nuclear waste

Arnie for Man of the Year!

** check out the Fairewinds site & sign up for weekly podcasts; highly recommended!! ** also, check out this podcast to learn about how whistleblowers are dealt with in the U.S. Includes Arnie's own story. I think of him as just Arnie – to those who may not be as familiar with him & his work, I refer to him as Arnie G. (recent postings on this blog about him/his work here & here )

He’s Arnie Gundersen – former nuclear industry insider, then whistleblower, now global guru on nuclear dangers & what needs to be done to avert nuclear disasters here, there & everywhere.

I’d never heard of Arnie Gundersen before the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened. I’m relatively new to anti-nuclear activism, &, being Canadian, am more up on the nuclear scene here at home than on the U.S. or international picture.

But Fukushima kind of blew the lid off everything…didn’t it? (Well, maybe it didn’t for you, but it sure did for me.)

Arnie & Fairewinds have done a ton of Fukushima coverage – if you go the ‘Video’ tab on the Fairewinds Web site, you’ll find them all neatly laid out.

What I like so much about Arnie is the way he demystifies nuclear complexities, using language anyone can understand. He’s down-to-earth & real – no airs about him, & his videos & podcasts pack a real wallop of useful information.

Last night I listened to the (33-minute) podcast of a recent (Burlington, Vermont) CCTV interview Arnie did recently. Title: ‘Can The Humans Find a Way to Store Nuclear Waste?’ (Although at the beginning of the podcast his interviewer Margaret Harrington refers to the title as ‘The gift that keeps on giving: nuclear waste.’)

As always, I was blown away by Gundersen’s knowledge, his calm, generous manner & his deep concern about nuclear risks.

I don’t feel very wordy today. I’m going to leave it at this.

I just want to say that Arnie has my vote for Man of the Year.

Here’s to Arnie Gundersen for being a super-dedicated, energetic, hard-working truth-teller!!  

(We need lots more Arnies…if only he could be cloned!!)


p.s. which is not at all to take away from the many, many other people doing heroic work in the trenches of this nasty, stubborn, horrible issue. I’m not even going to get started on a list, ‘cos I wouldn’t be able to get stopped again! Thanks to all of you!!      You know who you are…

p.p.s. to get a sense of the depth of the nuclear waste crisis, take a look at this brochure from the U.S. Beyond Nuclear group. They have a boatload of other great Fact Sheets & brochures too.

p.p.p.s. the problem with nuclear energy has always always always been the waste. The problem is now 70 years old, with no solution in sight. Not pretty! Also, not even remotely solvable by averting our eyes from it…

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “Nobody really knows how to clean up radiation.”  day labourer in Japan who is working on clean-up in village 20 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors.

Runner-up Quote:  “There still are people in Nevada who are saying we’ll take the waste because we want the jobs. Boy that’s a Faustian bargain. You get jobs for more than a hundred years & you wind up with waste for a quarter of a million years. To me it doesn’t seem to be a very good trade-off.” – Arnie Gundersen in late Dec. 2012 TV interview with Margaret Harrington 

More runner-up quotes by the bucketload can be found here 

Darlington Refurbishment: why not?

** Note: be sure to check out the Darlington Daze link for a short series of postings about the Darlington refurbishment hearing that took place in early December 2012. Refurbishment: such a nice, innocuous-sounding word, isn’t it? At the Free Dictionary site it’s defined as ‘To make clean, bright, or fresh again; renovate.’

In the context of nuclear reactors, the dictionary definition is not really so very-very helpful, as it turns out. What the folks in the nuclear industry mean when they talk about reactor refurbishment is not so much renovate as re-build. It’s pretty much like starting from scratch – & there is quite a bit about the process that is deliberately kept murky for the unsuspecting public.

(Well now, hmmmm. I am not so sure we should be using the word “unsuspecting” about “the public” – I actually think the public is very very very suspicious of all things nuclear. And rightfully so. But the nuclear industry (& the governments that stand behind it, because make no mistake, our governments do stand behind it!) has a vested interest in keeping us from digging too deeply into the details of nuclear projects.)

So, right now the government of Ontario (with tacit, quiet approval from our very nuke-friendly federal government) plans to subsidize (that is, use our tax dollars to pay for) a massive long-term project to “refurbish” the reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. They are prepared, it would appear, to spend $8 - 14 billion (of our money) on this venture, in order to extend the life of the DNGS out to 2055.

Yikes, eh? Yikes & sheesh. Never enough money anymore for schools or libraries or health care or … fill in the blanks, here, Reader – but that much $$$$ to re-build nuclear reactors? What is wrong with this picture?? Well, quite a lot, as it turns out.

Refurbishments cost a boatload of money taxpayers’ money that in my view & the view of many would be much better spent investing in renewable energy & also the common sense (but perhaps not very “sexy”) conservation & energy efficiency measures some of my colleagues were pushing for 30 (or more) years ago now. Please don’t give me the nonsensical line that nuclear energy is clean & green; that is so patently absurd that I doubt even those who claim it actually believe it as they are mouthing the words (nuclear wastes that will be strewn about the planet & dangerous to humans & all other forms of life for up to a million years… clean & green??? Give me strength!?) Good item on another planned (& now aborted) refurbishment here.

Extending the life of this nuclear plant means years & years more routine emissions (yes, nuclear plants emit nasty stuff routinely), affecting the air & water & people & environment in the area around the plant. The DNGS happens to sit on Lake Ontario, source of drinking water for several million people, quite a situation when you think about it, hmmm? (The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper site has plenty to say about impacts to the lake. Check out just one example here.)

The risk of radiation exposure to workers increases during refurbishment activities. “Because of the nature of the work being performed, collective dose to workers during refurbishment activities will be higher than during normal operations.” This is a quote from Ontario Power Generation (OPG)’s so-called CMD 12 H13.1. If you want to pursue this thread, I’d suggest you consider Googling “workers exposed to radiation at bruce power” & check out what comes up (you can also go here & do a search on this topic).The nuclear industry does some pretty fancy dancing to conceal radiation exposures to its workers, I am sorry to report.

The Fukushima accident taught us that nuclear accidents happen because of human error – what you can call “institutional failure,” & also because of the collusion between so-called “regulators” & the nuclear industry that makes so very very much money making this extraordinarily dirty form of energy (the blog posting here gives some great links you can check out to find out what has been learned from Fukushima). There would unfortunately be plenty of opportunity for plenty of human error during the extended lifetime this so-called “refurbishment” (if it were to go forward) would grant the Darlington nuclear plant.

Ontario Power Generation & its so-called regulator have done utterly insufficient planning for the possibility of nuclear emergencies. A report here from the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) will convince you of this, & you might also want to consider reading the Feb. 2012 Greenpeace International report ‘Lessons From Fukushima.’  Given that nuclear accidents are now taking place on the average of one every 10 years, it is hardly reasonable or sensible to not plan properly for what to do should one take place in this very heavily populated area just to the east of Canada’s largest city (& situated on Lake Ontario, source of drinking water to several million people).

Waste-waste-waste: It’s all about the waste, Silly!! (It always has been!?) Refurbishments do this one major thing that you never hear anyone talking about publicly: They make a boatload of very dangerous, very long-lived nuclear waste, which, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, there is no solution for!! 60 years of nuclear power, I’m not sure how many failed processes & studies & initiatives (or how many billions of $$$ spent on same) – & still, no solution! A person might get impatient & want to remind “the powers that be” of that very old, very simple common sense saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Translate that into a remarkably simple solution for this vastly nasty stubborn, dangerous legacy of nuclear waste on Planet Earth: for the love of God, stop making it!!

Guess what happens to the waste? Well, there is no solution for the backed-up collection of used fuel rods (i.e., high-level waste) hanging around at our nuke plants, for one very BIG & quite dangerous situation. And, since it is the nuke industry that decides how nuclear waste is categorized (as in, low level, intermediate & high-level), they are getting pretty creative with their definitions & their rules. They use words like “blending,” & they ensure that regulations get passed that allow increasingly toxic radioactive wastes to land in regular landfill sites. Then too, there’s the incineration of some nuclear wastes (one wonders, for example, how keen the people of Tennessee are to be on the receiving end of nuke wastes from New Brunswick being sent down to them for burning? Yup. & btw it happens closer to home here in Ontario, also). And then too, with the industry scheme to bury high-level (& also lower level) wastes in so-called “deep geological repositories” (on the shores of the Great Lakes) what this will translate into is increased transportation of nuclear waste all over hell’s half-acre. Via who knows what methods – road…rail…barge…? Yech! Doesn’t sound like too pretty a plan to me…how about you? How keen are you to have really dangerous nuclear wastes trekking their way through your community??

Forgive me if it always seems like simple common sense to me that, when something is a really serious problem, you stop doing it. For example, my ex-husband & I used to spray poisons on our lawn back when our children were small & we didn’t know any better. Once we got wise to how foolish & dangerous this was, we stopped lickety-split…pretty simple, right??

Nuclear energy is a huge problem, because it makes a great big expensive & horrifically toxic mess all along its entire lifecycle (useful graphic of the nuclear fuel chain here; very neat initiative called 'Breaking the Nuclear Chain' here!)

We simply have to get this monster stopped – the sooner the better.

So I say an emphatic No thanks!! to the proposed reactor refurbishment plans at Darlington (& to the proposed “new build” there also, of course). Please, please, please quit throwing our money into the ground for these dangerous, preposterous & frankly immoral projects!!

The more of us who stand up to be counted on this issue, the better that will be, fellow citizens.

You got that?


p.s. I’m an obsessive collector of quotations (take a look here to see what I mean). There are oodles of awesome nuke-related quotations here. One of my very favourites is this: “Electricity is but the fleeting byproduct of nuclear power. The actual product is forever deadly nuclear waste.” – Michael Keegan, long-time Michigan, U.S.-based anti-nuclear activist

p.p.s. in addition to the nuke quotes, there are many nuke-related postings (one on nukes & climate change here) & resources on this blog. To find a list of groups active on nukes, go here (I add to all these postings when I receive new info; if you have some, send it along!!) One group with tons of info is the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. Go to that site & put in the word ‘refurbishment’ & see what comes up…

p.p.p.s. You may also want to check out the Greenpeace page here about what’s wrong with Darlington. Lots of good info, for sure!!

p.s. # 4:  You can also take a look at my own recent posting ‘Darlington Refurbishment Resources’ here for a small summary of helpful information resources.

p.s. # 5: If you like, take a look at this document that lays out the salaries of the over-$100,000 crowd at Hydro 1 & Ontario Power Generation (OPG) for 2011 (2012 figures due out soon, I guess). You can see why nuclear bigshots work really hard to perpetuate their jobs & the industry. These folks take home really serious bucketloads of cash… (Head honcho Tom Mitchell: $1.8 million/year).

p.s. # 6: Oops…big thing I forgot to mention!! Refurbishments don’t just cost a bundle & create tons of nuclear waste, they are also always over-budget & late. Fresh article on that here 

‘Quote of the day: “Fukushima happened in a country which is probably the most rigorous, in terms of technology, in terms of scientific care, in terms of an accountability system. And if it can happen in Japan, Fukushimas can happen anywhere. The point about nuclear is that accidents don’t happen in any nuclear power plant because of the calculation about your fission material. They happen because a generator stops. They happen because a cooling tower stops. They happen because of small mechanical failures which you can’t predict. But in the case of nuclear, which is a stupid technology because all you’re doing is creating fissionable material, creating radioactive material, using radioactive material, to boil water. The power doesn’t come from nuclear, the power comes from the water. Now, there are safer ways to boil water.” – Vandana Shiva, Ph. D., philosopher, world-renowned environmental thinker, activist, physicist, feminist, philosopher of science, writer & science policy advocate. Source of quote (plenty more humdingers here )

Fallacy Alert!

Dear Friends: I am so grateful there are so many of you. I am very, very blessed in this life to have so many wonderful friends. (Plato said, “Your wealth is where your friends are,” & I know I am very wealthy indeed!!  )

& I’m grateful to all of you for being my friends! We all know I am “not like everyone else.” I colour only outside the lines, really – thoroughly non-conformist, & am always "blowing the whistle" about all (or, well, at least some of) the elephants in the room – which doesn’t always make me popular, does it?? 

Well. There’s another elephant I gotta call.

As you all know, I’ve been doing environmental work for the past 20+ years – on issues like waste, pesticides, cancer prevention, climate change & nuclear energy. I know you appreciate my work, & my efforts, & it’s lovely to be so well appreciated, for sure. As I’ve said a few times lately, my work is not fuelled by money, it’s fuelled by appreciation (as well as passion, of course!). I am much appreciated, & this makes all the difference in the world to me.

But. But but but but but.

One of you said something to me the other day that really kind of upset me. That the issue of incineration had come up when you were talking to another friend, who was apparently quite shocked to hear that an incinerator is being planned for Durham Region (of course, this has been in the news for years!). And you said to this friend, “Janet’s on it.”

As though I am Wonder Woman or something, & can tackle all these horrid schemes & projects & situations, while others just watch & cheer me on from the sidelines.

Boy, I sure wish life were that simple. I really, really do.

But it isn’t. It isn’t anywhere near that simple.  

We need an army of people to join us – on all the issues of environmental & social justice.

Haven’t you all noticed how insane things are?????




I no longer believe in “long-term prospects” for the human race. I’m not even so sure about the short-term ones. I do believe things are far, far more grave than most of us realize. (I have long said humans are the cancer on this Earth – & also the cure. But most of us are not putting the necessary efforts into the cure…so it simply isn’t happening. Healing & cures take work. Plenty of it. You don’t just sit on your butt waiting for them. You know??)

So, I have finally, sadly, come to accept that we are f*cked.[1]


& yet. & yet. & yet.

I’m still working my butt off, out here, dudes.

My energy lately is focused on trying to help keep Durham Region (& surrounding areas, e.g., the city of Toronto just to the west of us) safer, by working to oppose the proposed Darlington “new build” of 2 – 4 new reactors, & also oppose the plans to “refurbish” the existing reactors (& keep that damn nuke facility going until 2055).  Yech to all of the above!!  (Lots of postings about the March/April 2011 Darlington new build hearings here.) “Refurbishments” create a ton of new nuclear waste   – so we simply have to stop this!! 

These efforts need you. A whole bunch of you. We can & do make a difference, even with really small numbers – but not enough of a difference.

Albert Einstein said “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

Do you want to help prevent a nuclear accident like Fukushima from happening here? Or having household garbage burned in an incinerator that will further pollute our air, Lake Ontario, our own bodies & those of our children & grandchildren? (these are just for a start: there are other pressing issues!!)

I’ve given up thinking we can “pull it out of the fire.” I used to believe that, & sadly that faith has left me. I believe too much apathy & over-consumption for too long, along with the sheer momentum of our voracious use of the Earth’s resources, have simply pushed things beyond the brink.

Even so, it isn’t too late to make a difference. I know the efforts of our small group (Durham Nuclear Awareness) are making a difference.

But we need lots of help.

Please help us!


p.s. pretty please!!

p.p.s. many nuke-related Resources, Quotes & postings on this blog. & a section called 'Nuclear Madness.' & a handout on Darlington resources here 

p.p.p.s. U might want to check out the Greenpeace report 'Lessons from Fukushima' here.

p.s. # 4: & a list of Darlington Refurbishment-related postings here

‘Quote of the day with this post: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Dr. Martin Luther King, 1929-1968

Runners-up for Q. of the day:

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.” – Helen Keller

“Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech in Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966.

Evil thrives on apathy and cannot exist without it.” – Hannah Arendt 

“The most revolutionary thing one can do is always to proclaim loudly what is happening.” – Rosa Luxemburg 

“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 change the world.” – Howard Zinn 

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” – Edmund Burke

[1] Woody Allen put a funny spin on this that always makes me chuckle. He once said “More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

Nuclear Humour

So, although I am not managing to get much written about nuke stuff lately (hmmmm. I’m not getting much written about anything; it is apparently not a prolific writing time just now), it is still very present in my mind. That damn nuclear industry, eh?? They just don’t know when to quit. When to fold ‘em. You might think Three Mile Island, Chernobyl & Fukushima (not to mention a ton of other accidents & incidents, here, there & everywhere, all over the globe) would give these … people (I wanted to say morons, but I said people instead, okay?) pause. (I actually believe this industry is evil, but never mind, so what, eh? What difference does it make what I think about it?? Not a single solitary bit of difference, quite clearly.)

Okay. Lots to do. Let’s cut to the chase.

Nuclear humour.

I saw a statement recently from Don Howard, a nuclear something-or-other specialist with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (don’t even get me started on that oxymoronic term).

He was speaking about the current search for places in Canada to store what is called “high level” nuclear waste.

“As we produce fuel, we produce waste. We keep storing it and storing it. At some point in time, you have to find a disposal mechanism,” he said. “We have to go out and find (a long-term solution) so we don’t leave the legacy to future generations to deal with.” (from a Sudbury Star article here)

 “…so we don't leave the legacy to future generations to deal with.”

Now that’s pretty rich, wouldn’t you say???

Nuclear waste – expected to remain dangerous for, oh, only a million years or so – stored in places (in some cases) near major bodies of water, & calling this NOT leaving a “legacy to future generations to deal with.”

Pretty funny, in a gallows humour-ish sort of way…hmmm?

Well, what can I say. An industry as mixed up as this one, I guess we can expect their brand of humour to be a little, um, off the wall…eh?


p.s. speaking of Fukushima, this recent item may be of interest: ‘Commission Calls Fukushima Nuclear Crisis a Man-Made Disaster’ 

p.p.s. & speaking of nuclear humour, this is absolutely a must-see!!! One minute YouTube called 'Tritium Give-Away Days.' Laugh-out-loud funny (I guarantee it!!) item from the ever-hilarious (Canadian TV personality) Rick Mercer.

'Quote of the day' with this post: “Electricity is but the fleeting byproduct of nuclear power. The actual product is forever deadly nuclear waste.” – Michael Keegan, long-time Michigan, U.S.-based anti-nuclear activist (plenty more nuke quotes where that one came from!!)

Into Eternity -- Onkolo: Remembering to Forget

<Feb. 2/12.>

I watched the film ‘Into Eternity’ recently. It’s about the high-level waste repository being built in northern Finland.

The director of the film (good conversation with him here & a great long interview with him here) views ‘Into Eternity’ as science fiction.

The premise is that the tale of the nuclear waste (which will remain dangerous for 100,000 years, according to the film, although I believe that the figure regarding the dangerosity of nuclear waste has been upped to 1 million years) is being directed at people of the future who might (wittingly or unwittingly) discover & disturb the site & need to be warned of its supreme dangerousness.

There are questions & answers back & forth with members of the nuclear industry who are in charge of creating Onkolo, to discuss how best to ensure the site is safely sequestered “into eternity.”

The film raises disturbing questions…issues…dilemmas, as the use of nuclear energy, with its inevitable attendant creation of shockingly long-lived & shockingly dangerous wastes, must inevitably do.

The people of “the future” (assuming human life does persist long-term or very long at all on our at-this-point-still-quite-wonderful planet) need to “stay away.”

As the filmmaker articulates, they will need to “remember to forget” that the place exists.


Well, we HBs (human beans) are pretty darn good at remembering to forget already, wouldn’t you say??

Most of us get up every morning, ready for the daily 9-5 grind, utterly forgetting to remember that all of our energy use (from the ancient fossil fuels created in the impossibly-distant past) has changed/continues to change the planet’s very climate – that the cars we drive (& the planes we fly in) are actually choking us. That our oceans are acidic & polluted & toxic.

We forget to remember because how else could we continue to eat the food that comes from toxic seas & radioactively (& chemically & every other way)-contaminated earth??

So don’t you worry, you who are building Onkolo (& whatever other repositories will inevitably be “needed”(1) to store the current preposterous global quantity of nuclear wastes awaiting storage & the wastes we are, as we speak, continuing to create, again with the energy usage we also daily remember to forget with our chronic, necessary, determined-not-to-notice-consequences mindset).

We not-really-so-very-very-grownup humans are EXPERTS at remembering to forget. Forgetting to remember. Whatever

Of course too, our DNA is literally being changed by exposure to all the radioactive materials we are constantly being exposed to in this unfortunately-quite-radioactively-contaminated world (& will increasingly be exposed to, what with ongoing “routine emissions” & Fukushima fallout, & as the nuclear industry moves ahead with its determined agenda to export – incinerate – “free-release” & bury the wastes created by its uniquely dangerous industry).

So who knows what we’ll look like – what kind of creatures we’ll be – all those years down the road…………hmmm?


p.s. Sites where you can learn plenty about nuclear matters, nuclear waste & nuclear activism:


p.p.s. This blog has a Nuke Resources page here, as well as many postings about nuclear matters – check the Index at the top & scroll through to find them. In particular you may be interested in the postings about a nuclear waste conference some colleagues & I attended last fall. These start here. A series of articles about Canada’s nuclear waste in one of Canada’s major newspapers – published 3 months after the conference – can be found here

p.p.p.s. While locating the links for this post, I came across a posting that is relevant to both nuclear matters & every single other thing that takes place on this planet! It’s sobering, it’s bracing; it’s here

Quote of the day with this post: “Nobody really knows how to clean up radiation.” Day labourer in Japan who is working on clean-upin village 20 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. (Lots of other nuke-related resources/quotes here)

(1) Deep underground burial (or deep underground dump, acronym DUD) is not necessarily the only way to deal with nuclear waste. Some folks I know favour above-ground monitored storage at the sites where it is created. Why? Stashing it away & forgetting about it is NOT what we need to be doing if we are in fact attempting to handle dangerous wastes in responsible fashion.

Bumper stickers: Sunday

I didn't get time to post this yesterday. Now it's Monday. Ah well.

  • What a great day! 
  • Why am I so darn grumpy then?? 
  • Just say Yes!! 
  • Nuclear Despair 
  • People are (still) the best!! 
  • Mental Moral Acrobatics: We ALL do it  
  • Serious Truth-Telling: Isn't It Time?? 
  • Nuclear Despair 


Note the repeat of Nuclear Despair.

I probably think altogether too much about nukes: nuke energy, nuke waste, nuclear arms, nuclear exports, nuclear war. Hence, frequent Nuclear Despair.

Yesterday I went to the Peterborough Film Festival (ReFrame) & watched 'From Chernobyl to Fukushima: A Campaigner's Journey' & 'Into Eternity' (about Onkolo, the long-term high-level radioactive waste storage site under construction in the northern part of Finland. Conversation with the filmmaker here )

Both well worth watching - more than once, even. (I'd seen both before, but am glad I saw them again - though the stories they tell are not pretty, exactly.)

Best we should all watch both, I think.

We need to know what we're up to, with our nuclear energy plans & plants & accidents & "routine emissions" & waste - don't you think??

Sobering, sobering, sobering.

(As I have always said, action is the best possible antidote to despair - which is why I'm an activist, not a passive-ist.)

Onward ho!


p.s. Many nuclear-related quotes/books/resources listed on this page

'Quote of the day' with this post: "Paul McKay’s Atomic Accomplice provides the history, science, and economic background of the purveyors of nuclear fuel and reactors, and outlines global future energy options to wean ourselves from non-renewable sources. In the end, he is correct in pointing out that only one nuclear furnace – our Sun – is an energy source that is effectively endless, and can promote both peace and prosperity.” – David Suzuki, scientist & broadcaster

Atomic Towns

Holy smokes, it is perhaps entirely fitting that I am thinking about atomic towns today [December 7th, 2011], the 70th anniversary (so I heard it mentioned on the radio) of the bombing of Pearl Harbour during World War II, & thus the entry of the U.S. of A. into the 2nd world war – a war which they (the U.S.A.) concluded (so the story goes) – had to conclude – with the bombing of the 2 Japanese cities of Hiroshima & Nagasaki on August 6th & 9th, 1945.

Of course I no longer buy into this story, having read the book Hiroshima in America – A Half Century of Denial (1), that the bombing of these cities was necessary to end the war; the war was going to end anyway, the Americans knew the Japanese emperor was going to surrender. So the bombings did not in any sense have to take place; not a pretty fact to have to live with, is it, hmmm?(2) One of those really big secrets, I guess, the kind that is bound to get out eventually…

& now 70 years have gone by, since the day the U.S. was humbled & humiliated by the Japanese,

& for me it’s only a day after my extensive tour of an atomic town in southern Ontario – a very very beautiful & charming small town, assuming one can lay aside the unpleasant fact that the town is one of Canada’s nuclear sacrifice zones & contains very considerable quantities of nuclear waste generated by former Crown Corporation (i.e., our federal government is in this up to its eyeballs) Eldorado & now Cameco Corporation & some of that waste (that now sits quietly, I guess ominously quietly, because there it is but it doesn’t declare itself exactly, it just sits there quietly emitting its radiation, quietly but very dangerously), just south of Highway 401, just west of town…

& it’s a town divided by the whole sick nasty evil issue of nuclear energy & nuclear waste – divided even though anyone with any appreciable history in the town knows far too many people, of both sexes & all ages, who suffer or have suffered (or died from) brain cancer or leukemias & various other illnesses & conditions(3), a town where farmhouses quietly disappear (before or after their long or even in some cases short-time residents) die of cancer due to their former close proximity to waste sites old (& upcoming) – waste sites located within spitting (& ball-kicking) distance of soccer-fields-to-be for children who may wind up being exposed to more than just a “healthy” team sports experience when they go out to get their fresh air & exercise so close to a very very dangerous dump site with “historic” wastes dating back to the Manhattan Project era (yes, this town supplied the uranium for the Manhattan Project)

(no wonder some folks don’t want to talk about this….)

but then the Geiger counters on our little tour spiked like crazy at all kinds of locations in the pretty little community of 14,000 – especially right down by the waterfront, where the sand on the beach is recycled nuclear waste, pretty much, & if you hang out for any length of time you will be exposed to a shocking amount of radiation in the area of a certain tree a bunch of us stood under, down near the radioactive beach area, watching the 2 Geiger counters inch inexorably upward & upward to counts of radiation that made us all think suddenly of Chernobyl & Fukushima

as we stood there, mesmerized by the rising Geiger counters (& yes, it all felt quite quite utterly unreal to be in this pretty little town & be surrounded by so much dangerousness) – & maybe we were all hoping the dogs & birds & squirrels & small children in this pretty little town somehow know, do they? & somehow know to stay away?? even though there is no sign & of course small children & birds & dogs & squirrels can’t read anyhow

but how can it be possible that such radiation-spewing (& not just radiation-spewing, btw) is permitted in such a pretty small town on the shores of Lake Ontario, source of drinking water for well over 3 million people?????

& today I think of other “atomic” towns where residents are very-very quiet or perhaps sometimes even literally unaware that their pretty little town is home to quite a lot of nasty secrets (& lies) & radioactive waste & current-day – yes right today & yesterday & tomorrow – yes! – nuclear-related spewing & spilling & leaching & groundwater-assaulting (sometimes Ottawa River-assaulting) tritium (& other) emissions.

& I know not everyone wants to know about this (although if you ask me we all NEED to know, & yes, I know you didn’t ask me but there you go, I’m telling you anyway) & most people apparently don’t want to think about it either, but I just want to say this teeny-tiny little thing, which is that you need to know that when your country’s federal government comes to your town & offers to spend $260 million (or is it billion?? Like so many of us the numbers just kind of begin to boggle my mind when they get that high, my chequebook doesn’t deal in thousands, even, let alone hundreds of thousands or millions or billions) to “remediate” or “clean up” “historic” or “legacy” wastes, this is a very big clue that some exceedingly nasty (or would evil perhaps not be too strong a word for it?) activities have been taking place & maybe – probably – still are taking place, & even if some place (as in down in the old U.S.A.) is declared a “Superfund site", you need to know that what we don’t know most assuredly CAN hurt us, & even kill us, & beyond that, IS hurting us (has been doing so for a very long time already) & it IS killing us, too, & sweeping it under the carpet is NOT going to make it just magically disappear, magically “go away.”

& if you are a person who makes her or his living helping create these horrid substances & wastes (& you probably make a very good living at it too, that’s part of the problem, isn’t it, golden handcuffs as they say, hmmm???), can’t or shouldn’t we be able to think of new & creative ways to feed our families?????

& I know our governments are probably not going to help us out too much with this, because our governments (at all levels) climbed into bed with these sick-making industries a very very very long time ago, & once you’ve climbed so deeply into bed with this kind of sickness, it is difficult or perhaps even impossible to climb your way back out again,

So I guess it is going to be up to us to do what has to be done, ourselves

I guess we have to grab the reins (& ourselves!) by the scruff of the neck & make change happen

because our governments, at all levels, municipal & provincial & federal, are in so very very deep with all this sick-making & cancer-making

but I think I’m out of breath now so I’m going to stop even though I never actually even named the 3 atomic towns – oops…4 – that are all kind of roiling around inside my head right now

but I will down below list some recommended books & Web sites & groups in case you have a desire to learn a little more about the nuclear nightmare that we have all been trying very-very hard not to wake up from, or … hmmm…. to. The problem with this nightmare is that it won’t go away when we wake up to daylight – I know ‘cos I’m awake – very-very-very wide awake & the nightmare isn’t a dream, it’s real – it’s real it’s real it’s real it’s real it’s real…


p.s. but you know what I kept thinking, & saying, over & over again on the day of our radioactive tour? A person can hardly believe this. You couldn’t make this up if you tried! (Truth truly IS stranger than fiction, it’s true!)

p.p.s. & somehow you have to be willing to know about all this but also somehow not allow it to make you crazy. So I don’t. But I also don’t just ignore it & hope it will magically “go away.” Because you know what? It won’t….

p.p.p.s. & I’m just re-reading Welcome to Shirley – a memoir of an atomic town, & it’s such a good book to read because the author makes the whole story very personal – it is not full of challenging, off-putting jargon, & it isn’t a polemic & it isn’t hysterical (not even remotely) – it’s just a lovely, calm dispassionate telling of the story of the town of Shirley on Long Island, outside New York City, where an awful lot of people have been exposed to radioactive wastes seeping & leaching & spilling out of Brookhaven National Labs, another Manhattan Project-era site, & now officially, since 1989, declared a Superfund site. And the crazy mounting rates of cancer in the area of the BNL, especially some very-very rare ones that became all too familiar to the families whose young children were affected. This story is very calmly told, but it is for sure a sick & tragic one & the parallels between the "atomic" town of Shirley & the town of Port Hope are very strong...  ** p.s. almost a year later: there is film based on this book that is called 'Atomic States of America.' You can find a trailer here on the Beyond Nuclear site

I'm thinking of at least 2 places in Ontario that should almost certainly be declared Superfund sites also, only we don’t do that here because, I’m not sure why, because, is it because we Canadians are too polite, or maybe we are too stupid?? I guess we think (somebody thinks, it isn’t me who thinks this) that if we just pat one another on the back & say Now now now, there, there, everything will just be okay, & the radioactive wastes will just, will just, will just… what? Go away?????

p.s. # 4: Article here from when world-renowned activist Dr. Helen Caldicott visited Port Hope

p.s. # 5: I did 6 blog postings after attending a 3-day nuclear waste conference in Toronto 3 months ago now. They start here

p.s. # 6 - a year later (Dec. 20/12): Recent article about Port Hope by a Japanese visitor here.

Quote of the day w. this post: “There’s been new research documenting cancer & other health maladies in people who live near nuclear plants. Nuclear plants need not undergo an accident to kill. They emit “routine releases” of radioactivepoisons including xenon, krypton & tritium because nuclear plants are not sealed. Once, nuclear scientists spoke of a “threshold dose” of radiation & maintained that below that there was no harm. Now it is acknowledged that any amount of radioactivity can lead to illness & death. The Radiation & Public Health Project has documented rates of cancer significantly higher for distances of up to 40 miles around nuclear plants.” – Karl Grossman, in the Preface to his book Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power (available free on-line)

Books (a very very partial list, admittedly!)

Groups/Web sites relevant to the Ontario “atomic towns” scene

  • FARE (Families Against Radiation Exposure)
  • PH HCC (Port Hope Community Health Concerns Committee)
  • LOW (Lake Ontario Waterkeeper)
  • TAP (Tritium Awareness Project)
  • Beyond Nuclear

Nuke Quotes / Films / Maps (on this blog)


(1) Mindblower of an article Hiroshima Day: America Has Been Asleep at the Wheel for 64 Years by Daniel Ellsberg; an absolute must-read!!

(2) “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead & you argue about what to do with it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atom bomb.” – J. Robert Oppenheimer (”father of the atomic bomb”)

(3) Read more about health in Part 5 of Nuclear Genocide in Canada


Nuclear Waste Conference: Slimed!

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

<Sept. 21/11.>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say what?????

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

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

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

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

(More on DU here & here & here)

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


NW Conference: Awards! (part I)

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

<Oct. 12/11.>

  • NW = Nuclear/nuke waste
  • AECL = Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
  • CNSC = Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • OPG = Ontario Power Generation


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

The others are

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

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

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

Awards for the Nuclear Industry:

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

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


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

NW Conference: Awards! (part II)

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

<Oct. 12/11.>

  • NW = Nuclear/nuke waste
  • AECL = Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
  • CNSC = Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • OPG = Ontario Power Generation


Other posts about this conference are:



Awards for the Nuclear Industry (continued)

(Part I, A – K, is here)

  • Obfuscation Above & Beyond the Call of Duty award to CSA (Canadian Standards Association) staff person M. Rhodes for a completely & utterly incomprehensible presentation on CSA Guideline N292.5 – a “Guideline for the exemption or clearance from regulatory control of materials that contain, or potentially contain, nuclear substances.” (check it out here! If you've got $200, they'll let you buy a copy!!) More from the conference program: [The guideline] “was recently developed to address a need for guidance on approaches for clearance [italics mine] and of materials from facilities licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) consistent with Canadian and international recommendations. This guideline is also applicable to determining if an activity associated with materials that contain nuclear substances is exempt from requiring a CNSC licence. The guideline summarizes [are you snoring yet?] the regulatory requirements associated with the exemption and clearance [italics mine] of materials and provides a graded approach to designing a survey based on the risk of residual contamination being present.” In layman’s terms, this appears to be about an industry committee having loosened regulations for radioactive materials to be “re-characterized,” & thus released with less (or no) scrutiny or oversight. I think. (Note that this man has won the opposite of a plain speaking award, & that I was completely unable to cut through his incredibly dense jargon-speak.) When asked how the so-called “public consultation” on this took place, Mr. Rhodes replied that it was posted on the CSA Web site. What?? That’s what the nuclear industry/CNSC calls public consultation??? Yikes. (Surely there are rules about public consultation?? As in, um, you have to actually consult the public???)
  • Overused Phrase of the Week award goes to almost every single speaker at this 3-day conference, not one of whom, if I am not mistaken, failed to use the phrase “going forward” – quite as though they were entitled to some kind of prize for … for going forward (instead of backward? Or sideways?? Or, hmm. Maybe down a rabbit hole?? I dunno. I am just sooooooo tired of this hackneyed, overused phrase).
  • Plain Speaking award – 4-way tie here. François Bilodeau from Hydro Québec, who admitted the refurbishment of the Gentilly-2 reactor will create a huge amount of new waste. Adrian Simper from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the UK, who was upfront about the fact that there is a VERY BIG mess of nuke waste there. (Program reads: “The UK’s nuclear legacy is a major public liability, and arguably represents the largest, most important environmental restoration programme in Europe.” (See article here) Tom Mitchell, OPG Prez & CEO, who admitted, “Nuclear waste is growing” & alluded to the “increased waste from refurbishments.” Finally, CNSC Prez/CEO Michael Binder allowed as how “We have tended to be secretive” & that “most of our conferences are us talking to ourselves” & have not included the public or the press. True story!
  • Pollyanna award – to M. Laraia of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for his skimming-very-much-along-the-surface talk about decommissioning work at Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Plant & various other locations, & his cheerful exhortation to “Be creative!” (Hmmm. Possibly his award should be for “Providing Practically No Details.”)
  • Preposterous Suggestion of the Week award to the man in the audience who suggested that nuclear waste shouldn’t be called waste – as though calling it something else would render it less dangerous. Of course it would also then be less of a concern to all those foolishly misguided members of the public (that’s us, btw) who are scared out of our wits about waste that will require careful handling for, count ‘em, one million years.
  • Refreshing Frankness award to the speaker – Ian Barnes, I believe his name was – who in discussing the decommissioning of a “redundant UK Research Facility” (AWE Aldermaston; he didn’t mention what had gone on there; not sure I want to know!) stated that an aspect of the work was “on program, which is quite unusual with decommissioning” (this right after having stated that building rubble was being released with 95% certainty of the “waste classification.” Only 95% certainty, with radioactive materials?? Yikes).
  • Rocket Science (not) / Doh!! award to many of the speakers at the conference, who seem to think they should get a prize for acknowledging the brilliant insight that, when you are dealing with nuclear projects, you need to “think about waste all the way through, not just at the end.” (Geez, & I thought I’m not a rocket scientist!?)
  • Screw the Taxpayers!! award to the nuclear industry (& our government) for, is it … $16 billion in federal tax $$ to the Nuclear Waste Management Office (NWMO)?? How much to the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program?? $7 billion? How much for Port Hope & Port Granby? Chalk River Labs clean-up & decommissioning costs? Taxpayers’ money, folks!! They make the waste & the profits, we get to own the wastes, & pay the clean-up costs. Quite the deal, eh? Remember that old phrase ‘corporate welfare bums’??
  • Surreal Moments award goes to – the nuclear industry!! For their “Investigation of Tritium in Groundwater” workshop at this conference. I was there! Both at the workshop & at a # of CNSC hearings that have been held regarding this preposterous situation – in the flesh, as it were. I am also intimately aware of the long, sick history of the SRB company in Pembroke, Ontario that makes glow-in-the-dark products from tritium & whose goings-on led to this ever-so-dry workshop at a nuclear industry conference where the hired gun consultant, hired to do a study & later report to this conference, utterly failed to mention how the excessive tritium emissions were discovered at great personal effort & no doubt considerable psychic cost by citizen activists who persistently went to the CNSC over years & years & years & gave about a zillion pounds of their flesh & their time to force this company to at least greatly reduce its tritium-emission-spewing (we wish they’d shut the sucker down, but at least their efforts have resulted in a massive reduction of emissions). Near the end of the workshop, someone asked how the company had managed to reduce its emissions so substantially. Guess who had to answer the question? One of those same citizen activists who has given thousands (or 10’s of thousands) of hours of his personal time over the past 20+ years to protect not only his own children’s health, but that of all the citizens of Pembroke, Ontario. Phew. Yes, I’m a little passionate about this issue, the very one that brought me to awareness of how the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission operates, how very down-the-rabbit-hole/Mad Hatter’s Tea Party the whole nuclear business is. It was surreal to hear this sanitized little workshop – this dry little consultant’s spiel – about a very, very serious situation – & hear no background whatsoever (not one single word) about the citizen activism that led to such big changes at SRB in Pembroke, & also led to the CNSC carrying out the Tritium Studies Project ...which cost Canadian taxpayers who knows how many millions of dollars, & at the public launch event of which I recall CNSC staffer Dr. Patsy Thompson sheepishly admitting that the groundwater plume had not been predicted accurately, based on CNSC's "computer modelling." I call it all the Grand Tritium Experiment. The GTE. Citizens of Pembroke, guinea pigs for the Grand Tritium Experiment. Unconscionable.
  • Team Player award to … gosh, let’s just give it to everyone in the nuke industry, shall we? The industry’s many foot soldiers are outstanding in their efforts to prop one another up, even in the face of preposterous lies & secrets, & are experts at not asking one another inconvenient questions that might lead to…actually telling the truth.
  • 3 R’s Waste Reduction Hierarchy Highjacking / We can spin that one! award for disingenuous talk about how the nuclear industry is “doing the right thing” by beginning to talk about “recycling” nuclear waste. The posting ‘Recycling: The Good, The Bad & the Ugly’ delves into this & provides links for further information.
  • Understatement of the Year award – 3-way tie here. Frank Doyle, President of the Canadian Nuclear Society (the organization that put on the conference), who said in his opening address that there is a wide variety of wastes & “significant nuclear legacy liabilities” to deal with (a huge admission from the nuclear industry, actually) & CNSC Prez/CEO Binder for two of his remarks: “Public confidence [about the nuclear industry] is waning” & “The March 11th event in Japan was a wake-up call” & finally, Tom Mitchell, Prez & CEO of OPG, who acknowledged that the accident at Fukushima is “humbling” to the nuclear industry, with its intimation that “the unthinkable might happen.”
  • Utter Obliviousness to Reality award – self-explanatory…no??
  • What a MESS!? award – self-explanatory, yes?
  • Wizard of Oz award – the nuclear genie, the nuclear expert, the nuclear booster – the politicians, the industry people who have shoved & continue to shove nukes down our throats – they are all like the Wizard of Oz. Smoke & mirrors. Sound & fury, signifying nothing. Nothing but destruction, that is. Yours, mine – even their own. They get the prize. (We get the ruined environment, incredibly long-lived waste, & the cancers – & all the heartbreak & pain associated with all those illnesses & deaths & losses).
  • You Want it in YOUR basement?? – self-explanatory, I’d say…

Awards for the Activist Crowd:

  • Can’t believe we stayed through the whole darn thing! award or, alternatively,
  • Didn’t run screaming from the room! award
  • Digging through jargon & bullshit & fancy language award
  • I TOLD YOU SO award for all the truths the environmental community has been telling for years that the nuke industry is finally having to admit to publicly (not that these mild admissions are much comfort, you understand; the waste is still there & it still has to be safely contained for a million years…), or alternatively,
  • It’s the WASTE, Stupid!!just as the environmental community has been saying all along!
  • Telling the Truth award – for telling the simple unvarnished truth, a truth any 6-year old could tell you: no nuclear power is safe.

Awards for the General Public

  • Deer in the headlights / Deeply snowed award for falling prey to nuclear bullshit / bafflegab / snow jobs / jargon. (It’s pretty easy to do!)
  • Deeply puzzled award (Why is it we taxpayers are footing the bill for all this nuke waste clean-up again??)
  • Enemy of the People award (what any person living in a nuclear community would receive for speaking up / truth-telling. See Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People).
  • Innocence & naivete award for finding the secrets, lies, deceptions & nastiness of the nuclear industry simply too much to attempt to fathom or swallow.
  • Quotation of the Year award to Frank Zappa for this gem: “Government is the Entertainment Division of the military-industrial complex.” Hooey!!!


The final post about this conference is here.


Aries: why I love being one

<April 22/11.>

Aries is the astrological sign of people born between the dates of March 21st & April 19th. (In the Earth Medicine system, Aries corresponds to Falcon.)

Not everyone “believes in” astrology. I didn’t used to either. After reading two Linda Goodman books, Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs & Linda Goodman’s Love Signs, though, & learning the extraordinarily accurate ways in which she describes people & relationships, I signed on! (It’s eerie, even, at times, how much she pegs certain astrological combinations! I also sometimes find Rob Brezsny’s horoscopes eerily prescient – not to mention gorgeously written. & fun!!)

Aries people are said to be the “infants of the zodiac.” It’s a rather fun sign to be!

When we are happy, like an infant, we smile. When pricked, we scream. Our moods change quickly, & we're unable to stay mad for very long. Bad temper is always gone quickly, like a summer storm. (It may be pretty intense – but it passes fast!)

Infants (& Aries people) live in the moment. We don’t spend our time (for the most part) lingering over past events, resentments & hurts. We don’t put off living today because we’re dreaming about some imagined future, good or bad, either.

We are, in general, right here, right now. It isn’t always fun – & it’s often intense – in a good way, I think.

We are very easy to please! (Not always, of course. Like anyone, we can take situations & people “for granted.” But we can also be – like a child – easy to make smile, & laugh. We’re kids! We can fly by the seat of our pants & enjoy the unpredictable ride while we’re at it.)

I’d been considering writing an essay called “Planning Sucks.”

I know (& love) people who spend so much time planning every move from here to next Tuesday, that they fail to notice a beautiful flower, or birdsong, or cloud formation, or a laughing child, or … almost anything, really, they’re so busy making methodical plans for everything they’re going to do today & next week & next year – meanwhile risking pretty much missing out on every moment that is actually taking place here & now. (Well, I’m exaggerating a wee bit, of course. For sure, though, over-thinking does seem to be a fairly widespread disease.)

Now, if you’re an engineer &/or are in the business of building bridges & nuclear plants & such, I definitely definitely DO want to feel certain you are a very good planner!! ‘Cos if you screw up, we won’t all just have a bad day, we could lose our lives or compromise the DNA of millions of people currently alive on the planet (& all future humans, too).

Actually, this is why I do anti-nuclear work. No one has yet figured out a) how to build a nuclear plant that can be absolutely 100% relied upon not to blow up & b) how to keep nuke plants’ deadly wastes safeguarded for a million years.

Since most of us are unable to keep our own lives “on track” for even half an hour (the GO train I'm currently travelling on, as I write these words, could de-rail, the bus I plan to take after the train ride may crash; who really knows what lies ahead???), I am rather grateful to be an Aries person whose very nature seems to consist of being right here, right now – sucking up the good stuff (& the “bad”), & not missing most of it because I’m somewhere else, past or future-surfing.


p.s. Gotta admit, I haven’t always been as good at just letting things happen as I am now! Couple of things have helped. One was having my life pretty much blow up in my face (an unexpected divorce). When you learn that you really don’t run even your very own “show,” new perspective has a miraculous way of dawning. Secondly, a lot of years went by. Nothing like age to soften the edges!!

‘Quote of the day’: “…the goal of all spiritual life is to get your ego out of the way – outwit the sucker; dissolve it; shoot it; kill it. Silence the incessant planning, organizing, running, manipulating, possessing, and processing”… because these activities "preclude awareness of the Divine.” – Rabbi Lawrence Kushner in his book I’m God, You’re Not (reviewed in Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011 issue, their 25th anniversary issue!! Theme: ‘Transforming the World’)


Plans = Neat. Life = Messy

This little equation came to me this morning as my carefully-laid out plan for the morning hours went off the rails by 8 AM.

Ask anyone who’s a parent! You can plan ‘till the cows come home about what life with children will be like. How your children (& life) will turn out. Geez, you can plan how the next hour will go, with a toddler (or 2) to look after.

Just don’t count on any of it coming to pass…alright?


p.s. Would someone please tell this to all those nuclear engineers & technicians & nuclear boosters?? Most of us can’t keep our own single lives on track for more than about 20 minutes. Any parent of a toddler can tell you this simple truth quite without the benefit of rocket science or an engineering degree. So anyone who thinks s/he/they can safeguard a man-made nuclear plant from “accidents,” or safely contain dangerous nuclear wastes for a million years is just whistling Dixie, as the old expression goes.

Plans are very, very neat & precise.

Life / reality is messy. Very, very messy & unpredictable indeed.

It’s only hubris in the nuclear world that leads its members to think otherwise.

Out with the “engineering euphoria” already – pullese!! & in with some good, solid old-fashioned common sense. (As in, #ShutEmDown already!)

p.p.s. Of course Pema Chödrön is brilliant on the subject of life’s messiness…

Quote of the day’: “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell, US folklorist & expert on mythology (1904 - 1987)

Who Knew??

<Jan. 15/11>

Just got the idea to do a bunch of “Who knew??” items. We’ll see where this goes….

  • Who knew I’d develop an addiction to latté – live without it for weeks & weeks at a time while out in the boonies (at “home”), but buy one almost daily while in Toronto? And discover a crazy (& surely unaccountable) price range. The place at the corner of Dundas & McCaul (near the Art Gallery, a handy spot for which I had such high hopes) charged me $5. for one. Sure won’t be darkening their door again!?
  • Who knew that, at the age of 56, I’d sell my dear little house (it really was a dear little house) & become a virtual nomad? Proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that you can indeed teach an old(ish) dog new tricks…
  • Who knew that after more than 20 years as an environmental activist, I’d learn of a new (old) issue & become so fired up about it? (I’m referring of course to the lead issue, my latest issue-to-be-fired up-about.)
  • Who knew that the lead industry would turn out to be as venal & nasty as the nuclear one? & who knew that I spent so many years being so darn naïve that if naivete were an indictable offence, I’d have been thrown in the slammer years ago for my fatal case of it?
  • Who knew that, as it turns out, the lead & nuclear industries have so much in common?
  • Who knew that the wonderful vegetarian restaurant ‘The Commensal’ in Toronto (right near the bus terminal at Bay & Dundas) serves beer?? OMG – I think I’ve died & gone to heaven!!
  • Who knew that microwave popcorn contains a chemical called diacetyl that is used to enhance taste, & that this chemical causes a horrid lung disease to the workers who are exposed to it? Yikes! (Learned this from the book Dodging the Toxic Bullet, mentioned below.)
  • Who could ever have told me that 16 years into a very (perhaps even prize-winningly) civil/civilized divorce, there would still be so darn much pain involved?? Not over the loss of the person so much as over all the other related, inevitable losses, fallout & “collateral damage.” Yikes. Who knew, indeed… (Funny. I wanted to make a joke about this in my remarks at the recent Darlington (new nuclear) hearings. I was tempted to say “We’re talking here about nuclear waste that will be horrifically dangerous/life-threatening for 100s of thousands of years. And I thought the fallout from my divorce was long-lived!?)
  • Who knew how much awesome fun I’d wind up having, & the amazing friendships I’d wind up making, when I began to “follow my bliss” & became an environmental activist & writer?
  • Who knew 20 years ago that “…lake trout in the alpine lakes at Banff National Park in Canada…are loaded with toxic pesticides used in Russia”?? (This from David Suzuki’s foreword to the David R. Boyd book Dodging the Toxic Bullet – How to Protect Yourself from Everyday Environmental Health Hazards.) Yikes. & sheesh, is about all I can say on that score (also, I’m mighty glad about all that work I did as a volunteer to help educate others about pesticide use. That was sure a good call!)
  • Who knew that the author of the Toxic Bullet book just mentioned would wind up with a headache & burning eyes during his “Toxic Tour” of Sarnia, Ontario’s “Chemical Valley”? Again, yikes, & sheesh, & very happy I’m engaged in environmental work. Sure feels a whole lot better than just sitting around expecting it all to stop on its own (or, alternatively, pretending it isn’t happening).
  • Who knew that Canada, so widely regarded as a civilized country (Americans in particular seem to harbour some grand illusion about how good we are up here… & civilized. Ha!), would actually repeatedly earn truly deserved fossil fuel awards. And, like the U.S. & Australia, continue to allow a wildly toxic pesticide (atrazine) to be used (unlike the European Union, which has banned its use). Oh Canada indeed! We of the “corrupt petrostate” designation… The tar sands: our national disgrace & scandal (excellent documentary on it here)
  • Who knew I would come to be sooooooo sadly disillusioned about how “great” Canada is, & how self-interested our governing political party is? (John Kenneth Galbraith’s quote “The modern conservative…is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness” springs helpfully to mind here.)
  • Who ever-ever-ever knew that my knee-jerk proclivity to be … natural? ... would protect me from so many harms? I’ve never much cared for wearing make-up (turns out most of it is full of toxic stuff) or perfume (chemicals) & have felt like a weirdo anytime I’ve ever put on lipstick. Gave up dry-cleaning eons ago (had heard about perchlorethylene being vastly toxic, not to mention one of the “dirty dozen” we need to studiously avoid); have used clotheslines & a clotheshorse for years (to save money, but it also saves energy & thus helps with the climate change issue) – & it turns out that dryer sheets (which I used to use once upon a time occasionally, but also gave up eons ago when my favourite appliance repairman dude told me they can cause a fire in your dryer) contain dangerous VOCs - volatile organic compounds – & am always too “poor” to spend money on painting & renovations – which, it turns out, can also be a minefield of toxins (go here for how to renovate with care).

Seems as though “modern” life is awfully mighty toxic… so glad I have never felt obliged to “keep up!” (Although of course I do breathe in the same polluted air & drink the same tainted water as everyone else.)


P.S. & finally, who knew that that dysfunctional childhood of mine would wind up giving me so many useful lifelong habits? My not-very-nice father hated the ads on TV with a fierce passion – & was wildly, shall we say frugal – & these influences of his have helped me far more than I can say. Being independent of all those darn ads – & adept at living frugally …well, what can I say? Except a belated thank you to that not-very-nice father for some of his wildly useful & lasting attitudes!!

Quote of the day w. this post: “The single most important contribution any of us can make to the planet is a return to frugality.” – Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations

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

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

** April 7th transcript here, audio here

My name is Jeff Brackett.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s just not credible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Rosalie Bertell said,

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

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

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

In closing:

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

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

Thank you for your time.


Darl. Hearings: Dr. Baker-Physicians for Global Survival (April 4th)

Good to hear a medical perspective! April 4th transcript here Audio here

Physicians for Global Survival

Darlington New Nuclear Power Plant Project Joint Review Panel

Good morning Mr Chairman, panel members, ladies and gentleman. My name is Dr. Sharon Baker. I have with me two young people and a community member who are also deeply concerned about the future of our planet: Justin and Shawn Hertwig and Don Baker.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am here as a member of Physicians for Global Survival. I have been a physician in Ontario for 26 years. I currently work as a Palliative Care Physician Consultant and Site Chief at University Hospital – London Health Sciences Centre. This includes a position as an assistant professor in the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. I also served for 10 years as an acting Medical Officer of Health in Elgin County.

Physicians for Global Survival is an organization concerned about global health.

I am sure that many of the people in this room have been affected by cancer, whether directly or indirectly. As a Palliative Care Physician, I care for people every day who are actively dying from this devastating disease. Cancer is largely preventable, with education about healthy lifestyle choices and the elimination of toxic substances from our environment.

As a society, Canadians have raised billions of dollars to find a cure for cancer. We walk, run, relay, ride, and row. While these are noble acts, and I applaud these people, still there is no cure. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The insanity needs to end. Our approach to health care has been seriously flawed. We need to move from treating illness, and turn our focus to prevention. April is cancer awareness month. Cancer can be prevented.

Cancer in general is not caused by just one thing - it is multi-factorial. It is the result of the cumulative exposure to carcinogens over time, referred to as a body burden. Carcinogens often work synergistically with one another, to produce cancer. Therefore, the more carcinogens to which a person is exposed over time, the more likely cancer is to develop.

In order to decrease rates of cancer, exposure to known carcinogens must be decreased, period. This is a societal choice.

Radiation is a known carcinogen. This is not debatable. Madame Curie, in her research, taught about radiation, including its potential to be fatal. Exposure to radiation is accumulative. It builds up in biological organisms, including human bodies; the more exposure – the greater the likelihood of getting cancer¹. Humans are constantly exposed to low levels of radiation in the environment, some that can’t be controlled. Attention needs to be directed to what we can control.

Radiation toxicity is accumulative. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. As physicians, we recognize this. We weigh the risk and benefits when ordering X-rays, mammograms, CT scans and radioisotopes. We try to limit exposure to decrease the risk of cancer or genetic defect.

The assignment of “acceptable risk” is completely arbitrary. This approach has more in common with a game of chess, or rolling a dice, than actual science.

Increasing the global burden of radioactivity increases the incidence of cancer. Nuclear technology increases humanity's collective exposure to radiation. The increased risk is not limited to emissions from nuclear reactors themselves. It is also the culmination of all the risks of exposure from processing uranium, the mining, milling and the handling and the management of toxic wastes from all these processes.

Choosing to expand nuclear technology and thus the global burden of radioactivity is like determining that it is acceptable that some people are expendable. That person might be your neighbour, someone in this room or an impoverished aboriginal that you will never meet. Choosing nuclear power puts the sweep of the pen to someone’s or some people’s death sentence. I would not want to live with that responsibility.

The negative impact that uranium mining has upon the environment is gargantuan. The fossil fuel requirements for the mining, milling, refining, enriching and transport of uranium ore are enormous. However, I will only discuss the health risks of radioactivity here.

Uranium miners are exposed to multiple types of excess radiation. This includes a radioactive gas called Radon 220 which is a decay product of uranium. When this is inhaled, it increases the risk of lung cancer.

In the early 20th century, a number of people, primarily women, were employed to paint numbers on watch dials with radium-enriched paint so the numbers would glow in the dark. The women would lick the brushes so that the numbers would be precise. They believed what they were doing was safe. However, many developed painful bone cancers called osteosarcomas, or leukemia, from this radioactive material. This same Radium is also in mines and can be ingested via the dust with the same resulting cancers these watch-makers faced.

The mining of uranium ore results in a destabilized radioactive environment. When mines are abandoned, the water that has been pumped out often re-enters the mine, contaminating the ground water. Milling - extracting uranium from ore - results in further risk of exposure and production of radioactive waste products. These toxic waste products, or tailings, require safe isolation from the environment. In the post-World War II era, in Canada, this sludge was often deliberately dumped directly into our lakes, contaminating the groundwater. Accidental dumping also occurs, as in the 1984 spill of 100 million litres of contaminated liquid at Key Lake, Saskatchewan. Currently, industry is experimenting with ponds and hoping the experiments don’t fail. These tailing ponds will be radioactive, essentially forever. We cannot let our hunger for power be used to excuse leaving a toxic mess for our children to inherit.

The uranium mining industry has still not effectively addressed the issue of contamination that resulted from mines that have been abandoned. For example, contamination remains a problem in the rural community of Deline in the Dene Nation of the North West Territories, and El Dorado at Uranium City in Saskatchewan.

Developing more uranium mining when the unconscionable contamination of the past has not been addressed is a travesty to social justice.

An extensive amount of uranium mining and milling in Canada is done on Aboriginal land, usually without consultation. This a health issue, a human rights issue and a native rights issue.

The nuclear reactors themselves are not innocuous. They are a risk factor for increasing background radiation. Workers are exposed to low dose radiation. The arbitrary figure that has been chosen by many nuclear power facilities as acceptable for worker exposure in one year is equivalent to 400 chest X-rays.

The issue has been studied extensively in Europe. A 15-country collaborative study among workers in the nuclear industry demonstrated that this type of low-dose radiation exposure resulted in a risk of developing cancer that was equal to or greater than the risk of the survivors of the atomic bomb in Japan.

Furthermore, living near a nuclear reactor has been shown irrefutably to increase the risk for children of developing leukemia2. This has been studied extensively in Germany. The closer children live to a nuclear reactor, the more likely they are to develop leukemia before the age of five. There are other toxins in the environment which can cause Leukemia, such as pesticide exposure. Observing clusters of children who have suffered from other toxic exposures does not negate the dangerous effects of living near a nuclear reactor. In fact, the findings of an increase incidence of childhood leukemia are expected. Their parents are more likely to work in the reactor. The chronic radiation levels they are exposed to can affect their sensitive germocytes, resulting in genetic damage. In addition, water containing tritium is released by nuclear power plants into the environment both by planned events and accidentally. On March 16 of this year 73,000 litres of demineralised water was released into Lake Ontario when a pump seal failed at the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. Tritium is dangerous. It binds with oxygen in water. For biological organisms, including humans, this radioactive water is indistinguishable from normal water, and it becomes incorporated in every cell of the body. Tritium has a half-life of 12 years, meaning it can do damage over a long period of time. Moreover, industry data shows spikes in the local measurements of radioactivity when reactors are opened for refuelling.

Nuclear power generating plants also produce radioactive waste that must be stored and guarded essentially forever. Again, the need and greed for power does not justify leaving a radioactive inheritance for generations to come.

While my focus today has been on cancer, we must not forget that accumulative exposure to radiation also causes other illnesses. It contributes to genetic damage, birth defects, immune system dysfunction, diabetes and heart disease.

This issue cannot be addressed effectively without mentioning the possibility for human error. Accidents happen! With all of the marvellous fail-safes and back-up plans, planes still crash, the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated, and patients die from human errors. While accidental leaks of radioactive water are relatively common, serious accidents also happen. There was a significant meltdown of a reactor in Rolphton, Ontario in December, 1952. We have also experienced very serious accidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Tokaimura Japan in 1999. And now our hearts go out to the people of Japan. The accident in Fukushima that began on March 11 is devastating. It humbles us to realize that nature can be relentless and that man-made fail safes can and do fail. People have already died because of this nuclear disaster. Many more will become ill and die. The global burden of radioactivity has increased forever.

While I conclude that the serious risks to Public Health and human life from nuclear technology is indisputable, if doubt did exist we would still be ethically required to follow the “precautionary principle.” The precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. You have seen that there are many scientists who conclude that nuclear power is unacceptably dangerous. We must implement the precautionary principle. Nuclear power must be phased out. This is the same approach that lead to banning cosmetic pesticides in Ontario and many other provinces.

Beyond error, particularly since 9/11, we have lived with the fear of a terrorist attack. This raises a seldom-mentioned point - the astronomical costs of security. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or a nuclear physicist, to do the math.

Guarding nuclear reactors and nuclear waste costs society enormously more than protecting wind towers and solar farms.

The risk of a terrorist attack is low; nevertheless, over $100 million is spent annually in this province on special weapons and tactical forces to protect nuclear power plants and the valuable nuclear bomb-making materials contained within.

The nuclear power plant at Darlington is protected by the Nuclear Division of the Durham Regional Police Force. This plant, as Pickering was in January 2010, is to be transferred to the Ontario Power Generation Nuclear Security Branch.

The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is protected by a privately owned and operated highly trained tactical force larger than the police force of many large Ontario cities.

These tactical team salaries, the extensively high level of training, and the expensive equipment, result in costs that are exorbitant.

The extreme cost of military presence cannot be justified when no other form of power generation requires even a fraction of this defence cost. While the probability of a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor may be low today, the future is unknown. Public funds are better allocated to health care, education and employing people to fix and repair existing environmental problems. Every dollar wasted on expanding and protecting nuclear technology is a dollar diverted from the development of true green energy.

In conclusion, nuclear power is costly. It is costly to human health, the environment and the taxpayer. Nuclear power is a cancer on society. It increases the global burden of radioactivity and human exposure to radiation. Radiation causes cancer. Developing nuclear power will contribute to untimely deaths. Now is the time to turn our attention to prevention.

Nuclear power should be phased out, not expanded.

Thank you.

Respectfully submitted,

Sharon Baker MD, MCFP


This reference list is incomplete; a complete list can be submitted upon request.

1) BEIR VII (U.S. Academy of Science report on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) unequivocally states that “no low level of radiation exposure is safe.”

2)Kaatsch P., Kaletsch U., Meinert R., Michaelis J. An Extended Study on Childhood Malignancies in the Vicinity of German Nuclear Power Plants. Cancer Causes Control 1998; 9: 529-33

Hofmann W., Terschueren C., Richardson D. B., Childhood leukemia in the Vicinity of the Geesthacht Nuclear Establishments near Hamburg, Germany. Environmental Health Perspectives 2007; 115: 947-52

Spix C., Schmiedel S., Kaatsch P., Schulze-Rath R., Blettner M. Case-Control Study on Childhood Cancer in the Vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants in Germany 1980-2003. Eur. Journal of Cancer 2008; 44:275-284

Kaatsch P., Spix C., Schulze-Rath R., Schmiedel S., Blettner M. Leukemia in Young Children Living in the Vicinity of German Nuclear Power Plants. Int. J. Cancer 2008; 1220: 721-26

American Cancer Society. Radiation and Cancer. 2010.


"Annual General Assembly Resolution No. 17/2008." Assembly of First Nations. 17 July 2008. Web. 21 Feb 2011. <>

Caldicott, Helen. Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. New York: The New Press, 2006. Print.

Diehl, Peter. Uranium Mining and Milling Wastes: An Introduction.


Environmental Protection Agency. “Understanding Radiation: Health Effects.” 2009.

Goncharova, Roza. "New insight into cancer risks." Institute of Genetics and Cytology: Belarus, IPPNW World Congress. 2010. Web.


Harding, Jim. Canada's Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System. Winnipeg, ON: Fernwood Publishing Company, 2007. Print.

London Police. "2011 Budget." Web.

McKay, Paul. Atomic Accomplice: How Canada deals in deadly deceit. 2009. Print.

National Research Council of the National Academies. "Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2. 2006."

"OPG’s Commitment to Security - Safe Station, Safe Community." Ontario Power Generation. Darlington Nuclear Neighbourhood Newsletter, Dec 2010. Web. <>

Tufts, Heather. 2010. “‘Canada, O Canada!’ Uranium Mining and Indigenous Communities: The Impacts of Uranium Mining on Indigenous Communities.” Native Unity Digest.

"Radiation Exposure Information and Reporting System (REIRS) for Radiation Workers." U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 12 Feb 2008. Web. <>.

Zielinkski, et al. "Low dose ionizing radiation exposure and cardiovascular disease mortality." Low dose ionizing radiation exposure and cardiovascular disease mortality. Study based on Canadian national dose registry (NDR) of radiation workers. Ottawa, ON, 2010.

[27-33] Web. < /Plen4_behar_slides_CHRONIC%20LOW%20DOSE%20RADIATION.pdf>

** Dr. Baker's final Darlington submission can be found here