Lawson Tom and Pat



AUGUST 28. 2005

A CAUTIONARY TALE FROM PORT HOPE FOR NWMO: thoughts and experiences from a person who seems to have spent most of her adult life (since 1974) on nuclear waste issues, and from her husband, who has been deeply involved since Port Hope’s “Crazy Caverns” crisis in 1995.

As far as your Process continues to be in following your 8 defined objectives, the federal government could weigh in and do what it wants anyway.

In the late seventies, the Minister of the Environment, through the FEARO process, assessed Eldorado’s application to build a UF6 plant, first at Port Granby, and subsequently at the Hope Township site. As Vice-Chair of the citizen group ‘SEAP’, I played a leading part in the hearings. The issue of the buffer zone (AECB required 1000 metres) was paramount.

Yet in 1983 AECB approved siting the UF6 plant in the Port Hope harbour with no buffer zone, no plan for waste disposal, next to the two main CNR railway lines, on the shore of Lake Ontario, and with no environmental assessment and no Port Hope citizen input.

We still suffer from documented excess health maladies and have no public funds to pursue the necessary follow-up health studies. The children and grandchildren of the people of Port Hope, not the consultants from Mississauga, London, Kitchener etc, will pay the price for mistakes made today by consultants.

For 8 years a federal government Siting Task Force (on which I served) worked through another fair process leading to a referendum, to solve Port Hope’s historic waste problem. Then in 1995 that Task Force suddenly abandoned its “Opting for Cooperation” approach, and turned the process on its head, weighing in with a heavily funded 1995 “D.A.D.”campaign to bury the wastes, including eventually Cameco’s decommissioned buildings, right under our waterfront. The citizens of Port Hope fought off what came to be known as the Crazy Caverns, largely on the basis (identified in your documents) of the need for the waste to be monitored and retrievable.

The whole sad episode wasted $30 million of taxpayers’ money, and left Port Hope back at square one with the wastes. A library full of scientific documentation, including public input, remains.

This scientific work was then repeated by the next federal initiative to deal with the wastes. The three Municipalities involved were told to consider keeping the wastes, and were offered $10,000 apiece to do so. They responded with varying approaches to their electors.

This new process included a Screening Review which required those responsible for the wastes to assess themselves with cosmetic attention to informed public input: ie lots of PR from the proponent and no meaningful way for the public to influence the decision-making on a host of issues from criteria for cleanup to design of the facility.

Three citizen groups have called for a Panel Review. So far CNSC has refused to request one in spite of the fact that we fulfill the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency requirements for a Panel Review:

i) There is uncertainty about the likelihood of significant adverse effects. In fact, the projected volumes of radioactive waste have never before been moved in Canada. Neither is there experience with the proposed mound and its proposed barriers to prevent leaching of toxicity out into the watertable over the thousands of years that it could remain.

ii) the project is likely to cause significant adverse effects. In fact, it might well cause less harm to leave some of the wastes in situ with proper identification.

They are known to be far more hazardous in the air than in or on the soil.

iii) Public Concern: Approximately 2000 people have registered concern. A telephone survey of 300 homes resulted in 74% wanting a Panel Review.

In spite of the above evidence, Natural Resources Canada and CNSC still refuse us the right to a Panel Review.

Doesn’t this point to a process of predetermined ends through prescriptive means? Those given the jobs of seeing this process through to its conclusion are in the pay of the nuclear industry and/or are civil servants imbued with the nuclear theology.

Their tactics are to coopt municipal Mayors and Councillors who cannot grasp the technical and scientific issues involved and therefore make decisions based on partial knowledge and under constant pressure from the highly profitable industry bolstered by the government, Furthermore, there is little continuity at the local political level (a change every three years). What is this in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of years of toxicity? And why is there a problem with political boundaries? Surely this is a watershed issue. e.g. Should we not consider sending the most toxic of our wastes to the Darlington Station bunkers?

The work of the consultants hired to assess the Cleanup Project (PHAI), as well as the SEU, is piecemeal and reductionist, and by its very nature ignores environmental and social values. The impact on Lake Ontario and the Ganaraska River in the event of accidents, gets left out of the picture.

The central location for the spent fuel bundles, we believe, should be in Southern Ontario as close to the generating stations as possible. They should stay on location for as long as possible, and then in storage at the proposed central facility, until future generations decide on burial. There may well be better ways to deal with them in the future.

While I appreciated the opportunity to liaise with men whose lives have been devoted to the nuclear industry, I was dismayed and insulted by patronizing remarks such as “Don’t you want to be able to use your toaster?”, as if I was unaware of energy needs and conservation alternatives. Those of us involved in civic energy issues need a reasonable dialogue with the nuclear technocrats who we support through our taxes, and many of whom appear ignorant of energy alternatives and application of conservation measures.

Your plan for the nuclear waste storage cannot be used to justify continuing waste fuel bundles.

Since there is a disconnect between the voice of the people as described in your literature and the risk assessment experts, we respectfully ask the NWMO to require the federal and provincial governments to hold a public referendum on the future of nuclear power.

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