Burying our heads in the sand

Enzo Di Matteo
NOW magazine
November 15, 2001

Next week the feds vote to give the nuclear industry control over chucking its own waste. Bad idea. They’re aiming to bury the junk in the Canadian Shield. Eco types say we’ll pay the price for centuries to come.

What’s being proposed for burial:
More than 18,000 tonnes of spent fuel from 22 nuclear reactors (an amount that would fill several Olympic-size swimming pools)

Why burial is the preferred option of the nuclear industry:
It’s cheaper. It wouldn’t require around-the-clock security.

What the burial option would cost:
$13 billion

Why anti-nukes don’t like the idea:
Rock in the Shield is unstable. Waste being proposed for burial is highly radioactive and remains a potential hazard forever. Leaks, which critics say are inevitable, would almost certainly pollute ground water. Once the waste is buried, the site would be impossible to monitor or to access if problems developed.

What the scientific panel that first reviewed the burial option concluded in 1998:
The methodology used by the nuclear industry to assess safety risks is “unreliable.”

Who stands to lose most from ecological fallout:
Native communities in the North.

What’s the alternative?
Expanding the cooling pools and above-ground concrete bunkers where the waste is currently stored.

What other countries are doing:

*Reusing spent fuel

*Reducing waste at source by cutting dependency on nuclear power for electricity.

Percentage of electricity supplied by nuclear plants in Canada:
17

What the experts say

Irene Kock, Sierra Club of Canada:
“There’s no such thing as fracture-free rock. What the federal government is doing is basically fobbing off the dangers to future generations when there’s really no urgency to deal with this issue for another 50 years. The current storage facilities can handle that much. What we need to do is stop making more waste.”

Norm Rubin, Energy Probe:
“The whole plan is a relic from an earlier time when Canadians believed in that mythical place called ‘away’ – the same place where your crap goes when you flush the toilet, where the garbage man takes your waste when you leave it by the curb in the morning.”

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