Joint Review Panel resumes hearing

by Sandy Lindsay

September 9, 2014


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Joint Review Panel begins two weeks of final DGR hearing

Day one of the second round of Joint Review Panel (JRP) hearings regarding the proposed deep geologic repository (DGR) for low and intermediate level waste (L&ILW) at the Bruce Power site, was held today (Sept. 9/14) in Kincardine.

The initial hearings were held late last year in Kincardine and Port Elgin and the second round will continue through to September 19th.  The hearings are open to the public and are also being webcast live at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) website at www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca .

The first day began with a presentation and aboriginal prayer by Chief Vern Roote of Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) wherein he stressed the importance of the First Nation people's involvement with nature.  The Saugeen First Nation is a key player in the decision making process of the proposed DGR.

The day then started, continued and ended with a focus on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and two events, a fire and a leakage of radioactive material that occurred there, and the "applicability of the recent incidents at the WIPP to the safety case for the DGR project."

The fire, that occurred in February of this year when a truck's engine fluids came into contact with hot surfaces on the truck and ignited, was deemed unusual.

According to CNSC staff, Patsy Thompson and Kay Klassen, all indications of the closure of WIPP due to the events as reported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) were ".. preventable".

The DOE found that there was inadequate preventative maintenance, fire protection program, training and qualified staff in emergency response roles, that emergency procedures through drills were not carried out and that there was ineffective oversight in correcting deficiencies.

OPG's (L-R) Lori Swami, Derek Wilson & Lise Morton

CNSC and OPG both stated that they are awaiting phase two of the DOE report to determine if there would be aspects that they could learn from that might possibly impact the DGR safety culture but they pointed out the differences between the WIPP and the proposed DGR.

WIPP management, regulatory decisions, oversight of decisions, etc. are all managed by the government  with no independent overseeing body involved which, alluded to by CNSC, creates a 'conflict of interest'.

In Canada, the CNSC, is the independent body that oversees the nuclear industry insofar as standards that must be met, regulations that must be followed, etc.

OPG's Lori Swami said that the findings of phase one of the DOE report on the WIPP were examined by OPG and that they were looking forward to phase two of the report being released. "There are also many other insights in the first report, other than the safety culture, that we can learn from," she said, "such as what caused degradation to equipment and how we can apply them to our site, among others."

OPG and CNSC staff also visited the WIPP prior to the two events that took place.  Swami said the OPG visit was just to understand the overall facility. 

"CNSC's  visit four years ago," according to CNSC's Kay Klassen, "was to gain an understanding of general practices, see what the repository looked like, what kinds of activities they were engaged in, in a general sense, and to talk to various groups including DOE." 

According to OPG, the waste at WIPP and the proposed DGR are very different.  The waste at WIPP is from the U.S. Department of National Defense nuclear weaponry while the proposed DGR low level and intermediate waste would be from the operational nuclear power industry. The proposed DGR would manage low and intermediate level waste throughout its entire life cycle - from its beginning to disposal. 

OPG and the nuclear Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) have a long history of monitoring with regulatory compliance and conducting inspections of stored waste.

OPG has some 40 years of experience in safely managing waste and has an established nuclear safety program.

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CNSC's Patsy Thompson (L) & Kay Klassen

In addition to OPG and CNSC, presentations were also made by the Ministry of Labour and the Society of Energy Professionals.

The Society of Energy Professionals, that represents more than 8,000 employees in the power industry in Ontario, including OPG, Hydro One, Bruce Power, NWMO and many others, came out in strong support of the DGR project.

According to the Society, Canada has over 60 years of experience in safely handling and storing at the surface radioactive waste.  The Society maintains that the most acceptable solution to isolate potentially harmful materials from human contact is a permanent deep geologic repository (DGR).

The Society also pointed out that the task for the JRP is technical - not political.  "Much of the waste to be dealt with is already at the Bruce Nuclear site and has been stored for over 40 years.  As a result, there is a tremendous wealth of experience and expertise at the site and a strong proven safety culture."

"An alternative DGR sited somewhere else in the Canadian Shield would require building a relationship with a new host community from the ground, up as well as with numerous communities and stakeholders along a new transportation route."

Following the major presentations, ten oral presentations were made by both sides of the issue, including individuals who are against the proposed DGR and others, including the Power Workers Union and Women in Nuclear(WIN) who are in support of it.

Tomorrow (Wed. Sept. 10/14) will again hear presentations by OPG and the CNSC, along with public participants who will be allowed 30 minutes to present followed by two 10 minute presentations.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014