radioactive steam generators

Playing with Plutonium: It’s Bananas!

p.s. on May 15/14: an essay on the banana nonsense here. Many thanks to Bruce Power & the Canadian Nuclear Association for this latest blog post idea. Thanks a bunch, dudes!!

A recent news item (presumably motivated by a news release sent to the media by the Canadian Nuclear Association) makes the outlandish claim that the quantity of radioactive contaminants in the 16 radioactive & school-bus-sized steam generators that Bruce Power wants to ship from Canada to Sweden (with considerable risk to the Great Lakes, supplier of drinking water to 40 million) is equivalent to the amount of radioactivity in 50 bananas.

What?????? Say again??

(For anyone who has not previously heard about this preposterous nuclear industry plan, please have a look at the post “Recycling: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.”)

This banana business is absurd!! I went on-line to check it out & found a Wikipedia entry here called “Banana Equivalent Dose.”

And I quote: “A banana equivalent dose is a whimsical unit of radiation exposure, informally defined as the additional dose a person will absorb from eating one banana. It may be sometimes abbreviated as BED.

The concept is based on the fact that bananas, like most organic material, naturally contain a certain amount of radioactive isotopes—even in the absence of any artificial pollution or contamination. The banana equivalent dose was meant to express the severity of exposure to radiation, such as resulting from nuclear power, nuclear weapons or medical procedures, in terms that would make sense to most people.”

The entry goes on to state “the validity of the banana equivalent dose concept has been challenged. Critics, including the EPA,[8] pointed out that the amount of potassium (and therefore of 40K) in the human body is fairly constant because of homeostasis,[9] so that any excess absorbed from food is quickly compensated by the elimination of an equal amount.[1][10]

It follows that the additional radiation exposure due to eating a banana last only for a short period after ingestion, not for 30 days (half-life) as implicitly assumed when using the EPA conversion factor.”

& a great deal more. (Check it out!)

What this is really all about is the nuclear industry trying to minimize the danger of their products – & their very, very, very long-lived resulting nuclear wastes. They do this all the time. They try to make those of us who oppose their activities sound like a bunch of irrational wackos.

So their latest gambit is “Shoot! Our 16 radioactive steam generators are as safe as/only as dangerous as 50 bananas!”

Horsefeathers, ladies & gentlemen. To put it very, very politely.

Another recent article reveals that “…radioactive emissions from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the early days of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster might have been more than twice as large as a previous estimate, suggesting the accident was more grave than the government had publicly acknowledged.”

Yikes. Who we gonna trust, eh??? Not the nuclear industry, I’d say (& not government either, but let’s leave that one aside for the moment).

I don’t expect anyone to just trust me, either. Check out some facts (not factoids, which is the best you generally get from the nuclear industry).

Here is a partial list of the radioactive contaminants found inside a used steam generator from one of the Bruce reactors. (Please note that the information comes from Ontario Power Generation, the arm of the Ontario government that is ultimately responsible for nuclear generation & transmission.)

Here is a shorter list that focuses on the plutonium isotopes.

Here are “15 things citizens need to know” about the radioactive steam generators.

& here is an entire Web site section focused on plutonium.

Plutonium is a very, very, very long way from being as innocuous as bananas – no matter what Bruce Power will try to tell you. It’s NASTY. Nasty & dangerous, & integral in the creation of nuclear weapons.

Its dangers & risks should not be minimized. Not if you are being even the slightest bit upfront with people.

So. In response to BP’s latest preposterous claim, apparently aimed at demonizing bananas & whitewashing radioactive wastes, I offer up some new bumper sticker phrases/suggestions:

  • Playing with Plutonium: It’s Bananas!
  • Bananas Are a Bomb! (Not)
  • 50 Bananas: What a Bomb!
  • BP: This Plan is Bananas!
  • Sexually active…or RADIOactive?
  • Is That 1,000 Bananas in Your Pocket…or are you just trying to lie about deadly radiation??
  • Have you ding-dongs forgotten about the Titanic????


p.s. A whip-smart colleague says “Let's talk about the real numbers – which are that EACH steam generator has a dose rate of about 80-100 microsieverts PER HOUR (100 uSv/ hr) on contact (reference CNSC CMD 10-H19C, page 3, section 4.2.1 which says “Most of the dose rates from the steam generators were less than 100 microsieverts per hour (uSv/hr) on contact.”)

He continues, “We know that these steam generators are not all alike – some are more radioactive than others – "the maximum contact dose rate measured on a small area of one of the steam generators was 740 microsieverts per hour and the maximum dose rate measured AT ONE METER from the surface of the steam generators was 80 uSv/hr"  (reference CNSC CMD 10-H19C  Sept 27,  2010, page 3,  section 4.2.1). Note that this was the revised estimate to be 740 microsieverts per hour.

“It is curious that the Canadian Nuclear Association would chose to use the banana as a dose, which has been discredited on the science of the estimate. It is also curious that even using this ridiculous measure, they got the numbers WRONG! In the popular literature one banana has been equated to a dose of 0.1 microsieverts and we know that the dose rate for most of the steam generators is about 80-100 microsieverts PER HOUR. So if they wanted to use this ridiculous measure, then the correct answer would have been 800 to 1000 bananas PER HOUR for EACH generator – and there are 16 steam generators proposed to be shipped.

This way of expressing risk seems like a lot of bananas!”

p.p.s. Bruce Power (& its backer, the Canadian Nuclear Association) say BP wants to “do the right thing.” The first “right” thing to do would be to stop spewing nonsense & start telling the truth. The second? Get on back to school & brush up on the math, dudes, pullllllese! Third: Put this stupid, preposterous, dangerous, absurd & ill-conceived plan right where it belongs. In the trash can. Bury it… (the plan, not the waste).

p.p.p.s. There are many other postings about the steam generators here

p.s. # 4: & yikes!! Check out a news item here about a small boat hired by Bruce Power that sank in Lake Huron last week. Never mind the Titanic; this was just a tiny boat. Holy moley, dudes. And we're supposed to just trust you on a plan to put 16 school bus-sized radioactive steam generators on a ship & sail it halfway around the world??? I don't think so...

'Quote of the day' with this post: “Nuclear power is safe only if no Act of God is permitted.”  – Nobel-prize-winning physicist Hannes Alfven, 1972


Down the Rabbit Hole (with books)

Well. There are rabbit holes, & there are rabbit holes…hmmm?

I always say attending a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearing is like going down a rabbit hole.(1) (I’ve told the CNSC tribunal about this sensation of mine on at least 2 fairly recent occasions – most recent one here).

To a degree, I feel as though I’ve been down a RH ever since the second week of March, when I went to Ottawa to watch the RNNR Committee (Canadian federal parliamentary committee on Natural Resources) talk about the 16 radioactive steam generators Bruce Power proposes to ship through the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Seaway & Atlantic Ocean, over to Studsvik, Sweden for what they are calling “recycling.” (It’s really not recycling, it’s reprocessing of dangerous nuclear wastes & ensuring they will wind up in the global scrap metal supply; can we all just say “No thanks!!”??) Those hearings were on March 8th & 10th, & then, in the morning of March 11th, I & all of us, I guess, woke to the news of the earthquake & tsunami in Japan. Straight from one nuclear craziness (monstrosity??) to another.

& then the Darlington hearings, starting March 21st, about which I’ve blogged plenty.

When the Darlington hearings finally came to an end, I’d begun to feel utterly depleted. Almost zero energy, & very low spirits.

Then I went down another kind of RH, with NO energy at all, & apparently some kind of stomach “bug.” So I went into a little hidey-hole for a couple days there & read books, books, books! Hooey, how I do love books!

I read Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom – which I found slow going for the first 200 or so pages. Asked myself “Why am I reading this??” – but I was reading it because a) I’d so loved his novel The Corrections & b) I was in that hidey-hole & wanted to read, man! & then finally c) about 200 pages in, he finally grabbed me by the throat & never let go. OMG can this man write! And nail all the various & sundry nastinesses of our sick “culture” (using that term very loosely). Venal politicians. Rapacious corporations. Greedy & deluded & endlessly-consuming citizens. Mixed-up, busted-up, confused families. You name it, he nailed it. This book was not exactly a relaxing read, but if you want to get a really accurate diagnosis of just how sick everything is in our so-called civilization, you could sure do a whole lot worse!

Then I read the novel Thirteen Moons, by Charles Frazier (author of Cold Mountain, which I read half a lifetime ago, or I guess it only feels like that, & liked very much indeed). If I was looking for “light” reading, this wasn’t it either. This tale of one man’s lifetime, in the 18 & 1900s, encompasses some of the horrors of the Americans’ treatment of Indians (or First Nations people, as we now say in Canada) in the U.S. – the long history of corrupt American politics – & right up to early 20thcentury rape of the wilderness he’d so loved. If I’d harboured any illusions about politics ever having been “clean,” (& I did, I did; my naivete or perhaps ignorance has been boundless & maybe inexcusable, even), this book dashed them. So well, though – so skilfully.

For a little lighter reading, I turned to Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman – because as it happens, I have neck issues of my own. Figured I might as well laugh about it! (It’s that or cry, & I seem to be crying a little bit often lately as it is, thanks). A delight! Clever, witty, very informative about living life in the Big Apple, about which I know very little indeed…& more than enough, as it turned out, to make me feel very, very grateful to be an impoverished backwoods hoser Canadian who feels not the slightest compunction about not waxing, or dyeing, or having regular manicures or pedicures (or heck, any manicures or pedicures) & yet being often enough a pretty contented woman all the same. I knew there had to be a pay-off for not being Rich & Famous & Living in New York! I do thank Ms. Ephron for the many good chuckles, & especially for the helpful commiseration about necks!!!! (Anyone under the age of 50 reading this will probably not know what the heck I’m talking about, & hey…lucky you! Enjoy it while it lasts!!)

Finally, then, to the John Grisham novel The Confession. Another light topic. Not. A fabulous page-turner by a master of the page-turner. Well rendered story of an innocent man on death row, falsely convicted & sentenced to death, & the utterly sick & corrupt legal system in a pukey Texas town that was responsible for his wrongful conviction, sentence & imprisonment. I won’t spoil the plot, but I sure do recommend this book for its terrifying glimpse into very deeply sick goings-on in the American “justice” system, Southern style…

If anything, all this reading brought me back full circle to the inevitability of continuing to be an activist.

What are we left with in this weird & utterly unprecedented time, but our voices…our convictions…our ability to put our asses into the breach & DO SOMETHING????

There is strength in numbers. I’m not sure there is really any other kind of strength.(2)

Okay, so, now, back to Reality: Right now we’re well into a federal election campaign in Canada. We’re being given the opportunity to trounce our right-wing, corporate agenda-driven & -promoting government & bring in politicians with some dignity & class & actual concern for “regular” people. (I will vote Green Party, & for sure, until election day on May 2nd, I will be exhorting everyone to for Goddess’s sake VOTE!! Remember the people of Egypt & Libya, many of whom would very likely give a treasured limb to have a political system with all the freedoms & choices & privileges ours does! Including the right to CHOOSE our leaders, yes?? Provided we are not so godawfully lazy & apathetic as to not exercise our privilege & responsibility to VOTE. Sheesh, already.)(3)

And also, DONATE. To help the people of Japan who are dealing with such unspeakable, unimaginable, horrendous & long-lived-for-all-the-rest-of-their-lives tragedy. Here is a helpful site to help you choose an organization to donate through (scroll down to find the list).


P.S. Lately I keep thinking that it seems almost as though an awful lot of us human beings are really not human beings at all. More like some kind of sick robot, infected with a variety of nasty viruses that make us selfish & greedy & grasping & corrupt & quite unable to see that these are unprecedented times, & that these unprecedented times call for unprecedented … bravery, flexibility, unselfishness, effort, energy, generosity, compassion, activism, actions, and…oh, responsibility, caring…you get my drift, hmm? (Another way of putting it might be that it’s a time to yank our heads out of our own backsides & DO something. Don'tcha think??)

P.P.S. I recall someone once saying in a letter to the editor (which paper & when? No idea!!) “Let us collect our wisdom rather than pooling our ignorance.” Amen to that, I say.

(1) This is a reference to the story Alice in Wonderland, which perhaps not all readers know. Main character Alice follows a rabbit, falls down a rabbit hole & has a series of crazy adventures involving growing smaller & larger (a couple of times), a grinning Cheshire Cat, a Mad Hatter & his mad tea-party, Tweedledum & Tweedledee, a homicidal Queen of Hearts who goes around shouting “Off with their heads!” & no doubt sundry other characters I am forgetting to mention.

(2) The image that comes to me often lately is that of a beehive. Lots of worker bees, all of whose efforts are valuable & necessary.

(3) In the last federal election, fully 41% of eligible voters did not vote. Shameful! One of my favourite quotations: “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” – George Jean Nathan, 1882-1958


Why I Love Activists / Activism

** Pre-Script: I’ve dredged this one up out of the files, as it were. Wrote it back last fall, soon after the steam generator hearing in Ottawa, but never got around to posting it. I’m feeling so … knocked on my butt right now, in these days immediately following the earthquake/tsunami in Japan, & during the ongoing nuclear crisis, that I don’t seem to be able to write anything new. So I was kind of glad to run across this in the computer. It will have to do for now…

<Oct. 7/10.>

I’ve been writing a lot lately about the CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) & the proposed steam generator shipment(s). I was digging through my notebook & came across the notes I’d made on June 25 (2010) at the Massey Hall ‘Shout Out for Global Justice’ event on G20 weekend [G20 Protests in Toronto].

That was a fabulous event, with outstanding talks by outstanding activists Vandana Shiva, Amy Goodman, Leo Gerard, John Hilary, Naomi Klein, Pablo Solon, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Maude Barlowe & David Coles. Their speeches can be found here


(& this after having been only 2 weeks before to the to-die-for line-up of awesome speakers at the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) conference in Washington, D.C. Yowsa!!)

I really do like hanging out with people who tell the truth. Who are sincere.

Who are also really intelligent, & thoughtful, & who often seem to have more integrity in their little fingers than some… some… (trying very hard to be polite here) some … corporate/government types have in their entire bodies/corporations/bureaucracies/organizations.

  • Intelligence
  • Integrity
  • Intention

I, I, I!! (As in, Ai yi yi!)

It is so much more fun hanging out with people who stand for something than with people who’d fall for anything. Especially mere money.

If you would like to have more plain old fun in your life, I suggest you pick an issue about which you feel passionate (only about a zillion to choose from, hmmm?) – & get off your butt!

I can’t promise you you will love to pieces every single activist you’ll encounter. You’ll find all the negative human traits among activists that you see anywhere else – even, sometimes, too much ego. We are merely human, after all! (In the Elizabeth Lesser/Wavy Gravy lingo, we are all just “bozos on the bus,” hmmm?)

But I can also tell you this:

In the 21 years I’ve been involved in environmental activism, I’ve met the most genuinely awesome individuals I could ever possibly have hoped to meet. I really, really have.

And I’ve had – am still having – a blast!

Gotta love that, eh??


p.s. I hear a lot of “What can one person do?” & “You can’t fight City Hall” & all that kind of nonsense. It’s quite clearly nonsense, because you only have to look around you, & look at human history, to see that it has always been people willing to act who have made things change. Slavery. Segregation. Environmental destruction of all kinds. What has ever changed these things besides people who choose to act? Come on, folks!

There is also some fallacy about being guaranteed some kind of result. A specific outcome. Some of my friends are remarking now on some outcomes they see in the world that they feel I’ve helped bring about. And they’re right – I did help bring them about! (e.g. pesticide by-laws is one key example.) But I wasn’t given any kind of guarantee when I did the work that there would be some kind of “success” or outcome. I knew that there would only be a positive outcome if I did help do the work. (Bit of a chicken & egg scenario, hmmm?) Plus, & unavoidably, whatever I did, I did as one little worker bee in a whole beehive full of other worker bees. 'Cos that’s how it works!

I’ve long found Buddhist thought to be extremely helpful & inspiring. One small string of it suggests that we do what we do – we do what feels right in the moment – & we do not concern ourselves with outcome. So we make the generous gestures, & the apologies, & give money to people on the street, & so on & so on & so on. We work for pesticide by-laws; or toward a zero waste society; or to have our culture use alternative, renewable & sustainable forms of energy; or take part in the movement for sustainable local, organic food systems – & we don’t waste energy on the obstacles. We just fire ahead & do what very clearly feels like the right thing to do. The work is its own reward! I’ve said this on this blog so many times now I must sound like a broken record; activism is its own reward.

So don’t wait to jump in because you’re waiting for some kind of guarantee that you’re picking something that will pay off in a big way, real soon. Just get involved in an issue you feel passionate about. Working with seniors. Working with kids. An environmental issue (or three). Social justice issues. Take your pick, Reader! For sure, your energy is needed!!

And if you pick the wrong one, one that doesn’t make you feel good while you are doing the work, finish up the particular task you’re engaged in (it’s not very cool to make commitments you’re not going to keep), & then move on.

Go where the energy is. Your energy… (& when you add yours to that of other people's, you'll be amazed at the synergies that will result!!)

p.p.s. I wrote about why I figure I am an activist here

‘Quote for the day’ with this post: “A lot of people say, ‘What’s the point?’ That’s an excuse for inaction. I’d rather put a drop in the bucket than nothing at all, and every drop adds up.” ~ Jonathan Brock, on his work for Doctors Without Borders

Steam Generators: Parliamentary Hearing, Day 1

So, I’m in Ottawa (Canada’s “capital city” & home of our federal government…yes, the one that seems to be imploding as we speak, but never mind…).

I’m here to listen to the hearings of the RNNR Committee (our federal government’s “Standing Committee on Natural Resources” & no, I don’t understand the acronym either).

Opposition to the Bruce Power (BP eh?) plan to ship 16 radioactive steam generators to Studsvik, Sweden has been steadily mounting since last summer.

While our federal government is dominated by a right-wing, pro-business & anti-people party & agenda, we do have some elected officials of other parties (other than the Conservatives, I mean) – in this case the NDP (New Democratic Party), Liberals and Bloc Québecois who, unlike our ruling party, actually give a darn about environmental issues.

So. The motion to have hearings on this passed, some months ago now, & here we are!

(Watch the hearing here )

On Day 1 (Tues., March 8th) I was struck by the crazy gender imbalance in the hearing room. I didn’t actually do a head count, but it has to have been about 98% male. Lorraine, the woman I sat with (a person whose life has been very much affected by the down side of the nuclear fuel chain, & who has written about her experiences very eloquently indeed), commented “Is this a funeral for the steam generators, or what?”

We were among the very few women in the room, which was filled with men in dark suits. (I wonder if any of the men noticed how alike they all look, dressed like that. Maybe that’s what they want? To all look alike?? Beats me. Whatever…)

The “proponents” of the steam generator plan had their say. The usual stuff. “It’s all fine.” “Don’t worry, be happy! It’s all safe.”

A person did kinda need her hip waders….

(You can watch the hearing here )

Dr. Michael Binder, head honcho of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) tribunal (the tribunal is the group that makes the decisions, based on what the CNSC staff have told them) – well, Dr. B. had a bit of a hissy fit, accusing those who are leading the opposition to the Bruce Power plan of being “professional” anti-nukers.

Pretty funny to hear Binder & BP CEO Duncan Hawthorne, with their undoubtedly 6-figure incomes, accuse the shipment opponents of only doing the work because they are paid for it! Did we just go down a rabbit hole, or what?? I know not one single environmental activist who earns a 6-figure salary!? (All the folks I know do the work we do because we believe in it. Imagine that, eh? My own income last year from paid work amounted to a rather low 3 figures, btw. Everything isn't always about the money, you know!)

Well. CNSC & Bruce Power said their piece. According to the CNSC, the BP plan is… wait for it... “acceptable.” The planned security measures are (you guessed it!) acceptable. (Talk about damning with faint praise!)

Dunno about anyone else, but I find CNSC’s reassurances entirely underwhelming.

To be continued! Day 2 hearing coming up shortly….


p.s. Lots of steam generator-related posts here

p.p.s. Good list of news items about Day 1 here

p.p.p.s. Author David Michaels, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health in the Department of Energy, comments in his book Doubt is Their Product – How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health (2008) that the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the U.S.) “is overly sympathetic to the commercial reactor operators. This is not surprising; government agencies are often advocates for certain commercial interests.” Now, ain’t that the truth??

Dear Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

** I sent the letter below to Ontario's Environmental Commissioner <> last Friday, after learning he is declining to take on any role with respect to Bruce Power's proposed shipment of 16 radioactively-contaminated steam generators. I also carbon-copied a number of (Ontario) provincial politicians - including my own Member of Provincial Parliament & our premier, Dalton McGuinty (those e-mail addresses are provided below). No response as of yet! I may soon "recycle" my letter & send it to some federal politicians. (I also have yet another letter to write; this one to the members of the federal government's Natural Resources Committee, who will be hearing from witnesses about all this on March 8th & March 10th, in Ottawa. The e-mail address to use to send letters to them is <>

February 24, 2011.

Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario:

I hear you are declining to make any comment on Bruce Power’s proposed shipment of radioactive steam generators through the Great Lakes (source of drinking water for 40 million people), citing it a federal responsibility.

I don’t wish to be impolite – I know you are often an ally to those of us who work on environmental issues – but this seems a little wrong-headed to me.

Bruce Power operates in Ontario. Their plant is located in Ontario. The power generated from the Bruce Power (BP) nuclear generating station is used in Ontario. The waste is housed in Ontario. If this shipment (only the first of many, by the way) goes ahead, school-bus-sized & highly radioactive steam generators will be loaded up & transported to nearby Owen Sound (also in Ontario), where they will be loaded onto a ship & begin their long journey – in Ontario, and then parts beyond.

If there is any kind of accident at any point (on the first shipment or on any of the projected future ones), people all over the world will wonder why this project was given the go-ahead. They will ask, “Where were the watchdogs?”

We know that “incredible,” un-anticipated accidents do happen. We know that the other BP assured the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2009 that an oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon site was “unlikely.” And that an environmental impact study was therefore waived. We all know about the tragedy that this irresponsible oversight led to.

Of course too, a big and mostly not-well-understood aspect to this plan of Bruce Power/CNSC’s is that Canada’s nuclear waste is going to wind up in the global scrap metal supply. The United Nations has reported on this growing problem. It is a fact – and a very frightening one – that the company that will be “recycling” (reprocessing, to be accurate – not really recycling) our steam generators refuses to say where the metal will go. Many of us now know that radioactive contaminants are landing in unusual places (i.e., consumer goods). I for one do not wish to hear of a child or grandchild of mine winding up with radioactive metal in her or his mouth. I’m betting you wouldn’t either!

As an activist, I’ve been watching politicians for 20 years now. I’ve grown tired of the “political football” game our so-called leaders engage in routinely.

And, as a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) watcher who has seen this supposed guardian of Canadians’ safety in action, blatantly ignoring safety risks and most particularly health impacts in communities and situations too numerous to name, the last organization I wish to leave this critical shipping decision to is the CNSC!

Like you, I live here in Ontario. Clearly, our provincial government is up to its eyeballs in the generation and transmission of nuclear energy; this cannot be denied! Isn’t it past time for those who are ducking and dodging responsibility for this Bruce Power/CNSC plan to really step up to the plate and prove they are responsible? Heck – I’d like them to prove they are paying attention!

The proposed shipment of radioactive steam generators must be stopped! Federal politicians who are members of the Natural Resources Committee will be learning more about this issue in Ottawa on March 8 and March 10th.

But since this shipment represents only the proverbial tip of the iceberg, I’d say we need all hands on deck!

With this letter I’m sending you a document called “Radioactive Steam Generators: 15 Facts Parliamentarians Need to Know.” I beg you: take the time to read it over carefully, let its contents sink in, and then contemplate how to help keep this potential Titanic of a project from setting sail.

Martin Luther King once said “Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular – but one must take it simply because it is right.” Joseph Campbell said “Once you know the difference between right and wrong, you have lots fewer decisions to make.”

Seems to me the right decision here is to harness all of our psychic, moral and physical energy to put a halt to this plan to sail dangerously radioactive wastes through the drinking water of 40 million people – and then, well beyond. (And not once, mind you, but repeatedly…)

Please don’t take part in this gigantic game of “pass the buck”! You – and millions of us on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border – indeed, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean – might very well live to regret – very deeply – your refusal to speak up.


Janet McNeill

P.S. If this shipment does go ahead, it will establish three precedents, each having far-reaching political implications:

PRECEDENT ONE: It will be the first time that Canada has exported or imported radioactive wastes from a refurbished or decommissioned nuclear reactor.

PRECEDENT TWO: It will also be the first time radioactive wastes from nuclear reactors have been shipped through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

PRECEDENT THREE: It will be the first time that radioactive waste materials from Canadian reactors have been introduced into the world’s scrap metal market.

In addition, the proposed shipment would contradict explicit assurances given during a 2005-2007 Environmental Assessment in which Bruce Power and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) staff declared that the steam generators are radioactive wastes, which cannot be recycled “for safety and environmental reasons.” The steam generators were to be sent to the Western Waste Management Facility (at the Bruce site) for storage in perpetuity.


  • Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal <>
  • Ontario Environment Minister John Wilkinson <>
  • Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey <>
  • Premier Dalton McGuinty <>
  • Jerry Ouellette (Prov. Conserv. Nat. Resources critic) <>
  • Howard Hampton (Prov. NDP Nat. Resources critic) <>
  • Toby Barrett (Prov. Conserv. Env. critic) <>
  • Peter Tabuns (Prov. NDP Env. critic) <>

Recycling: the good, the bad & the ugly

Recycling: such a nice “warm & fuzzy” word, isn’t it? A word with such positive associations.

And I'm a diehard recycler, believe me!! Been recycling for more than 30 years – newspapers, cans, glass; whatever I can possibly recycle (or compost!), I recycle (or compost).

In fact, I spent quite a few years as an activist focusing largely on waste reduction – at first because the idea of wasting good land for dump sites really gave me the willies – & because waste in general is just such a … waste! (& I hate waste – of all kinds.)

Eventually, I twigged to the fact that reusing resources also conserves energy – so critical when it comes to the climate issue. How many times have I repeated the phrase “You can run a TV set for 3 hours with the energy saved by recycling one aluminum can”? Tons. (Hmmm. Mind you, if we kept the darn TV turned OFF, we’d save even more energy, wouldn’t we??)

So, I faithfully recycle & compost, but I’ve noticed another positive form of “recycling” along the way.

Gratitude is a wonderful way to keep positive thoughts … recycling … around inside one’s head. I always say if one fills up one’s head with positive thoughts, the negative ones mostly just get squeezed out! (Lots about gratitude on this blog.)

I’ve also come to think of anger as something we do not want to recycle – although I see lots of evidence all around me that there is plenty of this happening. Heck, I’m guilty of it myself at times! When I catch myself recycling anger & resentments, I do my best to put a quick stop to it. Since what we focus on expands, I find I’m much happier (more filled with positive energy) when I keep that stuff from filling up my head.

So, recycling anger is what I think of as an example of “bad” recycling. (As wonderful writer Anne Lamott has a character say in her novel Crooked Little Heart, “Holding onto a resentment is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.” Brilliant, isn’t it?)

Which brings us around, finally, to the “ugly."

Bruce Power – one of Ontario (Canada)’s major producers of nuclear energy – is determined to ship radioactive steam generators from its plant near the shores of beautiful Lake Huron – & claims that the company they are shipping them to (Studsvik) in Sweden will … you guessed it! recycle them.

This is ugly. Not just's dangerous.

The outer shell of the internally very radioactively-contaminated steam generators (SGs) will be “recycled” – & guess where that contaminated scrap metal will go? It will be “free released” into the global scrap metal supply. It will then likely make its insidious way into cutlery, furniture (think cribs, eh?), toasters, bedposts, dental hardware…etc. etc. etc. (The blog posting ‘Radioactive Cutlery, Anyone?’ discusses this in greater depth).

Bruce Power (BP for short, hmmm?) wants us to “just trust them” about this preposterous project. There must be at least 50 reasons why I personally have zero trust for the nuclear industry in general & this project in particular (although as far as that goes, one need not be “anti-nuke” to be anti-steam generator shipment!).

For sure there are “15 Facts” about this proposal I’d suggest any & everyone, everywhere, read & digest. Then I’d suggest we ALL raise a big ruckus before a ship is permitted to set sail from Owen Sound, Ontario, sail through Georgian Bay & then 3 of the Great Lakes & the St. Lawrence River & then the Atlantic Ocean – with 16 school-bus-sized steam generators filled with radioactive contaminants. (Look here to see what the tube bundles look like & here & here for lists of the contents of these innocuous-sounding steam generators. Since plutonium has a starring role, you really ought to check it out!)

Bruce Power – & the nuclear industry – ain’t stupid! They’re deliberately highjacking the word “recycling” – a word with which most of us have positive associations – & claiming they are “doing the right thing” by “recycling” nuclear waste & gradually, insidiously, adding it to the world’s metal supply.

The United Nations has a report on this issue that you can see here. The NIRS group has many fact sheets on their Web site. The one here explains why reprocessing is not the answer with nuclear waste (unless the question is “How can we dupe the public into accepting radioactively-contaminated consumer products? How’s about a little plutonium with that new toaster…eh?”)

Btw, you can go here to see what the U.S.-based Steel Manufacturers Association has to say about the growing problem of radioactive metal contamination.

So. Recycling, eh?

For sure, it can be grand!

We can help our world in lots of ways by practicing waste reduction. By all means, please do recycle whatever things you can in your community’s local recycling program!

You may not want to recycle your anger, though. (It doesn’t just make you & the people around you miserable, it’s also bad for your health!)

And always, always, always, it’s critical to bear in mind that preventing waste from happening in the first place – waste of any kind – whether it’s resources, poisoning of any kind, problems of any kind, & especially wars – is ALWAYS the best strategy. (The “waste reduction hierarchy” is 1. Reduce 2. Reuse 3. Recycle. First choice = don’t make it/buy/create it in the first place, if you can help it!)

When it comes to nuclear waste that will remain hazardous for 1000’s & 1000’s, & 10’s of 1000’s, & 100’s of 1000’s of years – could we please just get smart & stop making it???? And for sure, not send it sailing through the drinking water of 40 million people!!


p.s. BP keeps kinda quiet about the fact that the Swedish company Studsvik they are dealing with will return the most highly radioactive & dangerous “leftovers” back to Canada, where they will land by ship in Halifax, on Canada’s East Coast, then make their way by truck, & public roads, to the Bruce Power site near Kincardine, Ontario. Trucking dangerous, radioactive materials all over the place – risking accidents at literally every turn – can anyone say “Gosh. This sure looks like a dumb & dangerous plan to me!! Aren’t we humans smarter than that????”

p.p.s. Albert Einstein said “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water!” Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931) said “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ‘til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” These dudes were smart, eh???? [tons more nuke-related quotations]

p.p.p.s. Lots more steam generator-related posts listed here

TONS of good info here also

Great Lakes United here

NIRS here

Beyond Nuclear here


Radioactive Steam Generators: 15 facts

This document can also be found (properly formatted!!) here

  • Radioactive wastes are piling up at nuclear power plants around the world. Highly radioactive spent fuel wastes, estimated to total 340,000 tonnes worldwide as of 2010, are growing by 12,000 tonnes each year. However, many other types of radioactive waste are also accumulating.These include radioactive steam generators, enormous cylindrical hulks of metal, each the size of an 18-wheeled tractor-trailer, weighing from100 to 800 tonnes.Each one contains thousands of contaminated tubes having a combined length of 1000 km or more.
  • Steam generators (SGs) are an integral part of CANDUs and many other reactors.Highly radioactive primary coolant water passes directly from the nuclear fuel rods to the inner tubes of the SGs. As they age, these tubes become increasingly radioactive, corroded and brittle.Eventually the SG needs to be replaced. According to the US Department of Energy, "In order to properly store decommissioned steam generators, mausoleums or storage vaults are designed to minimize the radiation release and exposure to plant personnel and the public.”
  • Bruce Power (BP) has 16 radioactive SGs in storage on-site near Lake Huron. Onatrio’s Bruce Power (BP) runs the largest nuclear generating station in North America, and is currently refurbishing 2 of the8 reactors there.This requires replacing the 16 steam generators.During a 2006 environmental assessment of the refurbishment project, the SGs that were removed were classified as radioactive waste.For that reason it was stated that the SGs could not be recycled and that they would be managed in perpetuity on site in a monitored waste management facility owned and operated by OPG, along with additional radioactive steam generators from the planned refurbishment of the other reactors run by BP.
  • UsedSGs are contaminated with plutonium and other radioactive materials.Ninety percent of the radioactive mass in each used SG is made up of five different varieties of plutonium. The quantity of plutonium-239 alone in the 16 SGs would be enough, in principle, to give 52 million atomic workers their maximum permissible body burden of radioactive contamination. Plutonium-239isa highly toxic radioactive element that remains hazardous for tens of thousands of years.The SGs also contain a host of other long-lived radioactive isotopes.
  • In 2010 Bruce Power asked for alicence to ship 16 SGs to Sweden for “recycling.”Disregarding earlier commitments made in 2006, BP struck a deal in 2009 with a Swedish company, Studsvik, to disassemble each SG, melt the outer, less-radioactive shell, then cut and compact the interior tubes which Studsvik describes as a “highly radioactive tube bundle”.The less radioactive metal would be sold as scrap for unrestricted use. The most radioactive portion – about 450 tonnes – would be shipped back to Halifax and then trucked back to Bruce Power.
  • The SGs would be transported via the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. BP's deal with Studsvik requires that the steam generators be hauled from Kincardine Ontario to Owen Sound, then shipped through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, across the Atlantic Ocean to the Studsvik facility in Sweden. Each steam generator contains sufficient long-lived toxic radionuclides to seriously contaminate local water bodies should an accident occur such as the recent flipping of a barge in St. John harbour, which resulted in two new 107-tonne steam turbine rotors sinking to the bottom of the harbour in October 2008.
  • When Bruce Power applied for a transport license a storm of protest erupted.Dozens of non-governmental organizations, municipalities, First Nations and other Aboriginal communities have expressed strong opposition to the shipment.Mayors and town councils of over 100 cities bordering the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River have passed resolutions challenging the proposed shipment.Many First Nations and other aboriginal communities have expressed displeasure at not being consulted or even notified about the proposed shipment.The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), which is the licensing body, was compelled to hold two days of public hearingsin September 2010 to listen to the views of 80 intervenors from Canada, the US and overseas.The CNSC extended the comment period and postponed its decision on the license application, but finally granted the licence in February 2011.
  • The radioactivity in the SGs exceeds the maximum allowed on a single vessel.The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations lay out the maximum amount of radioactivity allowed on a single shipment.The CNSC admits that the sixteen SGs from Bruce Power exceed the IAEA standard by a factor of at least six times. Intervenors maintain that the SGs exceed IAEA standards by more than sixty times because of the more stringent limits laid down by the IAEA for inland waterways such as the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.
  • This transport restriction has been waived under a “Special Arrangement.” In exceptional or urgent circumstances, IAEA regulations state that shipments containing higher amounts of radiation may be allowed under a “Special Arrangement.” The intervenors oppose this “Special Arrangement” on the grounds that the proponent has not demonstrated any necessity for the shipment.Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the provincial corporation that owns the Bruce reactors, can store used steam generators from all Ontario reactors on site.
  • Processing would contaminate the scrap metal market with radioactive waste. There is no market for radioactive metal.Nobody wants it.Studsvik plans to blend the radioactive metal from the SGs with uncontaminated metal in the ratio of 1 to 10.The resulting mix will be sold as scrap metal with no warning that it contains plutonium and other man-made radioactive pollutants. In recent years, the United Nations, the Steel Manufacturers Association, and the Bureau of International Recycling have condemned the alarming practice of contaminating the world’s scrap metal supply with radioactive waste materials.
  • There is an accepted and CNSC-approved alternative for the steam generators. OPG transferred ownership of the steam generators to BP in October 2009 at BPs request. Up to that time there was an accepted plan for storage of the SGs in perpetuity on site.During a 2006 environmental assessment, BP stated that the SGs would be stored in a surface facility until 2043 and underground thereafter.Meanwhile, a “segmentation facility” was to be built by the owner, OPG.This proposal was accepted by the CNSC. BP and CNSC stated in 2006 and 2007that the SGs are radioactive waste and so cannot be recycled for environmental and safety reasons.
  • Shipment of the SGwastes poses unnecessary health and environmental risks. Intervenors such as the Great Lakes Cities Initiative have demonstrated that under a worst-case accident scenario involving the SGs, an entire city's drinking water could be contaminated to a level that would require finding alternative drinking water sources.Ninety percent of the radioactive inventory in the SGs is plutonium, well known as one of the most toxic man-made radioactive materials – one that lasts for tens of thousands of years. Any major accident releasing such material could have consequences for generations.
  • Dangerous precedents will be set if this shipment of SGs is to proceed.This will be the first time that radioactive debris from old nuclear reactors has been transported through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.If this shipment takes place, many more such shipments will follow.This will also be the first time that radioactive waste from Canada has been exportedto another country.It will be the first time that radioactive waste from Canada has been disseminated into international commerce, and the first time that radioactive waste has been importedto Canada from another country.These are dangerous precedents.
  • TheCNSC is not the proper body for setting government policy.The CNSCis a licensing agency, and unless a rule or policy forbids it, they usually grant requests from industry.But in this case there is a policy vacuum. There is no policy framework on the management of radioactive debris from refurbished or dismantled nuclear reactors at either the federal or provincial levels.Leadership has to come through our democratic institutions, after wide-ranging public consultations to determine what is in the best interest of Canadians.
  • Canada needs clear policies on so-called “low-level” radioactive wastes.In order to chart a responsible course for the future, Canada needs clear policies on the export, import, transport and classification of radioactive wastes currently described as “low-level wastes.” Better classifications are needed to discriminate between different kinds of radioactive wastes, based on toxicity and longevity.Most importantly, we need clear policies on how to keep nuclear wastes safely isolated from the environment of living things in perpetuity.

More information is available at the site of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

(Many other steam generator posts on this blog listed here)


Steam Generators: Letters to the editor

3 so far...

October 7, 2010.

Dear Editor [Montreal Gazette]:

Nuclear concerns hysteria?

And “No less an expert than Ramzi Jammal, the chief regulatory officer of the Canadian Nuclear Regulatory Commission” has laid your fears utterly to rest?

Clearly, you have never attended a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearing! “Down the rabbit hole” is the operative phrase that always springs very quickly to mind.

Also, having the foxes minding the henhouse.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (yes, you got Jammal’s info wrong) has every appearance of being, as described by federal NDP MP Nathan Cullen, “a lapdog rather than a watchdog.”

I’ve been a CNSC watcher for years now, along the Ottawa River one way & another, and I attended the recent hearing about this proposed steam generator shipment.

Bruce Power has misled us with their plans and CNSC staff made serious factual errors in their reports, underestimating by 50% the shipment’s radioactive content. CNSC staff always minimize the nature of nuclear risks involved. Spills are always “small,” nuclear proponents’ plans are always “acceptable.” This is classic nuclear industry protocol.

There are so many things wrong with this plan, I can’t begin to do justice to them all in one short letter.

Rather than accepting the reassurances of the CNSC fox that minds the Canadian nuclear henhouse, I suggest you consult the expertise of the almost 80 intervenors who took their own time to marshall a boatload of valid objections to this plan. Your own province has more than 30 municipalities that are “just saying no.”

I think you need to dig a little deeper.


Janet McNeill


November 24, 2010.

Dear Editor [Sarnia Observer]:

Interesting. The Sarnia Observer piece headed “Anti-nuclear rage doesn’t hold water” is billed as a “news” item, yet reads a lot more like an angry rant. Gotta admire this DenTandt his fiery oratorical qualities – but please, let’s not call it news!

It isn’t only environmental “zealots” who strongly oppose Bruce Power’s proposed shipment of these highly radioactive steam generators through precious & irreplaceable water sources. First Nations communities, a boatload of American senators, mayors & municipalities along the route (more than 30 in Quebec, along the St. Lawrence River) and the City of Montreal are “just saying no.”

In fact, we “enviros” who oppose this scheme aren’t hysterical at all! I wish you could have heard the almost-80 intervenors who told the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission tribunal & staff in person why our reasons are so numerous & carefully-thought out. What an inspiring crowd!

CNSC staff and Bruce Power are trying to ramrod this shipment through. Gentlemen, there is no rush! The mothballed generators have been collecting dust for 15 years already.

There is a great deal to consider here. Exporting Canada’s nuclear waste & adding to the already-serious global problem of radioactivity getting into the world’s metal supplies & our consumer goods has apparently not yet hit your radar screen – but it needs to!

CNSC needs to put on the brakes and order up a full, new Environmental Assessment to go over this very controversial project with a fine-tooth comb.

Janet McNeill

February 11, 2011.

Dear Niagara Falls Review Editor:

According to Kalvin Reid, our choice is to let Bruce Power’s radioactive steam generators be shipped through precious, irreplaceable waters – or live in the dark.

I’m not sure whether this is a form of naivete, or some kind of fear-mongering.

Reid mistakes Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) claims for facts. He has not dug into the issue deeply enough to understand why the opposition to Bruce Power’s plan is so strong. This is a complex issue and he does neither it – nor his readers – justice.

Bruce Power made a commitment to keep those steam generators on site. Now they’ve changed their tune. They minimize the risks of a possible accident and offer factoids, not facts, to allay our fears. The CNSC skates along, working determinedly to smooth the way.

Those of us who’ve dealt over time with nuclear proponents (& the CNSC) know better than to take these people at their word. It is irresponsible – even immoral, in my view – to placate the public with empty promises. Municipalities that have taken the time to dig into the real risks are smart not to “buy” BP’s false assurances.

The steam generators contain far more genuinely dangerous radioactivity than Bruce Power (or CNSC) acknowledges. The risks of an accident are very real. A couple years ago some turbines were dumped into the St. John’s, New Brunswick harbour; fortunately, they were not radioactive.

This shipment is not a one-shot deal. Once this one is allowed to proceed, BP will be busy lining up more.

Bruce Power owes the Canadian public a thorough explanation of why their plan to keep the steam generators on-site has changed so massively. It also owes us an honest accounting – not half-truths – about the reprocessing that will take place in Sweden and that will likely result in radioactive materials entering the global scrap metal supply.

Canadians are entitled to a proper debate about the idea of exporting nuclear waste. Is sending our dangerous wastes across the ocean really the best solution we can come up with?

This is a good time for a thoughtful debate – not for more of the Ready, Fire!!!...Aim method of doing nuclear business.

Let’s not ever forget that the other BP assured the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2009 that an oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon site was “unlikely.” An environmental impact study was therefore waived.


Janet McNeill

Steam Generators: Losing Steam?

I’ve been blogging about this issue since last Fall (all the steam generator-related blog posts are listed here). The issue just won’t go away – for a boatload of reasons (heh heh).

Short form: Bruce Power (BP, eh?) is a for-profit nuclear outfit (the 2nd-largest nuclear facility in the world & the largest in North America in terms of output) near Kincardine, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes. Two (of the Bruce’s eight) reactors are being “refurbished” & there are 16 retired, heavily radioactive steam generators (SGs) – each weighing around 1000 tonnes & the size of a school bus – that BP wants to ship through the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River & across the Atlantic Ocean to Studsvik, Sweden for what they call “recycling.” The Canadian federal agency that regulates all nuclear goings-on in Canada – the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or CNSC – has given Bruce Power the go-ahead. (Go here to see what the SGs look like on the inside, & here for a list of their radioactive contaminants & here for plutonium details.)

Problem? Tons of opposition to this project & shipment has been mobilizing & growing since last April when news of it first hit. Opposition has not flagged & has in fact continued to grow. CNSC reluctantly held a “one day” hearing on the SGs (it took 2 days, given the near-80 intervenors who had to say their piece, but CNSC insisted on calling it a “one day hearing.” As it happens, with this agency, you do seem to fall down into an Alice in Wonderland-like rabbit hole very quickly. I speak from experience…).

Who is Opposed? Well, an awful lot of “mere” individuals with no particular group affiliation, a very large number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a small army of First Nations/Aboriginal communities, mayors of many municipalities in Ontario & especially in Quebec, &, most recently, the Environment Minister of the province of Quebec. Oh, & also the members of both the federal & provincial New Democratic Party (NDP). The Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative group (hardly a hotbed of knee jerk, anti-nuclear types) is firmly opposed & has made very reasoned arguments against BP’s plans. You can read their materials here

Where Do We Stand Now? Well, the CNSC took a long time to make its decision. Initially, before there was so much vocal response to their original plan to allow one staff person to render a decision on this & provide Bruce Power with its necessary transportation license (CNSC had very quickly rubber-stamped the necessary export license last January, i.e. Jan. 2010), we all expected a quick decision after the (two-day) one-day hearing last Fall, Sept. 28 & 29th. But CNSC was quietly going around behind closed doors, trying to turn municipal opposition in Quebec into support. On February 11th, in spite of fierce opposition from so many quarters, CNSC gave Bruce Power the go-ahead for its (first) shipment.

Now what? Opposition has not abated & continues to grow on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border, & also on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. There actually seem to be very few supporters of this plan to fill a ship with 16,000 tonnes of radioactively contaminated steam generators & allow the ship to sail through the drinking water of 40 million people & hope that nothing bad happens. (The other BP assured the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2009 that an oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon site was “unlikely,” & an environmental impact study was therefore waived. I want to say “Oops,” except that that would be a very flippant comment in light of the disaster that resulted from that (dare I say criminal) oversight. How about YIKES…let’s not keep on doing such criminally stupid stuff, hmmmm??????)

Upcoming: Canadian politicians (representing all of our elected political parties) who are members of Canada’s federal Natural Resources Committee have set aside 2 days to discuss this matter (March 8 & 10th). Activists with many years’ experience in nuclear issues say the CNSC is exceeding its authority by not merely licensing nuclear operations in Canada – but actually setting policy & even advocating on behalf of nuclear proponents. This is clearly not properly the role of the CNSC. Surely, sending nuclear wastes around the world is properly a matter for public & political debate. One hopes our politicians will agree! (Not a sure thing, mind you, in our Conservative-led government...)

Your Role? You can consult the fact sheet “15 facts citizens need to know” about the steam generators. This being a complex issue, it can easily be misconstrued & misrepresented by zealous members of the nuclear industry & its supporters. Unfortunately, our federal nuclear “regulator” appears to be one of the latter, quite inappropriately, as previously mentioned, & needs to be reined in. It’s an issue Canadians need to get our heads around! This fact sheet will help readers grasp the many complexities of this issue.

You can also sign onto a resolution opposing the shipment here

I’d say speaking up with letters to the editor & letters to politicians would also be most helpful. I’ll post my own shortly, along with some suggested names & addresses of politicians to contact.

And Lordy Lordy, I almost forgot to mention the factor that got me involved in this issue in the first place!! That of the growing problem of radioactive materials getting into the global metal supply (see UN report on this here & Steel Manufacturers Association position here). My first posting on this issue, ‘Radioactive Cutlery, Anyone?’ gives you a decent introduction to this really sobering aspect of what Bruce Power & its buddies in the nuclear industry are really up to. It ain’t pretty…


P.S. You need not be an anti-nuclear activist, btw, to be anti-steam generator shipment. I am anti-nuclear, & have been for as long as I can remember. But there are many pro-nuclear people who oppose this BP plan. Because there are a boatload of reasons to oppose it.

P.P.S. There is a very good blog post with lots of important details about this issue here


I’m not quite sure how the dictionary defines “gobsmacked,” but I know it describes exactly how I am feeling today.

I went away for a very nice “girls’ weekend” & returned to learn that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) finally rendered its decision & will allow Bruce Power to ship 16 retired (& very dangerously radioactive) steam generators through the awesome treasure of the Great Lakes shared by Canada & the U.S., along the St. Lawrence River & across the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden – to a company (Studsvik) that will “recycle” them (using that term very, very loosely indeed).

This decision (not to mention the plan itself) is just SO off the charts of anything even vaguely resembling common sense that I am…gobsmacked! I keep sort of half (well, maybe only ¼ ) expecting CNSC – this “rogue agency” in some smart person’s words – to begin making … sensible decisions – decisions that really are about safety – but in light of its history up ‘till now, I guess a person might wonder if I am simply being Foolish and Deluded, like that dear old bear Winnie-the-Pooh in… I can’t remember now which story…


It’s an utterly appalling & also completely morally bankrupt decision. For sooooooo many reasons.

For lots of information about this issue & this travesty, you can check over my blog postings about it (all are listed here).

I also highly recommend the site of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. Tons of fabulous information there – including lots of technical details that I myself am not clever about. (For an illustration of what the steam generators look like on the inside, go here For a list of their internal radioactive contaminants, go here )

To read the news releases that have been put out in the past few days by many groups that strongly oppose this decision, please go here.

(& just in case you think all this opposition is some kind of knee jerk response from environmental groups with nothing better to do, check out the site of the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a large joint U.S./Canada organization that also strongly opposes this plan of Bruce Power’s to put 16 school-bus-sized radioactive steam generators in a ship, & pray for good results.)

E.F. Schumacher once said “No degree of prosperity could justify the accumulation of large amounts of highly toxic substances which nobody knows how to make “safe” and which remain an incalculable danger to the whole of creation for historical or even geological ages. To do such a thing is a transgression against life itself, a transgression infinitely more serious than any crime ever perpetrated by man. The idea that a civilisation could sustain itself on the basis of such a transgression is an ethical, spiritual, and metaphysical monstrosity. It means conducting the economic affairs of man as if people really did not matter at all.”

Gotta admit, I fail to see how the CNSC – or Bruce Power (or whichever of the BPs we are talking about) demonstrates even the slightest concern or care for the long-term survival of our bodies of water, our planet...or our species.

The shipment of nuclear wastes through our precious waters must be stopped!


p.s. Abraham Lincoln said “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men.” Bracing, hmmm?

p.p.s.  The 'quote of the day' that was used w. this post: "Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water!" - Albert Einstein. Einstein also 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.”

p.s. # 3: All steam generator-related postings are listed here 


Fighting…Building. Building…Fighting

<Nov. 28’10>

I was at a really cool gathering of people recently (or was it a gathering of really cool people? Hmm. Well, it was both…) who got together to talk about creating an eco-village. As I say, very cool people.

We did a “go-round” so everyone could have the opportunity to say where she or he was from, & what had brought her/him to the gathering.

There was a woman who, as she outlined an issue she has just become involved with, commented “I don’t want to fight.” The words that immediately sprang into my mind were “I don’t want to fight; I want to build.”

I commented on this when it was my turn in the go-round, & added that, as it happens, I seem to be doing both – fighting and building. I suppose, given my druthers, I might rather stick to the building…but you know what comes to mind as I say that? I think of families, & in our families I think we’d all also prefer to stick to building – but sometimes we wind up “fighting(1)”… don’t we?

So, I reckon life is about doing a bit of both fighting & building.

In my own case, for example, I don’t really want to spend a lot of energy fighting the tritium pollution in Pembroke, Ontario – or Bruce Power’s proposed shipment of radioactive steam generators – but it appears I cannot live with myself if I don’t.

So. So it goes.

Fighting…building. Building…Fighting.

I guess the real issue here is balance – striving for an appropriate balance between the two.


P.S. & for sure, not falling prey to utter apathy along the way! Helen Keller said, “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.” Hmmm. She also said (as I discovered when I went seeking her words in my lengthy ‘Quotations’ document), “Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

And…“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail. I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best a part of my life . . . No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” – Helen Keller

(1) Fighting is perhaps not the best word here for the … struggles?? ... that take place in our families’ lives. For sure, stuff goes on families (at least in all the ones I’ve ever been involved in, & there have been several of those, what with marriage, divorce, in-laws, outlaws…well, you get my drift, & also bear in mind, I have a pretty wide circle of friends)...whether we are the parents or “children”...that pretty closely resemble fighting. I think our families kinda resemble icebergs. Not so much showing on top – way more stuff below the surface… Trees & roots are like that too, aren't they??

Lives & Half-Lives

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

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

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

Apply the brakes, pulleese!!

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

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

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

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

Well, duh.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Nuke Quotes. Just because...

Just becos' I can... And because I feel like it! I've done a bunch of blog posts recently about the steam generator issue (those darn radioactive steam generators that Bruce Power & the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission - oxymoron alert!! [the words 'nuclear' & 'safety' do NOT belong in the same phrase!!] - want to send thru the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, & all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden. Gag...

I stay in touch with a fair number of people (it's that incurable information-spreader disease of mine).  Also, being a quotation "freak," each week I sling together a collection to include at the bottom of my e-mail messages. People seem to enjoy this little habit of mine...

Here is last week's collection. They are in fact not all nuclear-related, blog post title notwithstanding. But there are some awesome humdingers here, aren't there?

** Note!! The day after posting this item, I created a new heading at the top of this blog - "Quotation Central." The quotations I use seem to be very popular - now they will all be under this one new heading. I've also added some quotes on gratitude & my favourite Joseph Campbell quotes. Nuke quotes are here.

Quotations for Today/This Week…whatever[Oct. 4/10.]

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

“No degree of prosperity could justify the accumulation of large amounts of highly toxic substances which nobody knows how to make “safe” and which remain an incalculable danger to the whole of creation for historical or even geological ages. To do such a thing is a transgression against life itself, a transgression infinitely more serious than any crime ever perpetrated by man. The idea that a civilisation could sustain itself on the basis of such a transgression is an ethical, spiritual, and metaphysical monstrosity. It means conducting the economic affairs of man as if people really did not matter at all.” – E.F. Schumacher

“On top of the perennial challenges of global poverty and injustice, the two biggest threats facing human civilization in the 21st century are climate change and nuclear war. It would be absurd to respond to one by increasing the risks of the other.” - Dr Mark Diesendorf, author of Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men.” Abraham Lincoln

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I awake in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world, and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E.B. White [love this…so true!!]

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

It dawns on me that war is easy. Peace is harder. This sophisticated striving to build bridges is harder.” Jane Fonda in her autobiography My Life So Far

“Liberty can not be preserved without general knowledge among people.” John Adams

“You can guarantee that mining uranium will lead to nuclear waste. You can’t guarantee that mining uranium will not lead to nuclear weapons.” Anthony Albanese, Australian Labour Party, quoted in New York Times, Aug. 2, 2006

“Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered.” - Scientific American

“What we’re seeing is a well-orchestrated international public relations campaign by a very desperate nuclear industry… I think it is really important to realize that there is an element of stampeding the herd in the direction of nuclear power, when in fact it may be a cliff we are heading to, not a bridge to the future.” ~ Dr. Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

“Authorizing construction of new nuclear reactors without first constructing a radioactive waste disposal facility is like authorizing construction of a new Sears Tower without bathrooms.” ~ Dave Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service

“Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water!” ~ Albert Einstein

“Uranium is the raw material of a power-elite who has taken Mother Earth’s every living creature hostage.” ~ The late Petra Kelly, German Green Party

Nobody Can Undo the Doo Doo from a Candu, let alone contain it. “Tritium, the radioactive sibling of hydrogen, is created by fissioning inside a CANDU reactor. They use heavy water. Heavy water then becomes radioactive water. Chemically there is no way to separate radioactive water from stable water. Because Lake Ontario water provides the coolant water, it becomes populated with radioactive water before it is released back into the Lake. Lake Ontario is now a tritium dump.” ~ Tim Seitz

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ‘til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” ~ Thomas Edison (1847–1931)

“Independent researchers have calculated that, in terms of carbon emissions avoided per dollar spent, nuclear is among the most expensive options, taking lifetime costs into account, not the cheapest. And of course the nuclear waste issue has not yet been resolved.” ~ Trevor Findlay, author of “The Future of Nuclear Energy to 2030 and its Implications for Safety, Security and Non-Proliferation”

“Increasing the risk of nuclear war brings us back to climate change. Recent scientific research details the climatic impacts of nuclear warfare. The use of 100 weapons in nuclear warfare — just 0.03 per cent of the explosive power of the world's nuclear arsenal — would result directly in catastrophic climate change with many millions of tonnes of black, sooty smoke lofted high into the stratosphere. Needless to say the social and environmental impacts would be horrendous.” – Scott Ludlam

“Whether we like it or not, we all live near nuclear power plants. The mining of uranium and its processing and usage raises the background levels of radioactivity and this causes genetic damage worldwide. The good news is that nuclear is too expensive and too slow and the P.R fiction of the so-called “nuclear renaissance” put out by the industry will never happen. Real clean renewable energy will bypass the reactors, Obama’s political decision notwithstanding.” ~ Wolfe Erlichman

“Nuclear power grew out of the nuclear weapons program, and the nuclear fuel cycle still produces the elements — uranium and plutonium — which can be used to make nuclear weapons or radioactive “dirty bombs.” The nuclear industry argues that any nation or terrorist does not need a nuclear power plant to make a bomb, they just need uranium enrichment. This is true. However, the only “legitimate” reason to enrich uranium is to use it in a nuclear power plant. The continued promotion and sale worldwide of “civilian” nuclear reactors thus gives nations the excuse to operate uranium enrichment programs, as we have seen in Iran.” ~ Craig Severance

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”Upton Sinclair

“While most world leaders are seeking an exit strategy from the atomic arms race, Canada is underwriting an encore. It is still selling essentially unsafeguardable reactors, increasing global flows of uranium, and even undermining the Non-Proliferation Treaty by courting countries like India which flaunt non-proliferation efforts.” ~ Paul McKay, author of “Atomic Accomplice: How Canada Deals in Deadly Deceit.” Read Paul’s latest piece entitled "Nuclear Power: the Proliferation Problem," published online here

“Facts don’t cease to exist just because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

“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.” – Albert Einstein

“The world shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin

“Never give up!” Winston Churchill

“Hoard each joyous moment that comes to you. No one knows how it will all end.” – Háfiz

Bumper Stickers for Binder!

Time for a little fun!!

After all these oh-so-serious blog posts (my last 7) about the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) & the plans of Bruce Power (BP, eh?) to ship radioactive steam generators through the Great Lakes & Atlantic Ocean to Sweden (all related posts listed/linked here), I figure it’s about time for a little levity.

CNSC tribunal president Michael Binder put me onto this the other day in Ottawa.

I was at the CNSC hearing on BP’s plans to ship 16 (& eventually another 16 & then…who knows how many more??) school-bus-sized, retired radioactive steam generators (SG) through the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Seaway & Atlantic Ocean to Studsvik, Sweden, for “recycling.” (Please see postings mentioned above for lots of info & “chat” about all this... And, if you are a real glutton for punishment, go here to find a Webcast of the hearing. Pretty amazing, enlightening, shocking & eye-opening to see how this body - the CNSC, I mean - operates. Mind-boggling!!)

(The post ‘Radioactive Cutlery, Anyone?’ explains a little about my take on this subject & why you might want to be paying attention too. It also contains, in the 3rd paragraph, several links where you can find lots more background info, e.g., a great fact sheet about reprocessing nuclear waste on the NIRS site’s Fact Sheets page.)

At the hearing, Michael Binder asked at one point what the “bumper sticker message” was after CNSC staffer Mihok had chatted on about some disagreement over international health standards – in response to the (awesome) Mark Mattson (Lake Ontario Waterkeeper) presentation.

Aha! I thought, & began creating a list of possible bumper stickers.

Here goes!

Bumper stickers inspired by Duncan Hawthorne, head of Bruce Power:

  • 2 wrongs make a right, right? Or, “Let Me Reassure You” (when informing the public that his company has “shipped over 1200 class 7 radioactive material shipments” in the past 5 years)
  • Facts are my friend! (hmmmmmm…….)
  • If you can’t nuke ‘em, rebuke ‘em! (He came right out & said, in his introductory remarks, that he’d like to see a “rebuke” issued to his opponents)
  • Let ‘em sink! (seems to be more or less his response to concerns about how the ship would be brought up after a sinking. Or, “We’ll figure that out when the time comes, eh?”)
  • Oops!Or maybe just “No comment” (when reminded of the contents of the Bruce Power 2005-2007 Environmental Assessment & the plans laid out at that time for the SGs & the risks involved then even just moving them within the Bruce Power/OPG site & the HUGE change now being proposed for them.)
  • Public discourse is “less informed” eh? (so Hawthorne says...)
  • Just trust us!

Bumper stickers inspired by CNSC Staff:

  • When is a project not a project? (in response to calls for an Environmental Assessment or EA)
  • Too busy to consult! (in response to a failure to consult properly with First Nations communities, & U.S. communities. Oh, & Canadian communities. And the entire Province of Quebec, actually…), bringing us nicely along to…
  • Oops! (after the 50% error/underestimate in their list of radioisotopes contained in the SGs)
  • Bleah, bleah, bleah, bleah, bleah (in response to soooooo many questions)
  • If you can’t speak the truth succinctly, bore ‘em to death! (ditto)
  • “Credible Marine Accident”/ BP spill: a credible (or incredible?) accident scenario?? (in response to queries about their failure to consider serious, credible potential accident scenarios)
  • We do not believe there would be a breach in the generator shell (highly reassuring ??? language from CNSC staff regarding the possibility of radioactive material leakage/escape in the case of an accident/sinking of the ship)
  • Just trust us!

CNSC Tribunal Bumper Stickers:

  • 2 wrongs add up to a right…right? Or “Let Me Reassure You!” (in response to concerns about shipments of radioactive goods – millions of them per year, apparently!)
  • "We Don’t CARE What Happens in Sweden!" (in response to queries about the processes used by Studsvik, & what percentage of radioactive material will remain &/or wind up “free-released” into global scrap metal supplies, &/or be sent back to Canada) & btw, to clarify, this is an actual quote from CNSC Head Honcho Michael Binder.
  • No Radioactive Goods Here Please! (Mr. Binder seems to think it’s OK to export radioactive waste, but not to import radioactively-contaminated metal. Kind of a “Do as I say, not as I do” scenario, I’d say…)
  • Just trust us!

Bumper Stickers Inspired by CNSC/Bruce Power Shenanigans & Claims:

  • Bafflegab!
  • BP/CNSC: who ya gonna trust?
  • BP Strikes Again!
  • Bring on the 6-year olds! (who'd know enough to shut this project down in 5 minutes flat)
  • B.S. Alert / BQ Quotient Exceeded! [BQ stands for Bullshit Quotient]
  • Deny. Diminish. Deflect. Attack the public interest groups. [Precisely what corporate folks do in the face of tough opposition]
  • Down the rabbit hole!
  • Lack of integrity alert!
  • Negligible? Or Negligent?
  • Oops! Oops, oops, oops & more Oops…
  • “Safe.” Says who?? Mr. Potato Head? Homer Simpson maybe??
  • Speaking Truth to Power (Pssst! Power isn’t Listening)
  • Startled by Strontium
  • The Emperor Has No Clothes
  • Turn off the lie machine!
  • We Are Underwhelmed (in response to BP/CNSC anemic reassurances such as “acceptable” & “adequate” & “low risk”)
  • Trust you. You’re kidding…right??
  • What’s the Darn Rush?
  • How’s about a little plutonium with that, eh?


SG / CNSC Interventions…# 3

I’ve been talking about the steam generators from Bruce Power in Ontario & the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearing held in Ottawa this past week on Bruce Power’s plan to ship 16 radioactive steam generators through a multitude of waterways to Studsvik, Sweden (Note: Webcast of the hearing can be viewed here.) My previous posts, SG/CNSC Interventions 1 & 2, gave some background info, including my “intervention letter” to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission & what I intended to say to the CNSC.

This post contains the remarks I scrambled to make once I was in Ottawa. Having taken prepared remarks, I found they were not quite adequate in light of all the things that came up during the hearing, so I did a major re-write. Here is what I actually wound up saying:

"I guess you could say that the theme of my remarks is “down the rabbit hole.” I don’t wish to be rude, but every time I attend a CNSC hearing, I get the sensation that, like Alice in Alice in Wonderland, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. The sensation comes over me very quickly.

As I began reading the CNSC Staff CMD [Commission Member Document] on this proposal, I learned that the steam generators are categorized as “Surface-Contaminated Waste” – yet are said to have no surface contamination. Plain language? Hmm…

I have spoken to you before, as you know, & have confessed that I am not a scientific or technically minded person.

Crazily enough, after hours & hours & hours of taking part in this hearing & listening to CNSC staff explain & defend the proponent [Bruce Power]’s plans, I find myself feeling more bamboozled, not less.

Plain speaking is not the term that comes to mind, down here in the rabbit hole.

For me, trust is the overarching issue here.

Bruce Power expects us to take them at their word.

CNSC staff expect us to believe their assertions & claims.

Bruce Power is a company that previously reported their steam generators to be radioactive waste that must remain on-site. A company that recently exposed its workers to radiation.

Bruce Power’s chairman seems to me to have a very cavalier attitude about his plan to completely change the fate of the steam generators.

He commented yesterday that concerned citizens like myself – who spend hours & hours & hours of our personal time on issues like this one & in my case, attend CNSC hearings entirely at my own expense – should be “rebuked” for researching & expressing our legitimate concerns. I’m having a hard time placing my trust there.

Studsvik – the company taking the waste – [words not exact here – I was winging this at the last minute] – is not prepared to indicate where the metal that is released will be going.

CNSC staff have a disconcerting way of appearing not to work for the citizens of Canada (& our safety), but for whichever nuclear proponent is currently before them. They go to strenuous lengths to defend & explain – in this case Bruce Power’s – plans – taking us all down the rabbit hole as they do so.

Trust? There was an “administrative error” reported at the last minute. An isotope of plutonium was left out of the staff CMD.

Trust? Yesterday, when asked when they became aware of Bruce Power’s plans, the CNSC person who responded clearly replied “April.” Yet Bruce Power requested their export license in January. I have a copy of an export license from CNSC that is dated January 26, 2010.

Has the staff…”forgotten” that this license was issued in January? Is someone lying?

Upton Sinclair once said “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

That just kind of comes to mind right about now.

I often find the language used by CNSC … not at all “scientific,” but weak – especially for an organization that lays claim to being terribly scientific.

Words often used:

  • Small (spills are always “small.”)
  • Low (risks of the nuclear proponent’s activities are always “low.”)
  • Acceptable (plans are always “acceptable.”)
  • Adequate (proponents’ plans & security measures are always “adequate.”)


Such anemic reassurances might seem more attuned to a Boy Scout exercise than to the activities of an industry whose wastes will remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds or thousands or even 10’s of thousands of years.

Assurances with a little more “oomph” & conviction would be of great comfort.

I really wish I could trust Bruce Power & CNSC staff. All their apparent “reassurances” underwhelm me. Their talk yesterday about other dangerous cargoes on the Great Lakes make me even more concerned, not less so.

My letter to you [my original “intervention letter”] is about radioactivity in metal. In consumer products. As I pointed out, I learned of this only recently. I’d be happy to share with you the policy of the Steel Manufacturers Association. It was from an executive there that I learned about nuclear facilities in the U.S. being dismantled & “recycled” into consumer goods.

I went recently to buy some cutlery for my daughter as a wedding shower gift.

Stood in the store aisle, looking at all the items “Made in China” & wondering if it has radioactive material in it.

Martin Luther King said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

For me personally, keeping silent about having radioactive waste made into consumer products is something I cannot do. My eventual grandchildren might not be too happy with me about it either. Chowing down with their toxic knives & forks. “A little plutonium with your Cheerios, Susie?”

Possibly nuclear industry & CNSC tribunal & CNSC staff personnel are comfortable with the idea of having radioactive metal in their children’s mouths (think braces) & on their bodies (think zippers & snaps) – but it doesn’t work too well for me when I think of my now-grown daughters & my potential grandchildren.

I agree with everyone here who has said that if Bruce Power wants to proceed with this plan, there has to be a new Environmental Assessment.

This project (yes – I am calling it a “project”(1) is precedent-setting, & it requires thorough scrutiny.

To conclude:

Bruce Power has the unfortunate acronym “BP.”

That other BP we’ve all heard so much about recently assured the U.S. Dept. of the Interior in 2009 that an oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon site was “unlikely.”

An environmental impact study was waived.


The steam generators at the Bruce have been sitting there for a very long time. There is no need & no justification for rushing into an ill-advised project (yes – it sure sounds like a project to me!)

Ready, Fire!!.........Aim is not the right order in which to do things.

For reasons involving

  • legal
  • procedural
  • moral/ethical
  • safety &
  • scientific

grounds, I believe the CNSC must put this plan on the back burner."

(1) CNSC staff know that a new “project” would require a new Environmental Assessment, so they deny that changing the plan from leaving the steam generators on-site at Bruce Power to loading them onto trucks, trucking them to Owen Sound, loading them onto a ship, taking the ship through a multitude of waterways, including the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River & Atlantic Ocean constitutes a … “project.”

I did warn you it was very much down the rabbit hole, did I not???