"Low-Level" Radioactive Waste

"Low-Level" waste is a convenient classification and a notorious misnomer as many so-called "low-level" radioactive wastes are extremely long-lived and highly dangerous to health.



Dr. Frank Greening's closing remarks to DGR JRP

Dr. Frank GreeningDr. 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....".


Grassroots opposition to Canada's Great Lakes radioactive waste dump gaining traction at state and federal level!

Ontario Power Generation proposes to bury "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes from 20 reactors across the province at its Bruce Nuclear Generating Station on the Lake Huron shore. The Great Lakes comprise 95% of North America's surface fresh water, providing drinking water to 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.As reported by the News Herald, an effort to block Canada's proposed radioactive waste dump on the Great Lakes shoreline -- initiated by Ed McArdle of the Sierra Club's South East Michigan Group -- first succeed at the state level, and has now moved into the federal realm. At the state level, Ed's Michigan State Senator, Hoon-yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), introduced a resolution opposing the dump that past the State Senate by a unanimous vote. At the federal level, Michigan and New York Democrats have introduced a congressional resolution opposing the dump in the U.S. House; a bipartisan resolution has likewise been introduced in the U.S. Senate.


U.S. Rep. Kildee to unveil major plan to block Canadian Great Lakes radioactive waste dump

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI)As reported by the Macomb Daily:

"On a ship moored along the banks of the Saginaw River, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee will reveal a major plan to protect the Great Lakes from a proposed nuclear waste facility on the Canadian shores of Lake Huron at 12:30 p.m. today...While aboard the Appledore IV Kildee is expected to reveal his plans to introduce a congressional resolution that would put Congress on the record against the proposed construction of the deep geological reservoir for nuclear waste."

The Canadian federal Joint Review Panel (JRP) overseeing Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) is about to hold a final round of public hearings in the DGR's targeted town. The DGR would bury all of the province's so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive waste, from 20 reactors owned by OPG. Kincardine is also "home" to the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, one of the world's single largest nuclear power plants. Beyond Nuclear staff will testify in person, for the second time, before the JRP on Sept. 16th.


Updated "Southeast MI in the Radioactive Cross Hairs" backgrounder

At the urging of environmental allies in southeast Michigan, Beyond Nuclear in March 2012 prepared a backgrounder on reactor, radioactive waste, and other nuclear risks in the region. The backgrounder has been updated for use at a presentation by Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, to be held at the Huron Valley Sierra Club Chapter meeting in Ann Arbor, MI on May 20th. The backgrounder complements the "Great Lakes Region Nuclear Hot Spots" map, prepared by Anna Tilman at International Coalition of Concern for Public Health last year.

The backgrounder and map include sections on the "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive waste dump targeted at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Ontario, on the Lake Huron shoreline, 50 miles from the tip of Michigan's Thumb.


"A Rhetorical Outburst: Canadian ‘Experts’ Comfy with Radioactive Pollution of Great Lakes"

John LaForge of Nukewatch in Luck, WIJohn LaForge of Nukewatch Wisconsin has published an article at CounterPunch entitled "A Rhetorical Outburst: Canadian ‘Experts’ Comfy with Radioactive Pollution of Great Lakes."

It is John's response to an "expert report" done in support of Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposal to bury all of the province's so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes, from 20 reactors, less than a mile from the waters of Lake Huron. The dump would be immediately adjacent to OPG's Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, with eight operable atomic reactors, one of the single biggest nuclear power plants in the world.

40 million American, Canadian, and Native American First Nations residents drink from Great Lakes waters, which comprise more than 20% of the entire world's surface fresh water, and more than 90% of North America's.

John writes: "The ‘expert’ group’s report says it’s possible that as much as 1,000 cubic meters a year of water contaminated with radiation might leach from the dump, but calls such pollution 'highly improbable.' (Emphasis on 'predicted' and 'improbably' here: The US government’s 650-meter-deep Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico was predicted to contain radiation for 10,000 years. It failed badly on Feb. 14, after only 15.)"

In September 2013, John testified before the Canadian federal Joint Review Panel tasked with overseeing OPG's environmental assessment on OPG's proposed "Deep Geologic Repository," or DGR. (Critics have dubbed it the Deep Underground Dump, or DUD). He cited a 2008 OPG promotional brochure, which rhetorically asked “Will the [dump] contaminate the water?” then answered: “…even if the entire waste volume were to be dissolved into Lake Huron, the corresponding drinking water dose would be a factor of 100 below the regulatory criteria initially, and decreasing with time.”

This fatuous assertion prompted John to ask in his testimony: “Why would the government spend $1 billion on a dump when it is safe to throw all the radioactive waste in the water?”

As John writes, "Now, what I thought of then as a rhetorical outburst has become 'expert' opinion."

John and Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will co-present "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer," their annual workshop at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association fair held on summer solstice weekend in central WI.