May 26, 2015
Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling
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The Joint Review Panel Recommendation
"The Panel is of the view that the sooner the waste is isolated from the surface environment the better. The Panel notes the importance of reducing and, if appropriate, reusing and recycling the waste. However, it recognizes that current technologies to alter the waste to render it no longer hazardous are limited, particularly for intermediate level waste that contains radionuclides with longer half-lives. The Panel concludes that the likelihood and consequences of an event resulting in the release of radionuclides from surface storage are greater than they would be for a DGR. The Panel is of the view that the risk of waiting until technologies are available to eliminate the hazards associated with longer-lived radionuclides outweighs the benefits."
We have examined the Joint Review Panel's qualifications and what constitutes the nuclear waste classifications. We have read their recommendation.
Now we should look a bit deeper into the 432 page report recommending a Deep Geologic Repository for Low and Intermediate Waste.
The panel looked closely at the process of safeguarding waste. One way to think about the process is to visualize it as a network of handoffs that conclude when the highest safety standard is achieved.
This was what the majority of their enquiry was all about. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) had to show that they had selected the safest solution presented, not just for the next few years, but in human terms forever. The process had to be the best to achieve simplicity.
One of the key parts of the 'lens' that the JRP used was focused on the process and its simplicity or lack thereof.
The JRP was looking for simplicity. They wanted to assure themselves and ultimately us that the long term process selected was the simplest alternative and therefore the safest.
You see to be safe, you have to be as simple as possible and the stages and steps to achieve your goal have to be simple too. Handoffs and process steps have to be easily understood and carried out.
The JRP showed that a process cannot depend upon a wish or a vague idea put forth in a form that is not well thought out. The anti-speakers at the hearings stayed clear of the subject of simplicity for obvious reasons.
Using Occam's Razor is a good way to look at things. Once you have the facts, competing ideas are sorted out by selecting the one with the simplest process to achieve the stated goal. OPG's proposal did just that and the JRP agreed.
The anti-side presented things that were murky and convoluted. When they did have an idea, it was more complicated than the DGR and therefore was ultimately and politely rejected by the JRP.
Let's compare three alternatives among those reviewed:
1. The chosen solution a DGR at 680 meters below the surface.
2. Doing nothing ...
3. Pass on from generation to generation the waste. This is sometimes called rolling stewardship. You can add here above ground enclosures of whatever strength you want to put in place over time.
Of course the JRP, OPG and CNSC examined surface or near surface re-enforced structures, but ultimately opted for the DGR because of its simplicity in using 400,000,000 year old rock of much greater strength than can be achieved at the surface.
If OPG built a 680 meter mountain at the Bruce or elsewhere constructed from rock and reinforced concrete it would not be as good as a DGR. It would produce a far larger hole than the DGR too.
It might be good as a ski slope, but then again we have security issues don't we?
Such a structure would be a mere geologic pimple on the surface. It would be wiped clean or moved and damaged by the next glacial era and because it is subject to surface conditions would let runoff be difficult to mitigate.
In further articles we will examine what the JRP thought about the geology at the Bruce (excellent) and the comparison in all aspects of a DGR in the Canadian Shield. The panel was particularly qualified to study and understand geology comparisons.
Number two and three can be compressed into a single proposal. Why? Because at the waste management facility at the Bruce NWMO does number 3 anyway. So this rolling stewardship is just another way of saying 'do as you are doing'. It's not do nothing, it is keep improving and worry a lot.
Year after year and decade after decade the waste has been stored at the Bruce coming from the Bruce reactors themselves and shipped from Darlington and Pickering too. But even this time frame stretching from the 1960s or so is a blink of an eye in geologic time.
The 'rolling stewardship' proposal hopes to do what NWMO is already doing. But the anti-side supply no details and that solution was not as strong as the proposed DGR and therefore was eliminated as it should have been by OPG and NWMO.
That is, day after day and year after year NWMO has been handling the waste, improving the process, tightening the security and training new waste handlers. So, number 3 is already being done by NWMO and OPG. What they do is monitored and controlled by CNSC.
But, OPG and international experts opt for the DGR as the safest and simplest solution.
To accept this rolling proposal, we have to be sure of an ultimate solution from science that is unknown at this time both in nature and in timing. So that argument proved to be not viable as a long term solution. You see it mentioned clearly in the JRP recommendations shown in red background above. It depends upon a wish for a new process that does not exist at present. One wonders why it was even proposed by the anti-side because it was reviewed and rejected by OPG?
OPG wants a solution such that when the DGR is closed and sealed, it does not require any attention at all and no monitoring and no handoff either. That's their goal.
Numbers 2 and 3 require monitoring. In fact without a breakthrough, the monitoring is 'forever' in our geologic time frame
In number 3, the caretakers of stewardship are supposed to pass on to the next generation 'best practices' and improvements and hopefully a grand solution coming from some scientific breakthrough will emerge. To propose this solution is to ignore a solution that is safer.
In the meantime we have to hope for no surface events that will interrupt the stewardship in the distant future. We have to hope for budget after budget funding a temporary solution with mounting costs as the solution at the surface ages.
It's odd to think about the anti-side making a big deal about distant future archaeologists stumbling upon the DGR. They never worry about future politicians and budget approvals for above ground monitoring. How come?
When I told an archaeologist friend of mine about the anti-nuclear people worrying that archaeologists might stumble upon the DGR eons in the future at 680 meters, he laughed and said: "Who would give an archaeologist money to dig down 680 meters, we can't get funding to dig down ten feet!"
OPG rejects 2 and 3 as viable long term solutions and the JRP agrees. Why? The process is more complicated and risky than is a DGR. Also, the International scientific community agrees with a DGR based solution.
Isn't it odd that the anti-side lines up with solutions that are more risky than the recommended one? It's a mystery.
This viewpoint must result and be fueled by an anti-nuclear viewpoint, But, that being said, what does OPG do with the waste, if nuclear power production ceased today?
You see it is all about process and what it entails. That is, the many steps that must be taken over time to insure that things are going as planned. There are the numerous security hazards that must be overcome and mitigated. A DGR solves all that in the shortest possible time with the simplest process steps.
Some of the anti-side pounded away at one DGR could handle low, intermediate and high level waste. That was the zaniest proposal heard at the JRP hearings.
It made no sense at all and showed an ignorance of the waste and process that was so ingrained in their view that it could not be dislodged by facts.
They never understood the process at all. It would be grand, if some day, they could understand even the geometry of the three waste types.
The JRP concluded that all these proposed alternatives put forward by the anti-side increased the risk over the preferred solution, which was a DGR.
Ironically, the anti-proposals were already considered and presented as alternatives by OPG, NWMO and CNSC. Read again the JRP recommendation with the red background above.
It's all about SAFETY and making the process simple. SAFETY and SIMPLE are closely related. They cannot be separated.
It's about rejecting proposals that require handoff after handoff, training after training session, budget after budget and risk after risk.
OPG recommended the simplest solution, CNSC concurred and the JRP agreed.
The JRPs recommendation was correct, well thought out and gutsy.
Canada will gain even more international respect, if it is adopted. Generations will be safer and the Great Lakes protected.
The anti-side is not done yet. They have plenty of fog for us and the general public.
OPG will have to reach very far with information to change opinions that are formed at a distance with absolutely no basis in fact, but embedded in fear. It's much easier to rile up people at a distance using fear and no knowledge source and experience. It's the nature of propaganda and is well understood.
It's like the London fog. If you are in it, the extent is not known. Hopefully, it is clearing a bit in Bruce County.
For Qualifications of the JRP see below:
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Friday, May 29, 2015