Saugeen Shores and Bruce Power Letters to the Minister of the Environment
written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling
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Saugeen Shores Council endorsed a proposed letter to the Minister of the Environment in support of the Low and Intermediate DGR in Kincardine. For the details of the Council Meeting of February 27th, 2017 go here
The Saugeen Shores Council meeting was recorded and can be viewed in two parts in the right column.
The Council meeting was informative relative to some of the deputations, while others were repeats of past deputations. The Council had heard these views over many years. So very little new was forthcoming, but there were a few areas of interest.
I will attempt to expose some areas that have been misunderstood. Here we go ...
Point 1: The old question of having a single DGR for low and intermediate waste was again brought up and even commented on by a Council member who spoke in support of the DGR. But, one DGR rather than two is less SAFE.
This idea of one DGR is better than two assumes that one DGR can be engineered to house all types. It assumes it will be cheaper and safer, but no evidence is brought forward.
This is a hard dying myth ...
Isn't it strange that after all these years spent fuel and low and intermediate waste are separated and require different handling? Look at the current Bruce site under NWMO's control. The waste is separated as are the skill levels to make it safe in the short term.
One DGR suits all as an engineering task is neither simpler nor safer. There is a process reason for two DGRs. The word process is used in the engineering sense. Listening to all the talks and written words, I've been struck with the lack of knowledge of engineering process. I never see it mentioned from the no side. How come? Could it be that they are not process engineers?
Let's look at a trivial example. You can recall many more:
Suppose we wanted to build a truck like a giant Freightliner hauler and a car like a Cadillac in the same plant with the same management, training and staff. Would it be more efficient and safer to develop an assembly plant that would serve both?
The answer is no. The process is entirely different for a luxury car and a huge truck. Two plants and trained organizations are required.
How do I know this? I spent a lifetime in engineering process and the example I give is from real experience. The same attention to process spans many more industries and examples.
Could one plant serve both the huge truck and the luxury car? Of course! But, only someone who has no experience would suggest such a process. They would be kicked off the engineering team. Even in our daily life in our communities, we separate our waste for easy processing and long term safety. Every home owner puts out waste in two forms and does not mix things up. What's the reason? Safety and ease of process handling.
Guess what? Things that are more complicated than they need be are in all cases more dangerous and costly in the process engineering sense.
Now let's look at high, medium and low level waste in particular. Notice the present storage method and uniformity of high level waste as pictured below.
High Level Waste with the spent fuel bundles being stored ALL above ground in steel reinforced Concrete. Moving and storing this waste is highly specialized and requires different training than low or intermediate waste.
Two Spent Fuel Bundles
With the spent fuel we have uniform packaging as seen in the pictures above. The geometry is neat and tidy. The fuel bundles are packed in large concrete and steel reinforced 'canisters'. Fuel handlers and the management of them is a specialty. One of the Council Members Dave Myette knows this well because it was his field.
The low level waste consists of rags, wipes, uniforms and other forms of flexible and non-reusable material. Compaction takes place reducing the volume. It is sorted relative to gross radioactivity and condition.
Presently, some of it is incinerated with highly specialized filters and trained operators, while other forms are put in shallow cylinders as shown in the picture below. The residue of reducing the volume via incineration is collected and safely stored too.
Low Level Waste at the Bruce stored shallowly below ground in non-permanent containers.
The intermediate level waste can be huge as shown in the boiler in the picture below. The geometry is entirely different as is the type and size. Also, the radiation danger is less. Intermediate waste can consist of contaminated small tools and debris up to huge steam generators.
Huge Steam Generators (Classified as Intermediate Level Waste)
Not only is the geometry different than unspent fuel cells, it also requires specialized personnel and training to handle and move it. Specialists are engaged now and will be in the future. The handlers take their jobs seriously.
Although a single DGR could be constructed, it would be unwise and unsafe and more costly to do so. The key word is UNSAFE. The way the waste is handled, stacked and stored is ENTIRELY different. So the question 'Why Not ONE DGR?' can be answered in one powerful word. SAFETY. A better question would be, why not 3 DGRs?
But, yet the myth persists that one DGR is the obvious choice. It is not obvious at all and it is not as SAFE. Process and safety go together.
It is not just the way waste is stored, it is also about the process and geometry of storing it.
Point 2: Over the years there has been a very vocal movement against the proposed DGR to be constructed in Kincardine. SOS (Save Our Saugeen Shores) now known as SOS Great Lakes has spearheaded that movement in Saugeen Shores. Jill Taylor's deputation is recorded below starting at 38:00. She represents SOS.
What was interesting about the Council meeting was how deep the knowledge of the project really is. This is the crux of my second point. The Council and the Community really understands the major issues and has every right to let the minister know.
There is a lot of experience on the Council. Councilor Dave Myette for example, worked on spent fuel handling and Councilor Neil Manage still teaches nuclear safety at the Bruce. Other Councilors have attended international seminars and many day conferences on nuclear power, safety and waste storage. This was stated by Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau, while Mayor Mike Smith worked at the Bruce for 33 years and grew up here. He knows everyone and has studied the DGR project for about 14 years.
The Council also has a reasoned 'No' voter in Councillor Cheryl Grace. She has long made her case before Council and was in the past a member of the SOS Board.
You can take most any street in Saugeen Shores and any family. They will have more knowledge and on the job experience in the Nuclear Life Cycle than those opposing DGR storage for nuclear waste anywhere in Canada. I
In fact the further away from the Bruce Nuclear site, the less knowledge a citizen has. This is not surprising and is understandable. It is irrefutable, but little understood.
When I talk to those opposed, I always ask them if they have talked to their neighbours who work at the Bruce? They have a lot of information, I tell them. Ask your neighbor.
Most folks just don't do that. For a while the atmosphere was toxic. So what? If a person thinks the less of you because you are trying to understand, then the friendship is a fragile thing.
It's a mystery that folks just don't seem to engage the knowledge base that exists. How come?
Living in Saugeen Shores we have two former heads of NWMO storage at the Bruce. They both know the process inside and out. Use them for information. We have geologists and specialists on the core samples and permeability issues. Ask them.
My own family and extended family have radiation specialists and spent fuel handlers in it. I can ask them at birthday parties or afternoons at the beach.
Recently, I was browsing some material. One of my sons was studying texts on nuclear physics, mathematics and chemistry. Who was teaching him? Again, it was a person, a PhD in Nuclear Physics and a former staff person at the famous CERN laboratory which features the Large Hadron Collider.
Also, the staff of NWMO, CNSC, Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation can be contacted for any reasonable question. I went to a number of open houses and engaged the experts. I saw very few 'No' voters in an engagement of substance.
To be sure it is hard to read every word of the Joint Review Panel's hearing. Even the summary is 238 pages long. I've read it and I've read most of the transcripts. I did skip emails from individuals -- some people submitted as many as 3000 pages of their thoughts. I did skip most of those. Also, the complete record is on file in video form. It's highly interesting and informative.
John Mann Deputation at 15:58
Glen Sutton Deputation 23:25
Jill Taylor Deputation 38:00
Committee of the Whole February 27, 2017
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Joint Review Panel Executive Summary
Low and intermediate-level radioactive waste (L&ILW) is produced as a by-product of the operation of nuclear generating stations owned by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) at the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington sites in Ontario. This waste is currently stored at the Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF), a surface facility on the Bruce nuclear site. The Deep Geologic Repository Project (DGR) is a proposal by OPG to build and operate an underground disposal facility for 200,000 cubic metres of L&ILW on the Bruce nuclear site, in the Municipality of Kincardine.
The Minister of the Environment and the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) established the Panel on January 24, 2012 to undertake the review of the project under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. The Panel Members are Dr. Stella Swanson (Chair), Dr. James F. Archibald and Dr. Gunter Muecke.
The Panelís mandate was to: assess the proposed project in accordance with the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012; consider the OPG application for a Licence to Prepare Site and Construct under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act; and obtain information about potential adverse effects that the project may have on potential or established Aboriginal rights, title or Treaty rights.
OPG proposed to construct the DGR approximately 1.2 kilometres from the shore of Lake Huron, near the existing WWMF. The DGR would be constructed in limestone in the Cobourg Formation, at a depth of approximately 680 metres below ground surface. The underground facilities would include two shafts, tunnels, emplacement rooms and various underground service areas and installations. The surface facilities would include underground access and ventilation buildings, a waste package receiving building and related infrastructure. The total surface footprint of the DGR would be approximately 30 hectares and the underground facilities would encompass approximately 40 hectares.
The purpose of the DGR would be to safely manage L&ILW in the very long term, so that the radioactivity in the waste will not pose a concern to the health and safety of persons and the environment. Low-level waste has low levels of radioactivity and can be handled without special radiation protection measures. It includes materials such as protective clothing, floor sweepings, mops, and rags. Intermediate-level waste consists of non-fuel waste that cannot be handled without radiation protection measures. It includes materials such as used reactor core components, refurbishment waste, and resins and filters from nuclear reactor operations. DGR Joint Review Panel ii The project is divided into preclosure and postclosure periods. The preclosure period would last about 60 years and would include site preparation and construction, operations and decommissioning. The postclosure period would include a period of institutional control followed by abandonment forever.
All project activities would be undertaken under the regulatory oversight of the CNSC and other government agencies. The project would be constructed using conventional mining techniques, operated using established radioactive waste management practices, decommissioned using conventional practices and natural processes, and would include mitigation and follow-up as required.
The proposed DGR is an important, unique, precedent-setting project. It would be the first of its kind in North America, and it is the first of its kind in the world to propose using limestone as the host rock formation. It is likely that the knowledge and experience gained through the project will assist the Canadian government in its separate Adaptive Phased Management process for the long-term management of used fuel.
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