• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Nuclear Dumb and Dumber

Kincardine, Ontario.

The thought “Dumb and Dumber” came to mind as I recorded the work of Canada’s Joint Review Panel Sept. 23 and 24, here in Ontario, on the east end of Lake Huron. The JRP is currently taking comments on a proposal to dump radioactive waste in a deep hole, 1mile from the shore of this magnificent inland sea.

What has to be called just plain dumb, is that the nuclear bomb industry branched out to build nuclear power reactors and, as E.F. Schumacher said, to “accumulate large amounts of highly toxic substances which nobody knows how to make safe and which remain an incalculable danger to the whole of creation for historical or even geological ages.” Unfortunately in the case of radioactive waste this has happened here, in Canada, etc.

Then, the giant Canadian utility Ontario Power Generation (OPG) proposes to bury its radioactive waste in a limestone dug-out, or “deep geologic repository,” one mile from the Great Lake Huron.

This must be considered “dumber”, but you’d be amazed at how much dumber it gets. Listening to the presentations of government regulators and utility propagandists for two long days normally puts reporters to sleep. But the staggering implausibility of some statements and the shockingly cavalier nature of others kept me blindingly awake.

The low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste that could be dumped in a 2,200-foot deep hole here — 200,000 cubic meters of it — contains long-lived, alpha radiation emitters like plutonium, the most toxic substance on Earth, which is dangerous for 240,000 years (10 half-lives).

Yet the reactor operator, Ontario Power Generation, had the nerve to say in a 2008 public handout: “[E]ven 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 flabbergasting assertion prompted me to say to ask the oversight panel, “Why would the government dig a 1-billion-dollar waste repository, when it is safe to throw all the radiation into the lake?” The panel members must have considered my question rhetorical because they didn’t answer.

bruce

But it gets dumber.

There is much concern among Canadians over the fact that their government’s allowable limit for radioactive tritium in drinking water is 7,000 becquerels-per-liter. In the U.S., the EPA’s allowable limit is 740 bq/L — a standard almost ten times more strict. (A Becquerel is a single radioactive disintegration per second.) Tritium is the radioactive form of hydrogen, it can’t be filtered out of water, and it is both dumped and vented by operating nuclear reactors, and can leak from radioactive wastes in large amounts.

When the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission staff scientist at the hearing, Dr. Patsy Thompson, was asked why Canada’s allowable contamination was so much higher than the U.S.’s, Thompson said, “The U.S. limit is based on using wrong dose conversion factors from the 1970s that haven’t been corrected.”

This preposterous assertion went unchallenged (because of hearings rules that required questions to be reserved in advance), but it will certainly be contested by Canadian and U.S. who have all learned a lot about tritium hazards since the ‘70s.

Can you believe it got dumber still? Lothar Doehler, Manager of the Radiation Protection Service in the Occupational health and Safety Branch, Ministry of Labor, testified that “To ensure safety after a radiological accident, the labor ministry does monitoring of water, vegetables, soil and other foods.”

I rushed to reserve a question and said for the record, “When the Labor Ministry measures radiation releases in the environment during a radiological accident, those releases have already occurred and exposure to that radiation has already begun. Simply monitoring the extent of radiological contamination does not ‘ensure safety’ from that radiation in any sense. Measuring radiation merely quantifies the harm being done by exposure to what is measured. Does the ministry have the authority to order evacuations from contaminated areas, like in Fukushima? Or to order the replacement of contaminated water with safe water, like in Fukushima? Or to order the cessation of fishing or fish consumption in the event of their contamination, like at Fukushima?”

The Chair of the JRP, Dr. Stella Swanson answered that the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety was responsible for evacuation planning in the event of a disaster. For his part, Mr. Doehler added that he was responsible “… to see that radioactively contaminated food was safe to eat.”

Stupefied by Mr. Doehler’s “blunder,” I missed a direct follow-up question and had to hustle after the man in the parking lot during a break to ask, “Pardon me Mr. Doehler; You didn’t mean to say that eating radioactive contamination in food is safe did you?”

“Oh, no,” Mr. Doehler said, “I apologize if I left that impression” — as he handed me his card.

Now Mr. Doehler is a highly-paid, high-level professional government official and didn’t make a mistake as I’d assumed. He’s not dumb or dumber, but enjoys deliberately misstating the facts when he can get away with it and when it suits his interests — just as Dr. Patsy Thompson does.

No, the sad mistake here is that so many catastrophic government actions can move ahead toward approval because the general public is keeping too quiet, or “playing dumb.”

John LaForge works for Nukewatch, an environmental watchdog group in Wisconsin, and edits its Quarterly newsletter.

 

More articles by:

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Rare Wildflower vs. Mining Company
Dianne Woodward
Race Against Time (and For Palestinians)
Norman Ball
Wall Street Sees the Light of Domestic Reindustrialization
Ramzy Baroud
The Last Lifeline: The Real Reason Behind Abbas’ Call for Elections
Binoy Kampmark
African Swine Fever Does Its Worst
Nicky Reid
Screwing Over the Kurds: An All-American Pastime
Louis Proyect
“Our Boys”: a Brutally Honest Film About the Consequences of the Occupation
Coco Das
#OUTNOW
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump vs. William Shakespeare
Ron Jacobs
Calling the Kettle White: Ishmael Reed Unbound
Stephen Cooper
Scientist vs. Cooper: The Interview, Round 3 
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Charles R. Larson
Review: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
David Yearsley
Sunset Songs
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail