The following is a letter that was published in today’s “The Chronicle Journal” (Canada). There are a number of parallels to be found with the situation here in the UK.
Let’s not be nuclear waste guinea pigs
Is burying nuclear waste safe?
The real question is, do we want to gamble with the lives of our future generations?
The fact is straightforward, irrefutable: currently there is no high level repository for nuclear waste anywhere in the world. But not for want of trying.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) proposes that the first could be in the Schreiber area. They say the technology is safe. But they’ve never tested it in an actual facility. Do we want to be the guinea pigs?
Here’s a brief history of the muddled attempts to build an underground facility to store nuclear waste:
• The U.S.A. spent $10 billion in the Yucca Mountains attempting to put one in. They were defeated by water safety issues.
• The Germans, known worldwide for their engineering prowess, tried storing it in a salt mine. It leaked.
• The Russians tried storing military waste in the Ural Mountains. In 1957, it blew up. The contamination affected as many people and as large an area as the Chernobyl meltdown. What this shows is that repository accidents can be the equal of reactor accidents.
• In Hanford, Wash., the large tanks in use for decades are leaking. Officials are not sure what step to try next. In addition, they are worried about a possible explosion.
• In February a low-level repository in New Mexico emitted deadly radionuclides, better known as plutonium. This leaked above ground causing enough concern that the repository has been closed indefinitely.
Currently, Sweden and Finland are constructing deep geologic repositories. Again, engineers are stymied by water problems, just as the Americans were in the Yucca Mountains.
Our Canadian model, the one proposed for the Schreiber area if it was accepted, is based on the Swedish model. A peer review has stated that the original plan was over-simplified and faulty. Too many factors weren’t taken into consideration.
For our sake, and for those who come after us, the plans must be flawless.
These repositories must safely and securely hold nuclear waste for a very long time. Such a plan has yet to be conceived, designed, engineered and constructed. The best engineers in the world have tried and failed.
Remember, uncharted waters are always dangerous! Do we want to be the first? I don’t think so.
The brief of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is to protect the health, safety and security of Canadian citizens. People in the Schreiber area are Canadian citizens.
Working with the NWMO, the CNSC is downplaying the very real problems experienced by engineers around the globe and the potential problems of a repository here.
If indeed it is safe, why do we feel the need to use cash incentives to bribe communities to accept the building of a repository in their area?
How do they argue with the fact that even insurance companies won’t cover the damage or loss due to nuclear accidents in and around a repository if one is built? Clearly, the insurers know something that our regulatory agencies aren’t telling us.
We face deadly consequences if a repository is constructed in the Schreiber area. Sticking our head in the sand like an ostrich won’t make this problem go away.
This is one of the most critical issues this area will ever face. The risks are proven, they are serious and they will affect our home for generations to come.
Yes, I want new business in the area. That keeps us prosperous and vital.
But the trade-off is simply too high. This repository threatens our environment, our health and our very existence.
Just remember each of the attempts that have been made. The most skilled and experienced experts in the world, spending billions of dollars, using an array of designs and technology, haven’t been able to make this happen safely.
And we’re going to be the first?
If history has taught us one thing, and one thing only, it is that the dangers are real. We must take action against this!
The original publication may be found here: The Chronicle Journal