Thank you for the opportunity to input my thoughts and feelings to this debate. I want to emphasise the feelings part of this letter since the whole issue is as much about human emotion as it is about technical facts and both need to be carefully considered and understood.
As a person who has worked in the nuclear power industry for over 30 years one might expect my views to be somewhat biassed in favour of all things nuclear. However the revers is the case. While I consider that the nuclear industry is one of the safer industries in the world I do not consider that there is no room for improvement of that the nuclear indistry is "safe" since there is no such things as 100% safety in any human endeavour.
In fact the sum of my years in the nuclear industry in a wide variety of fields has caused me to treat radioactive materials with the utmost respect.
I am also a resident of a community (Town of Clarington) that has the Darlington nuclear plant within its borders. Some of my neighbours have a genuine fear of nuclear power and wonder what would cause me to work at such a place. It has taken me many years to understand that view. As a nuclear worker I consider my workplace to be very very safe. However it is not a state of affairs that I or anyone else takes for granted.
What I have come to understand is that the only difference between my neighbours (who as I said have a real and genuine fear of nuclear power plants) and my self who considers the activity to be quite safe is knowledge and understanding.
Now I do not by any means intend this as a put down or intend any disrespect to those that do not have a nuclear expertise or a nuclear background...absolutely the contrary. People have every reason to be cautious and concerned about the nuclear industry. The industry has for many years been shrouded in technical gobbldegook that even the most ardent members of the public would find hard to penetrate. It is no wonder that many Canadians think the nuclear industruy has something to hide and no surprise to me that there is no trust that the nuclear industry will do what is best for the PUBLIC (as opposed to its own interests).
So there are two key issue. One is a lack of understanding about the hazards and risks of nuclear power and the second is a lack of trust in the nuclear power industry to do what is right and proper for the public of Canada.
Combine these two and it becomes clear why there is so much emotion around the issue of long term storage of waste nuclear materials. It is why the discussion needs to be fully, openly and properly discussed with all persons .... not just the experts in the field.
It is no use experts telling the public that a particular process is perfectly safe when their emotions will drive them to the opposite conclusion. It is also no use dismissing peoples strongly held beliefs as "irrational" when they are perfectly rational from their perspective.
The fact is that used nuclear fuel is dangerous and it will be dangerous for many many generations to come so why would anyone agree to having such a storage facility in their back yard? Those thoughts and feelings are not irrational at all. They make perfect sense to me and I am delighted that the NWMO is committed to hearing and considering all views on the matter not just the experts opinions as valid as they may be.
It is so important in my view to understand why people feel so strongly (on both sides of the argument) because this is at the heart of finding a solution that is acceptable to everyone.
It is incumbent on us all to fully understand the risks of long term storage of nuclear fuel. (This includes the possibility of it being stolen by terrorist organisations). It is necessary for Canadians to implement strong and effective measures for the very long term to ensure proper control and safety of this material and to develop technologies that will eventuially lead to the material being made safe (by transmutation) or other means.
We continue to focus on storing the material for millenia but it is very likely that technologies such as nuclear fusion (ITER) will be able to render waste nuclear fission material safe such that it will not be a hazard for generations to come.
I think the public cannot conceive of a storagesystem that will remain intact for 10,000 years or more and neither can I. However I can envisage storage for several hundred years with the strong possibility that we will have the technology within that time frame to make the material safe.
So the process should not be simply to think that we have to store this material for millenia but in parallel we should be developing the capabiluity to destroy the material or render it safe. i think this approach would make thestorage of such materiakls much more pallatable to the public. It needs to come with a great deal of concern and understanding for peoples emotional requirements and it needs the removal of the technical jargon for which the nuclear business is famous.
I have a difficult time accepting that anything can remain safe for 10,000 years or more but if you add the possibility of ultimate destruction of tha material then I think a long term storage site is much more acceptable to people.
The risk also needs to be put into perspective. Why is it that folks drive every day on a busy road like the Highway 401 in Ontario where they are at the greatest risk of being killed and yet do not accept the safety of storing nuclear materials.
I think it is absolutely essential for there to be totally open dialogue between all sectors of the public - especially the unique perspective of aboriginal peoples who do take a much longer view of life and spiritual matters. Such a process can only lead to a better understanding of the points of view and eventually to a decision that all are comfortable with.
I applaud your efforts in this regard. I will be writing further submissions as I do have some views and perspectives on the various methods proposed for storage that may be of interest.