JRP Report
a first look
The JRP makes the safety case.

May 10, 2015


Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling

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After a first look at the Joint Review Panel report released May 6, 2015, we all should be comforted by the job done by the panel  who worked many months to gain the information contained in it. 

To read the full report Click Here Be warned, it is 432 pages long and is just a summary of the full hearing findings, which is many thousands of pages long.

The report was aimed at safety first based upon established guidelines.  Those who oppose the decision should look closely at their reasons.  How and with what evidence can the anti-collation make a better safety case than the one given by the JRP?

The conclusion is clear.  It is both conservative and measured.  The proposed DGR is the safest option.

The panel did not take up the banner of 'not in my backyard'.  They did not agree with the theories presented by both local and international opponents.

The anti-side had one argument that was not exploited.  They did not show that the DGR was rejected by the local area.  They wanted to represent the entire area, but failed to do so. 

Instead the anti-side walked into the strong point of the evidence brought forward.  They could not prove that the DGR was not the safest alternative.  Why?  They had no scientific and engineering reasons to impress upon the JRP record.  The JRP was poised to hear and understand.

Instead of staying on the social side they tried to present versions of reality that were not supported by evidence.  They tried to be pseudo-scientists.  They could not prove their hoped for points and made their arguments murky and error prone.  They walked into the strong points of OPGs proposal and tried to refute the evidence without facts.

Every important issue that came up over many months of testimony is presented with an impact and safety analysis behind it in the testimony and science based evidence.

Anyone who followed the public hearings and the huge compiled record will notice that the off the wall and error ridden testimony of some of the anti-DGR adherents did not make the cut.

This errant testimony did serve and is recorded in the hearing record as a view of the social aspects of the DGR. Social issues brought forward by the anti-side include legitimate concerns and pure nonsense too. 

Social issues are difficult.  The engineering gravitated to the safest storage for low and intermediate waste.  The social side had to be brought forward too.  Those interested primarily in the social aspects should start with the case made for safety. 

The overpowering evidence for safest storage comes from the geologic, radiation and engineering facts.  The conclusion is clear.  The geology is excellent.  The time frame that is required dictates the DGR solution.

The JRP was careful to listen and direct questions on all rational views to those who could answer with authority.  They brought in peer review and experts from CNSC, NWMO and OPG and world sources too. 

The JRP was polite when some who appeared made gross errors in the questions asked.  Some questions contained errors of fact and these had to be corrected.

There is an oft held belief that there are no bad questions.  In the hearing record this belief is tested. There were many bad questions, but the JRP tried to make something meaningful out of them so as not to waste time.

In the case of zany questions and conclusions based on what the person thought was common sense, but was not, the panel rather than embarrass the questioner, would rephrase the question or reform it altogether in an attempt to garner new and meaningful information from OPG, NWMO and CNSC.

Sometimes the transformation of a question into meaningful form left the originator of it confused and baffled listening to the interactions between OPG, NWMO, CNSC and the JRP.  Many questioners did not understand why the question was reformed.  They did not understand how off the topic some questions were.

Many times they would rise again to ask the same question only to be told that it had been dealt with previously.

One example of this occurred in the reading of geologic graphs.  The questioner thought conspiracy was at the root of the depictions. 

The panel, perplexed and "puzzled" by the question, asked how better could the graphs be shown?  The questioner was not familiar with how geologic information of this type is presented world-wide and had no meaningful suggestions.  The conspiracy balloon was popped in short order.

The panel moved on as the questioner had nothing to add to the record.   Bad information like this exists in the record, but has not a trace of it in the conclusions.

Again and again as the hearings progressed the JRP would deflect questions that had already been asked and answered.  The rejection always had a positive side, however, as new information or understanding of old questions was often clarified for the public.  The JRP tried to make chicken soup from the broth and sometimes did.  In other cases they just had to move on as the questioner was adding nothing to the body of information gathered.

The panel chair was polite and showed little annoyance with obvious attempts at chicanery.  Some anti-DGR adherents tried to drown the panel in paper with one person sending in 3000 pages worth.  They were read and noted by the panel.  No trace of those pages exists in the final report.  Why?  They added nothing.

But some annoyance was registered by the chair triggered by a well known international anti-group, who should have known better.  Their written submission was not in the least related to their oral presentation.  The chair called attention to this as a breach of panel rules. 

Speakers were asked to present in written form, what they are going to present in person, so the panel can do homework beforehand.

You don't have to rote read your testimony, but it should be on the same subject at least. The panel made that point and showed some displeasure because the person was from a famous international anti-DGR group and the rules.

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The written submission in this case was for another issue at another time and place.  It was pure laziness by the presenter and just boiler plate.  Hoping not to be caught, the speaker was discredited at the outset.  The chair was not pleased.

This showed a gaping hole in international anti-groups in general.  They are just too used to opposing without facts.  They have gotten quite lazy.  There is a serious safety case to be made here, but anti-side never dealt with it, but the JRP did.

The JRP came down on the side of the DGR being the safest and best solution.   Status quo was not a good long term option.

They rejected the oft stated 'do nothing and wait for breakthrough' ideas. The 'Do nothing' idea morphed into a catch phrase called 'Rolling Stewardship'.  It did not influence the JRP because it lacked substance.  Its thesis is to do nothing except monitor and repair and hand off the waste and experience to the next generation or until a scientific breakthrough appears.

This strategy was suggested by some of those anti-DGR adherents who testified.  It was not considered a viable option for the proposed DGR as it did nothing for the safety case.  The stewardship people hoped that the safety would improve over time, but had no detailed information to support that case over the risk of waiting over an unknown period.

This thesis is concisely described in the Internet publication 'Dissident Voice'.  It was submitted by Gordon Edwards.

Describing their publication they say "Dissident Voice is an Internet newsletter dedicated to challenging the distortions and lies of the corporate press and the privileged classes it serves."  To read Edwards thoughts from Dissident Voice  Click Here.

He makes a case against what he calls abandonment, which is often used as a negative.  But, OPG, CNSC, NWMO and the JRP stated that the design of the DGR had to be safe enough and secure enough that it could be closed and sealed and would not require monitoring.  So the latter is a goal and a very high standard indeed.  It does not preclude monitoring.  There is quite a difference.  I'm sure Edwards knows that.

Of particular safety concerns are those mentioned by the JRP's report.  The JRP considered accidents and deliberate malevolent acts or terrorism.  Terrorism is a  crucial aspect that was recognized as such.  Doing nothing cannot be an option.  Of course lack of a DGR places pressure on the security staff involved.  The DGR aids security.

One thread that ran through every page concerned safety of the DGR as opposed to status quo or solutions yet to be thought of and tested.

I was impressed by the sheer readability of the report.  It is, along with the body of the hearing testimony, a full explanation for those patient enough to read the record.  Both pro and con are fully presented.

It is too bad that many who write about the DGR project have not paid attention to the record.  They write in major publications too.  They quote known anti-people without looking through the same lens that was used by the JRP and the experts brought forward.

To say that the DGR is a slam-dunk now is going way, way too far, however. 

Many forces have been activated to stop the DGR.  The political forces, anti-nuclear activists and those far from the site and uninformed have yet to weigh in with full force.

They are determined to stop DGRs as a way to halt nuclear power by putting a cork in the bottle.  The Panel clearly did not take that blind alley. The waste remains in that scenario.  Risk is  increased by inaction.

Communities in the entire Great Lakes basin have come out against the DGR without knowing what they were rejecting and the consequences of the rejection.  It is the consequences of rejection that are crucial. 

They are lined up against a safe solution, but don't know it.  So there is much to be done in the way of outreach and information flow.  The many millions of dollars spent on informing the public about the safety issues and mitigation procedures so far are not enough.

A good first step is to encourage all to read the report over a few days time due to its length.  The full record of the hearings can be read in conjunction with the conclusions.  That's a 'Big Read'.

The many months of information flow has increased awareness locally.  Support for the DGR is stronger where there is more information.  It is stronger where people have been reached by the facts and not by myth and fear of the unknown.  It is stronger still in areas where people work at nuclear power plants.

If approved by the minister, outreach will have to continue.  There will also be the question of jobs and agreements with First Nations relative to oversight rights. 

The First Nations were featured in the report.  At the hearings, they presented their case. 

It is now up to them to accept the safety issue or say why the status quo is better.  The full weight of the hearing record points to the DGR as the safe choice.  How do they counter that record?

It is worthy of note that nothing in the report uses 100% certainty.  That would be impossible.   The probabilities are squarely in line with the JRP conclusions, however.

The BIG question remains to be answered by the well meaning anti-DGR segment too.  How can they resolve the safety case, when the JRP clearly states that the DGR is the best option relative to safety?  A shake of the head is not good enough.  Putting up signs is not enough.

As of now activists still claim they were not and are not informed.  They now assert that the JRP report is not valid and their arguments did not receive proper attention.  Anyone reading the voluminous JRP hearing records will not be convinced by such statements.  They are flat out wrong.

Hand waving and scary lawn sign time is over.  Answer the safety case with facts.  Read the JRP report and the record.


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