DGR Wrap-up Myths Exposed


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 Joint Panel Hearings public sessions are now over.  It's been a hard slog for the three person panel ably chaired by Dr. Stella Swanson.  It has been difficult for all the assembled staff of OPG, NWMO and CNSC.

They have faced requests for dissolution of the panel as being illegal.  They have endured remarks about the length of their resumes (too long) and their objectivity.  Persistent interveners have conjured up conspiracy theories.

The panel has  taken it all in stride.  I can't imagine any three persons being more patient.

A great number of myths have been exposed:

The number one myth is that all that is needed is a set of Town Hall meetings. This is  far from the truth.  It was hard for the panel, OPG and CNSC to get their testimony into a form that a general audience could understand.  They had to put evidence before the panel in technical detail and at the same time make it easy enough for the opponents to understand.

Time and time again the persistent questioners of the expert testimony stumbled over it and did not interpret what was just told them.  The panel chair was patient

She  would ask for clarification to get it into a form that could be understood by a general audience and often a hostile audience. The persistent souls would come back again and again with variations of their former questions.  They wasted a lot of time and did not enlighten anybody, but they had their say.

It became clear that OPG needs to reach out to them, but how?  The naysayers need to listen too and not just conjure up nonsense.  They have an obligation to listen and not look for holes in an argument that they do not fully understand.

A meeting in the middle with information flow needs constant attention over the next few years, even if the hearings or law suits stop the DGR project.  Town Hall meetings as foreseen early on by SRASOS are are not practical.  The nay side can't hide behind the oft heard "I don't understand the science", but that's exactly what they do.  They have to listen and study like every other interested party.

Early on in the area,  much was made by the no side of Town Councils being over matched.  It turned out that they were the ones that were overmatched.  It was the big leagues vs. the house team.

Additional Myths

Kincardine and the area did not know that there was a DGR being proposed.  This was blown out of the water by the number of public meetings, web site material, media write-ups, OPG outreach sessions and the campaign material of participants in past Kincardine elections.  This record went back at least 10 years. The volume of information was impossible to miss and ignore!

I remember doing volunteer work at an adjacent booth to OPG at Pumpkinfest a few years ago.  OPG had a big outreach program there that was manned and supplied with lots of information complete with flat screen TVs for visual impact.  The material was very well presented.  I was there Saturday and Sunday and the OPG booth on the DGR got no attention at all, none, but not for lack of trying.

There is no example of a DGR ever constructed. This was dismissed with over 400 pages of material from the panel's trip to Carlsbad New Mexico which has had a DGR in operation since 1999.  The three member panel went there and returned with the information.

The DGR project requires breakthroughs in science.  In fact many experts testified that the project is well within the grasp of standard engineering.  They don't want to use anything that remotely approaches new and untested technology. It's a super conservative engineering project.

In reality there is no untested science required.  How about risk?  It is clear from the testimony that the risk of the DGR is far, far smaller than running the adjacent power plant.  The issue is and always has been the 100,000-250,000 year stewardship that the engineering has to support in a passive way.

Full time 'forever' monitoring should be required.  The testimony clearly brought forth facts.  They are designing for a totally passive storage site once closed, but attention to it will not go away with time.  The design does not and should not require monitoring.  To require monitoring is a less robust design.  To have it available after closure just is another layer on the process, which is fine.

If the waste is being safely stored so far, why bother with something new?  The present storage methods were always intended to be temporary.  The final solution must last unattended for 100,000-250,000 years.  The present methods are guaranteed to fail over that time frame.  Above ground you have to worry about the lake, 680m below, you do not.

There is a danger of surface water mingling with waste material.  Tests to date from the core samples have shown that no surface water had never reached the depth of the DGR in over 400,000,000 years. More core samples are to be made in the proposed area.

Tourist attraction to the area and property values will plummet. There is no evidence to support this.  There is evidence to the contrary.  NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) studies before and after at the Carlsbad site show that this is not true.  Property values have risen and the nearby Carlsbad Cavern National Park receives over 400,000 tourists per year.

Canada should not 'jump' into this DGR thing.  Who do we think we are?  Canada should wait and let others lead. Canada is the only nation that has studied in depth all the options for nuclear waste.  Others like Sweden and Finland  are moving to deep geologic repository solutions with less study of the options, but intense study of the DGR.  They  quickly came to the conclusion that doing nothing was not viable.

Canada, however, has indeed waited for others to lay much of the groundwork for the phased management engineering and social impact design..  For example Sweden and Finland have done much in the process as has the United States..  Canada has been studying the storage of nuclear waste for over 40 plus years.

Click the orange arrow to read the second column

There have been many nefarious secret meetings going back to the early part of the decade by Mayors, Town Staffs and County Councils.  The current Warden testified on the list of meetings that took place in the past.  Mayors and Council members have many meetings that occur over their time in office.  The vast majority of these meetings are not recorded because they are just informational in nature. 

Can you imagine the number of meetings that they have on roads, recreation, trails and sewer issues and water purity?  This search for bad intent was and is a red herring.

There has been both too little and too much information.  This is a puzzling sidebar to the whole panel hearing.  In the same breath some persistent attendees at the hearings have said that the sheer volume of information and its technical nature prohibits them from learning. 

At the same time they say that there is too little information that they can understand.  They also don't like glossy, professional looking brochures that overview the issues and they don't like the volume of detail behind them.  The implication is that they prefer back of an envelop or hearsay information supplied by those 'experts' they select to believe.

Look, we've brought in some Michigan Senators and they don't like this DGR thing one bit.  They never heard about it.  This myth was exploded by showing that the volume and type of communication between the proponent (OPG) and the US agencies both federal and state.  They have been supplied with information for over a decade. 

In their intervention the two state senators (not federal) looked helpless under the sheer weight of information that they were not aware of at all.  Undaunted they went back home to escalate the issue.  It's good politics. They were absent except for their submission.  Again it is easy to go back and talk nonsense.  It would have been hard to stay and learn something.

Look, we've brought in these international anti-nuclear people to testify.  Are you not impressed with the depth of their information?  Many of the groups and paid employees of these groups testified.  They did not add to the evidence recorded.  In fact one from Greenpeace was questioned by the chair for submitting as required a written copy of what he would later testify to before the panel.

He took a shortcut unlike others and submitted a paper intended for another protest at another time.  He was caught by the chair, Dr. Swanson, and he knew it.  This showed him to be at best lazy.  It did not matter.  His testimony was not  relevant.  It did not add or detract from the evidence.

There is some magic science just around the corner that will make all this go away.  This myth is exposed by the technical documentation compiled by OPG who hired independent experts to give their views.

This is a persistent myth forwarded by anti-nuclear people to stop the process.  It is a clever argument as is stopping the long term storage of nuclear waste.

If we ask a question over and over again, maybe we will get the answer we want.  This was done 12 times by a persistent questioner.  Others did the same but less frequently. The chair finally had enough and politely asked the man not to ask the same question again.  She did it in a classy way.

Maybe we can make it all go away with law suits.  This strategy can be taken and probably will be.  It does not address the issue at hand and the panel knew that it was for others to decide, not them.  Bottom line was that little time was allocated to it because it was not germane to the panels evidence gathering.

We are for nuclear power, but not for a DGR.  This myth was exposed as professional anti-nuclear people worked in tandem with local groups which have sprung up with shared membership and board members.

Early on the local groups brought in well known anti-nuclear people for public meetings.  This was a mistake, if they were interested in maintaining their stance of being pro-nuclear and anti-DGR.  The split stance does not stand up over time and completely disintegrated at the hearings as the local groups' message was merged with the strong and world-wide anti-nuclear stance held by the professional 'no movement'.

This argument always had a tenuous and fragile nature.  It had to solve a low carbon footprint, sufficient electricity and safe 100,000 year storage of waste.  It had to make sense in the context.  It did not. 

They would have been better off not aligning themselves with the anti-nuclear people or just wholly supporting their argument.  Trying to stay in the middle is like attempting to do the splits between the dock and a boat with the captain ordering: Full speed ahead!"  It eventually hurts and leads to a wet wake-up call.

So, suppose the above myths could stop nuclear power.  What then?  What can be done with the waste and by what method do we charge our phones and pads?

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Sunday, November 03, 2013