What am I for and what I know
I'm for the selection of the safest spot for DGRs based upon facts including all the risks for long term storage of nuclear waste. It's too important an issue to be derailed.
Further, I don't care where it goes as long as it is the best site geologically and strategically with risk minimized. There are no scientific breakthroughs required.
Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling
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The DGR hearings in Kincardine have been enthralling. The process includes Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Nuclear Waste Management Commission, (NWMO) and a great many interveners, pro and con. The three member panel is most impressive as are the experts. (Biographies )
There is a big list of anti-nuclear people presenting. Some of them are familiar and some have international ties and reputations. These people show up at many such hearings. Some are paid by their organizations.
After this hearing is over, I for one will have zero tolerance for those who continue to say, we were/are not privy to information. You should reject that comment too. It's not possible to say that after these hearings. It does not matter, if you are pro or con, the information is available and it continues to increase. It will grow even if the project is turned down, because waste disposal is an issue that must be solved.
No information? What people must mean is that they were unavailable to go to the meetings prior or present, but that is not good cover anymore because videos and transcripts exist along with submissions all online. So you don't have to go in person.
Seasonal residents or anyone who cannot be present can tune in live at any time to archived video and they can send in questions to OPG, NWMO or CNSC as they wish. These are to be answered in the future.
A massive record exists that can be read and seen by anyone. This record has been on the Internet for a long time and it is growing. It's not an easy task to read it all. When you include CNSC, OPG and NWMO web sites, it is just difficult to read all of it, but you can obtain the basics, otherwise you must consider yourself uninformed by choice. The anti-nuclear side is well represented as you can see by the number of presentations and questions by them.
The levels of understanding of some of the interveners is mixed, but any normal person can understand, if not in depth the technical information, certainly the overall impact of the hearings regardless of the outcome.
Many of the interveners are anti-nuclear. Some say they are not, but their testimony and questions say otherwise.
Some of the interveners presentations are emotional and as such they are moving in many ways. One lifelong farmer was so sincere that he for sure made a positive impression on everyone. His facts were non-existent, but that did not matter because he did not try to fool anyone. His feelings were what he presented and he did that very well. Good for him.
Some of the people asking questions are just plain and simple intractable in their viewpoints because they are nurtured by fear. Even when simple facts are presented to them, they don't accept them. In many cases they are fearing the wrong things and paying attention to things that are not at issue at all. That's a shame.
One thing for sure is that calling for Town Hall Meetings is not something that can be done easily, if you are interested in information transfer both ways.
The present hearings are about the best that can be done. Ad hoc Town Meetings would not convey information in any depth at all. Anyone paying attention to the hearings will see why.
If anyone wants to go ahead with Town Meetings, they should consider a set of them with very concise agendas and lots of money. They should not be "gotcha" meetings.
Time would be better spent reading or listening to the record. Another way to do that is to replay some of the hearing webcasts with experts interpreting as is being done by the panel. There would have to be many such sessions. Cost and patience would run out. Could they compete in interest with other activities? I don't think so.
The panel and experts from CNSC, NWMO and OPG plus their consultants cannot be gathered together for Town Meetings on a whim. The level of detail covered in the hearings and ongoing information flow is just too great and too detailed to take a trivial amount of time on information transfer. Real effort needs to taken, not just lazy arguments based upon no facts.
You see in these hearings you have an impressive three person panel, a proponent (OPG) and experts, pro and con. You also have the regulator (CNSC) who is the overseer of the regulated project. Finally, you have people, many, many of them presenting
Any person present and registered can ask a question. Some have made their presentation by phone.
In order to answer properly, the experts and the panel have to ascertain what the questioner's level of knowledge is and then proceed with information that leads to understanding and satisfaction. If the question is interesting, the chair will help frame it properly. After all they are most interested in good questions and facts. Many questions are not to the point, but they are answered anyway or sharpened so they make sense.
Many of the anti people have called for Town Hall Meetings and still call for them. They see in their mind's eye a old time Town Hall, with folks walking from their homes on a summer evening. Somebody chairs the meetings and there is an informal discussion about topics that people in their normal lives encounter like zoning, sewers and taxes. There is a bit of shouting tolerated and some diversity leading to agreement.
The DGR discussions going on in Kincardine are at a completely different level. This week on Monday October 7, 2013 they shift to Saugeen Shores
Who would be the chair and what panel would be formed for an old time Town Meeting about the DGRs?
Guess what? If you could, you would have a panel just like the one formed and presiding in Kincardine and you would want the experts available that have presented in Kincardine. The background needed goes back over 10 years and sometimes to the dawn of the nuclear age in the 1920s and 30s.
The present hearings have heard many people from SRASOS and other local groups that seem to have sprouted up. They appear to be connected on the board level. These local groups have now joined Canadian and international groups in their thinking and membership. Some of the people are involved with up to three and four groups. You need a roster to see who they represent.
They present and they ask questions. The panel answers and redirects questions to those who can answer. Questions that need time to answer are put on a list to be answered along with a time to respond. These are called undertakings.
Is it a debate? No! It is orderly and concise like a business meeting and the power of personality is washed out of the mix, but not quite. This is not to say that the presenters and questioners don't have personality. It's just that facts are more important than personality. The panel makes sure of that.
The panel and experts have amazing endurance as some of the sessions last until 11 pm. They run on Saturdays too. They have a good staff and wonderful memories.
If you were casting the characters in a movie made about the hearings who would you pick? When this is over, maybe we can do a pretend casting.
Here are some impressions
There is a lot of conspiracy theory talk from the anti-side. Some of the interveners begin their presentations by saying that they are not against nuclear power, but then spend the rest of their time tossing verbal bombs at OPG, CNSC and NWMO. I no longer believe them about their affection for the industry. Many of the big time anti people just say at the outset that they are against nuclear power. They are honest. Their arguments are then not encumbered and they have a structure to them.
Local governments are painted as being key players in the shadows. According to SRASOS and many of the others, government and the nuclear industry have cooperated and can no longer be trusted. They are pawns and puppets who have been paid off somehow by contributions to their community. They represent company towns in a non-democratic process.
A very odd thing has occurred. Some of the groups seem more interested in obtaining schedules and minutes for meetings in the last decade than in the safe storage of nuclear waste.
The con questions and positions go something like this:
Some people come to every session or so it seems. Some ask questions of most every presenter pro or con. They seem to have amazing endurance. Many of the questions are staged to increase the time given a speaker, if the speaker agrees with them. It's clear that some speakers and questioners are working off the same script. The panel is not fooled, nor is anyone else.
The dialog in the questions and answers is revealing. The questions must be directed to the chair. The chair redirects them, if required The questioner can ask the chair to direct it to a particular person, which is not denied, if valid.
Some avid questioners just can't get it straight. They ask somebody directly and the chair has to intervene. Some ask no question at all, but just ramble on about their own views. Again the chair intervenes and says "What is your question?"
There are some annoying question and answer incidents too. One in particular involved a question that had a technical answer to a technical issue raised in a technical presentation. It involved an isotope of Carbon and the shaft over time. The questioner did not understand the answer to his question. So he interpreted it as a disaster situation.
The chair intervened and asked that the expert rephrase the answer in a form that would be understandable to the questioner. This went on for two more repetitions of the answer.
It was apparent that the questioner did not understand the answers, which were all the same, just differing in technical detail and depth. Finally, the chair had to move on to the next question. Why didn't the questioner understand?
I think the person asking the question had not done any homework and had a preconceived idea about what he wanted to hear. He thought he had come on something he could raise as an important issue. He did not understand his own question, which was embarrassing, but not to him evidently.
It was one of those moments where you wince. It was like seeing a reading troubled student in 9th grade being asked to read something. Everyone in the class would feel pained, if the student was not up to it. Not fun.
This questioner did not understand what he was being said. Finally, the chair terminated the process. It could go no further because the person asking the question just did not want to hear the answer given. It could be that he will never try to understand.
Most Amusing Interchange of the Sessions so far:
THE CHAIRPERSON: "So ... youíve managed to ask the same question, I donít know, probably around a dozen times now. I think weíve heard quite a lot of evidence around the basis for that decision. Itís rooted in national legislation. So I really donít see that the Panel can gain any additional evidence. As much as you may wish it to be otherwise, we have the evidence we need. Thatís the way it happened."
All in all the hearings are doing their job. After all, it's the panel that is gathering the information for themselves and the public.
Conspiracy theories will be flushed out and facts separated from fiction. The panel record will be there and will be studied on into the future, both in Canada and Internationally. It's very useful. Let's applaud the effort of all who are participating even the annoying ones. At least they come and participate..
Can we have any excuses now for not having information available to us over the last ten years?
books, sports, movies ...
Monday, October 07, 2013