Letter: A call to action – Saugeen Shores (October 2012)


Wednesday, October 3, 2012 9:59:22 EDT AM


This community needs some strong leadership.

This became more urgent on September 24 when the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) announced at a meeting of council that Saugeen Shores passed the initial screening for a deep geological repository (DGR) for high-level nuclear waste – exhausted but still highly dangerous fuel rods from nuclear reactors.  If council gives NWMO the green light to proceed to the next step (Step 3 in a 9 step process leading up to actual  construction) NWMO will then begin �preliminary assessments� in �collaboration with the community� to determine whether Saugeen Shores is a suitable host for the repository.  It is important to remember that NWMO (a private-sector organization funded by nuclear energy producers in Canada) has both an agenda and a goal.  The agenda is a detailed process about how to achieve their goal.  Their goal is to build a national (i.e centralized) repository for high-level nuclear waste.  NWMO expects to spend billions of dollars on the project.  In addition to the money, NWMO has large numbers of specialists in technology and the natural sciences at their disposal, as well as skilled public relations experts, to achieve their objective.

NWMO is not impartial.  This is why the people of Saugeen Shores need strong leadership to create a process of its own that will expose for private thought and public debate both the merits and the risks of a buried, national repository.  Following that defined period of public education and debate we need a referendum to indicate the will of the majority.

Without a balanced process, clearly indicating the pros and cons of a buried national repository, there will be only one game plan; that of NWMO, their agenda and their goal, and theirs alone.  The people of Saugeen Shores need to assert some control over a process that otherwise has been worked out for us by NWMO.  And to take a measure of control we need leadership.  We need a community-driven process, not one that is driven solely by NWMO, as it will be if we follow only their agenda.  This community-driven process should include presentations by knowledgeable specialists, environmentalists and other informed people.  It should also include town hall meetings, with all members of council present, to allow for an exchange of views and an opportunity for the public to actively participate (and vent), rather than just listen.  All of this should lead to an unambiguously worded, community-wide, ballot-type referendum, open to all eligible voters (whether permanent or seasonal residents), with an objective measure of what constitutes a No vote or a Yes vote.  Perhaps we should be looking for neutral, third-party professional expertise to manage the entire process on behalf of the people and municipal government.  However it is done, we need to make the process our process, not simply leave it to NWMO.  But for this to happen we need strong leadership.  Is it there?

Peter Storck

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Letter: Open house short on open talks about storing high-level nuclear waste (September 2012)

Dear Editor,

I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream.  I attended the Nuclear Waste Management Organization;s Deep Geological Repository Open House at the Ripley Community Centre several weeks ago.  This is supposedly a process for helping people understand the implications of welcoming the highly radioactive waste fuel from all of Canada’s nuclear reactors into their community.

It was like attending a smoking information session by the tobacco industry that failed to mention lung cancer, emphysema or heart disease.  The open house has lots of fancy displays and glossy literature but when one does a little thinking about it the goal seems more to gloss over or mislead the attendee than to provide the “transparency” it mentions in its literature.

Some examples.

1. I asked the very pleasant young man touring me through the displays if they had any information on the health impacts of radiation.  He said yes but when we went to find the brochure it wasn’t there.  It had not been brought to the open house. He did give me the name of it and promised to send it to me – but it meant that anyone who did not know to ask would not get easy access to that information.

2. There was a neat little display of some stones and a pair of salt and pepper shakers which you could rotate past a geiger counter and hear it clicking off radiation hits and see the scale.  However there was no information about how this level of radioactivity compared with that of used fuel.  When I asked the staff of the NWMO at the session they couldn’t tell me but would get back to me with that information.

3. A brochure entitled Multiple-Barrier System on its front page in bold print says “Barrier 1: The Used Nuclear Fuel Pellet.” Underneath is a photo of an ungloved human hand holding a pellet with tweezers in front of a pile of pellets in the back ground.  When I point out to the staff that this can’t be used nuclear fuel pellets since they would be way too hot, both radioactively and thermally, for a person to be unprotected they agree that it is a misleading picture.

4. When I got home I went on the internet and looked up the document missing at the open house, The Nature of the Hazard.  It mentions cancer once and fails to mention birth defects or genetic damage by name.  It has a very small graph showing the radioactivity of used fuel compared to natural uranium. It uses double logarithmic scales on both the time and radioactivity scales.  The equally spaced time points on the graph are 10-2, 100,102, 104, 106  –  this translates  to 3 days, 1 year, 100 years, 10,000 years and 1 million years.  The radioactivity scale is equally confusing.

For ordinary people a more useful discussion can be found in a talk by Dr. Cathy Vakil, Queen’s University, Department of Family Medicine.  To find it go to youtube and search for “Radioactivity, Health and the Nuclear Industry, Dr. CathyVakil.”   Or Google “Chernobyl’s Children” if you want to see how these “hazards” play out in real life.

 It is misleading and dishonest to talk about the “hazards” of radioactive fuel without being clearer about cancer, genetic damage and birth defects.  This is not a good start to a community information process that purports to be open and honest.

Yours Sincerely,

Tony McQuail
Lucknow, ON

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Letter 4: The NWMO (September 2012)

Letter to the Editor, Shoreline Beacon

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 10:06:02 EDT AM


Who runs the NWMO? The NWMO is not an independent agency. It was formed with initial contributions of $500 million from Ontario Power Generation (OPG), $20 million from Hydro-Quebec (HQ), $20 million from New Brunswick Power (NBP), and $10 million from Atomic Energy Of Canada Ltd. (AECL). Each of the above also provide on-going annual contributions of $100 million, $4 million, $4 million and $2 million respectively, or 1/5 of their initial payments. Together, OPG, HQ, NBP and AECL own all of Canada’s nuclear power reactors, although OPG has the lion’s share.

Why would OPG want a DGR in Saugeen Shores? This one’s easy. Bruce Power produces between 40 to 50% of Canada’s spent fuel, and currently stores a large percentage of the country’s total spent fuel inventory on site at BNPD. Also, according to NWMO’s disposal plan, OPG is responsible for transporting spent fuel to the DGR. If you add in the fact that BNPD is the largest single employer in Saugeen Shores, then the rationale seems clear.

The cost of storing spent fuel forever is expensive. The cost of transporting it up north is significant. If you were OPG, wouldn’t you want that transportation cost to be as low as possible? Why ship it north if you can bury it in your back yard? And since most of the community is dependent on OPG for income, our “willing” participation is all but guaranteed. In a way, our cooperation has been paid for with jobs, although no one likes to admit it.

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What to do with spent nuclear waste – Letters to the Editor (September 2012)

Excerpts from Letters to the Editor of the Toronto Star in response to September 1st story by John Spears “Nuclear waste seeks a home” Published on Saturday September 08, 2012


This article, and the opinion piece by John Spears, is a good beginning. But what he neglected to give much attention to is the fact that what is being proposed is a central repository for all of Canada.

This means that spent fuel rods will have to be transported from eastern and central Canada, not to mention southern Ontario, to whichever of the 20 communities is selected for the facility – transported presumably by road, railroad and/or the St. Lawrence seaway and the lower Great Lakes.

Thus, the decision about where to place the facility is not solely a community concern but one that also affects everyone who lives along the transportation corridors that will move the fuel rods. It should be a regional decision as well, if not also national because under the NAFTA agreement the facility might be available for use by the United States as well.
Peter Storck, Southampton    Read story

The excellent exposition by John Spears on the logical and passionate sides for and against deep geological repositories (DGRs) of low- to high-level nuclear waste omits the possible productive elimination of nuclear fuel waste using now-available fast-neutron reactor (FNR) facilities.
Peter Ottensmeyer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Medical Biophysics University of Toronto Read story

Let’s be clear: all nuclear waste is lethal. Labeling high or low is strictly marketing. The OPG (Ontario Power Generation) and NWMO (Nuclear Waste Management Organization) are quietly targeting and paying under-resourced and under-prepared Great Lake communities to bury Canada’s for-profit nuclear industry’s deadly waste on the shores of the world’s largest body of fresh water, drinking water for more than 40 million people in two countries, and have the audacity to promise storage for 100,000 years, monitored for only 150 years, using untested science?

This is a national issue and cannot be left in the hands of a municipality.
Elizabeth Allan, Southampton  Read story

There is an alternative to burying nuclear waste: “burning” it in a liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR). LFTRs have many advantages over conventional solid fueled uranium reactors, such as their very safe, low pressure, meltdown proof design as well as the ability to consume our stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel including the dangerous transuranics like plutonium, americium, etc.
Bruce Konyer, Lindsay Read story

Your article on nuclear waste asks readers to picture that we have “lived in the same house for more than half a century, and never taken out the garbage.” That is indeed pretty much the case with spent fuel in Canadian nuclear plants. Just about every spent fuel bundle is indeed stored at the same plant that burned it to make electricity.But that is where the analogy stops working…
Steve Aplin, consultant to nuclear industry clients, Ottawa Read story

The OPG and Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) processes for siting low, intermediate, and high level radioactive used nuclear waste in two deep geological repositories (DGR) is a deeply flawed process: It preys upon small northern towns desperate for jobs and industry, and, most importantly, the process is undeniably undemocratic. It is a process that seeks to bury low and intermediate radioactive waste in a separate DGR from high-level radioactive waste, when they can both be buried in one DGR together. The cost of this duplication is up to $24 billion.
Beverly Fernandez, Southampton Read story

In his diligence to cover all the angles of this sad nuclear saga, John Spears forgot to dig into the issue of where the up to $24 billion is coming from, the figure with which the NWMO is bribing those municipalities competing to host the nuclear waste repository. He seems to take it as a given that that huge amount is already sitting in a special bank account waiting to be doled out at each stage of the proposed project.
Ziggy Kleinau, Senior Energy Researcher, Great Lakes United, Binbrook Read story

I read John Spears’ article on burying radioactive waste with incredulity. If executed as planned, this would be the most heinous crime ever perpetrated by man as it would be against the interests of future generations and many life forms on earth. It is hard to imagine going back 100,000 years in man’s history, let alone 100,000 years into the future. There is no way we can have any confidence in a man-made structure lasting 100,000 years. Is it to be buried where it can be accessed and thereby by vulnerable to terrorist acts? Is it to be buried to be inaccessible so that if it leaks all is lost?
John Cook, Tottenham Read story

James Lovelock, one of the most respected environmentalists, offers to, “accept all of the high level waste produced in a year from a nuclear power station for deposit on my small plot of land.” He claims this would act as a long-term heat source for his home. In effect he is pointing out that this is a resource to be exploited for years or even generations to come.
Hugh Jones, Toronto Read story

Yes, this is a problem. One answer is stop producing this waste, though this is not likely to happen any time soon. Another answer is to treat the waste.
Jack Goering, Port Hope Read story

I would like to suggest a way of disposing of nuclear waste with some clear advantages over the current idea of burying it. We could send it much deeper into the Earth without having to dig at all. The conveyer belt is already up and running. It is the Cascadia Subduction Zone, just off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Here, the Juan de Fuca Plate (ocean floor) is continually diving under the North American Plate, as North America moves west, driven by the expanding North Atlantic Ridge.
Alan Craig, Brampton Read story

The article on radioactive fuel storage briefly touched on a few issues that I’d like to elaborate upon. Since the 1960s, Canadian nuclear reactors have been producing radioactive waste, and also since then the AECL has been researching options for long-term storage.

Bob Spies, Port Perry Read story

Thank you for the front-page article on nuclear waste, one of the biggest invisible elephants in our room. Burial in the Canadian Shield is now apparently the decision, the only question being who will take it for the up to 100,000 years needed for the fuel bundles to become harmless? In 1998, the federal government;s panel assessing the environmental impacts of such burial issued the report on its nine years of nation-wide testimony from scientists, host communities, civic leaders, First Nations, the nuclear industry –  everyone involved. The panel could not reach agreement.
Constance Moore Gardner, Toronto Read story