Re: The Standard, Jan. 18 – Spent nuclear rod depository would benefit Elliot Lake: nuclear engineer.
The above referenced article does not answer many of the pertinent questions which should be asked, and in fact raises more for consideration.
First and foremost, if the spent fuel is as safe and simple as suggested, why has no storage facility been designed and installed in over 30 years of study, anywhere in the world. The answer, pure and simple, is that it is not.
The author admits that we are incapable of constructing any containment for the long term. We are also incapable of guaranteeing total safe containment even in the short or medium (600-year) term. The spent fuel rods are extremely dangerous, requiring very complex handling and safety procedures, and no medium or long-term capability exists.
With all due respects to the author, one thing which is overlooking in the arguments presented is the inescapable fact that accidents and spills do occur, engineers and designers do not know all the answers, mistakes are made, executives do lie, mislead, and conceal. BP in the Gulf of Mexico – alleged shortcuts to safety procedures. Fukushima Daiichi- underestimation of Mother Nature herself. What degree of risk are we prepared to take?
While it may be true, although questionable in my mind, that after 600 years the radioactivity is reduced to the level of the originally mined ore, one must recognize that the concentration is not anywhere near the same. We are looking at storing the present stock of 50,000-75,000 concentrated tons, plus that additional which will accumulate in the next 20 years of study and implementation and possibly plus whoever else’s waste (U.S.?).
In addition, in a very much smaller area and infinitely greater quantity than ever came out of this area. Once the hole is in the ground it will be expanded to accommodate whatever else is around.
Stable Canadian Shield? Maybe, but the best geologic science cannot guarantee that even into next year. There is one irrefutable fact – if, and more likely when, an unacceptable geologic fault or other unpredictable problem is encountered during implementation and may millions of dollars have already been dumped down the hole, so to speak, are we naive enough to believe that the project will be abandoned?
Economic benefit to Elliot Lake? At best, only a miniscule portion of the funds involved, and that must be tempered by the fact that Elliot Lake depends, and will depend on property tax for its continued existence. The demographics of Elliot Lake have changed from a relatively captive work force during mining days, to a more mobile, non-captive retirement community. I suggest that a significant portion of the populace will move out, not wanting to live nearby. I also suggest that many other potential businesses will be less inclined to locate here.
We all recognize the need to diversify in Elliot Lake. However, we must also be selective about which form of diversification we should accept. I suggest this project is not one of the acceptable options.