DGR How come few ever mention WIPP? 


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 Canadian Joint Review Panel (JRP) in the DGR called WIPP near Carlsbad New Mexico in November 2012

(L to R) Dr. Jamie Archibald, Dr. Stella Swanson, Dr. Gunter Muecke)

Another Puzzlement

One of the puzzling ironies in the discussions about a DGR in the area is the almost total lack of a mention of the deep geologic repository in Carlsbad New Mexico.  How come? How come so little is said about it from the nay side?

 It had a long history before the first waste was stored in 1999. Now after almost 15 years of operation, it should be examined  Good information abounds.

At the panel hearings and before we've heard from spiritualists including left brainers and right brainers, people who ask the same question 12 times, some who see deception in standard geologic graphs.

 We've seen conspiracy proponents speak about long ago supposed clandestine meetings that they know nothing about. We have heard strident appeals from long time anti-nuclear activists, who are professionals. We've heard from real experts and pseudo experts.

Through all of this the (Joint Review Panel) JRP has continued to gather evidence for a decision about a DGR for low and intermediate nuclear waste in Kincardine.  Thousands of pages of testimony have been gathered for the record Read More

I ask you: Where is the (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) WIPP, the New Mexico DGR in all this?  I must have dozed off in listening to so many people with talking points. 

 It was mentioned, but not in any depth.  For sure the panel knows all about it.  They went there.  Yes, that's right Dr. Swanson, Dr. Muecke and Dr. Archibald and staff went there in 2012.  Public officials in the county know about it and have made field trips to see it and study the area.  Has anyone listened to them?  Has anyone heard them in all the clamor?

I do know this. So far I have heard almost nothing about WIPP from the con side and not much from the pro side.

Ken Robertson, the SRA chair to his credit did mention it in one of his appearances before the Joint Review Panel hearings. He did it in a question directed to the chair. It was really intended for the mayors and OPG.  You can read the testimony from October 10th, 2013 on page 241 Read More

He used it as an example of lack of negotiating technique. This resulted, according to Robertson, in not getting the proper impact money from OPG. 

Sounds interesting and a deviation from the original SRASOS game plan and talking points.  Their talking points did not include references to there being an existing and long operating DGR.  You can't easily point to Carlsbad New Mexico and their economic hosting advantage and maintain that no DGR exists that can be studied.

So in the beginning the argument was  (Not In My Back Yard) NIMBY, but now we have a new plank that says: Let's get some money, if we can.  That's pragmatism, I guess.

Robertson compared the amount of nuclear waste proposed for the low and intermediate DGR at the Bruce site to what the WHIPP is scheduled to receive. 

His implied claim was that our local officials got out- negotiated.

Well, the Joint Review Panel (JRP) took the time to visit New Mexico.  See the picture above of them inside the DGR.  They know a lot about it, but it was not their responsibility to talk about it.

They were interested in the mayors' field trips and their impressions, which were detailed and extensive. They were in search of new evidence from anyone.  Many times the chair would say that they had that evidence before them when a intervener or questioner would drone on about a subject. 

They never cut short new and important evidence, but took it all under advisement.  They did not care for people bringing up unsupported opinions over and over again that were already answered and in the record.

If you have the time, it would be worth looking at the information given to the JRP while there. Read More 

It is 436 pages long and takes some time to load, but once loaded it is packed with material and you can move through it quickly studying both social and highly technical data.  A lot of it is about the beginnings and the present operation.  It's not organized to read cover to cover in a true sequence, but you'll get a lot from it.

Let's examine some simple facts about New Mexico's DGR:

  • Planning and regulatory discussions began in the 1970s.  Wow!

  • There is excellent social data before and after the DGR build.  Good!

  • Over the past 30 years the economy has become much more varied near the DGR .Read More (p 165)

  • WIPP opened for waste disposal in 1999.  It has been in continual operation since then.  After every 10 years of operation it has to be reviewed and approved again.  The first 10 year approval occurred in 2010.

  • WIPP employs about 834 people from 740 families Read More (p 237)

  • The USA has spent $4.21 million dollars since about 1995 on economic development incentives nearby Read More (p 259)

  • New Mexicans close to the WIPP feel secure, while those further away do not. Read More (p 436)

  • Overwhelmingly, Carlsbad residents say that the WIPP has been positive for the community, both generally and in providing employment, helping business and in intangible attitudes about the community. Read More (p 280)

  • By law, the WIPP can accept only defense-generated transuranic wastes.

  • It accepts waste from only the weapons and research labs scattered across the United States.  See map. Read More  Notice the coast to coast transportation routes. These are surprising.  They are monitored by satellite.

  • The New Mexico DGR depth is about what is proposed for the DGR at the Bruce. (680 meters or 2231 feet)

  • It  went through an arduous approval cycle with all the anti-nuclear and environmental activists in full opposition to it. After all these years, they rarely mention it.

  • NIMBY people were very active.  Most have a very large back yard.

  • WIPP has generated some new research and development activities nearby:

    • Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center

    • Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Training Center.

    • Southeast New Mexico National Environmental Technology and Training Center.

    • ... and others Read More (p 294)

  • Transportation of the waste is accomplished by rail and road with special containers and  security.  (see photos beginning on page 24 Read More )

  • Bruce County and local officials have visited WIPP.  Did you know that?

Click the orange arrow to read the second column

The joint review panel made a two day visit to WIPP because it is an example of an operational DGR.  Also, there are people who live nearby in Carlsbad.  There is also a tourist component due to the famous caves and the National Park.  The national park has seen over 41 million visitors and averages 407,211/year.

There is a mining component (potash) that Bruce County does not have.  In fact a DGR cannot be placed in a mining area by law in Canada due to the value. Potash is extremely important for agriculture.  China has restricted their export of it.  It is a vital resource. Read More

Like any other place in the world, tourism impact is hard to measure.  The national parks have records, but the economic spinoffs like in Bruce County can only be estimated.  Carlsbad is a typical small town of about 26,000 people with all the things you would expect.  The national park is about 18 miles away and the WIPP about 26 miles distant.  In talking to a county official, who has visited WIPP and Carlsbad, he said he was impressed with the vibrancy of the area.  The educational level is high.

I'd like to highlight some of the information and put it in some sort of context.  There is so much there, that I think that I'll do it over a series of articles.  I'd like to explore the section on risk in a single article.

There is an excellent section on NIMBYism starting on page 369. If you read nothing else, read this.  Can we see ourselves in this?  Most of the con attendees at the panel meetings espoused NIMBY 'feelings'. We can highlight some of the causes.

The fact that WIPP exists and has been in operation is important.  The report should be read for the extensive social component and especially NIMBY

The NIMBY Phenomenon

To begin, the DGR in New Mexico "has been the key player in generating new housing construction and is driving up the cost of existing housing" Read More (p.165)  This does not jive with the fears engendered in our area in the last 18 months with rallies and signs and meetings featuring anti-nuclear activists.

The Deep Geologic Depository reactions in Saugeen Shores have followed distinct tracks, although the tracks cross one another, get tangled up and sometimes go in circles.  The main ones are:

  1. Do nothing

  2. Do nothing and wait for new engineering and science. They don't trust these science and engineering  people now, but maybe in the future?      (I can't resist this one.  OPG and NWMO DGR designers don't want to use new science or technology ever.  They want to use tried and tested methods and concentrate on minimal risk)

  3. Stop all nuclear reactors and use combinations of power sources like wind, the sun and whatever comes along, maybe even coal. Oh, the waste, well let's wait and see.

  4. We are for the nuclear industry and I guess we can't do much about the world's largest plant right here, but as for waste we say loud and clear:  NIMBY!!

Originally SRASOS espoused number 4.   Over time they have morphed into combinations of the above four tracks. Some directors have joined other groups with greater scope and influence.  Who speaks for what group is difficult to understand.

They have engaged international groups that have a lot of experience in opposition to nuclear power.  This is the standard progression of this type of project.  Nobody should be surprised by it.  It occurred at the WIPP over a long time period.

It's good to look at WIPP for what happened to NIMBY from 1999 to the present.  It may give us an insight into any DGR solution in Canada and in particular one near us.

The report given the JRP looks at the evolution of NIMBY.  Read More (p 371). There has been a lot of research on this.  Now we have some facts over time.  As Sweden and Finland progress, we will have more.  NIMBY can be studied now in those two countries and extensive study is ongoing.

There were 35 state wide surveys prior to WIPP so the worry contained in them can be compared to us and the present operation in New Mexico might mimic the future.

An important question arises according to the study.  Was WIPP a success so far because of the extended public debate or in spite of it?

Extensive NIMBY may reduce property values by injecting fear into the mix.  Self interest seems to fuel NIMBY.  Few care about the larger public interest.

Self Interest can also generate support for a DGR.  Dr. Leiss talked about stigma and curable stigma.  Over time this tends to change.  People learn more.

DGR The Game of Experts Read More

In Carlsbad there was a very vocal local MAJORITY who were consistently for the DGR.

There seems to be some form of NIMBY law at work over time:  It's a strange thing.

  • The more you  know, the more acceptance you have of a DGR.  If you know very little, you are strongly against.  This is the mushroom cloud effect.

  • Strangely, NIMBY is stronger the further you are away from the proposed DGR up to a point and then it drops off.  For example, New Mexicans that are far away from WIPP are fearful, but they don't care much about a DGR elsewhere or in Bruce County.  Do you care about WIPP in New Mexico?

  • If you've had experience with nuclear power, you tend to be open to a DGR.  This is why DGRs tend to be proposed near nuclear sites or nuclear awareness.

Like Kincardine, Carlsbad actually sought the DGR, when others like Kansas did not want it.  Carlsbad saw economic development and manageable risk.

State officials started out in support of the DGR, but his eroded over time as people far from Carlsbad began to protest to their political representatives.  They were of course pushed by activists.  Big law suits were initiated that wasted a lot of time and money, but eventually led to a torturous process and finally a DGR called WIPP.

According the the report given to the JRP:

"... many of the activists protesting WIPP were doing so on the basis of broad opposition to nuclear energy and nuclear weapons development and distrust of government"

Does this sound familiar to you relative to our local groups?

Survey Participate in our latest Kincardine Times survey Read More Survey Participate in our latest Saugeen Times survey Read More Survey Participate in our latest Walkerton News survey Read More

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Monday, October 21, 2013