NW Conference: Kool-Aid & other insights

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

<Sept. 22/11.>

NW = Nuke waste

Other posts on this conference are

I’ve been to an awful lot of environmental conferences over the past 20+ years – but this was my 1st nuclear industry one ever.

So I learned a few things:

  • Nuclear industry conferences run on time! (There may be tons of completely inappropriate optimism & plans & statements & engineering euphoria & … hmmm, well, deception… but they run ‘em on time!!)
  • Nuke industry events (I guess any industry events) are a heck of a lot more extravagant than the conferences I’m used to! Fancy location, accommodations, meals, you name it (I bet we activists have more fun, though!)
  • Radioactive waste is not defined in the Nuclear Safety & Control Act (so explained Don Howard of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or CNSC). In other words, the nuclear industry gets to play around & fuzzify what is classified as low-level, intermediate level & high-level waste (see ‘Nuclear Industry Phrases to watch for – & what they really mean’ in previous post. (This is a recurring theme in the nuke biz, btw: the way the industry uses loose terms & shifts the goal posts around in the absence of public scrutiny).
  • Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for the costs of dealing with the nuclear wastes left behind in Chalk River & Port Hope & Port Granby (& everywhere else, I guess!).  I haven’t quite figured out how this works. The industry gets the profits, we citizens/taxpayers get the building overrun costs, the refurbishment costs, & the costs of handling the waste. (Geez, lucky us, eh? Not. )
  • The degree of collusion between the nuclear industry & our government is mind-boggling!! Mark Corey, Assistant Deputy Minister, Energy Sector, Natural Resources Canada, spoke at the opening of the conference. His boyish, golly-gee enthusiasm about nuclear energy was touching, if more than a little misguided. He’s very excited about the tar sands, too. “We’re really lucky in Canada to have it,” he said. (It made me think that the joke-y alternative name for Natural Resources Canada that some friends & I came up with recently must be pretty bang-on: Grab the Resources & Run! Or maybe Exploitation Central.)
  • Very serious boatload of money to be made in this industry!!!! If you have lots of boyish/girlish enthusiasm & a startling lack of interest in connecting the dots, the nuclear industry certainly has a job for you. Not just a job, mind you – a career! Involving hefty pay & benefits packages, too. (Just be sure to leave those moral/ethical sensibilities back in the sandbox where they belong, OK?) If you want to get a sense of what the OPG (Ontario Power Generation) bigshots earn, have a look at this Web site (scroll down to OPG). Wish I had the figures for the AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.) crowd too – I’m sure their bigshots make plenty too.
  • There is something maybe sort of like a “frat boy” dynamic among the engineering-dominated crowd one encounters in the nuclear industry (this industry runs on “engineering euphoria”). Lots of enthusiasm for complicated technologies & machines. Seemingly also a corresponding lack of independent or critical thinking. I guess the money is so good that one does not stop to question the ethics/morality of what one is taking part in.
  • Kool-Aid. I’ve reached the sad conclusion that nuclear industry bigshots (& maybe littleshots, I dunno) have simply swallowed some kind of Kool-Aid that others of us have never found to our liking. The Kool-Aid apparently enables the drinker to deal with the overwhelming cognitive dissonance this industry positively brims with. Nukes are safe! Waste is not a problem! (or, alternatively, it is, but we’ll solve it! It’s been 60 years & we haven’t solved it yet, but Hey! We are “can do” people; keep waiting; we’ll solve it!) It takes millions/billions of $$ to clean up, but…don’t worry; be happy (while we take the money & run!).
  • What does the nuclear industry have in mind for dealing with the planet’s dangerous burden of long-lived nuclear wastes? Looks like there are 3 key strategies:
    • Export (from Canada to the U.S. in some cases & maybe the other way around, I dunno. Not sure what they will do elsewhere. Same kind of thing, very likely.)
    • Incineration e.g., export waste from the Point Lepreau refurbishment project in New Brunswick, Canada to Tennessee in the U.S. – for burning. I wonder how the folks in Tennessee feel about that?? Burning waste from Fukushima; quick 2-minute YouTube about this here
    • Free-release (nuke waste, nuke waste everywhere!!!!!)

Some Stuff You Might Not Know

  • Nuclear energy is very, very good for the economy. Not so good for the environment, mind you, & not so good for the taxpayers who are on the hook for cost overruns & nuke waste clean-ups – & not in the slightest bit good for human health – but it sure does create a lot of jobs & “economic activity”! (Tell that to communities where people are sick from nuclear operations, eh?? They might think it’s time for a new kind of economics & an end to this voodoo kind that doesn’t seem to give a damn about people. Schumacher’s brilliant quotation about this, here, springs to mind.)
  • There seems to be a black hole inside the brains of nuclear promoters where simple common sense does not penetrate. CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) President Michael Binder seems naively puzzled as to why the public is terrified of nuclear energy & nuclear waste. Maybe the big paycheque knocks out brain cells or fries brain circuitry.
  • Lots of fancy language! Some of these dudes can talk for 20 minutes without uttering a single intelligible sentence (& I have a pretty decent grasp of the English language, you know??). See Awards post, Obfuscation award for details on M. Rhodes, Canadian Standards Association dude who could win a contest in how to pepper a talk with acronyms, use enough jargon to choke a horse, & fuzzify a seemingly straightforward conversation such that no one within 10 miles can make sense of a word he says.
  • Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program From the conference program: “In 2006, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and Natural Resources Canada began implementing a $7B CDN, 70-year Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program (NLLP) to deal with legacy decommissioning and environmental issues at AECL nuclear sites.” Etc. Pssst. If you’re a Canadian taxpayer, guess what? You’re paying for it!!
  • Obfuscation: The nuclear industry uses fancy language to make things deliberately obscure so peasants like you & me will just buzz off & leave them alone. One teeny-tiny example: we want to talk about radioactive waste. Radioactivity in the environment. Health impacts from radioactive pollution. They talk about radiation, & how it is everywhere. “There is an unfounded but perceived fear of radiation. Radiation is a natural part of life,” gushes Tom Mitchell, President & CEO of Ontario Power Generation (annual salary: $1,325,119.04) at the nuke waste conference. Typical nuclear industry fuzzifying B.S. (This goes hand-in-hand with complete minimization of health impacts. Don’t worry, be happy!! What’s a little cancer between friends?? Or a little Strontium 90? Or maybe quite a lot of tritium, eh??)
  • We Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for nuclear waste clean-ups in Port Hope, Port Granby, Chalk River & goodness knows where-all else (I suspect there are plenty of locations). One speaker at the conference (Ken Nash from the nuclear industry-created Nuclear Waste Management Office) brightly suggested that those who benefit from nuclear energy have to pay. He meant taxpayers! Yikes! I guess he doesn’t see all those salaries being paid to all those nuclear hotshots & bigshots & littleshots, & the risks entailed as being something the industry itself needs to worry its pretty little head about. It’s up to you & me to pay for all that, & we are paying for it, dear Reader; we are indeed!
  • The nuclear industry appears to finally be admitting – using carefully crafted, understated language – that they have created a very large mess of nuclear waste on this planet. This would be a laudable & welcome development if one sensed that they plan to clean it up, finally, in responsible fashion. What one sees instead (as mentioned above) is that the real plan is to minimize-minimize-minimize. Lower standards & regulations. Call dangerous wastes by another name so they sound sweeter – & release them, release them, release them. This is an industry with a very, very severe hubris problem.
  • Finally, something I had known, but which was strongly reinforced: this is one depressing, difficult & discouraging issue to deal with; not gonna lie to you! It could make you go right cuckoo. But you know what? Ignoring it won’t make it go away. If it weren’t bad enough that the nuclear industry has blanketed the planet in nuclear waste for the past 60+ years, they now plan to add insult to injury by spreading it all over every square inch of our one & only planet, & our lives. More public involvement is needed!!


p.s. Highly recommended viewing for the full A- Z take on the nuclear industry – the 8-part short film “Knocking on the Devil’s Door – Our Deadly Nuclear Legacy.” The posting here also lists a decent # of groups I’m aware of in North America that are active on nuke issues (& they can all use help!!).

p.p.s. ‘Nuclear Roulette: The Case Against the “Nuclear Renaissance' is an excellent resource! (I donated a copy to my local library.)

p.p.p.s. Another good read: Killing Our Own – The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation by Harvey Wasserman & Norman Solomon (1982). Sobering, scary, essential reading!

p.s. # 4: Very important paper on what the nuke industry is up to in the report 'Out of Control - on Purpose."

p.s. # 5: Fact sheets on nuke waste here (down below the Scream YouTube).

# 6: Plenty of good nuke-related quotations here


Placards for Nuclear Hearings

I’ve attended too many hearings of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (an oxymoron of a title if ever there was one; geez, I guess even Homer Simpson would know better than to put the words nuclear & safety in the same phrase!) & now most recently the opening sessions of the “Darlington New Nuclear Plant Project” being presided over by the Joint Review Panel (JRP).

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

The setting is always very formal &, frankly, more than a little intimidating for the average human being (I’d hazard a guess that this is deliberate, btw).

The bigshots are seated “up high” at the front of the room, with all their supporting staff to their right & left, while we mere “peasants” sit obediently down lower, in front of their greatnesses.

I invariably wind up wishing things would get a little rowdier. People in kangaroo suits. Maybe a Mad Hatter or two walking around, uttering nonsensical things. (Attending one of these gatherings is very much like going down a rabbit hole, à la Alice In Wonderland; hence my rabbit hole reference & my frequent internal “Off with their heads!!” thoughts…)

Here are just a few placards I’d love to see the “peasants” hold up when the bullshit quotient goes right over the top (which is most of the time, anytime the current nuclear “proponent” has the floor):

  • Bafflegab!
  • (or, less politely, Bullshit!! Not to mention WTF???????)
  • Obfuscation Alert!!
  • I can’t believe you just said that!!!!!!
  • How's about turning off the lie machine?
  • Let’s not forget the uranium, eh??
  • It’s the WASTE, Stooooopid!!


P.S. I say, all future such gatherings should be conducted with everyone sitting around in a circle. No fancy suits allowed. Attire? Jeans & T-shirts. It would very soon become apparent who the real “experts” are, hmmm?


*** Before I could get these 2 postings up, I heard about the Greenpeace protesters who stopped the hearing this morning. Good onya, dudes!! Wish I was there with you. Extraordinary nonsense like nuclear energy & its phoney hearing process absolutely require extraordinary means to get public attention!!!


Darlington Hearing: Awards Announced!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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