Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling
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Solving information imbalance is the key to the DGR issue everywhere in the world. I, personally, want to know all I can about the nuclear cycle. Many people have told me it's an emotional issue and is immune to information. I refuse to accept that. It's too important. People are better than that unless they are frozen in their position.
Everyone of us has to go back to 'school' for a while and learn all we can about the Cycle. Many people have a great fear of anything to do with engineering, science or mathematics.
There is no need to become an engineer to understand what needs to be done Let's forget our angst with trigonometry in grade school. Plain English is good enough. Read, listen and ask.
If, however, people are just against nuclear power, then that's a valid position to take, if they are open about it. That argument can be structured and defended. It should not hide in other forms. Some international environmental groups take the no nuclear stance, while others like the efficiency and clean energy.
Arguments are strident in the against camp, but their alternatives are whimpers. Even if a person is anti-nuclear, the storage issue has to be grasped and taken care of as soon as possible. Totally against is a separate argument and we can respect it, but it's hard to fathom not wanting to take care of the waste. No excuse for that.
If, however, people espouse support for the Nuclear Power Workers and Industry and their mission, then they have to discuss the cycle and find out where the danger points are and what they are. These may surprise them.
How are the risks being addressed currently? Why is the industry all over the world seeking safe long term storage? Why has the spent fuel been accumulating since the first nuclear reaction, if the experts have a plan?
This is where the information imbalance resides. It's in the understanding of the cycle. The people in the most regulated industry in the world are telling us something. We need to listen and learn. Keep in mind it's easy to ignore the cycle, but the long term consequences loom for any thinking person. This again is stewardship.
You will be safer with a properly selected DGR is what the experts are telling us. The process of building and loading the DGR is not a risky process, if well managed. Nobody wants to spend money on it, but it's important. Don't accept the word dump. It makes no sense to use that term and it is a fear tactic. It's done purposefully to scare. It's a poor advertisement for murky thoughts and is backfiring.
In the US they have set aside 32 billion to address waste and Yucca Mountain was shut down after spending 8 billion due to activist protests and insider influence.
The US General Accounting Office has announced that there is no technical reason for mothballing it. Is it the best spot for it? I have no idea, but the GAO says no technical impediment exists.
Tight national elections in the State of Nevada in 2010 were not without blame in this shutdown. The storage of waste has become a place to put pressure on the political process, which is not of long enough duration to get things done in the US. Two, four and six year political terms leave the process hostage.
DGRs involve no new science or engineering. They do involve lots of careful study of the geology and good selection of process details and materials. This is the experts business. It's like medical lab tests and visiting specialists. Somewhere and sometime, we have to trust the experts.
If you or a family member have ever gone to a doctor with a serious medical condition, you will have encountered an information imbalance. The specialist has the information and you don't. You may feel hurt that you are not in control. I know I've felt lost and stupid in the face of experts that I don't know.
These people are the experts and I am not. It's annoying, but true. Sometimes we feel diminished because of this. What do we do? Nobody is forcing us to take the doctor's word. Beyond a certain point information leads to trust, however.
The wise thing is to try to get as much information on the condition as possible. If we are smart, we are not afraid to look. You can consult others, but eventually, you have to either accept the experts opinions about the best treatment or not.
The argument about a DGR has morphed somewhat in the last few weeks from doubts about the science and dramatic videos to property values. That's a strange turn, indeed. It's really hard to frame an argument around that. Here is why:
The waste is there now and it's been there for decades. If it is a dump below ground, then it must be a more dangerous dump above ground. If it is a dump here, is it a dump someplace else? Where was this argument a year ago or ten years ago or for that matter 50 years ago? Why was it not used to push the industry to find a plan earlier?
One has to ask the question: What about now, when 40% of high level nuclear waste in Canada is stored above ground very close to Lake Huron? What about all of Ontario's low and intermediate waste? What about Douglas Point's waste from the early 60's stored above ground and outside? Isn't the government doing the right thing by laying out an orderly selection process for a DGR?
Are you aware of all the tests on the above ground containers? How do they differ from the proposed below ground containers?
Were people here somehow in Sleepy Hollow and not Saugeen Shores and did they not notice how waste got here in the early days of nuclear energy? Did they somehow miss the idea that turning on light switches have consequences? Where were these people when decisions were made about coal?
Did the people who work at the Bruce keep waste a secret? Did buyers and sellers of property, goods and services deceive people? Was it like the Wizard of OZ? Look the other way little girl.
Of course not. None of this was a secret, not a single thing. All this has been known and it drives the Government to do something and they are trying. The act of 2002 caused hardly a ripple, when passed.
Is the waste safer somewhere 500 m below the lake level and watershed or is it ok where it is? What does ok mean? Does ok have a duration and a risk? How about unloading the fuel? How about going critical with a reactor? What is the Canadian system all about? How does it differ from others? What does CANDU mean? What is the geology of the area? What is the geology profile of the ideal area? How many barriers are there in a general plan?
One can counter this information imbalance and say..... Ok, ok enough about information, how about some place else and not here? I don't care about the details and never have cared, some might secretly think.
After all, they might realize that they go south in the winter and like the peace and quiet, when they come back. Will the noise and new industry destroy this? Will areas of expertise be bad for the area?
They might think that they don't have the time to study this stuff, it's too technical. It makes their head ache, they might say. We just want it to go away. Where are our no DGR signs?. I'm angry.
To be angry in the face of information imbalance is childish. Suck it up and take advantage of NWMO's literature and web site. Look at other countries. Look for long term organized thoughts and process and not fear. There is enough to fear that is real.
When people use the 'not here at all costs strategy', we have to ask, how far away is good enough? Is it beyond the major river drainage basins of Ontario? Is it way, way, way out west far from our thoughts and only requiring transportation? What about the Lake Superior watershed, maybe up near Wawa? Does that influence us too because of drainage? How far north do we go to get drainage away from us?
SRASOS wants to engage individuals and larger groups, who will support them in their protest for Phase 2 and beyond. Expect this to intensify and bring people from international organizations. It could be a big advertising campaign or a fizzle. Expect it not to fizzle.
Be aware that some international groups know that storing waste scares people. The storage issue can be used to back up the whole cycle and bring it to a halt. Pressure on the political side will increase, if the big activist groups get mobilized.
If they do, then we must listen respectively and judge their views against what we've learned.
We must remember that all of us still have to understand the nuclear cycle that starts with mining and ends with the safest storage possible. We still have to come up with alternatives.
Every thinking person wants the safest spot possible. Where is it? How much will it cost? If you are not at the information table, you will have to search in the dark or be satisfied. Bruce County should be at the table and that includes us.
Every step of this process is important to understand. The 'no DGR here' people will be questioned by those who know a lot about it, because they have studied it for years or worked in the industry. That's good. Instead of any place, but here, ask the no people where do they suggest and on what basis?
If this interaction takes place, then information will begin to flow. Will minds be changed? I have no idea. If I had to guess, I'd say no for the core people.
I know that trying to convince me that doing nothing or settling for a second best solution, would take some mighty fine arguments that are well structured. Where are they?
Part of understanding the cycle involves understanding where the risks points are. People need to know the cycle to even mount a protest.
The outrage against Council's unanimous vote to proceed to Phase 2 seems out of place. It was not a final vote to have a DGR in Saugeen Shores, but to get more information. Look at the Council members. Do they look conspiratorial? Not to me!
DGR analysis may be done at a County level, because the area is so vast and connected by drainage. All of Ontario is in the backyard of the Nuclear Cycle. Would no votes be changed, if it turned into a county issue?
Moving to the county level might make sense to people as the entire watershed would be looked at with the great depth and geology of a DGR. You can be sure that NWMO knows this. It's still geology.
You can monitor the industry easily by looking at this site Be prepared for a lot of work. It's a load
You might ask: "What am I for?" Here is my answer:
I'm for the selection of the safest spot based upon facts including all the risks for long term storage of nuclear waste.
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Monday, June 11, 2012