Open Consultations, Behind Closed Doors – NWMO in N. Saskatchewan (October 2012)

Premier Brad Wall, northern community residents disagree on transparency of nuclear waste site selection process

BY SANDRA CUFFE


The Saskatchewan government may have faith in the consultation process carried out by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) in its search for a site to hold highly radioactive spent fuel bundles from nuclear reactors, but affected northern community residents beg to differ.

“The Government of Saskatchewan recognizes the efforts of the NWMO in its attempt to identify a safe and secure site in an informed and willing community to host Canada’s long-term nuclear fuel management facilities,” according to a copy of correspondence from Premier Brad Wall obtained by the Media Co-op. The letter is dated October 10, 2012, but was sent this morning to Pat McNamara, in response to a recent open letter to the Premier by McNamara, outlining related concerns.

“The NWMO site selection process involves extensive open consultations within the willing host communities. The support of the residents of these communities, as well as the surrounding region, is a requirement to move forward in the site selection process,” wrote Wall.

Local authorities in the communities involved in the site selection process – including Pinehouse, English River First Nation and Creighton in Saskatchewan – have expressed interest, but none of the locations have yet been deemed “willing host communities” as Wall’s letter suggests. Exactly how that determination will be made remains unclear. But a pressing concern for many northern residents is the way in which the so-called consultations are playing out in their communities.

Pinehouse resident Fred Pederson, 70, was employed as an elder at the local school, working with students in shop class on a variety of projects. He learned of his community’s involvement in the site selection process when students were taken out of school to hear from local northern village officials about the issue.

“They were taking the students out of the school and taking them to the hall, the village hall, and they were having meetings with them. They wouldn’t allow any adults in there,” Pederson told the Media Co-op in an interview. He learned about the content of the discussions from his students. “They were talking about how much money they can make and how their future depends on the nuclear waste storage in Saskatchewan and all of that,” he said.

According to Pederson, community residents being uninformed about meetings going on in their midst is not a one-time occurrence. Most of the visits to Pinehouse by NWMO representatives are unannounced meetings with the village mayor and council behind closed doors, he explained.

“We’re never told the dates. We’re never told they’re coming in,” he said. “They go and have a closed door meeting with these guys. And then the public is never told what they’ve discussed or nothing. We are not told. The people are not told what goes on in the meeting, ’cause [it’s] just them guys themselves.”

Critiques of the secrecy surrounding NWMO meetings abound in communities in northwestern Saskatchewan. Ille-a-la-Crosse  resident Jules Daigneault, 70, was out on the lake in his skiff looking for moose one day when he stumbled upon a NWMO meeting across the lake.

“They had a secret meeting over here,” Daigneault told the Media Co-op in an interview by the shore of Lake Ille-a-la-Crosse. One of the last times he had been at the South Bay campground was when he saw a number of trucks parked there and ventured over to see what was going on.

“I parked the same place where I parked, tied my boat, came up here. They were having a meeting. ‘Oh, we got an elder,’ they said. So I sat down,” he said. “I just sat there for half an hour, maybe an hour, listening.”

Along with community-level paid promoters, at least two of the individuals at the meeting were direct NWMO representatives, Daigneault recalled. Much of the discussion focused on funds for community projects.

“They brought briefcases and they sounded so beautiful, just like they had a million dollars in their pockets,” he said.

“When it was my turn to talk, I told them ‘What about the animals? What about the bears and the moose? Where are they going to drink water from? Nuclear waste – what if [the truck] tips on the highway and it leaks to the water? It’s gonna all be poison,'” he said. “We have so many beautiful lakes, I said, and we’re going to destroy everything.”

“Oh, they didn’t say anything. I said our land, our water, our fish, our animals, they’re worth billions and billions and billions of dollars, I said, and those are ours to keep. We can’t cash it, but we can use it to eat, feed our families, enjoy ourselves. We can cut down trees, build a cabin. You know, we can cut down willows and build a teepee. We can do anything with our forests as long as we take care of it. Money won’t last very long, but the lake will last thousands and thousands and thousands of years,” said Daigneault.

“They all looked at me and stared at me. Some of them were ready to swear, I think,” he said. “They didn’t want to hear this, but I happened to stumble on a meeting.”

NWMO handpicks individuals who value money above anything else and they resist input from hunters, trappers and others who rely on and protect the land, Daigneault told the Media Co-op.

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Getting to “Yes” at International Conference on Nuclear Waste (October 2012)

Friday, October 05, 2012   by: BayToday.ca Staff

Story Brennain Lloyd/Special to BayToday.ca.

Toronto – A parade of country representatives took to the stage Tuesday in downtown Toronto at an international conference on nuclear waste burial, outlining programs and plans for what the nuclear industry calls “geological repositories”. The two-day international conference was the most recent in a series of gatherings convened every four years.

In an opening panel of “implementers” from Sweden, Finland, Japan, the U.K. and Switzerland, presenters flashed image after image of tunnels, shafts and caverns carved out of rock, all generated as part of national planning processes which would ultimately result in country stockpiles of high level nuclear fuel waste being placed deep below the surface, as a “final solution” to the to-date intractable problem of how to contain the radioactive wastes that are generated by nuclear power plants and will remain hazardous – and harmful – for hundreds of thousands of years.

Hosted by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, a Canadian association of nuclear power plant operators and waste owners, the two-day conference brought together nuclear power companies, nuclear waste management agencies and companies, and national regulators from several countries who are pursuing plans to construct and operate geological repositories for high level nuclear waste.

There were several common threads throughout the country approaches. Like Canada, all countries pursuing approvals for a burial facility for nuclear fuel waste are still in either the site search, planning or review stage – none have yet received a final approval or begun construction or operation. And like Canada, most countries offer some financial incentive for communities to get involved, or at least a promise of financial benefits if community support results in an eventual approval and repository construction.

Several presenters told the story of searches for a “willing” community, and some talked about having had to restart their siting programs, changing either their search criteria or approach after they failed to find a “willing” community.

“You don’t want a “yes” crowd because a “yes” crowd incites a “no” crowd and the “no” crowd always has a lot of energy”, explained Saida Laarouchi Engstrom, from the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company.

The challenge of gaining social acceptance for nuclear waste burial projects was a key theme throughout the two day conference.

Don Howard from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission posed what seems to be the primary question in the minds of would-be implementing organizations to Jo-Ann Facella, director for Social Research and Dialogue for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization: “So how do we get social acceptance?”

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is the regulatory agency responsible for reviewing nuclear projects and licensing all nuclear facilities in Canada. CNSC President Michael Binder had been adamant in his remarks the previous day that social and economic considerations are not part of the Canadian regulator’s mandate.

There were also some important variations from the main theme of nuclear waste burial. In Finland, like Canada, the program does not allow the local community to opt out after the site investigations have been completed, whereas in Sweden that option remains open to the community until after all of the information about the site has been shared. Some countries, such as Switzerland, use geological information as their key siting criteria, where others – including Canada – have placed the emphasis in local “willingness”, with a site search that seeks to attract interest in the earlier stages and leaves detailed geophysical studies to later stages.

A final panel of speakers were from communities already selected for nuclear waste burial, including Mayor of Kincardine Larry Kraemer, who leads a municipal council which has a “hosting agreement” with Ontario Power Generation that sets out the terms of cash payment from Ontario Power Generation and support from the geological repository for low and intermediate level nuclear wastes that OPG is seeking approval to construct beneath the surface at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, which is within Kincardine’s municipal boundaries. Kraemer describes his community as being overwhelmingly in support of a proposal the OPG burial plan.

Asked to comment on what constitutes community support, Kramer replied that “Fifty (percent) plus one is not enough” and suggested that the ballot box was a way to measure support. Kramer said that those who support the nuclear waste burial project were elected, and those did not support it lost in the municipal elections.

According to OPG’s project summary, only 60% of the 71% who responded to a survey of Kincadine residents asking whether they “support the establishment of a facility for the long-term management of low and intermediate level waste at the Western Waste Management Facility”, which is the current above-ground storage facility at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station. At best, the math would say that 42% of those included in the survey supported some action being take on the waste, although not necessarily burial on the shore of Lake Huron.

Throughout the two-day event, the approximately 50 attendees from the 21 Canadian communities currently being studied by the NWMO as potential burial sites for Canada’s high level nuclear waste sat quietly in the audience. Herman Dost of Ignace ventured to the microphone to ask a question about recycling, but the tough questions during Tuesday’s sessions about transparency in some of the siting process and the independence of the nuclear regulators came from outside Canada, or not at all. 

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International conference promotes nuclear waste burial

Tuesday, October 02, 2012   by: BayToday.ca Staff

Story Brennain Lloyd/Special to BayToday.ca.

Toronto – The upscale and high-tech Telus Centre for Performance and Learning in downtown Toronto seemed worlds away from the dozen struggling communities in northern Ontario who have signed up to studied as possible burial sites for high level nuclear waste, but it was the scene of an international discussion about nuclear waste burial, an idea the communities are currently exploring, drawn in by the promise of significant economic benefits.

A light scattering of representatives of municipal councils who have become involved in Canada”s search for a nuclear waste burial site sat among the 200 delegates to an international conference on geologic repositories for its opening day Monday, guests of Canada’s nuclear industry.


The International Conference on Geological Repositories is being hosted by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, the national association of nuclear power companies that was established at the direction of the federal government in 2002 to take charge of Canada’s nuclear fuel waste program. The conference brings together senior-level “decision-makers”, primarily from the nuclear industry and nuclear regulatory agencies, from countries who have accepted as an end goal the burial of their stock piles of high level nuclear waste deep below the surface in what the industry and regulators refer to as “geological repositories”.


Twenty-one communities in total have signed up for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s study program, including three in northern Saskatchewan and a dozen in northern Ontario. Six more encircle the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, most of them already parties to an agreement with Ontario Power Generation through which the municipalities – in exchange for cash payments – provide political support for Ontario Power Generation’s plan to bury lower-level nuclear wastes under the Bruce station. That project is currently undergoing a federal environmental assessment review, with a decision expected by the end of 2013.

Ignace and Ear Falls were the first communities to sign up with the NWMO’s siting exercise for a high level nuclear waste repository, and they – along with Wawa, Schreiber and Hornepayne -have already moved on to the third step in the NWMO process. Those five communities are in the early stages of a feasibility study, with NWMO offices established and regular visits from NWMO “relationship managers” hired this year to provide ongoing attention to the potential host municipalities. Elliot Lake, Spanish, Blind River and the Township of the North Shore were provided with the results of “initial screenings” of their communities last month, and have yet to decide on whether to move on to the next stage of the NWMO’s nine step siting process.

Most in the room were true believers when it comes to nuclear waste burial. Luis Echavarri, Director General for the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, took the lead as the opening speaker, proclaiming that “geological disposal remains a controversial subject, but is inescapable”.

The next speaker – Director General for Energy for the European Commission – was one of several to either claim or imply an international consensus on the subject of nuclear waste burial, as she outlined a pan-European program for advancing nuclear waste burial projects.

But some remain unconvinced. Eddy Martin, chair of the Cumbria County Council in the U.K. – the only area in the U.K. where municipalities have expressed interest in that country’s “voluntary” siting process – asked what any of the national or international programs have in place to prevent nuclear burial sites being imposed on communities.

“At what point does the principle of volunteerism become something more sinister?? Martin asked, adding that his concern is that if only one area is investigated then the nuclear waste facility might be imposed.

“As an implementer, if we don’t get a volunteer community in this round, we will go around again”, replied Bruce McKirdy, speaking as Chairman for the International Association for Environmentally Safe Disposal of Radioactive Materials, of which the NWMO is a member.

Also unconvinced is Michel Marie from the small village of Bure in France. Marie has travelled to Canada to attend the conference and express his concern about the French plan to bury nuclear waste near his village, on the border between the regions of Lorraine and Champagne.

“Twenty years ago the government announced that they were going to be building an “underground scientific research laboratory’ in our area”, explained Monsieur Marie.

“After their different attempts in different regions failed because of opposition from local residents and their elected representatives, they stopped calling it ‘burial’ and began talking about a laboratory.”

“Bure was only supposed to be the site of the laboratory, and now ANDRA (the agency in charge of the nuclear waste program) has announced the construction of underground repository”.

Marie says they have had an independent expert look at the technical reports, and the expert has “sounded the alert”, warning that the area is unsuitable and is too risky to move forward with.

Discussions continue Tuesday.

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Nuclear Waste Burial in the Great Lakes Basin – Presentation September 30th in Port Huron

Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012

By Jim Bloch, Voice Reporter

The dangers to the Blue Water Area posed by nuclear power move to the front burner this weekend as two prominent anti-nuclear activists visit St. Clair County Community College.


Brennain Lloyd, program coordinator of Northwatch, and John Jackson, interim executive director of Great Lakes United, will speak on Sunday, Sept. 30, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Room 150 of the MTEC Building, St. Clair County Community College.

Their presentation is entitled “Deep Trouble – Nuclear Waste Burial in the Great Lakes Basin.”

The pair will discuss a proposal by Ontario Power Generation to build an underground repository for 200,000 cubic meters of regional nuclear waste near the Bruce Peninsula, about 120 miles north-northeast from Port Huron. They will also talk about the nuclear industry’s efforts to build dumpsites for all of Canada’s high-level radioactive waste, possibly on shores of Lake Huron; 15 of the 21 communities under consideration for the dump are in the Great Lakes Basin.

SC4’s Green Team and Blue Water Sierra Club are sponsoring the presentations.

 

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Positive DGR Report in Saugeen Shores (September 2012)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 by John Divinski


NWMO reports there is sufficient land for DGR without disturbing protected areas.

.(Saugeen Shores)-

Saugeen Shores has been given the green light to move forward as a potential host community for a Deep Geological Repository for spent nuclear fuel.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization has okayed the results of the initial screening test.

The house was only half full at the Rotary Hall as NWMO officials explained to councillors that Saugeen Shores met all of necessary requirements to continue on if they so desire.

Councillors learned there is sufficient land to house the repository, without disturbing protected areas such as heritage sites and provincial parks.

The land also does not contain obvious known geological and hydro geological conditions that would make the area unsuitable.

Council voted to receive the report but has not made a decision as to what to do next but Mayor Mike Smith has his ideas.

He says he’s not afraid to learn more about it.

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Nuclear Power Part II: Waste, No Solution So Far (September 2012)

by Jeff Danner – Common Science

Posted Sep 23 2012 8:39PM

While nuclear power plants generate a variety of radioactive wastes, by far the most difficult to manage are the spent fuel rods.  Spent fuel rods contain unutilized uranium as well as a mixture of different radioactive elements which are members of the uranium-235 decay chain.  The fuel rods will continue to pose serious danger to human health for millions of years.

The world has already generated a staggering amount of nuclear waste to which we are adding approximately 12,000 tons per year.  All of this has occurred without a clear plan to manage the waste.  While we continue to evaluate the potential long-term storage options, most of the world’s nuclear wasted is staged in temporary above-ground storage facilities where it has been incorporated into glass and ceramic composites, sealed in metal containers, and encased in concrete.  This storage approach is sufficient to protect us from radiation in the short term, but is not sufficient to isolate the waste for the millions of years that will be necessary.

A comprehensive review of all of the long-term storage options being considered would be too much to cover in a single column.  Any acceptable solution needs to completely and reliably isolate the waste from the biosphere for five to ten million years.  There are two out-of-the-box type solutions that I find interesting.  The first is ejection into space. This certainty removes the waste from the biosphere. The Achilles Heel of this approach is the possibility of an upper atmosphere explosion of the rocket transporting the waste to space, the results of which would be catastrophic.  Personally, I am intrigued with a second creative proposal which suggests that we consider transporting the waste to a subduction zone at the intersection of two tectonic plates at the bottom of the ocean.  Material placed into the subduction zone would be transported into the earth’s magma miles below the surface.  Concerns regarding potential contamination of the oceans during the operation have stalled these efforts as well.  While both of these esoteric options would meet the criteria for removing the wastes from the biosphere, their attendant risks suggest that they will never be implemented.

This leaves us with the less elegant and long debated issue of burying the waste.  For the last four decades the U.S. has been evaluating the option of interring our nuclear waste beneath Yucca Mountain in Nevada.  Political pressures and scientific uncertainty have thus far, kept this project from moving forward.  My sense is that eventually we will have a serious incident at one of our above-ground, temporary waste storage facilities which will finally force the Yucca Mountain project to move forward.

With the serious and long-term risks associated with nuclear waste, one must consider whether the benefits of nuclear power are worth it.

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Read also Nuclear Power Part I: The Science

FALL 2012: GIVING A VOICE BACK TO THE PEOPLE! Saskatchewan Tour Against Nuclear Waste (September 2012)

FALL 2012: GIVING A VOICE BACK TO THE PEOPLE!

The Committee for Future Generations is starting off this fall with a 7000 Generations Northern Tour Against Nuclear Waste, from September 17 to October 3, 2012, featuring Pat McNamara, author of three books on nuclear issues in Canada. Check out the 7000 Generations Tour Against Nuclear Waste poster and pass it on. Community presentations, radio interviews and kitchen table sessions have been organized in several communities and more details will be announced later this month, so stay tuned!

Pinehouse Lake: September 17 and 18.
Ile-a-la-Crosse: September 19, 9:30am radio show, 6:30pm-8pm book reading at the public library
Buffalo Narrows: September 22, 1pm at the Friendship Center
La Loche: September 24, 7pm Dene High Community School Room
Canoe Lake / Jans Bay / Cole Bay: September 26, location TBA
Beauval: September 27, 7pm at Valley View School
Creighton: September 30 to October 3, details TBA
PatuanakDillon and Turnor Lake TBA

For more details, to request a community visit, or to support the Committee for Future Generations with much-needed travel funds, get in touch: committeeforfuturegenerations@gmail.com or visit http://committeeforfuturegenerations.wordpress.com/coming-events/