murder by doing their planning for possible disasters by only considering what they call “credible accident scenarios.” The problem, of course, is it’s always the incredible accidents that actually crop up…

Language Twister Award OPG (& their licensing body, the CNSC) are forever claiming to be “open & transparent” when they are anything but. Here’s a beauty they’re using about the Environmental Assessment process & plan for the proposed new reactors at Darlington: it’s a “technology-neutral” plan. You have to have a law degree & a doctorate in Nuclear Industry Bullshit to understand all this nonsense, btw, & I am very upfront about the fact that I have neither. I personally will never be able to “get” how you can call the planning process for nuclear reactors “technology-neutral.” Oughta be more like morality-neutral, if you ask me…

Robust Language Award for bullshitters who seem to think if you simply call something “robust,” that will necessarily not just make it so, but will also make it believable to the most major skeptic. I guess we are all supposed to fall all over these brilliant planners & “just trust them” & their preposterous claims. Gee. If you say it’s robust, then it must be…eh???

The super-duper VACUUM award goes to all the foot soldiers of the nuclear industry who operate in a complete moral & ethical vacuum. That noisy sucking sound you hear is the sound of all moral & ethical considerations of the real consequences of the creation & use of nuclear energy being sucked right out of the room. The world, actually. And, hmmm….also the sound of millions & billions of taxpayers’ dollars being sucked out of all us unwitting citizens.


p.s. Ah, dear Reader. Just think of what could be accomplished if only all the mental & intellectual & spiritual energy...not to mention all those financial resources...wasted in this deadly & immoral industry...were put to use on finding real solutions to the world’s problems….hmmmm??? Kinda breaks a person’s heart to think about it too much, doesn’t it??


The B Word

If I have to listen to one more major destroyer of the planet use what I’ve come to think of as “the B word,” I think I’ll scream!

The word I keep hearing these people use over & over again is … balance. They always say they have to … balance… their concerns for the environment with economic concerns. (Guess what invariably loses??)

If I were a cartoonist instead of a word person, I’d draw a clever picture showing what their cockeyed view of balance really looks like inside the mind of one of these bigshots from the nuclear industry. (Or the chemical industry. Or the forestry industry. Or the oil industry – those Alberta tar sands defenders give me the willies!).(1)

Because, let’s face it, it’s quite abundantly clear to even the average 10-year old, surely, that the health of this planet is the LAST thing any of these supposedly “concerned” corporate types care about. When they pay it lip service, even, it’s only because they’ve been browbeaten into it.

Balance, my foot.

More like bullshit, frankly.

(& they say it with such straight faces! Great actors, aren’t they?)

There’s a slogan that’s been inside my head for a very long time now. I think I once saw it on a placard, or the front of a Greenpeace magazine. Years & years & years ago now.

No jobs on a dead planet.”


Of course, the only thing all the corporate raider types really care about is the “p word.”


And the problem with all the rapacious greed we human beings have been so consumed by, for so long now, is that we all inhabit the same planet. Fouled air, poisoned water & toxic…well, everything else, pretty much; even the rich can’t get away from it anymore, can they??

Now that we’ve polluted seemingly every square inch of this wondrous planet of ours (our only home!) are we finally “getting” that what we really need to work on is something else that starts with the letter “b”?

A big tent.

It’s what we’ve needed all along, of course. An ethic (& behaviour to go along with it) that recognizes that everything really is all connected. Peace within…peace without. Care for every piece of this earth – and all of us who inhabit it.

Well. We’re liable to keep hearing that “b” word from the planet-wreckers. Maybe we all need to get a wee bit … braver…& be a little quicker to spot & confront “Bullshit” when it’s clear that’s what we’re really being subjected to.

And too, of course, always continuing to do our “big tent” work, one way & another. As Joanna Macy has said, “Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.” It’s true! She has also said “If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear. People who can open up to the web of life that called us into being.” And… “But now comes the daunting revelation, that we are all called to be saints – not good necessarily, or pious or devout – but saints in the sense of just caring for each other.”

Stirring words!


P.S. Henry David Thoreau said “If [oppression] is of such a nature that it requires you to be an agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.”

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “Each day we are born again to start our life anew. What we do today is what matters most.” ~ Buddha

(1) Of course there are lots of wildly dishonest people in other industries, too. Like the financial world (see “Inside Job”)… & no doubt many others…

Lives & Half-Lives

I’ve been divorced for 11 years now. My 20-year marriage broke up 15 years ago, at which time I’d spent 14 ½ as a full-time homemaker – wife, mother, active community volunteer, & doing occasional contract jobs. My children were then 14 & 12, & since I’d spent 14 years “at home” with them, with my energies focused primarily on family life, losing not just their father & the marriage but also their full-time presence in my life (due to the new week-on, week-off joint custody arrangement), I came to think of my life as a “half-life.” That’s the way it felt to me then. This wasn’t terribly funny, at the time (I was gobsmacked, as they say), but it was the slightly ironic way I came to view my life, & to describe it to myself, inside my head. I guess it somehow helped me cope with things, thinking of it that way & sort of chuckling about it. (“I know all about half-lives!” I’d say ironically to myself, inside my head…)

Long since “recovered” from those painful, gutwrenching months & years, into my goodness- knows-how manyth re-incarnation (as it were), & with a life now that can fairly be described as full to bursting, the term half-life has taken on an entirely different meaning for me.

I’ve been drawn into nuclear issues of late (quite without really intending to), & as numerous recent blog posts attest(1), I’ve been working recently to help ensure that the plan of Bruce Power (another BP(2),eh?) to ship 16 retired & highly radioactive steam generators from Ontario – across the Great Lakes (source of drinking water for 40 million people) through the St. Lawrence Seaway(source of drinking water for another several million in the Province of Quebec) – & the Atlantic Ocean (source of life & home to a zillion creatures, upon whose life & health we humans rely to a degree that the average person may very well not comprehend), to Sweden for so-called “recycling” is gobsmacked (the way all of our lives are, occasionally, hmmmm??).

Apply the brakes, pulleese!!

Nuclear issues are complex. I myself don’t understand even a small fraction of the guts & internal workings of nuclear technology the way many of my so-awesome fellow activists do.(3)

The nuclear industry, btw, totally counts on all this complexity & all of its obfuscation-inducing fancy terms & jargon to intimidate the “average person” into shutting up & shutting down & (metaphorically) crawling into a corner & saying “Okay, okay, okay – I’m too damn dumb to understand this stuff, so I’ll just let you “experts” be in charge & do what you will.”

I don’t want to get sidetracked here by going into the utter moral bankruptcy of the various agencies involved in the nuclear industry. That would require a whole essay of its own – & maybe it’s been done, & if so, & if I can lay my hands on it, I will return here & provide a link to it. It’s tempting, even, to “go there” – but…not right now, OK? [much later posting called 'How the Nuclear Industry F**ks Us' here]

We all know in our guts that nuclear waste that will remain toxic & dangerous & life-threatening (did I mention DNA-damaging?) for 1000s, 10’s of 1000s & even 100s of 1000s of years isn’t good for us. Right?

Well, duh.

Those retired, radioactive steam generators, for example, contain a very scary list of radioactive contaminants. These include cobalt & cesium & strontium – & also 5 plutonium isotopes & 4 uranium isotopes. (If you go here, you can see the whole list. On that same Web site you can find all kinds of other very interesting information about the steam generators, & about nuclear matters in general.)

The half-lives of these isotopes is a deeply, deeply sobering thing to contemplate.

As Wikipedia explains it, “Half-life is the period of time it takes for a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms (radioactive decay), but may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.The original term, dating to 1907, was “half-life period,” which was later shortened to “half-life” in the early 1950s.”

The half-life of Plutonium-239 is 24,000 years; of Plutonium-240, 6,500 years; of Plutonium-242, 380,000 years.

The half-lives of the uranium isotopes found in the steam generators are as follows: Uranium-234, 250,000 years; Uranium-235, 700,000,000 years; Uranium-236, 23,000,000 years; Uranium-238 (wait for it!), 4,500,000,000 (yes, 4.5 billion) years.


Or rather, YIKES!?!?!?!?!

So BP (Bruce Power) head honcho Duncan Hawthorne (who has stated he feels opponents of his grand plan should be “rebuked”) bandies about the image of a tennis ball. The weight of the nuclear isotopes contained in the steam generators, he says, is 64 grams.

He does not explain that these nuclear contaminants have scary half-lives. (Did I just say scary?? I mean terrifying…)

He does not explain that 32-40 grams of the material is Plutonium-239 (1/2 life: 24,000 years) – an amount that could overdose a million people.

Now do you – or anyone you know – including the average 6 or 8 or 10-year old – think we should be messing around with substances this dangerous??

Shipping them around, risking a sinking? (I hate to tell you this, but there have already been lots of dangerous nuclear cargoes sunk in our no-longer-pristine or even vaguely clean oceans. You can look this up – although you may not want to, & I can’t really say I blame you for not wanting to know. I don’t really want to know either…) But since Duncan Hawthorne’s cavalier attitude toward having a 16-radioactive-steam-generator-filled-ship sink on the journey he is proposing for them seems to be more or less “Let ‘em sink!” it seems to me those of more sober mind ought to put the brakes on his plan…

Should we be adding to the already-serious global problem of radioactively-contaminated metal entering consumer goods? (See ‘Radioactive Cutlery, Anyone?’ for more on this.) Does any one of us really want to discover the toaster we have just bought has nuclear waste in it? Does any of us really want to discover that the metal in our child’s braces has a lot more in it than we’d bargained for? Do we all want to have to start carrying a Geiger counter around with us every time we go out shopping???

Or do we think we ought to leave the steam generators where they are? (& where they have been for quite a few years already, btw.) Store them as safely as humanly possible; watch over them very, very, very carefully. Don’t mess with them any more than we absolutely have to, & for sure, Don’t risk the drinking water of 10s of millions of people with some cockamamie plan to ship them all over the darn place.


p.s. Why are we even talking about this?????

p.p.s. 'Quote of the day' with this post:  ”Once you know the difference between right and wrong, you have lots fewer decisions to make.” - Joseph Campbell, quoted in the biography “A Fire in the Mind - The Life of Joseph Campbell” by Stephen & Robin Larsen

p.p.p.s. For a thorough understanding of the growing problem of radioactively-contaminated consumer products, please check out the report ‘Out of Control’ on the NIRS Web site.

p.s. # 4. The half-life of Uranium-238 (4.5 billion years) kinda puts my little whine about my “half-life” into perspective, doesn’t it? Gheesh…

(2) The other BP assured the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2009 that an oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon site was “unlikely.” An environmental impact study was therefore waived. Oops. As in, OOPS! As in, more like massive criminal negligence, since "oops" is a word that totally fails to convey the appropriate seriousness of what we are talking about...

(3) I do however understand that the half-life of depleted uranium (4.5 billion years) means that, given its, shall we say, extreme toxicity to all forms of life, we ought not to be playing around with it so cavalierly, the way militaries now so routinely do. We ought not be playing around with it AT ALL. I do also understand that nuclear waste is also not something we should be treating lightly. Duh…


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….