DGR Facts vs. Beliefs 


written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling

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The Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for low and intermediate waste, has as it should, condensed to an issue. SAFETY

The Joint Review Panel in their lengthy deliberations and conclusions has shown that beyond a doubt safety was their number one guideline.

I have heard a lot of arguments on the 'anti' side that amount to beliefs not facts.  For example, the arguments for "No Nuclear Dump in my backyard" contain beliefs, not facts.  That belief is motivated by what they perceive as their property values.  Here are some of the other beliefs that they hold.  There are many more.

1. I believe the process of the DGR  investigation was/is flawed. 

The process followed best practices developed over many years drawn from the experience of other nations. 

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is in charge of the problem and has proposed a long studied solution that was vetted by the Canadian Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A properly built DGR is the safest alternative

2. I believe that it's just common sense not to bury nuclear waste near a large body of water.

The geology of the site has been intensely studied by world experts. 

The JRP members included PhD experts in radiation and water flow in lakes and streams and also a world renowned Geologist and Mining Engineer.  The geology of the area has had closer scrutiny world-wide than almost any deep shaft site in Canada and ... Canada is one of the world's leaders in mining.  It's all about Safety with the DGR

This belief ignores the nearby largest nuclear plant in the world, which has a great safety record.  The DGR will be safer still.

I've asked people who hold this belief what they think about the huge underground salt mines near Sarnia?  Are they safer than the DGR?  No, the DGR is much safer.

3. I believe that the waste now stored at the largest nuclear power plant in the world is ok and a better solution than a DGR.

This view is very difficult to present or sustain.  Today the storage is above ground.  It's all about Safety and this 'Do Nothing' pseudo solution gets no real support anywhere.  It was studied by the JRP and rejected

4. I believe that we can hand off the problem to the next generation and they can do what they can and then hand it off to the next until a solution is found. 

This is a variant of #3.  It includes trust in a complete scientific solution in the future and no disruptions of the present above ground site including terrorism in the near term)  #4 was studied by the JRP and rejected.

5. I don't believe the scientists and other expert opinions, but I do believe in some future solution coming from the scientific community.  We need to wait for it

Those that hold this solution say that they don't believe the scientists now, but will believe them in the future... but when?  The JRP considered this suggestion with utmost care and rejected it.  Why?  Again it was a safety issue.  See the JRP summary in column 2

6. I believe that a better site exists for a DGR.

This is the most subtle belief because there just might be a better site somewhere, maybe in the Canadian Shield. 

Such a solution has a high hurdle to clear, because of the distances to be traveled and the geology, which at the proposed Bruce Nuclear site is excellent.  Also, there are a million and more radioactive shipments in Canada every year.  Weather in Canada is a prime issue.

After all the proposed DGR is to be located near the world's largest nuclear power plant.  The risk of the DGR has been carefully considered and vetted over a 15 year time period.  It's about above ground storage versus deep storage in a 400 million year old rock formation

7. I believe that all this scientific mumbo-jumbo makes no sense at all. 

I heard this a lot at the JRP hearings and locally organized protest meetings.  At the JRP hearings, interveners would stand in line to comment on expert testimony.  Sometimes they would have a notebook full of notes and cross references. They often muddled them up or wandered off topic.

Many, clearly did not understand the science, so they would try to shift the focus to something they thought was not considered. 

To a person, this approach was politely cleared up by the JRP.  Near the end of the hearings, some of the anti-side would complain that they could not read and understand all of the material and, therefore, the facts contained in them should bow to the questioner's belief system. Since their belief system was low on facts, the JRP listened carefully, sometimes clarified and then rejected the claims. Click the orange arrow to read the second column

8. You sprung this on us with no notice and no chance for my input.  My beliefs are correct. 

Lack of information by the anti-side was what they complained about bitterly.  The facts spoke otherwise, however. 

There were so many outreach meetings in the area that it was difficult to keep up.  I remember two in particular.  The first was at the Saugeen Shores meeting facility. 

After a lengthy series of talks by experts, the meeting was adjourned.   I waited to talk to some of the experts.  I was surprised to see the entire anti-side leave without asking a single question.  Why did they leave?  The facts contradicted their belief system.  They did not understand the safety case.

The second was an outreach meeting at the fire hall in Southampton.  Again there were experts to answer questions.  I stayed for a couple of hours asking questions and getting background information.  During that time not a single anti-side person appeared to ask questions.  This type of meeting and outreach was common.

I also recall being at the Pumpkinfest Festival held in the fall in Port Elgin (Saugeen Shores) where OPG had a huge display and van for outreach.  I was there all day at a booth across from them.  During my time there, I saw only three people show interest in the information.

So, I have to reject any belief that there was not information available.  There was so much that the anti-side began to complain about it.  It was too glossy and too much to comprehend.

In their information complaints, the anti-side forgot what they should be doing.  They should have tried to understand the fact-based case for safety.  That's all that was important.

I hope the area will support the DGR and the Council of Saugeen Shores will recommend it formally.


According to the Joint Review Panel ..."The DGR should be built now rather than later"

"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."

For the full Joint Review Panel final report  Click Here 


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Friday, February 26, 2016