Dr. Frank Greening, a scientist who worked at Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and its predecessor (Ontario Hydro) for decades, has submitted his closing comments to the Canadian federal Joint Review Panel (JRP) overseeing the Environmental Assessment (EA) on the proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR). Closing comments are due on October 9, 2014.
The DGR would be located at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station (NGS), on the shore of Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada. It would bury all of Ontario's so-called "low-level" and "intermediate-level" radioactive wastes (L&ILRWs), from 20 reactors across the province.
Dr. Greening, whose previous submissions to the JRP have revealed major underestimates by OPG and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regarding such basic issues as the radioactivity content of the waste, has here focused on two mass-exposure accidents at OPG (and Ontario Hydro's) commercial nuclear facilities: 55 workers exposed to internal Carbon-14 contamination at Pickering NGS in March, 1985; and 557 workers exposed to internal alpha-particle contamination at Bruce NGS in November and December, 2009.
Greening argues that those accidents, as well as the February, 2014 radioactivity release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, should serve as a serious warning against rushing ahead with this ill-considered DGR proposal.
Greening ends with this powerful conclusion:
What concerns me most about the proposed DGR is OPG’s level of ignorance about its size, about its radionuclide inventory, about how it will operate and about the potential for things to go horribly wrong through unexpected synergisms, as in the tragic Lac Mégantic disaster where a combination of relatively minor problems led to a major catastrophe. It is quite evident that OPG’s DGR proposal is based on only a pretense of knowledge of all possible risks within the proposed facility. As a result OPG ignores true uncertainty, as defined by U.S. economist F.H. Knight, which is something that is not susceptible to measurement and can never be eliminated from human endeavor. Or as J.M. Keynes eloquently described it: “... matters where there is no scientific basis on which to form any calculable probability whatever. We simply do not know.”
Therefore I strongly urge the JRP to reject OPG’s DGR proposal. We know so very little about the long-term safety of a DGR and the American experience with the WIPP facility shows why we should err on the side of caution before proceeding with such a venture. After all, it took only one bad waste container to spoil an entire DGR facility! And besides, it is evident that a lot more research and development is needed before DGR technology could be declared to be safe and reliable. But in the meantime, we certainly do not need the existing WWMF [Bruce NGS's Western Waste Management Facility] to become home to a deep underground nuclear waste disposal test-bed on the shores of Lake Huron. Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread....".