Canadian ‘Experts’ Comfy with Radioactive Pollution of Great Lakes

by

No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.” — Lily Tomlin

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) — which owns or leases 20 nuclear reactors across Ontario — would save loads of cash by not having to contain, monitor and repackage leaky above-ground radioactive waste storage casks. Last Sept., I testified in Ontario against the company’s plan to deeply bury some of this waste next to Lake Huron. OPG officially plans to let its waste canisters leak their contents, 680 meters underground, risking long-term contamination of the Great Lakes — a source of drinking water for 40 million people including 24 million US residents. The Bruce reactor complex — the world’s biggest with 8 reactors — is on Huron’s Bruce Peninsula and is the storage site for radioactive waste (other than fuel rods) from all of OPG’s 20 reactors. Digging its dump right next door would save the firm money — and put the hazard out of sight, out of mind. OPG’s public statements make clear that it intends to poison the public’s water. First, the near-lake dump would be dug into deep caverns of porous limestone. The underground holes are to “become the container” OPG testified last fall, because its canisters are projected to be rotted-through by the waste in 5 years. On April 13 the Canadian government was shocked to learn that OPG grossly understated the severe radioactivity of its waste material, some of which, like cesium, is 1,000 times more radioactive than OPG had officially claimed. Second, OPG’s callous poisoning plan was broadcast in a December 2008 handout. Radioactive contamination of the drinking water would not be a problem, OPG says, because “The dose is predicted to be negligible initially and will continue to decay over time.” 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.) OPG’s pamphlet goes further in answer to its own question, “Will the [dump] contaminate the water?” The company claims, “…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 made me ask in my testimony: “Why would the government spend $1 billion on a dump when it is safe to throw all the radioactive waste in the water?” Now, what I thought of then as a rhetorical outburst has become “expert” opinion.

‘Experts’ Unworried About Drinking Industrial Radiation

On March 25, the “Report of the Independent Expert Group” was presented issued to the waste review panel. The experts are Maurice Dusseault, Tom Isaacs, William Leiss and Greg Paoli. They concluded that the “immense” waters of the Great Lakes would dilute any radiation-bearing plumes leaching from the site. Dusseault advises governments and teaches short courses at the Univ. of Waterloo on oil production, petroleum geomechanics, waste disposal and sand control. Paoli founded Risk Sciences International and the company’s web site notes his position on Expert and Advisory Committees of Canada’s National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy. Isaacs, with degrees in engineering and applied physics, works at the plutonium-spewing Lawrence Livermore National Lab, studying “challenges to the effective management of the worldwide expansion of nuclear energy.” Of course, hiding radioactive waste from public scrutiny is one of his industry’s biggest challenges. Leiss has degrees in history, accounting and philosophy, and has taught sociology, eco-research, risk communications and health risk assessment at several Canadian universities. So what level of expertise do the experts bring? None of them have any background in water quality, limnology, radio-biology, medicine, health physics or even radiology, hazardous nuclides, health physics, or radiation risk. As plumes of Fukushima radiation spreading into the Pacific continue to show, the poisons spread from the source and can contaminate entire oceans. Fish large and small, and other organisms, bio-accumulate the cesium, strontium (which persist for 300 years), and cobalt (persisting for 57), etc. in the plumes. The isotopes also bio-concentrate in the food chain as albacore tuna studies repeated in April. Canada’s expert group’s opinion on how radioactive waste might spread and be diluted in Great Lakes drinking water is inane and meaningless; its cubic meter estimates and risk assessments nothing but fairy tales. You could call the report a rhetorical outburst.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”
July 30, 2015
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper
Richard Ward
Sandra Bland, Rebel
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Martha Rosenberg
Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office
Binoy Kampmark
Dead Again: the Latest Demise of Mullah Omar
Kathy Kelly – Buddy Bell
No Warlords Need Apply: a Call for Credible Peacemaking in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on ‘IS’
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015