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."
The 432 page JRP report resulting in the recommendation above (in red and white) is extensive and precise about the geology of the site and its interaction or lack thereof with the Great Lakes. Any reference to geology should be read carefully. For the entire report go here
We have covered the panel qualifications, but the reader should glance at them again Why? It would be difficult to find three more qualified people to look at the geology and any effects upon the environment that the DGR might create.
The 3 panel members along with OPG, NWMO and CNSC, have reached out to world experts too. Almost every geologist is interested. That's a good thing. Also, keep in mind that there is a vast record in Ontario of bore holes looking for oil, gas and minerals. It's a good record, but not of the quality of the studies at the NWMO site in Kincardine.
Remembering that we are dealing with safety above all, we have to spend the time to get the truth, not our version, but the real truth.
We can't be horrified with burying surface accumulated low and intermediate waste near Lake Huron when all the Nuclear Power plants in Ontario are on the shores of the Great Lakes now.
The panel was faced with evaluating SAFETY with the proposed solution and other solutions that were presented by OPG and others.
The panel had to evaluate any valid arguments coming from the very vocal anti-side that aligned themselves with international groups that oppose whatever they hope will curtail nuclear power. But what about the waste that has accumulated since the end of the second world war in Canada?
The JRP came out forcefully in recommending the DGR as the safest alternative for low and intermediate waste and made that clear in their recommendation stated in one paragraph above (with red background) and in particular in one sentence shown below:
That's a very strong statement. The anti-side can say that other far distant sites were not studied with the intensity of the Bruce site. That's true, but they were reviewed carefully and most importantly the process of using them was studied in detail. Knowing that a remote site with good geology could be found sometime in a decade or two, the experts looked at the process of such a site vs. the proposed site. That can be done 'a priori' with all the facts available. Each studied alternative had a caution sign awaiting early on and the Bruce site by comparison was SAFER.
Remote sites were deemed less attractive because of safety issues resulting in more handling for a distant site, weather, routes, trained staff, time issues, cost and incidentally competing against very well known stable geology. SAFETY is all about process.
So let's take a look back and ask ourselves why so many local people became anti-nuclear and anti-DGR in the last two years. Maybe many already came with a closed mind, That was true of some. Starting with an anti-nuclear bias is ok, but even with that view, the waste must be handled.
OPG, NWMO and CNSC reached out extensively. Open houses, literature, web sites, visits to Town Councils, site visits for anti-groups and citizen groups took place for over a decade, but few paid attention and then when they did, they jumped before they knew what they were talking about. They jumped at silly ideas and falsehoods. They nodded their heads yes to non-facts.
It was a puzzle for me to see people line up on the side of LESS SAFE so early in their knowledge cycle. They fretted over property values before they knew the facts. We heard a lot from them in the form of signs and interventions and deputations. They then invited in well-known anti-activists to further cloud the scene with fear.
Wiser heads prevailed in some resident groups who took a 'let's wait and learn' strategy. They were not for or against, but did not jump onto the 'Stagecoach to Fear' chartered for them by outside anti-activists.
The existing Town Councils of the area were chastised for listening to what was termed 'slick propaganda' coming from OPG, NWMO and strangely SNSC web sites.
Why is this so annoying to me at least? The reason is they are opting for ideas and solutions which are less safe! They are opting for ideas that make it less safe for them.
I saw the huge amount of information coming out of OPG, CNSC and NWMO and I saw with my own eyes the apathy of the community before the wick of fear was lit. Many residents who work at the Bruce or have worked there were surprised too.
I saw a very few paying attention to a huge booth at Pumpkinfest that was there for outreach to the public. I saw apathy when I suggested a lecture series on the process way before people jumped on the Stagecoach going the wrong way.
I was told by those who know that a series of lectures at the Museum, for instance would attract few attendees. People should be directed to the Visitors' Centre at the Bruce, they said. Later, I saw they were right. I saw outreach sessions, poorly attended, that were staffed with many experts that were there to inform.
Well here we are. So why does OPG, CNSC, NWMO and the JRP like the site geologically?
1. Above all, the site is stable and has been so for millions of years.
2. The site is deep and resides in 400,000,000
year old geologic structures that are known now and are predictable in the
"For conservatism in its geo-mechanical modelling
assessment of repository stability performance, OPG used a strength
estimate for Cobourg Formation rock that was considerably lower than the average measured strength."
(excerpt from the JRP report)
"For conservatism in its geo-mechanical modelling assessment of repository stability performance, OPG used a strength estimate for Cobourg Formation rock that was considerably lower than the average measured strength." (excerpt from the JRP report)
3. Permeability of surface water sources is very low. Find a drop of water at 680 meters? OPG could not. I've seen the core samples. They have been sent world-wide for analysis.
"OPG proposed to build the DGR at a depth of 680 metres below the surface in the thick, stable and solid limestone rock of the Cobourg Formation. The Cobourg Formation has very low permeability, which means that liquids and gases cannot pass easily through this rock because it has very few cracks and very few and tiny pores. The Cobourg Formation is underneath 200 metres of shale-rich bedrock (called the cap rock) which also has very low permeability. Because of the very low permeability of the Cobourg Formation and the cap rock, the movement of water and gas from the repository will be dominated by diffusion. Diffusion in rocks is a very slow process. For example, it would take a water particle at the repository depth in undisturbed rock approximately 10,000,000 years to move one metre." (from the JRP report)
4. Any movement of the limestone structure is unlikely to produce fissures like those common in granite which cracks under shear forces and others. There is no evidence of such forces having taken place at the depth and within the footprint of the DGR
It's deep, it has been studied extensively and the science is clear. Read the report. Read the JRP record.
For Qualifications of the JRP see below:
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Tuesday, June 02, 2015