DGR Public Trust of Science


Opinion written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling

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A friend of mine is a scientist and mathematician and author who writes wonderful books that sell well.  His publisher is the prestigious Princeton University Press.

It takes a long time for him to write and edit his books. The material is complex. Once submitted to  Princeton, it takes from 18 months to two years for his book to undergo organized peer review.  There is back and forth and changes suggested and made.  This is the way science works.  This is a minor example of peer review.

Suppose we tossed a copy of one of his books to an elected official?  Suppose that elected official could veto the publishing of the book without study? 

Of course we would disagree with this. The free speech of the scientific community would be compromised and so would our progress and safety.

But, this is endangering the  DGR community of scientists and legislators who are prodded and verbally attacked by anti-nuclear activists.  These activists say "Shut it down!" and call for the status quo.  Is the status quo safe?

After years and often decades of study, scientific peer review can be compromised and shut down by raw politics.  This has happened in the United States and elsewhere.

It is true that our elected officials must have the final say on things that are at the heart of all of our lives.  But, we have to be alert constantly to the politicization of decision making.  We have to be alert to how much study a politician does before making a decision. 

They have to justify their decisions.  Elected officials have to earn our respect for their decision making ability.

Lack of study happens all the time.  Elected officials and ministers have to not only make decisions, they have to educate themselves on issues that they may not fully understand.  The wise ones understand and seek to be educated.  They do not have an easy job.  They must weigh activists' belief systems against expert opinion and years of study uncovering facts.

Please take the time to read a short article by Nuclear Scientists that highlights what happens with pressure.  From Flint to Yucca Mountain, politicized regulators are doing harm Click Here

Click the orange arrow to read the second column

The real problem is that we sometimes ask for and trust decisions made by folks who do not have the background to understand what is presented to them. Often they don't take the time to understand and respect the process of peer review although every idea they have is listened to and respected.  They are part of peer review and often the most prominent part wrapped up in something called social acceptance.

This awareness of what is going on is vital and relatively new.  The effects of a bad decision made on the basis of politics and lack of study of the existing record can reach centuries into the future.

The recent deliberations of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) on the proposed Kincardine DGR are a case in point.  Fifteen years of study, hundreds of thousands of pages of testimony and a final report of 238 pages must be understood.

The Minister is trying to become part of the peer review cycle, which is a good thing.  Information and clarity have been asked for and supplied.  A minor delay in a final decision is not an intolerable thing.

To review the JRP report full screen Click Here.

But of course those making the decisions do not have unlimited time to go back so we are in danger of special interest groups taking over the process by pressure, fear mongering and fogging the record with misinformation and confusion.

So will the book of safe disposal of nuclear waste ever get published?  Are we running out of time and patience?  Are we safer because of the anti-DGR and anti-nuclear movement?

Remember as the JRP report said, it's about safety.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016