Letter: Open house short on open talks about storing high-level nuclear waste

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

Written by on October 1, 2012 in Communities, Letters to The Editor - 2 Comments

2 Comments on "Letter: Open house short on open talks about storing high-level nuclear waste"

  1. Paul Carroll October 1, 2012 at 10:03 am · Reply

    Sounds like exactly the same approach that was taken back in the mid ’70s when BNPD, the CNR, and AECL were trying to minimize the impact of any substance being “created” in the fission process.
    They liked to compare the impacts then to “radiation no more than that from your kitchen toaster”. They had much difficulty admitting the horrific impacts of the high level waste – especially from fuel rods – and the artificial toxins created that would need supervision for more than 200,000 years – yes! … more than 200,000 – etc. etc, etc.
    How many have already died so far in Japan after the accidental relases of high level radiation there? Sure, they are talking about 1,500 feet underground, but it my area, the salt beds are laced with water aquifers. Surely someone knows about that too….

    Yes, there HAS to be a solution to long-term waste storage. But, let’s start the dialogue in an honest, forthright, and open manner. You can fool some of the people all the time it seems – or so they think….. but at what cost to our children and their descendants? :(

    • Paul October 13, 2012 at 11:31 am · Reply

      Well said, you guys. And WIND sucks. Give me a break.

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