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E-M:/ Gordon Edwards on Bruce nuclear waste



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Enviro-Mich message from Kay Cumbow <jcumbow@greatlakes.net>
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Note: Gordon Edwards Ph.D., is President of Canadian Coalition for Nuclear
Responsibility (CCNR). Information on his website is at the bottom of the
page. He and Andrew Orkin (a member of the CCNR Board) prepared a brief for
the Chippewas of Nawash 
First Nation on the proposed Bruce dry storage site. The following is a
letter from Dr. Edwards concerning the Bruce dry storage site and is posted
with his permission.
- Kay Cumbow

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As you know, nuclear reactors were built with only
10 years' worth of storage space in the spent fuel
bays, even though the (original) expected lifetime
of the plants was 30 years or so. This is because it
was arrogantly assumed (by nuclear proponents) that 
geologic storage of high level radioactive waste
would be a "piece of cake" and would be in place 
before the bays were full of spent fuel. (By the way,
it was also assumed that before the "waste" would
be buried in underground caverns, the plutonium would 
first be separated out of the spent fuel in special
reprocessing plants built right above the burial site,
so that that plutonium could be recycled as MOX fuel in
civilian nuclear reactors.) 

Well, the bays are full and there is no place to put
the stuff, so -- rather than closing down the plants
or building new storage bays inside the containment
envelope of the reactor building -- they want to put
the high-level waste into dry storage containers which
sit on a concrete pad outside of the reactor building.

This is happening in both US and Canada, as well as
elsewhere. 

Dry storage of spent nuclear fuel was already under
way in New Brunswick (at the Point Lepreau nuclear
station) and at Pickering A (near Toronto) without
any public hearings, when it was proposed here in 
Quebec in 1994 at the Gentilly-2 reactor (between 
Montreal and Quebec City along the St.Lawrence River).

At that point we were able to force public hearings
because of the nature of the law in Quebec. A major
disadvantage for me personally was that the hearings
were entirely in French and my French is not good
enough to be truly effective. We didn't stop the
project, but we did get some good publicity. (See
http://ccnr.org/enjeu_1_f.html if you read French.)

When it came time for Ontario Hydro to move towards
dry storage for the Bruce site, the situation was
legally complicated by the fact that the Chippewas 
of Nawash First Nation have constitutional rights
to a commercial fishery in the waters just off the
Bruce site, and originally "owned" all the land 
on which the Bruce site is located.  This gave them
a special legal interest in the case, and forced
public environmental hearings on the potential impact 
of the dry storage facility.

My friend Andrew Orkin (a member of the CCNR Board)
and myself worked for the Chippewas of Nawash and
prepared a brief for them (on the ccnr website at
http://ccnr.org/nawash.html). In the course of this
work I discovered that Ontario Hydro had, in secrecy,
completely changed the proposed dry storage facility
from what was described in detail in their published
environmental assessment documents.  In effect, they
had put out one proposal for public scrutiny, and had
prepared a completely different proposal for 
implementation.  This can be found outlined in 
the Nawash brief (http://ccnr.org/nawash.html#IX).

Well, the Environment Minister approved the project without
requiring a full-scope set of public hearings on the
modified proposal, on the grounds that the modifications
were simply an amendment to the proposal.  At that point
the Ratepayers' Asociation sued both Ontario Hydro and
the Minister for violating the Environmental Assessment
Act. Massive amounts of documentation were prepared by
both sides for this lawsuit, including three lengthy
affidavits by myself and tons of extra documentation 
from the industry sources fully confirming that the
changes in the project were so major that it constituted
a totally new project rather than an amendment to an
existing project. There were also a substantial number of
unresolved safety and environmental questions. 

We went to federal court, where the judges are appointed
by the government, and we lost.  This was not entirely
unexpected, for the plan was to appeal the decision and
take it to a "better" court with "better" judges (i.e.
more independent.)  And, unfortunately, as the Toronto
Star has reported, we lost again. It's a bit like the
Michigan anti-MOX law suit; we presented excellent evidence 
and made a very good case, but the judges apparently thought
(1) there is no real recourse since the pools are now full,
the project is underway, and there is no other place to
put the spent fuel, and (2) it's up to the Minister to
decide whether or not full-scope hearings are required,
and it's not up to the courts to tell the Minister what to
do since there is a lot of discretionary power.  We argued
that the Minister had been misled as well as everyone else,
and upon learning of the deception should have ordered a
full set of public environmental hearings on the ACTUAL
plan (as opposed to the fictitious plan originally advanced.)

Yes it's going to be a very large "dump" for spent fuel,
since it will be accomodating all the spent fuel from
4-8 nuclear reactors, equivalent to 6,000 MW .  It is
also where the spent MOX fuel (incorporating weapons 
plutonium from Russia)will end up if that absurd plan 
goes ahead.  And, of course, it may well eventually
lead to waste from other sites being shipped to Bruce
to be added to the pot.

Yuck.

American citizens would be well-advised to complain about
this to any American political authorities who have some
jurisdiction over (or concern with) the Great Lakes, since
this will be a huge high-level waste dump sitting right on
the Great Lakes.  Just to give one scenario that might appeal
even to Bush and his paranoid right-wing crowd, any terrorist
(or "rogue state") could target the Bruce waste site as a way 
of spreading radioactive contamination into the Great Lakes 
and the US states to the south of the site.

I don't like to use fear as a tool, but it is sobering to
realize that these are the most dangerous waste materials
ever created by any human civilization, and NEVER in the
original plans for nuclear power was it proposed to just
let these wastes sit out in the open without any really
effective containment system beyond the dry storage canisters 
themselves.  

Possibly if this plan could be made into an international 
incident it might slow down or even stop the project.

There is no guarantee that those wastes will not
be left there (essentially) forever.

You may circulate these comments to others.

Best wishes,

Gordon Edwards.
==================

-- 
           Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., President,
    Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility
c.p. 236, Station Snowdon, Montreal QC, H3X 3T4 Canada
internet: http://ccnr.org   e-mail: mailto:ccnr@web.net
               phone/fax: (514) 489 5118




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