Environmental archaeologist has a lot of questions about DGR site in Bruce County (November 2012)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 9:20:02 EST AM

Dear Editor,

In recent months, several municipal and town councils in Bruce County – the Town of South Bruce, the Town of Saugeen Shores, the Municipality of Arran-Elderslie, the Township of Huron-Kinloss and the Municipality of Brockton – have expressed an interest in learning more about the so-called “nuclear waste dump” that might be constructed in Canada. In effect, councils are willing to consider having the “dump” built in Bruce County. It would be built by Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a private corporation run by the producers of nuclear energy in Canada.

What I refer to as a nuclear dump is technically known as a high-level, deep geological repository (HL-DGR). In essence, it is a permanent disposal facility, deep underground, for exhausted but still highly radioactive fuel rods from nuclear reactors. Another underground repository, this one for low- and medium-level waste (LM-DGR), is in the planning stage at the Bruce generating station (and currently under environmental assessment by the federal government). This repository would be for the disposal of such things as protective clothing, tools, reactor components and resins and filters used to clean reactor water circuits, some of these items dangerously radioactive. Both repositories raise important issues that the public should be giving some serious thought about.

I”m writing from Southampton in Saugeen Shores to tell you why I am opposed to a HL-DGR in Bruce County. I hasten to point out that I’m not anti-nuclear and I believe that Ontario Power Generation, the operator of the Bruce generating station, contributes much to the regional economy and has generously supported community programs and events and charities. Nevertheless, I’m strongly opposed to the building of a HL-DGR in Bruce County. Many of my arguments apply also to the low- and medium-level repository so when I mention one, think both.

Because the issues surrounding a nuclear waste dump are so complex, and there are so many reasons for opposing a dump in Bruce County, I will have to discuss them in a 5-part letter. Part 1 begins with the most general, and obvious, criticism …

Inappropriate location

For me, the most important reason for opposing a high-level DGR in Bruce County is because it is simply the wrong place. Bruce County is in the midst of an agricultural and recreation/tourist region, a completely inappropriate location to dispose of exhausted fuel rods. Indeed, Huron County to the south advertises itself as the “West Coast of Ontario”, alluding perhaps to California and British Columbia and implying the county may be as appealing to tourism and retirement as the west coast of North America. I think this analogy could easily be extended to Bruce County.

A high-level DGR for exhausted fuel rods from nuclear reactors in an agricultural and recreation/tourist region could create a stigma in the public mind, negatively affecting the county’s economy and also land values.

The economic impact of a stigma associated with a nuclear waste facility was examined by the State of Nevada, which was concerned about what the proposed Yucca Mountain HL-DGR might do to its economy, based heavily on tourism and the casino industry. An independent socioeconomic study commissioned by the state predicted a serious loss of revenue and the state went to court to force the U.S. federal government to cancel plans for the facility. The federal government subsequently terminated funding of the project in 2009 for its own economic and political reasons.

In Bruce County, a potential reduction in land values because of proximity to a nuclear waste repository has already been acknowledged by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) in an agreement with the Municipality of Kincardine and surrounding municipalities for the low- and medium-level waste facility (LM-DGR) being planned at the Bruce generating station. Compensation to landowners for demonstrated loss of market value because of proximity to the LM-DGR is discussed Section 7 of the hosting agreement between OPG, Kincardine and neighboring municipalities (dated October, 2004). A drop in land values is also likely to occur should a repository for exhausted fuel rods be built in Bruce County. In the view of some realtors, the controversy has already affected the resale and rental markets.

One must ask: would a high-level nuclear waste dump in Bruce County affect the selling price of farm products, discourage new industries from re-locating here, deter people from vacationing or retiring in the region … or even drive people away?

Lots to think about.

In Part 2 of my five-part letter explaining why I oppose a HL-DGR in Bruce County I will discuss other economic issues and potential risks to the environment and human health.

Peter L. Storck (PhD, environmental archaeology)


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Nuclear waste is a hot issue in Creighton (February 2012)

By: Jonathon Naylor, The Reminder, Flin Flon MB

Posted: 02/9/2012 1:00 AM

FLIN FLON — Cynthia Fedak is speaking out, not so much for herself but for her grandkids.

A longtime resident of Creighton, the sleepy sister town to Flin Flon just over the Saskatchewan border, she vehemently opposes plans to potentially store Canada’s nuclear waste in her community.

“To me, nuclear waste is iffy and there’s no absolute answers,” says the 65-year-old retiree. “It could be dangerous if something happened and it wouldn’t be just a minor disaster; it would be something probably major.”

Creighton is one of at least 10 Canadian communities expressing an interest in hosting a subterranean storage facility to be built by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.

Though it will take up to nine years to select a host community, debate already is raging over whether storing spent nuclear fuel rods represents the secondary industry this mining area has long craved.

While it tentatively won’t open until 2035, the repository is expected to represent a multibillion-dollar investment and spawn more than 4,000 jobs before, during and after construction.

Creighton has a long history of exploring new, sometimes unusual means of growth. Economic development workers have contemplated selling liver oil from burbot fish as a health supplement, and at one time hoped to use an abandoned mine shaft for zero-gravity experiments.

For Bruce Fidler, the straight-talking mayor of Creighton, the nuclear waste repository is “a heck of an economic development opportunity.”

Yet Creighton is not at the point where it has formally applied to host the repository. A geological screening of the area has found no obvious conditions to preclude the town, but there are numerous other steps ahead before Creighton might put in an official bid.

A key part of the process will be determining whether the public — in Creighton, Flin Flon and the surrounding area — is on side.

“This isn’t going to go in a community that doesn’t want it,” Joanne Facella, the NWMO’s director of social research, told the Flin Flon and District Chamber of Commerce last year.

Fedak felt strong enough in her resistance to write a letter to the editor to Flin Flon’s newspaper, The Reminder. It’s a stand she sees as unpopular.

She says people complained for years about the air pollution from Flin Flon’s copper smelter — closed since mid-2010 — and she can’t see why they now would be eager to welcome radioactive materials to the neighbourhood.

Neither Mayor Fidler nor the NWMO begrudge opponents of nuclear storage, but they ask that people take the time to learn the facts.

Presenting the facts was the goal of a public exhibit held at the Creighton community hall last summer.

Models were used to illustrate how the nuclear waste “bundles,” as they are known, would be sheathed in carbon steel tubes.

The tubes would then be inserted into 2.5-centimetre-thick copper containers and lowered into boreholes drilled into rock some 500 metres below the surface and surrounded with rings of bentonite clay, which acts as a natural sealant. The boreholes would be capped and sealed with concrete.

It was all enough to win over Creighton resident Rod Gourlay, a former co-owner of the town’s motel. He went to the exhibit undecided, if not a little fearful, but left convinced it is the right thing to do.

“We don’t know a whole lot about it (uranium),” Gourlay told The Reminder. “But after seeing the work they’ve done and the research they’ve done for the storage facility, and the process that it goes through, I think it’s just really opened my eyes. I feel a hundred per cent better than before I went there.”

In the end, which side wins the debate might be irrelevant.

In remarks to the media, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has said he does not think Saskatchewanians want radioactive waste kept in their province and unless there is a major shift in opinion, it is not in the cards.

The opposition NDP is more forthright in its disagreement.

Meanwhile, environmentalists are lobbying Saskatchewan for an outright legislative ban on nuclear waste, something already in place in Manitoba.

No matter where the country’s nuclear waste is eventually stored, a permanent solution is required.

The waste is presently kept at several locations, mostly in Ontario, in temporary containers projected to last 50 to 100 years.

For decades, the Flin Flon area has existed thanks to what people extract from the ground. The big question now is, could part of its economic future lie in putting something back into it?

Jonathon Naylor is editor of The Reminder in Flin Flon.


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Nuclear Waste: Safe by What Standard? Workshops in White River and Hornepayne

An Overview of How Nuclear Facilities are Regulated in Canada

Wednesday, November 21 , 7 – 9 pm
Join us for light refreshments at 6:30 pm
White River Seniors Harmony Club

Thursday, November 22 , 7 – 9 pm
Join us for light refreshments at 6:30 pm
Hornepayne Royal Canadian Legion Branch 194

A presentation by Theresa McClenaghan
Executive Direction and Senior Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association

A brief overview by Northwatch of the current effort by the nuclear industry’s site selection process underway for a burial location all of Canada’s high level nuclear fuel waste will be followed by a presentation by Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Senior Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association on how nuclear facilities are regulated. The presentation and following discussion will address how nuclear projects are reviewed, how standards are set, and how regulations relate to the protection of human health and the environment.

Presented by Northwatch and the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

What it’s like to live in Hornepayne (October 2012)

October 31, 2012

I remember a popular saying when I was young, “What happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors.” I think we all grew up with this deeply rooted into our being. Yesterday the “Let’s Rebuild Hornepayne” Facebook Group was changed to a closed group. The reason behind it is not being disclosed but my hunch is that the admin wants to keep what is happening in our town behind closed doors.

Here’s a peak of what it’s like to live in Hornepayne.

A new subdivision was built in the 1970s. Our “Mall”, which was boarded up 2 years ago was built in the late 70s and opened in 1980. For 30 years people went about their business. Our population decreased by almost half from then to now. A few years ago, being forced by the Government, we built a new water treatment plant which has turned out to be a money pit. We used to pay $400.00 a year for water and we now pay $1200.00 a year. The closure of our “Mall” left a huge tax deficit and it left the town without many services. In 2010 after the new Council was elected they passed a resolution to stop all donations from the Township because their money problems were that desperate. It’s so bad that they can’t afford to pay for an interact machine for the office. Many have asked about applying for grants so we can rebuild our community, but again we’re told that we need money to apply and we don’t have any.

In comes NWMO.

Hornepayne was one of the first communities to enter into the Nuclear Waste process. We are currently in a learning process so we can learn all about this before we make a decision. The NWMO has set up a Committee that was supposed to release information so we could be educated, but as it was seen in yesterday’s post, they don’t have much freedom in what they can share.We have been told repeatedly that we will have the option to choose if we want this or not. So far we don’t have any other choice and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Those who are for Nuclear Waste can’t see that we will have a future without it and those who are against it can’t see that we will have a future with it.

It’s been 2 years of yearning to rebuild our town but we can’t seem to move forward. People continue to move and just this week another business has closed. After 5 or 10 years of this I’m sure we’ll all be ready to sell out to Nuclear Waste. They say we’ll have a choice.

A Message to Hornepayne

To move forward we have to let NWMO go. As long as they are here we will NEVER move forward. It’s 10 or 15 years away and we’re going to be kept in this state so we finally choose Nuclear Waste. It’s just like being lost at sea; you know drinking the salt water isn’t good but when you’re thirsty who can resist? Well, after 10 years of this kind of Hornepayne living will you be able to resist? Rebuilding is going to take A LOT of work. Jody and I have been trying to build a business and the amount of hours has been crazy, so I know it’s a lot of work. We’re not going to find the desire to do this hard work within our community if a much easier option is perceived to be in our future. Our vision is being blocked by Nuclear Waste. It’s a hindrance to our progress. It’s deceptive in the fact that all their promises make you think we’re getting somewhere, but we’re not.

MP Bruce Hyer to Launch Nuclear Waste Route Tour (October 2012)

Independent MP to consult communities that could see 50,000 tonnes of radioactive waste

October 26, 2012

OTTAWA – Independent Member of Parliament Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North) is launching a series of town hall style meetings in communities along likely transportation corridors for much of Canada’s nuclear wastes, mostly accumulated radioactive fuel bundles used to generate electricity.

“Many people won’t know it, but there is a stockpile of approximately 50,000 metric tonnes of nuclear wastes waiting to be stored in an interim or permanent nuclear waste repository,” said Hyer, a former Ontario environmental adjudicator.

“Canada’s nuclear industry is getting closer to picking a permanent site for that nuclear waste, but regardless of the location that’s chosen people in a number of communities are likely to see trucks or trains loaded with nuclear waste passing near, or through, their town someday. The communities on the transportation route will bear some risk on any potential nuclear waste spill or accident, so they should have a say sooner rather than later.”

“It’s one of the biggest decisions that these community residents will ever have to make,” continued Hyer. “Some of the wastes have half-lives of tens of thousands of years. I feel it is my job as an MP to help to make sure that they are aware of the options, and have early opportunity to learn and comment.”

The first leg of the tour, to take place in November 2012, will see public meetings held Parry Sound, Sudbury, and Sault Ste. Marie, and near the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant. Further details, and details of future legs of the tour, will be announced soon.

Says Hyer: “I don’t yet have a personal or professional opinion on the best long-term storage solution for nuclear wastes. However, I have been requesting for years that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization consult more widely, including along likely or possible transportation routes. NWMO has chosen so far to only consult the 21 communities that have expressed interest in hosting a long term nuclear waste repository. So I will be giving other citizens and groups – including NWMO – an opportunity to share information at my MP meetings”.

“I’m inviting all residents to come out to a meeting,” said Hyer “I’d like to hear their questions and concerns, and I hope to learn about their thoughts on the nuclear waste issue in their community.”

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‘Hardened on-site storage’ sought for nuclear waste (October 2012)

Published: Monday, October 15, 2012

By Jim Bloch, Voice Reporter

Anti-nuclear activists like Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch and John Jackson of Great Lakes United, who spoke at St. Clair County Community College earlier this fall, oppose storing nuclear waste in deep geologic repositories like the one proposed by Ontario Power Generation a half-mile inland from Lake Huron near the Bruce Peninsula, 120 miles north-northeast of Port Huron.

They oppose reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods. They are critical of current methods of storing high level nuclear waste in cooling pools and dry casks.

What do they propose to do with the more than 68,000 tons of spent fuel in the U.S. as of 2009, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is growing by 2,000-2,400 tons per year?

The short answer is hardened on-site storage of used fuel rods.

Eternal danger

The problem with high level nuclear waste is that it remains dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of years.

“Spent nuclear fuel is about 95 percent uranium,” said a 2011 AP report. “About 1 percent are other heavy elements such as curium, americium and plutonium-239, best known as fuel for nuclear weapons. Each has an extremely long half-life” – the time it takes to lose half its radioactivity – “(and) some take hundreds of thousands of years to lose all of their radioactive potency. The rest, about 4 percent, is a cocktail of byproducts of fission that break down over much shorter time periods, such as cesium-137 and strontium-90, which break down completely in about 300 years.”

Cesium-137 and strontium-90 are two of the isotopes that blanketed the countryside around the Chernobyl reactor in the Ukraine, which melted down in 1986, creating a zone of exclusion the size of New Jersey for the next three centuries.

Over such a long period of time, even in deep geologic repositories like the one proposed for the Bruce peninsula, any number of occurrences could cause leakage into the environment and Great Lakes, critics say, from container failures to terrorism to earthquakes. Once the repositories are filled to capacity and sealed, monitoring and intervention to fix problems becomes nearly impossible. The Bruce site would accept low and medium level wastes from all over Ontario and critics don’t like the idea of a centralized waste storage site, which involves transportation of the dangerous waste by truck, rail and boat – all notoriously subject to accidents. Centralized sites offer potentially more lethal terrorist targets than decentralized sites.

Critics like Lloyd and Jackson oppose reprocessing used nuclear fuel due to the huge expense involved, the transportation dangers and the new streams of nuclear waste that are generated. Because reprocessing involves extracting plutonium, the key ingredient in nuclear bombs, they fear the proliferation of weapons.

Cooling pools and dry casks

Critics also oppose the current practices involved with storing used nuclear fuel bundles, which are highly radioactive, in deep cooling pools near the reactors. About 75 percent of high level nuclear fuel waste in the U.S. is stored in pools.

“The highly radioactive fuel bundles are taken out of the reactors by robots and placed into swimming pools for six to eight years,” said Jackson.

Because no permanent solution to nuclear waste has been developed, the pools are packed with more fuel rods than they were designed to store, making them especially dangerous in the event that the water system fails, as happened in Fukushima in the wake of the 2011 earthquake. According to a 2011 Time magazine story, in-ground pools are located in buildings next to operating reactors at 73 U.S. sites; attic pools, like the ones at Fukushima, are used at 31 plants. Each pool is a bomb waiting to happen. A 1997 Brookhaven National Laboratory study said a disaster at one spent fuel pool could result in 138,000 deaths and contaminate 2,000 square miles.

When the fuel rods are cool enough, at least five years later, some nuclear power stations are moving the used fuel into giant dry casks for temporary storage. The casks are dry in the sense that the spent fuel is surrounded by gas, often helium, instead of water.

Pools and casks, critics say, are susceptible to natural disaster, failures of the power grid and terrorism. The casks, while inherently stronger than the pools, most often sit on concrete pads in warehouses no stronger than a big box store, said Lloyd. They’re in a very vulnerable state.

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Deep trouble: Nuclear waste burial in the Great Lakes basin (October 2012)

Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012

By Jim Bloch, Voice Reporter

The Blue Water Area sits about 120 miles downstream from the second largest nuclear power facility in the world, the Bruce Power Generating Station, operated by Bruce Power in Kincardine, Ontario, near the base of the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron. Six of the eight reactors on the 2,300 acre site are currently in operation. The company hopes to restart the other two reactors before the end of the year.

An accident at one or more of the Bruce reactors on the scale of Chernobyl in the old Soviet Union in 1986 or Fukushima in Japan last year could be catastrophic to the Great Lakes, which contain about 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. The lakes provide drinking water to about 40 million people and support a $7 billion per year sport and commercial fishing industry.

“There is no acceptable level of exposure to radioactivity,” said Brennain Lloyd, a community organizer for the Ontario anti-nuclear group Northwatch.

Exposure to ionizing radiation can damage cells, tissues and DNA, causing mutations, cancer, birth defects and a host of other disorders.

On Sept. 30 at St. Clair County Community College, Lloyd and John Jackson, interim director of Great Lakes United, discussed the dangers to the lakes posed by nuclear power and nuclear waste. The SC4 Green Team and Blue Water Sierra sponsored the talk, which was attended by about 40 people.

Deep geologic repository

If a reactor accident or meltdown presents a dramatic threat to the Great Lakes, nuclear waste presents dangers of quieter orders of magnitude.

“Nuclear waste is created at every step of the nuclear fuel cycle,” said Lloyd, from uranium mining and milling to fuel enrichment and fabricating and finally to nuclear fission in reactors.

A person can be exposed to radioactivity and not know it. It doesn’t have a smell or a taste. Some forms of nuclear waste will remain toxic essentially forever.

“That’s a mind-boggling thing,” said Jackson.

Ontario Power Generation operates the Western Waste Management Facility, located in Tiverton, next door to the Bruce station. WWMT stores all of the low level and intermediate level nuclear waste from Bruce’s eight reactors, the four reactors at the Darlington station, 20 miles east of Toronto, and the six reactors at the Pickering station, just east of Toronto. The waste from Darlington and Pickering is trucked to the Bruce for storage. The site also stores all of the high level nuclear waste from the Bruce station’s spent fuel rods in dry storage containers. All of the storage is considered temporary until “permanent” solutions are found.

OPG is now proposing what it claims is a permanent solution for low and intermediate nuclear waste – a deep underground repository at WWMF, a half-mile from Lake Huron, in limestone caverns more than 2,000 feet below the earth’s surface. The site is proposed to be about 35 acres on the surface and twice that large underground, said Lloyd.

Public hearings on its environmental impact statement are expected in 2013.

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