Archive for November, 2012

Even Low-Level Radioactivity Is Damaging, Scientists Conclude (November 2012)

ScienceDaily (Nov. 13, 2012) – Even the very lowest levels of radiation are harmful to life, scientists have concluded in the Cambridge Philosophical Society’s journal Biological Reviews.

Reporting the results of a wide-ranging analysis of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over the past 40 years, researchers from the University of South Carolina and the University of Paris-Sud found that variation in low-level, natural background radiation was found to have small, but highly statistically significant, negative effects on DNA as well as several measures of health.

The review is a meta-analysis of studies of locations around the globe that have very high natural background radiation as a result of the minerals in the ground there, including Ramsar, Iran, Mombasa, Kenya, Lodeve, France, and Yangjiang, China. These, and a few other geographic locations with natural background radiation that greatly exceeds normal amounts, have long drawn scientists intent on understanding the effects of radiation on life. Individual studies by themselves, however, have often only shown small effects on small populations from which conclusive statistical conclusions were difficult to draw.

“When you’re looking at such small effect sizes, the size of the population you need to study is huge,” said co-author Timothy Mousseau, a biologist in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina. “Pooling across multiple studies, in multiple areas, and in a rigorous statistical manner provides a tool to really get at these questions about low-level radiation.”

Mousseau and co-author Anders Moller of the University of Paris-Sud combed the scientific literature, examining more than 5,000 papers involving natural background radiation that were narrowed to 46 for quantitative comparison. The selected studies all examined both a control group and a more highly irradiated population and quantified the size of the radiation levels for each. Each paper also reported test statistics that allowed direct comparison between the studies.

The organisms studied included plants and animals, but had a large preponderance of human subjects. Each study examined one or more possible effects of radiation, such as DNA damage measured in the lab, prevalence of a disease such as Down’s Syndrome, or the sex ratio produced in offspring. For each effect, a statistical algorithm was used to generate a single value, the effect size, which could be compared across all the studies.

The scientists reported significant negative effects in a range of categories, including immunology, physiology, mutation and disease occurrence. The frequency of negative effects was beyond that of random chance.

“There’s been a sentiment in the community that because we don’t see obvious effects in some of these places, or that what we see tends to be small and localized, that maybe there aren’t any negative effects from low levels of radiation,” said Mousseau. “But when you do the meta-analysis, you do see significant negative effects.”

“It also provides evidence that there is no threshold below which there are no effects of radiation,” he added. “A theory that has been batted around a lot over the last couple of decades is the idea that is there a threshold of exposure below which there are no negative consequences. These data provide fairly strong evidence that there is no threshold — radiation effects are measurable as far down as you can go, given the statistical power you have at hand.”

Mousseau hopes their results, which are consistent with the “linear-no-threshold” model for radiation effects, will better inform the debate about exposure risks. “With the levels of contamination that we have seen as a result of nuclear power plants, especially in the past, and even as a result of Chernobyl and Fukushima and related accidents, there’s an attempt in the industry to downplay the doses that the populations are getting, because maybe it’s only one or two times beyond what is thought to be the natural background level,” he said. “But they’re assuming the natural background levels are fine.”

“And the truth is, if we see effects at these low levels, then we have to be thinking differently about how we develop regulations for exposures, and especially intentional exposures to populations, like the emissions from nuclear power plants, medical procedures, and even some x-ray machines at airports.”

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Why is nuke industry blowing off low-level radiation health findings?

Day-to-day releases of small amounts of radioactivity from reactors are a serious threat to public health.

By Cathy Vakil and Eric Notebaert.
NOW Magazine, November 22 2012

The health risks of nuclear are very much under the radar as hearings begin December 3 on whether Ontario will spend billions to resuscitate the aging Darlington station.

As physicians, it is our duty to advocate for illness prevention, and we believe nuclear power is a serious threat to public health, from uranium mining to refining to the day-to-day release of small amounts of radioactivity from reactors.

The industry claims that these releases are too small to worry about; research indicates otherwise.

Since the early 1980s, numerous studies in North America and Europe have shown an elevated risk of a number of illnesses in nearby populations, particularly childhood leukemia. In 2008, a well-designed study by the German government showed that children under five years old living within a 5-kilometre radius of all 16 of the country’s nuclear plants had an elevated risk of developing leukemia, as did a similar French study of children under 15.

What does this mean for Canada? It seems government authorities don’t want to know. There is not a single large-scale case-control study of low-level emissions from reactors here. Without the appropriate studies, it’s reasonable to assume that health is being compromised.

Unlike other countries, which build reactors in rural areas, Ontario locates them in the most populous region of the country – near Toronto. Over 450,000 people live within 20 kilometres of the Darlington station, and over 1 million around Pickering.

And while Canadian reactor operators assure us the risk of an accident is insignificant, there is a major nuclear event about once a decade somewhere in the world, Fukushima merely being the most recent.

Since Fukushima, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Japan have all decided to phase out nuclear power and invest massively in green energy. These countries are protecting human health and building a modern energy system. Why aren’t we?

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Cathy Vakil is a family doctor and professor in the department of family medicine at Queens University. Eric Notebaert is adjunct professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Montreal. Both are board members of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
NOW | November 22-29, 2012 | VOL 32 NO 12 

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CNSC battling confusion over DGR projects (November 2012)

Monday, November 19, 2012 3:11:36 EST PM

Aurele Gervais, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
(As posted on the Lucknow Sentinel)


The topic of what to do for the long-term management of radioactive waste in Canada has generated much discussion.

But at the same time, there is a lot of confusion about two very different projects that are currently underway: the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) Deep Geologic Repository Project and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) Adaptive Phased Management (APM) Project.

Both of these projects consider the use of a geological repository for long-term management of radioactive waste.

Geological repositories are constructed underground, usually at a depth of several hundred metres or more below ground surface to isolate waste in a stable rock formation.

Projects like these go through a rigorous regulatory review process which includes an environmental assessment and licensing. This process will involve the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canada’s independent nuclear regulator. The public will have several opportunities to input into the process before any licence is considered.

Different nuclear waste – different regulatory stages

The OPG DGR Project

The OPG Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) Project will only be for low- and intermediate- level radioactive waste (L&ILW) from OPG-owned or operated nuclear generating stations in Ontario.

The waste will be from things like tools, mop heads, rags, paper towels, filters, resins, refurbishment waste and other radioactive contaminated materials from nuclear generating stations. The proposed location for this repository is close to OPG’s Western Waste Management Facility at the Bruce nuclear site in Kincardine, Ontario.

The DGR Project does not include used nuclear fuel.

The regulatory process for the DGR Project started in December 2005 when OPG submitted a project description to the CNSC outlining its intent to construct a geological repository for L&ILW. Since then, the CNSC’s technical experts and an independent Joint Review Panel (JRP), appointed in January 2012, have been reviewing the DGR Project’s environmental assessment and licence application. JRP public hearings for the DGR Project will be held in the Municipality of Kincardine, dates for the hearings have not yet been set.

The APM Project

The other initiative, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) Adaptive Phased Management (APM) Project is for the safe long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The NWMO was established in 2002 in accordance with Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA) and is responsible to implement this project.

The process for the APM Project is still in its very early stages. In May 2010, the NWMO launched its site selection process to identify a willing and informed community to host a geological repository for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. As of September 30, 2012, a total of 21 communities have formally expressed interest in learning more about the APM Project.

It’s important to note no licence application has been submitted to the CNSC for the APM Project. However, it is an international best practice for the regulator – the CNSC in this case – to be involved early in these types of projects. The CNSC is providing regulatory guidance and is conducting pre-project design reviews of geological repository concepts.

The CNSC also makes presentations to various communities who have expressed an interest to know how the nuclear sector is regulated in Canada, as well as the CNSC’s early role in the APM Project.

Canada’s Nuclear Regulator
The CNSC mandate is to ensure that nuclear activities are done in a manner that protects the environment, as well as the health, safety and security of workers and the public, and to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Nuclear safety is the CNSC’s focus.

 

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Huron-Kinloss moves forward in DGR process (November2012)

By Sarah Sutter, Kincardine News


Tuesday, November 20, 2012 3:01:35 EST PM

The Township of Huron-Kinloss voted in favour of moving forward with the site selection process to determine a willing host community for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s proposed deep geological repository (DGR).


The decision was reached at a Nov. 19 meeting of council.

“The NWMO site selection process encourages communities in the process to engage its neighbours in learning and decision making,” read mayor Mitch Twolan before the resolution was carried.

A report on the initial screening process of Huron-Kinloss released to the public at a special meeting on Aug. 14, 2012 concluded the community could be a suitable host to the DGR. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) held an open house at Ripley Community Centre Sept. 11-12, during which locals were invited to learn about the project and pose questions to NWMO representatives and participating geoscientists.

The Township of Huron-Kinloss retains the right to cease participation in the process at any time

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Let U.S. comment on Canada’s nuclear waste plans, says Sarnia mayor (November 2012)

Published on Thursday November 15, 2012

John Spears
Business Reporter, Toronto Star

The Canadian mayor who helped stall transport of radioactive equipment on the Great Lakes is pushing for an “international debate” on Canada’s plan for storing nuclear waste.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley has asked fellow mayors on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border to take a “strong position” on Canadian proposals for nuclear waste.

He has written to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative to get the ball rolling.

The group has more than 90 member cities and towns including Toronto, Chicago, Montreal, Milwaukee and Rochester.

Twenty Canadian communities – 10 of them near Lake Huron, and 17 of them in the Great Lakes basin –  have expressed interest in being the site for a deep, underground depository for high-level nuclear waste.

A separate process is also under way to evaluate a proposed low and mid-level waste sitedeep in the rock at the site of the Bruce nuclear station near Kincardine. It would be operated by Ontario Power Generation. (OPG)

Bradley has forwarded a motion from a Kincardine area group, asking for no low-level waste site to be approved until it’s been debated by “all government bodies including federal, provincial and municipal, and representatives from the United States.”

In an interview, Bradley says he has “great concern” about any depository being located close to other Great Lakes.

“It just amazes me,” he said. “Forty million Canadians and Americans take their water from there, and we continue to treat it like it’s a toilet bowl.”

“I wasn’t asking for anything outlandish,” in writing to the Great Lakes body, Bradley said. “It was simply saying: Let’s make sure there’s a full public process, and an international debate on this initiative.”

“I do not believe on the American side that there’s very much knowledge what’s going on, on this side of the border.”

His letter asks his fellow mayors to support “a full public process that would allow an international debate on this initiative.”

He encloses a motion drafted by the Inverhuron Committee requesting a debate on both side of the border. Inverhuron is a small community, technically part of Kincardine, that is the Bruce nuclear plant’s closest neighbour.


Bradley was one of those who protested Bruce Power’s plans to ship old, radioactive steam generators to Sweden for recycling through the Great Lakes. The shipment was put on hold.

The Kincardine area site would contain slightly radioactive material such as clothing and mop, plus items such as metal parts from the reactor core that have become irradiated over years of use.

Public hearings on the Kincardine site are expected to open next year. It will be several years before a site for the high level waste is selected.

Kincardine hasn’t volunteered for the high level waste, but a number of nearby towns and townships have done so.

Currently, used nuclear fuel is stored on the sites of the reactors that produced it. Low and intermediate waste from all Ontario’s reactors is stored in buildings on the Bruce nuclear site.

OPG spokesman Neal Kelly said there has already been an extensive public process on the company’s plans for its waste depository, which will culminate with federal hearings starting next year.

Kelly said OPG has already spoken with some members of the Great Lakes mayors group.

“We welcome Mayor Bradley’s views, and all views,” he said.

“We encourage public comment on this project at any time during the process, including international comment,” Kelly said.

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Nuclear waste disposal up for debate in northern Ontario (November 2012)

MP hosting meetings across region to shed more light on plans to store nuclear waste in north

CBC News Posted: Nov 12, 2012 8:25 AM ET 

A northern Ontario MP is holding a series of town hall meetings about the possible transportation and disposal of nuclear waste in northern Ontario to make sure everybody knows what the project entails.

Blind River, Elliot Lake, Spanish and the Township of the North Shore have all passed initial screenings in the search to find a home for Canada’s first nuclear waste disposal site. But Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Bruce Hyer said he’s concerned the project hasn’t been discussed enough in communities that might be close to the transportation corridors used to move the waste.

“While I feel the Nuclear Waste Management Organization has done a pretty good job of consulting with the towns that actually think they might like the repository, they have not done an adequate job at all of consulting with the wider community,” Hyer said.

He’s looking to move that discussion further along through a series of town hall meetings.

“Deferring the discussion with the communities along the likely transportation routes is not a good idea. It’s my contention that not just a few small towns [should] decide whether this waste comes to northern Ontario.”

If it’s approved, more than 600 shipments of nuclear waste would be transported annually to the new long-term disposal site.

A spokesperson with the NWMO said communities on the transportation routes will be consulted, but that won’t happen for another five years, when the current assessment stage is over.

Michael Krizanc said it will still be at least another decade before the location for the nuclear disposal site is chosen.

On Monday night, Hyer will hold a town hall meeting in Sudbury at St. Andrew’s Place on Larch Street from 7-9 p.m. Another meeting will take place in Sault Ste. Marie on Nov. 13.

Hyer said he will hold a number of other town hall meetings in northwestern Ontario over the next few weeks. So far, Hyer has held townhall meetings in Oshawa and Parry Sound.

 

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MP hopes of better understand feelings toward nuclear waste transportation (November 2012)

2012-11-12 at NOON

By Jeff Labine, tbnewswatch.com

Bruce Hyer has gone on tour to see how people feel about possibly transporting 50,000 tonnes of nuclear waste through their community.

The independent MP for Thunder Bay – Superior North started his tour of northeastern Ontario with a stop in Oshawa on Thursday then moved to Parry Sound. Hyer then continued to Sudbury on Monday where he will hold a town hall meeting.

His final destination will be in Sault Ste Marie on Tuesday.

Hyer picked Parry Sound, Sudbury and Sault Saint Marie because of the potential impact a nuclear disposal site could have on them.

He said the Nuclear Waste Management Organization hasn’t had discussions with communities about a transportation route.

“It doesn’t matter where it is because we’re talking about 600 more trucks a year or 60 trains a year for decades to transport all of these materials and its high level nuclear waste,” Hyer said.

“That’s a lot of waste. Many people are surprised by the amount and the frequency of the trucks.”

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is looking to finding a suitable spot for a nuclear storage facility. The multibillion-dollar infrastructure project will require a surface area of 250 acres for the buildings and a depth of 500 metres.

Hyer said he’s doing this tour on the transportation route because the NWMO has so far refused to do it.

The organization only held meetings in towns that were interested in being a host community and not in neighbouring communities that would be affected by the route, he said.

“What I am doing is not an adequate substitute by any means for the MWNO doing this in a more complete way,” he said. “I’m getting a sense of the general public’s feelings and what their concerns are and I’m also raising awareness.

“I’m hopeful that what it will do is to broaden the discussion and start a different kind of discussion. You can read a lot of reports but a first hand, live interaction I think is important. I’m listening more than saying. I’m not saying much other than the very basic facts.”

Hyer plans to head back to Thunder Bay once he finishes his town hall meeting in Wawa.

Hyer then plans to hold another town hall meeting in Thunder Bay over the weekend, but likely on a different issue — bringing Via rail back to the North.

That meeting is scheduled for Saturday at the 55 Plus Centre on River Street at 2 p.m.

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