written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling
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The Town Council of Saugeen Shores declined to vote on March 29, 2015 on a recommendation to Canada's newly elected Liberal government's Minister of the Environment, Catherine McKenna concerning the proposed DGR in Kincardine
In my opinion the Council should have given the Minister the benefit of their combined wisdom and knowledge. Maybe they will, but if it is after she makes her decision, it is not any help at all.
She and her staff are just getting into this. Our area has almost 50 years of experience and 15 years involved with the project.
The community is full of experts. We have two people living in the community who were in charge of the nuclear waste at the Northern Waste Management Organization (NWMO) site.
We have at least two groups who have written and represented the anti-side. To their credit they voice their opinions. I disagree strongly with them on a safety basis and the weight of the Joint Review Panel report and recommendations. (See column 2). I think the anti-side's proposals make us less safe and do not represent the science and process engineering.
I do, however, believe that the anti-side has given us their best shot and they are just repeating themselves now.
We have little to learn from them, but I will read what they publish and consider it carefully. The JRP has given us their best too. We have much to learn from their 238 page report. The hearings were done with decorum and helped a great deal to outline the problem and the proposed solution
If the Council does not feel confident as a group relative to the DGR, then maybe it's time to say so. Nobody can judge that other than them.
Maybe it's time for them to say that they don't fully understand the process or the science or what has been written in the JRP report.
Maybe some of the Council should say they have not studied the issue sufficiently to recommend anything. That's fair and honest too. It's clear to me however, that many members have studied the record in depth and do have helpful insights.
Maybe it's time to say that Council will go along with what is decided by the Minister without comment.
Representative government is a process whereby the public elects people to an office and expects them to not just rely on polls of their constituents, but to make a decision based upon their own knowledge and judgment reinforced by what they learn from the people and the experts and polls too. This can only happen when the elected officials have confidence in themselves.
I think it is worthwhile for all of us to remember the words of Edmund Burke, the father of what it means to be the people's representative. For the most powerful speech ever made on the subject Click Here.
His most powerful sentence is:
"Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."
Yes, getting the opinion of the people by any means old fashioned or modern is laudable and helpful, but after all is said and done you owe the people the fruits of your investigations and wisdom.
Enough said ... now to the deputations.
There were three deputations made at the Council meeting regarding the DGR. They were all recorded and are available via the links shown.
On Digging Deep Holes
I have written a lot about the DGR process. I feel guilty that I have missed some key points that I heard misconstrued at the Council meeting. I mistakenly thought that they were general knowledge.
One of them involves a deep laboratory for studying the process of digging a DGR. Guess what? Canada has a number of deep hole laboratories. Again ... Canada is renowned for the ability to dig deep holes and do studies at depth.
One of them is very famous and its up in Sudbury. It is called SNOLAB. It's not a perfect fit, but gives us insights.
SNOLAB is a Canadian underground physics laboratory at a depth of 2 km in Vale's Creighton nickel mine in Sudbury, Ontario.
The original Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment has ended, but the facilities have been expanded into a permanent underground laboratory. This is a gigantic underground lab. In 2015 the Nobel Prize was given for work done at the lab. The recipient was a Canadian Arthur B. MacDonald.
The people who built SNOLAB and the mining industry all around us are examples of depth construction and study.
Canada knows how to dig deep holes. As a nation Canadians are known to be the best.
The JRP contained two experts on the process of digging at depth and analysis, one a PhD. in mining engineering and another in geology. They are world renowned. The geology of the site has undergone extensive testing world wide too. I have seen the core samples up close. I have seen the results of the permeability tests.
The problem is not digging the hole, it is in the process of moving and storing radioactive material at a depth of 680 meters safely with proper material handling and process safety checks.
The DGR project will have a pause at depth and incrementally too no matter where it is constructed to refine the process involving safety, movement and storage. It's all about safety and process. That's a mantra worth remembering.
It is strange to think that OPG would build a complete test site at depth at some other spot. It would be costly and years in the making and it is better to build the DGR at the proposed site and use it as a lab before any waste is stored. This was their plan anyway. Study, probe, plan, dig, and access the results at each level.
There are many, many other sites in the world dug at depth in the mining industry which are and have been used for study. They have chambers and traffic flow to depth. Mr. Sutton brought up a number of them in his informative deputation. (see links to his webcast deputation below)
On Secrecy and non-transparency
Time after time I've been disappointed in the general public not taking time to attend meetings where experts from OPG, NWMO and CNSC were available for information transfer. Yes, the scientists were smart, yes, they were helpful and no they did not intimidate.
Very few people came. The Council will have to face this right up front. VERY FEW came to information meetings held in fire halls and at the Plex. So where do they get their information? I think the Council has recent experience on that covering another subject. Few people come, yet they have been given ample opportunities.
Even at the scheduled Council Meeting of February 29th, 2016, only about 16 connections were made to the streaming video of the Council meeting. That's up from an average of about 4 or 5 on other Council meetings of less importance. How about that for non-interest or is it a good deal of trust in their elected officials?
Mayor Smith and former Kincardine Mayor Sutton of Kincardine exposed the false impression that people were not given the opportunity to be informed.
I can testify to that. I tried over the years to interest people in lectures about the DGR study that was being done at the Bruce for storage of the waste.
This was before the SRA - Southampton Residents Association and SOS - Save Our Saugeen Shores (local groups) became engaged on the anti-side.. This was before all the splinter groups and people started to talk about not being informed.
Nobody was interested. That's a fact. One time when I brought it up as a possible topic for a lecture series at the Museum, I was told tactfully that it was not something that would draw an audience.
Who told me that? A person who had been engaged for years in trying to educate on Nuclear Power in our area. That was the person's full time job. Kindly, the person was trying to save me from disappointment. I found that out later.
The anti-side always brings up secret meetings at the County level and below. Mayor Smith said that at the County level, the issue was on the agenda 17 times and nobody from the anti-side ever came to any of those meetings during the initial phases of the DGR proposal. I know Mike Smith. He is a good and honest man and he does not participate in conspiracy.
This whole conspiracy thing is a real red herring. I know OPG was starved for people to attend open houses and even the huge booth that they put up at Pumpkinfest about the DGR, never got any interest. I know this for sure, because I spent a weekend in a booth across from them in a cold rain.
All the educational efforts never made a great impact. Why? It's not because the people are dumb. It's not because the information is not available in great detail.
The truth is that our community has a great deal of expertise and many already know because they work there. The less informed were not enthusiastic at best. Physics and geology, like math makes some folks shudder.
Another reason is the anti-side has done a corrosive and effective job of telling us it is a conspiracy that was conjured in secrecy and not told to the public. That's a lot of bunk!
Mr. Sutton went through the process of how Kincardine was informed. Read his deputation and review what he said on the streaming archive for the meeting for the 29th of February, 2016. Also, review his testimony before the JRP shown in the PowerPoint presentation.
That nobody was sought out to be informed is a gigantic myth.
Mann has long opposed the DGR. Often he has called for a single DGR for low, intermediate and high level waste. There is nothing new in his deputation, except he brings the Flint river into the DGR information pool. Curious, but so be it!
Mann has over 3000 pages of emails on record at the JRP and many deputations and emails on record at the County and Community offices. They are available online for review. He summarizes the more than 3000 pages in what he wrote for the February 29, 2016 meeting.
Hazel is a charter member of Save our Saugeen Shores (SOS) and a director.
He has made a number of presentations before Council, asked questions at the JRP hearings and made a 30 minute presentation to the JRP.
It's difficult to characterize his deputation. He spends a good deal of time on the proposed wording of the communication with the Minister.
He lauds OPG's long stellar safety record, but rejects their ability to maintain safety in a DGR. His reason? It's not been done before. That is, OPG has never done it.
Mr. Sutton is a former Mayor of Kincardine and professional engineer with process management experience and certification. He worked at the Nuclear Power Plant.
The impact of his presentation was to dispel the ideas presented by the anti-side that lead one to believe that things were done in secret. He can take us back to the beginning of the 15 year history and can document each phase of information transfer.
The power of Mr. Sutton's presentation can only be understood by seeing the video of his deputation. It is now available.
To see the video and Mann', Hazel's and Sutton's presentations Click Here
For Sutton'sPower Point presentation
According to the Joint Review Panel ..."The DGR should be built now rather than later"
"The Panel is of the view that the sooner the waste is isolated from the surface environment the better. The Panel notes the importance of reducing and, if appropriate, reusing and recycling the waste. However, it recognizes that current technologies to alter the waste to render it no longer hazardous are limited, particularly for intermediate level waste that contains radionuclides with longer half-lives. The Panel concludes that the likelihood and consequences of an event resulting in the release of radionuclides from surface storage are greater than they would be for a DGR. The Panel is of the view that the risk of waiting until technologies are available to eliminate the hazards associated with longer-lived radionuclides outweighs the benefits."
For the full Joint Review Panel final report Click Here
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Wednesday, March 02, 2016