A different kind of concern with the project has to do with the relationship between the institutions responsible for burying Canada's nuclear wastes and the public. The approval process is supposed to ensure that the project is planned in a way that takes public concerns into account. But what we have seen in practice makes it difficult to believe our needs will be given sufficient consideration.
It seems strange, but throughout the approval process for the Bruce Campus DGR (which is another term for the previous proposal that was withdrawn from consideration by Ontario Power Generation itself), there was no broad survey of the health of local residents to use as a baseline for assessing health effects of the proposed DGR. Indeed, as many of the citizen reviewers of the proposed DGR have pointed out, there is no unified presentation of health issues anywhere in the proposal’s supporting documents.
This is strange because, of course, concern over human health is a major reason for scrutiny of the approval process in the first place. This lack of data has long been a cause for concern, as is the regulators’ use of this lack to support their claims of the plants’ safety. Even though the precautionary principle would require proponents of the Bruce station to have the data in order to prove that no harm has occurred, the regulators and proponents have instead taken the opposite position — that the lack of evidence means that concerned citizens can’t show that anything is wrong, and thus there are no grounds for objection. This led the AECB (Canada’s older regulatory board, now no longer in existence) to say that
“the observed 40% excess in childhood leukemias was ‘in fact, most likely due to chance.'”
[However,] one important means of assessing trends over time is to compare leukemia deaths before nuclear power plant operation with deaths after. The authors of the AECB study carried out this work for the Pickering nuclear station, but not the Bruce station….
For the comparison that was done… the leukemia rate before operations was essentially the same as expected.
Thus, there is no evidence of an increase in childhood leukemia rates before the activation of the two plants. However, the study data shows a significant excess in childhood leukemias after operations began.
– Hoel affidavit, p.6
It thus behooves the government and proponent, in support of the currently proposed nuclear waste sites in South Bruce and Ignace, to at least gather baseline health data now, so we would be able to tell how the proposed project changes the health profile of the surrounding areas. If two underground nuclear waste sites in South Bruce and Ignace are eventually built, then the government should gather baseline health data now. It is ironic that the regulatory approval of the federal government leans so much on the practice of adaptive management, where the proponent is supposed to keep track of whether things are going wrong and adapt its activities accordingly. But at the same time, it is refusing (and in fact actively opposing) the gathering of data that would let it know if the health situation near the plant is deteriorating.
We follow up here on some old correspondence back in 2015 from a farmer, Eugene Bourgeois on the issue, giving more information on the basic issues at hand now in 2021 because many of the problems he raised in letters remain the same, albeit even more complicated as we are now looking at two different sites - one in Northern Ontario (Ignace) and one in South Bruce (Teeswater):
Dec. 8, 2015
Dr. Hazel Lynn, Medical Officer of Health
Grey Bruce Health Unit
101 17th St. E.
Owen Sound, ON
Dear Dr. Lynn:
On Nov. 15, 2015, I responded to your acknowledgement letter of Nov. 1 with a letter by email describing our concerns and seeking clarification:
“Just a note to acknowledge your feedback and thank you for your work on healthier communities. Unfortunately we are not in a position to engage in unfunded studies at this time of fiscal uncertainty. H Lynn”
1. Our request was not for your office to fund this study. It was a request to acknowledge the fact that this database is missing;
2. to acknowledge that there are methodologies available to acquire this data; and
3. to recognise that having this data will allow your office, as well as any other office, the ability to make scientifically valid statements about the health of the community that comprises the Local Study Area (LSA) for both Bruce Power’s operations and OPG’s proposed DGR.
To date, I have not had a response from you and hope that this is merely inadvertent.
You have stated to me that the Grey-Bruce Public Health Unit accepts World Health Organisation (WHO) standards of health, as does Ontario Power Generation (OPG) in its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Deep Geologic Repository (DGR). Stress is an important characteristic of sound health and one of your roles would be to engage in sound, policy-making decisions that serve to reduce the stress of the members of the community you serve. You have heard that the two public interest groups who represent the interests of Inverhuron residents support our proposal for a community health survey. We are a community that is shadowed, and perhaps overshadowed, by the nuclear industry here and, as time progresses, it appears to many of our members that morbidity has increased. We are, of course, aging and that is certainly a factor. But we have also been exposed to ionising radiation, as well as other toxic chemicals emitted by this industry into our atmosphere, soil, food and water.
Your office relies on administrative or regulatory values that accept certain permitted concentrations of ionising radiation as if these are safe levels of concentration. These are then compared to background levels.
While none of us can avoid the external impacts of solar radiation, this is not to say that these background levels are safe. Indeed, while your office’s own website cautions that these are not safe levels (advising us to wear sunscreen appropriate to the current conditions when outdoors), we have no protection from the external and especially the internal emitters of alpha, beta and gamma particles to which we are chronically exposed by the operations at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station. Scientific bodies, including government-sanctioned ones such as CERRIES (Great Britain) and KiKK (European Union), have cautioned that internal emitters (such as alpha and beta particles that affect us at the cellular level when we breathe them or eat them in our water or food) appear to have radically different impacts on cellular health than external ones. This is especially so when the exposures are chronic ones that happen all the time, just as happens here in Inverhuron. You, in your response to me, tout the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC’s) RADICON study as if it were definitive. Nonetheless, you also heard Dr. Thompson of the CNSC state during the EIS hearings when you were present that neither she nor the CNSC would support having this study peer-reviewed by independent experts who would be chosen by LSA residents. While we seek quantifiable data, we are offered only qualitative data. We seek evidence that can be verified scientifically. Instead we receive opinion founded on belief and hope, opinion that assuredly allows the industry to function and operate as if everything was fine. We all hope that this is true and that this hope can, instead, be quantified in a way that will allow us to test the claims with scientific methods that apply to our community instead of to the evidence given by some broad geographic region as is currently used. In any event, it is the data from the broad geographic region of southwestern Ontario that you quoted during your testimony at the EIS Hearings in support of the position you presented to the Joint Review Panel (JRP).
Our report, which we have sent you twice, demonstrates that there are reasonable and viable methodologies that would allow for such an analysis. While you have stated a preference for engaging in a general happiness survey of the Grey-Bruce region as a whole, your office is not prepared to support financially the mechanisms required to acquire evidenced-based data that will allow us to determine the nature of the health impacts, if any, on LSA resident stakeholders from the nuclear industry here.
We haven’t asked for your office’s financial support, but merely to support the clear benefit that having such data could provide in terms of being able to make statements about the health of LSA residents. Any such statements could then be tested using scientific methods instead of relying primarily on best guesses and models. We continue to believe that the emitters of these toxic substances, Bruce Power and OPG, ought to be the responsible parties for funding.
Remember readers that these letters were sent back in 2015 but the lesson is clear. We need to write more letters and ask more questions.
We receive annual summary reports about the nature and quantities of ionising radiation and their concentrations in the general region, with a magnifying glass over these data as if to suggest that these are not really harmful when compared to background radiation. However, your office already recognises that background radiation is toxic and harmful to people who are exposed to it. You do not indicate the scientifically-verifiable reasons your office has to claim that additional radiological exposures will provide a net benefit to LSA resident stakeholders. This is especially true of the internal emitters in contrast to solar and cosmic radiation that affects us externally. Background radiation and alpha and beta particles might not be directly comparable.
Consider, for example, the graph on the right
How does your office explain that these exposures are a net benefit to innocent members of the public and have neither caused harm nor will in the future cause harm due to cellular damage? If these additional iodine isotopes are a net benefit, why has the CNSC mandated that potassium iodine pills be distributed to all residential stakeholders within a radius of the Bruce Nuclear Power station to be used in the event of an iodine ‘spill’ at the Bruce? Would a spike like this be considered such a spill? Does your office have standards of disclosure such that resident stakeholders will be protected or are all decisions about these matters left to Bruce Power’s discretion?
We are not going away and this issue will not be going away. OPG has proposed adding significantly to our toxic load here in the LSA region but expresses the opinion that these additions will not be harmful to us. Bruce Power has stated that it can operate these reactors beyond the manufacturer’s recommended life-time of operations for the pressure tubes but maintains that this will not be detrimental to our community’s health. With the announcement on Dec. 3, 2015, Bruce Power will now be operating these reactors to 2060-2070. Pressure tubes that had a manufacturer’s life-expectancy of 210,000 Effective Full Production Hours (EFPH) have been extended indefinitely. Bruce B reactors will now run in some cases to more than 275,000 EFPH, even though it has only been granted a licence extension to 247,000 EFPH. That is 31% more than the recommended life-time of operations for these pressure tubes. Bruce Power maintains it can operate these reactors safely until then but, without a baseline database of the state of health of the LSA residents, it is not and will not be possible to quantify this unsubstantiated claim. With the extended operations, there will be an even greater quantity of low and intermediate level nuclear wastes for the DGR and the rock pile, which is already expected to contain numerous highly toxic chemicals and isotopes and which will grow even larger, will surpass the currently revised estimate of more than 140’ in height and cover more than 44 acres in surface area as OPG reported in the second phase of the Hearings for the DGR.
Your office appears to accept these assertions as if they were true when neither your office, nor Bruce Power nor OPG can or will provide evidence that this is so. In any event it will be stated, as you did during the EIS for the DGR, that our population base is too small to be able to make these determinations on the basis of the broadly-based epidemiological approaches normally used by large studies.
Anna Tilman and I have provided an outline as to how these baseline data might be acquired and provided examples where communities, sometimes in opposition to Public Health offices, have managed to demonstrate through their methodologies that there have been impacts when none was thought to have existed.
Our community is concerned about the impacts here from existing and future operations of this, our local nuclear industry. We do not accept that qualitative data will do or is acceptable in lieu of quantitative data.
Another neighbour died of throat cancer last week. Like the previous neighbour, neither was a smoker and each spent a considerable amount of time outdoors. Prostate cancer seems to be rampant here as is chronic fatigue syndrome and heart disease. Diabetes is also prevalent and so is mental illness. Are these concentrations merely representative of our society as a whole or are they higher here? We don’t know and this fact alone adds to our communal anxiety, something your office accepts as an adverse health effect in and of itself.
That ambiguity can be dispelled and needs to be dispelled. We know how to dispel it and with the support of your office we can all work to making this, the LSA region, a healthier community, a task you have thanked me for bringing to the forefront of these discussions. I hope, and indeed we all hope, that your office becomes a partner in this pursuit.
Bruce NGS stack emissions
This submission provides comments on Bruce Power’s relicensing application to continue operating the eight nuclear units at Bruce A and B for a 5-year period. These facilities are located at the Bruce Power Nuclear Generating Station (BNGS) in Tiverton Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron.
The focus of this submission is health and safety and the well-being of the local community located in the vicinity of the BNGS, including that of the workforce (nuclear energy workers and contract workers). We are particularly concerned that there is not at present any scientifically valid means of determining what the long-term effects, if any, on public health in general are. Thus, we are proposing a design for a community health study that we hope will assist us as we acquire the baseline database that will allow us to examine potential health effects in the community that may have resulted from the long-term operations at the Bruce Power Nuclear Generating Station. We have identified a variety of distinct communities in this study, including workers at the facility, both contract and nuclear energy workers, each of which presents a separate challenge for the industry if it wants to make the simple claim: Bruce Power’s operations are safe and have not caused ill-effects in the communities within which it operates.
A major component of our submission is related to safety and the degree to which “safety culture” is actually practiced by Bruce Power and the CNSC. Thus, our submission includes a review of accidents that have occurred at Bruce Power and were reported to the CNSC. In particular, we analyse two cases which led to serious exposures of workers to radiation. We will review critically the responses by Bruce Power and the CNSC relating to the causes of these accidents, their impact on the affected workers, and what measures should have, or could have, been taken into account that may have prevented them.
We will also examine waterborne and airborne emissions as reported by Bruce Power over time. In addition, we will address numerous other pertinent issues, including operational matters, such as the lifetime of pressure tubes, issues related to fuel defects and issues related to extending the life of an aging fleet of nuclear reactors.
Many of these units have operated for approximately 30 years, even with the number of lengthy shutdowns that have occurred. Yet the CNSC and Bruce Power have argued that six of these 8 units (Units 3-8) be allowed to operate beyond the end-of-life of the pressure tubes for which they were originally designed.
We would argue that these units are past their prime and question future plans to refurbish them, especially in light of the many issues that have developed during the past refurbishment of Units 1 and 2 of Bruce A. These have been very costly (well over estimated budget), run into several delays and have been highly dangerous to a community of workers and perhaps to the public-at-large, and come with no guarantee that the life of a reactor could be extended safely by twenty-five to thirty years.
Our findings indicate that there appears to be, and to have been for an extended period of time, a degraded safety culture, both at Bruce Power and at the CNSC.
As a result, we recommend that Bruce Power’s license to operate these reactors be withdrawn and not renewed until such time as Bruce Power demonstrates conclusively that it is concerned about the impacts on public health from its operations and is prepared to take all the steps necessary to mitigate any such harm as may be discovered.
As this Commission well knows, there have been numerous incidents, beginning in 1985, that have impacted seriously on our personal health, beginning with the operations of the Bruce Heavy Water Plant and the Fire Training Facility. In addition to these episodes of high concentrations of toxic chemical fumigation, radiological releases from Bruce operations have been persistent and pernicious. Since field testing began, there has never been an instance when unwanted radiological chemicals were not found in abundance in our vegetables, soil and agricultural products, as well as in our urine and that of our flock animals whenever tested.
Both Bruce Power and CNSC staff insist on using models that are known to fail to estimate airborne emissions and their concentration correctly. At no point has Bruce Power or CNSC been willing to test the assumptions used in these models to predict events. A clear and simple instance of this presented itself at the DGR Hearings held in 2013 and 2014 when tritium concentrations in our green leafy vegetables were reported to be more than 50 times higher than any other sample measured, including at a location nearest to the source. At these Hearings, I asked both OPG and CNSC staff whether either would be willing to back-test their model assumptions to determine whether the models each uses for airborne emissions would predict this seriously anomalous situation. Each declined to do so. A strong safety culture would, of course, seek to leave no stone unturned in attempting to account for known data and the root causes of these data. CNSC staff, however, cannot be bothered even to back-test its assumptions, leaving the public exposed to unknown concentrations of dangerous chemicals.
In 2002, our farm was fumigated by Bruce Power during its fire training activity with the result that everyone present was sickened by the event. Over the course of the next 9 months, my staff and I met regularly with Bruce Power personnel to develop a protocol that would allow it to conduct and engage in activities that are necessary to operate the nuclear power station safely and to protect innocent members of the public from high concentrations of toxic chemicals. We did develop just such a protocol and it worked effectively until May, 2008 when Bruce Power unilaterally abrogated this agreement without notice or warning. Predictably, our property was fumigated again, making my wife very ill. When we asked how this had happened, Bruce Power’s staff said he had no explanation because he believed we had an agreement not to operate the fire training facility under these meteorological conditions. Not to be deterred, Bruce Power once again in June conducted a major burn under adverse meteorological conditions, and once again affected my wife’s health severely.
At this time, unknown to us, Ann was developing ovarian cancer. With her weakened state caused by these exposures, the cancer was allowed to grow unchecked until it was removed by surgery the following year. Bruce Power’s response to our concerns about being fumigated was to send an email letter to Siskinds, the law firm that was assisting us in our intervention for the DGR Hearings. It threatened to sue us if we were to talk publicly about having been fumigated by it. CNSC staff supported Bruce Power in this action with the result that, when a meeting was finally convened at the direction of Commissioner Barnes, Ken LaFreniere of CNSC opened it by stating unequivocally that, as far as CNSC is concerned, this matter is closed.
In 2008 my wife participated in a study of eastern European Jewish women who are considered to be more likely to carry the BRCA 1 or 2 gene mutation that could lead to ovarian cancer. It was found that she did not carry this gene mutation and nor does anyone else in her family. Nonetheless, she did develop ovarian cancer. 4 years later she developed breast cancer. Women who get both breast and ovarian cancer are likely, at the 95% confidence level, to have some genetic mutation that will have allowed these cancers to develop in them and the genetics lab at Victoria Hospital did conduct a full DNA sequencing analysis to discover these mutations. She had none and nor is there any history in her family of either of these cancers, except in very old age (late 80s to early 90s).
Our air and food are consistently poisoned with radioactivity and other hazardous substances from Bruce Power’s operations. CNSC staff, even as it is unwilling to review the airborne models it uses to estimate the concentrations here, claims that the concentrations to which we are exposed are safe. It does so without citing any supporting evidence. While this same staff acknowledges that there are no known safe levels of exposure to radionuclides, it nonetheless, in the face of direct health evidence to the contrary, states that these concentrations are safe. Both it and the Bruce-Grey Medical Officer of Health have stated publicly that it is impossible, given the current lack of baseline data, to conduct an appropriate epidemiological study to determine the nature of the impacts on human health of Bruce operations.
Bruce Power’s application for relicensing seeks approval for any number of uncertain conditions, most of which will be unforeseeable because the conditions under which these reactors will operate have never before been observed. Both it and CNSC staff have had years to conduct the appropriate surveys and to collect the necessary baseline data to demonstrate that these operations are safe. Nonetheless, neither has seen fit to do so.
Without this baseline data, it is impossible and improbable to make a claim that these facilities have operated safely and will in the future operate safely. Since, as we demonstrate in this analysis of known safety failures on the part of both Bruce Power and CNSC staff since the last relicensing hearing, neither is prepared to acknowledge unsafe and harmful conditions until after innocent individuals have been unnecessarily exposed. Even then, neither has seen fit to follow the medical history of these exposed workers over the course of time it would take for disease to develop. This degraded safety culture does not warrant our good faith and, until a robust and detailed plan to collect this baseline data for our various communities has been put in place, Bruce Power should have its license to operate the Bruce nuclear site revoked.
On May 6, 2015, the Joint Review Panel made its final report and recommendation to proceed with the DGR project. This seems to be a good occasion to take a look at the review process itself. Most of our other pages go into depth on a single issue. To take a look at how the overall process works, we’ll be following a single proponent through the process. This can give us an idea about which parts of the process were successful, and which were not.
For this case study, we will be looking at the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON). It is by far the most prolific responder, so we can follow its testimony through many different topics and phases of the hearings in a way that we can’t for other responders. The Crown has a duty to consult with First Nations on any activity that may impact them or their lives. SON spent quite a bit of effort reading into the record the various ways the DGR would impact them, obligations that the Crown has in relation to these impacts, and the ways that these impacts and obligations have played out in other situations. This has made for many pages of documentation emanating from SON.
Likewise, due to SON’s relationship with the federal government, the panel has had to specifically consider SON interests, and write these up for the record also. So throughout the review process, SON’s claims, needs and responses have received more documentation than those of any other responder.
SON made it quite clear at the outset of the hearings that their relationship with the land and with the review process is unique:
It was explained above that SON cultural and spiritual identity is defined by its connection to the lands and waters of its territory…. “And if our people start to fear developments in the Territory, if we become anxious about the safety of our lands and waters, if we develop a dread of accident in the future – a deep and fundamental connection will be severed. It will be a deadly blow to our cultural existence.”
These are not simply the “views” of SON. As the Aboriginal people of the land, this is the foundation of their culture, connection to the land and identity as a people.
… while OPG was and is required to fully address these SON concerns, OPG cannot be expected to do so unilaterally. SON submits that the only way to appropriately address these matters is through full collaboration with the SON communities. Only the SON communities can identify how these matters ought to properly be resolved. It is not for OPG, or this Panel, to make final assessments on the significance of the potential harms of the DGR Project to SON cultural and spiritual connection to their territory, or whether those harms have or can be mitigated.
Submissions of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation—Hearings for Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste — CEAA Ref. No. 06-05-17520, August 16, 2013. pp. 62-4
The JRP, on the other hand, seems quite confident in its competence and prerogative to make exactly those sorts of decisions on its own. As part of its final report, outlining its recommendation to proceed with the project, the JRP stated:
The Panel is of the view that it conducted its review in a manner that permitted it to obtain information and evidence about the adverse effects the project may have Aboriginal interests and on potential or established Aboriginal rights, title or Treaty rights as identified to the Panel by the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and other Aboriginal groups. The Panel notes that Aboriginal groups were provided with many opportunities to address potential or established Aboriginal rights, title or Treaty rights, and to provide information on their understanding of the potential environmental effects of the project both before the Panel’s appointment in 2012 and at every stage leading up to the preparation of this report.
The Panel concludes that the biophysical changes caused by the project will not cause significant adverse effects on Aboriginal interests.
Joint Review Panel Environmental Assessment Report – Deep Geologic Repository for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Project, CEAA Reference No. 17520, May 6, 2015. p. 303
The Panel has conducted a thorough assessment of all biophysically-based potential effects of the project on human health and the environment…. These are effects associated with predicted measureable changes in air quality, noise, water quality, water quantity, plants, and animals caused by the project. The Panel does not share the Saugeen Ojibway Nation’s view that there remains considerable uncertainty regarding the effects of the project on the waters of Lake Huron and MacPherson Bay or that there are deficiencies or uncertainties in information that would prevent the Government of Canada from reaching conclusions regarding impacts the project might have on potential Aboriginal rights and interests.
Joint Review Panel Environmental Assessment Report – Deep Geologic Repository for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Project, CEAA Reference No. 17520, May 6, 2015. p. 300
This is quite similar to behavior that SON characterized at the beginning of the review process:
OPG has even documented that SON had raised these concerns with OPG during their early engagement, that is, the appropriateness of placing waste in Mother Earth. While OPG acknowledges these concerns, it does not address them. There is no indication that OPG took these concerns or worries into consideration as needing further assessment, mitigation or accommodation. The conclusion that the Project would not have any serious residual impacts on aboriginal interests demonstrates that the concerns expressed by SON members about the harms the Project could cause to their spiritual view of the land, or their cultural identity with the land were not considered by OPG as determinative, meaningful or serious.
This is unacceptable.
Submissions of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation—Hearings for Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste — CEAA Ref. No. 06-05-17520, August 16, 2013. p. 143-4
Indeed, in SON’s Closing Statement, it emphasized this problem:
OPG’s assessment of significance of the DGR’s residual adverse effects on aboriginal interests has a fundamental flaw – the aboriginal perspective was not considered in determining significance.
…. It is self evident that the significance of impacts to culturally and spiritually important sites and activities cannot be credibly or meaningfully assessed except by the Aboriginal people, the SON communities, themselves.
These are not mere issues of “perception”. As the Aboriginal people of the land, their understanding of and connection to the land is the foundation of their culture and identity as a people.
Closing Remarks of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation – Hearings for the Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste – CEAA Ref. No. 06-05-17520, October 9, 2014. pp. 3-4
Both CEAA and the Guidelines required that, in these circumstances, OPG adopt a more robust and precautionary and approach than was taken. There is near universal consensus that where a proponent or government plans to construct a nuclear waste facility in the territory of an Aboriginal people, those people must consent. As the Seaborn Panel concluded:
Any approach to managing nuclear waste that involves lands inhabited, claimed or used by Aboriginal people will affect them in particularly acute ways. Aboriginal people rely on the land for sustenance and hold deep beliefs about humankind’s relationship with and responsibility for the natural environment. Hence their active involvement, consent and cooperation are essential throughout all phases, from acceptance of the concept through its implementation. (Seaborn Panel Report, Section 5.3(d) (emphasis added)
The requirement of consent stems from a fundamental recognition of the seriousness of the impacts such a development will have on the rights, well being and future of Aboriginal peoples. This is a core principle in all adaptive phased management approaches: that those most affected be given the right to understand fully and clearly accept the risks and harms of the Project. The consent of SON has not yet been given.
Submissions of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation—Hearings for Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste — CEAA Ref. No. 06-05-17520, August 16, 2013. pp. 73-4
The current JRP derives its mandate in part from the Seaborn Panel, quoted by SON above. The Seaborn Panel hoped that with its recommendations after its hearing of an earlier failed DGR project, the same mistakes would not be made again. Most relevantly, the panel recommended that the proponent converge on the correct technical solution through long-term consultation and involvement with and by the host community, especially the Aboriginal communities. Moreover, it calls for the Aboriginal communities to be deeply involved in this process from its very beginning.
Aboriginal Participation Process
Despite the fact that Aboriginal people may be among those most affected by a concept for managing nuclear fuel wastes, their involvement to date has been inadequate. An Aboriginal participation process would enable them to participate fully in building and determining the acceptability of a concept. Such a process would allow them to thoroughly understand and assess the waste management problem; to help develop options and the ethical and social assessment framework in Phase II; and to participate in all relevant steps and decisions thereafter. Aboriginal people should design and execute the process so that it will be appropriate to their value systems and decision-making processes.
Seaborn Report, Section 6.1.1
Note that being involved from the very beginning and participating “in all relevant steps and decisions thereafter” would hopefully mean that the public review process would be much simpler and positive, given that the proposal would have been developed by all parties. Instead, the proponent has pursued a strategy of developing its technical solution in isolation. This was allowed to proceed uncontested by the regulating authority, and (as we will see) it was actually endorsed by the JRP in its final report, even though developing a technical solution without aboriginal input is expressly against the charge of the regulating authority as spelled out in the Seaborn Report.
One of the results of the proponent developing its proposal (with the attendant technical documentation) in isolation from SON and other local residents is that the proponent has been allowed to point to the pile of technical documents it has developed and more or less claim to have a monopoly on the scientific aspects of the proposal. This was enshrined in the regulator’s final report, which for instance titled one section “Science-based and Aboriginal Points of View” as if the two are opposed, and completely different things. This section states
The Panel notes that the information provided by OPG and Aboriginal groups regarding potential effects on Aboriginal interests illustrates a divide between a strictly science-based approach and an approach that incorporates Aboriginal world views. The science-based assessment conducted by OPG focused on measureable changes to aspects of the natural environment such as air quality and noise and then evaluated whether those changes would affect Aboriginal communities, heritage resources or traditional uses of the land. Submissions by Aboriginal groups, while including reviews and comments on the science-based assessment, also presented information arising out of their world views and history.
Joint Review Panel Environmental Assessment Report – Deep Geologic Repository for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Project, CEAA Reference No. 17520, May 6, 2015. p. 325
First of all, let’s note that “an approach that incorporates Aboriginal world views” is the approach that is mandated by the government entities that set the current process in motion. As the Seaborn Report says,
Clearly, the development of an approach to managing nuclear fuel wastes must be based on sound physical science. While this is necessary, it is not sufficient. The approach must equally be based on sound social science and traditional Aboriginal knowledge. Without these complementary bases, there can be no assurance that public safety issues have been comprehensively identified, nor that they have been adequately addressed….
Seaborn report, Section 188.8.131.52d
So when the JRP says that one approach “incorporates Aboriginal world views” and OPG’s doesn’t, it means one thing while bearing witness to the opposite. Since the final decision rubber-stamps OPG’s proposal as “safe” and ignores the continued objections of SON, it seems to mean that OPG’s approach is the right way to go. But since its whole mandate from the government requires it to incorporate traditional Aboriginal knowledge, it is actually bearing witness that OPG (and the panel’s decision supporting it) is wrong.
Secondly, essentializing the proponent’s approach as “science-based” makes it seem as if the proponent is doing it right. In fact, the proponent’s science has been shown to be untrustworthy in many instances, which is discussed elsewhere in this website.
Many responders have interrogated OPG’s scientific assumptions and methodology. SON itself has submitted hundreds of pages of Information Requests and other interventions probing troublesome technical issues. OPG’s response to all but a few of these scientific challenges has been dismissive and evasive.
The Seaborn Panel noted such a dynamic in the previous attempts to implement the DGR:
…it [R-Public] fails to assess the real content of [citizens’] concerns, and their actual merit. Public concerns are never matched to those expressed by the scientific community, for example. By failing to present the debate as also a feature of current medical and social scientific analyses, the authors wrongly characterize it as a battle between pro-nuclear experts and anti-nuclear laymen. . . .**
Anna Cathrall, Mary Lou Harley, Brenda Lee and Peter Timmerman [Anna Cathrall et al, A Report to the FEARO Panel, Volume 2, p. 47.]
We concur with this view.
Seaborn report, Section 184.108.40.206d
When the Seaborn Panel recommended involving local people from the very beginning of the planning process, one of its reasons was to avoid a repeat of this situation. But the proponent and the regulator have ignored these recommendations, and the same sort of dysfunctional dynamic has resulted.
SON has attempted to have more of a role in the process, just as the Seaborn Panel recommended. For instance, in SON’s feedback to the draft agreements establishing the JRP, it attempted to write its concerns into the raison d’être of the panel, thus adding some people with a better understanding of SON concerns to the board.
Re Preamble: The following to be added:
WHEREAS the Project is within the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nations (SON).
WHEREAS the Project may cause adverse impacts to SON Aboriginal and Treaty rights, and the application for the Project therefore triggers a Crown duty to consult and accommodate.
WHEREAS SON and the Parties to this Agreement have agreed that a review of the Project by a joint review panel will be a primary mechanism to develop the information required for meaningful consultations respecting the Project.
WHEREAS SON intends to participate fully in the joint panel review of the Project.
Re Constitution of the Joint Review Panel: We propose the following nomination and appointment structure to replace section 3.1 in the current draft:
The Joint Review Panel will consist of five members. Panel members, including the Chair, will be appointed by the Minister of the Environment.
Two members will be appointed from members of the Commission nominated by the Commission, and two members will be appointed by persons nominated by SON. CEAA, the Commission and SON will consult each other prior to the submission of nominations.
The Chair will be appointed from persons nominated jointly by CEAA, the Commission and SON.
SON Proposals re Draft Agreements, CEAA Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Document 56949E, February 7, 2008. p. 3
It is hard to know what the practical chances would be to reconstitute the panel in this manner, but it does make it clear that the SON think that the panel’s actual composition and mission statement are far from representing its interests appropriately.
Likewise, although we have noted above SON’s declaration that the JRP does not understand Aboriginal attitudes towards the earth, we also note that United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising tried to remedy this situation by inviting the JRP to a visit where it could learn about (and indeed experience) the Aboriginal connection to the land for themselves:
The United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising would like to take this opportunity to invite you again to Mnidoo Mnising. We are requesting your presence here in order for you to begin an understanding of our relationship with our mother and all of creation which is spiritual and physical….
UCCMM humbly requests the joint review panel to “experience” our mother through teachings, and different ceremonies which will be conducted by appropriate persons so you may have a real experience to draw upon before any approval is made that would allow a “Deep Geological Repository” or what we perceive as the injecting of nuclear waste into our mother. This meeting would allow us to demonstrate our duties and responsibilities to our mother so that when public hearings begin you are able to understand what we may be discussing with you. Without this meeting we believe the joint review panel will have no basis or understanding to draw upon to make an informed decision regarding our concerns should we bring our concerns to the panel.
United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising Letter to JRP, CEAA Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Document 86241E, February 14, 2013. p.1-2
In this case, the panel explicitly turned down the request, saying “We must respectfully decline your offer… as one-on-one interaction between the Panel and a participant or group in the review is not possible.” (Response to United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising Letter, CEAA Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Document 87787E, March 28, 2013. p. 1)
The regulator seems not to have made any specific reply to SON’s proposal to name two members of the panel.
While SON and the UCCMM have made various efforts to include the JRP and to be included, the same cannot be said going in the other direction. SON has repeatedly spoken of and demonstrated its interest and willingness to be a part of the conception and formation of the concepts and proposals around the DGR. SON has also been quite consistent about the importance it places on the DGR and the issues that it raises.
It should not surprise anyone when SON maintains communication with actors involved in the project, including education and assertion concerning SON’s rights and positions. Specifically, it should surprise no one that OPG should promise SON not to proceed with the project without SON approval. Yet the JRP reacted in a way that was incredulous, hostile, authoritarian. We quote it in full:
On August 21, 2013, the Deep Geologic Repository Joint Review Panel received from the Saugeen Ojibway Nations a letter dated August 7, 2013 from Mr. Mitchell, President, Ontario Power Generation Inc., to Chiefs Kahgee and Chegahno of the Saugeen Ojibway Nations. This letter will be posted to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry Internet Site for the project as soon as possible, along with other documents received by the Panel from the Saugeen Ojibway Nations yesterday.
The Panel regards the submission of such a letter so close to the public hearing in the most serious of terms. The Panel is deeply committed to the integrity and fairness of the joint review panel process. The Panel requires assurance from Ontario Power Generation that any and all evidence regarding relevant and pertinent information required for the review be provided in a manner that ensures transparency and fairness to all interested parties.
The Panel requires answers to the following questions from Ontario Power Generation regarding the possible existence of other evidence, on or before August 27, 2013:
Which Aboriginal groups are currently engaged in discussions and/or negotiations with Ontario Power Generation?
Which other interested parties are currently engaged in discussions and/or negotiations with Ontario Power Generation, including, but not limited to, municipal governments? If individuals are being engaged, simply state that this is occurring and provide a general geographic location (e.g., local study area, regional study area). The Panel does not require individuals to be identified.The Panel may request additional information and make decisions regarding the review depending upon the response to the above questions and depending upon the nature and significance of any other late submissions. If Ontario Power Generation does not provide the information requested, there could be a delay in all or in part, of the public hearing.
The Panel wants to make it clear that its recommendations at the end of the hearing process will be based on evidence and not on the basis of various agreements from outside parties.
Letter to OPG, CEAA Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Document 93837E, August 23, 2013
This last paragraph is especially strange. It is calling SON and OPG “outside parties.” OPG is the proponent of the project, and SON is a First Nation whose inclusion is required by federal law. If they are “outside parties”, it is hard to imagine who is an ‘inside party’.
More importantly, the panel says that its decision “will be based on evidence and not on the basis of various agreements” between the parties. But (as discussed above) agreements and consensus between the parties are supposed to be the foundation of the current process.
As per the Seaborn Panel’s Report, the current review process ought to foster continuous communication and cooperation between parties involved, and for First Nations in particular “to participate in all relevant steps and decisions” in that process. The JRP’s statementputs it on the record as not just ignoring the mandate for cooperation and consensus, but actively opposing it.
SON has repeatedly expressed the concern also voiced by the United Chiefs above that “without this meeting we believe the joint review panel will have no basis or understanding to draw upon to make an informed decision regarding our concerns.” This was also expressed in various ways by the Seaborn Panel. It emphasized that the proponent cannot possibly be aware of all the safety cases on its own, so it must get input from the local people to fill in the gaps:
AECL’s proposal deals with a nuclear mega-project that presents a unique social and political challenge. Many communities along transportation routes, or potential host and other communities, might be affected. Clearly, the development of an approach to managing nuclear fuel wastes must be based on sound physical science. While this is necessary, it is not sufficient. The approach must equally be based on sound social science and traditional Aboriginal knowledge. Without these complementary bases, there can be no assurance that public safety issues have been comprehensively identified, nor that they have been adequately addressed in the concept as presented.
Seaborn report, Section 220.127.116.11d
The JRP’s fundamental misunderstanding – and even mishearing – of SON concerns can be seen in ways that the JRP characterizes the SON and other Aboriginal groups in its final report. It is again, as SON wrote at the beginning of this round of the process, that the JRP “acknowledges these concerns, [but] it does not address them.” The panel’s final report touts the stance of SON:
The Saugeen Ojibway Nation emphasized the Panel’s obligation under Treaties, including a relationship of government to government based on mutual respect. The Saugeen Ojibway Nation also emphasized the importance of free, prior, and informed consent.
Joint Review Panel Environmental Assessment Report – Deep Geologic Repository for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Project, CEAA Reference No. 17520, May 6, 2015. p. 325
This sounds quite nice, but it glosses over the fact that the Panel has failed to live up to the relationship it invokes, of “obligation under Treaties… of government to government” as this very report is a declaration that it will proceed unilaterally, in defiance of SON’s wishes. Likewise, it does the panel no credit to invoke SON’s emphasis on “free, prior, and informed consent” when SON’s own closing statement says: “The consent of SON has not yet been given.”
Finally, there is a very strange phrase in the JRP’s final report that perhaps conveys even more the depth of the divide between SON and the JRP. In its final report, the JRP characterizes the SON position in the following way:
The Panel notes that some people, particularly Aboriginal people, may have concerns about effects on Lake Huron that are based upon their worldview and accompanying spiritual requirements regarding showing respect for the earth. This would include asking permission of the earth to construct the DGR.
Joint Review Panel Environmental Assessment Report – Deep Geologic Repository for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Project, CEAA Reference No. 17520, May 6, 2015. p. xii
The panel also repeats this assertion verbatim on p. 411. Somehow the JRP feels that it’s very important to emphasize “asking permission of the earth to construct the DGR.” It’s almost as if it wishes that’s what the SON would do.
The SON’s account of the DGR does not mention this at all. The SON’s account, very consistently, across thousands of pages, documents the harm that the DGR may do to the environment, and how this will harm the SON. The SON’s account documents the economic harm that would befall the SON from having their fishery stigmatized. And the SON speaks of the harm caused by injecting nuclear waste into their mother, the Earth. (United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising Letter to JRP, CEAA Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Document 86241E, February 14, 2013., p. 1). The SON submissions speak of specific, concrete harm caused by the DGR project.
It is not clear where the JRP’s notion of “asking permission of the earth” came from. It is not mentioned in SON’s opening or closing statements, in any of its technical documents, or the voluminous testimony by Chiefs Kahgee and Jones. It is very strange that the JRP emphasizes this notion so much, while leaving out topics that the SON actually says are crucial, and which the SON documents at such great length.
The United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising have spoken quite starkly of the situation from their point of view in their own oral intervention.
Situations that have happened to our mother earth are devastating.
There is evidence right now in Japan as to how dangerous nuclear accidents are contaminations of the waters which is currently making the water life impossible to recover from the human intellectual mistakes. It has left the water poisoned…
Oral intervention from United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising Elders Circle, August 14, 2013, CEAA Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Document 93231E, p. 2
and they invoke historical obligations to request support for their opposition to the DGR:
The Anishinaabe prophecy is that we are free people with no authority to command to others. We are equal, we are sovereign people.
The new arrivals to our land would learn quickly to receive help from the Anishinaabe when they needed shelter, food, and medicines.
The Anishinaabe medicine men learned that the new arrivals had illnesses that were difficult to get rid of; the Anishinaabe medicine men helped them to recover using traditional medicines.
Once the new arrivals were able to recover, they wanted to pay for the help they received from the Anishinaabek; they asked the Anishinaabek how they could repay for the helped they received. The Anishinaabe thought about it and said; there will be a time when we would need help. That is when the new arrivals made a promise, that when the time came that the Anishinaabe needed help they would come good with that promise.
We are now at that time, where the promise must be kept. We the Anishinaabek do not want to see harm done to mother earth with the Ontario Power Generation Deep Geologic Repository project for low and intermediate level nuclear waste.
Oral intervention from United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising Elders Circle, August 14, 2013, CEAA Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Document 93231E, p. 1-2
Again, it is hard to see any point of connection with the JRP’s assertion that SON’S concern is to propitiate the earth. However, the JRP mentions this concept a third time in its final report, and here it seems like it is mentioning a source for this idea. It also provides a bit more detail about what it thinks is going on with this “asking permission of the earth” thing.
The United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising provided a written submission to the Panel for the 2013 public hearing and gave an oral presentation. Their submissions spoke of their sacred teachings and their proclamation for the care and protection of mother earth. They stated that they did not want to see harm done to mother earth. Their written and oral presentations included references about not taking creation for granted and that the journey of life is centered on respect for mother earth. The United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising stated that mother earth was being asked to take care of the waste and suggested that there could be ceremonies to ask for permission and appease the spirits.
Joint Review Panel Environmental Assessment Report – Deep Geologic Repository for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Project, CEAA Reference No. 17520, May 6, 2015. p.320
The UCCMM have indeed made a single written submission to the panel. And it does mention sacred teachings, a “proclamation for the care and protection” of the earth, and it includes multiple statements about the care we must take of Mother Earth and the care that Mother Earth takes of us:
This journey of life that is centered on the respect for mother earth and all living things is so that we can live in harmony with the powers of the universe guided by our creator.
Mother earth is a women most respected by the Anishinaabek. We give testimony to the harmony of the entire creation, the stars, moon, sun, the plants, and all life on mother earth which were placed here in a sacred order. We cannot take creation for granted.
We the Mnidoo Mnising elders provide the appropriate teachings that reflect our cultural sensitive manner, with safe environmental supportive position for mother earth which have proven beneficial for all citizens. This is an integral part of the treatment that allows for the understanding of the respect that all human mankind must have for the mother earth.
The Mnidoo Mnising elders are an essential link to the past and to the future which continually completes the “circle of life” that is an essential part of protection for mother earth.
We are indebted to mother earth, we equate her to motherhood and that all human mankind are the children. We are the children that must show love and gratitude. The Anishinaabek when performing the pipe ceremony offer the whiff of tobacco smoke in thanksgiving to mother earth. Every plant, animal, birds, fish, insects, and the blades of grass have a place within the universe.
Oral intervention from United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising Elders Circle, August 14, 2013, CEAA Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Document 93231E, p. 2-3
This makes it all the more striking that the passage the JRP quotes in its final report about the Mnidoo Mnising chief and elders having a “proclamation for the care and protection of mother earth” comes from the following sentence:
The Anishinaabe sacred teachings are intact where we have a proclamation for the care and protection of mother earth, which is our foremost priority when hearing of a plan to rape mother earth. (Oral intervention from United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising Elders Circle, August 14, 2013, CEAA Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Document 93231E, p. 2)
This is a very different perspective on the DGR than the feel-good scenario provided by the JRP. The UCCMM does mention ceremonies when it invites the JRP to come visit and learn about the Aboriginal relationship with the earth, but these experiences are educational, not propitiatory:
UCCMM humbly requests the joint review panel to “experience” our mother through teachings, and different ceremonies which will be conducted by appropriate persons so you may have a real experience to draw upon before any approval is made that would allow a “Deep Geologic Repository” or what we perceive as the injecting of nuclear waste into our mother. This meeting would allow us to demonstrate our duties and responsibilities to our mother so that when public hearings begin you are able to understand what we may be discussing with you. Without this meeting we believe the joint review panel will have no basis or understanding to draw upon to make an informed decision regarding our concerns….
Oral intervention from United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising Elders Circle, August 14, 2013, CEAA Deep Geologic Repository Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Document 93231E, p. 2
Looking at the JRP’s representation of the UCCMM’s communication, one cannot help but feel that the elders’ and chiefs’ concerns about the JRP having “no basis or understanding … to make an informed decision” has come true.
The problems faced by SON in the current review process are manifold, but most responders to the project face similar problems: not having their concerns taken seriously, and being disregarded in the setup of the process. The panel’s ignoring (or misrepresentation) of SON’s testimony stands out in higher relief because of its tremendous diligence in documenting its concerns and requirements, and because it had to keep addressing issues arising from its history and status as a First Nation.
The current review process was set up in response to failures in implementing a similar nuclear waste project about thirty years ago as identified by the Seaborn Panel. The report it issued identified problems in the old process and suggested ways that these should be remedied in the future.
A large part of the problem with the previous process is that there came to be widespread perception that the regulatory agency overseeing the project acted instead as an advocate for the proponent. Its recommendations therefore started with the creation of a new regulatory agency:
If there is to be any confidence in a system for the long-term management of nuclear fuel wastes, a fresh start must be made in the form of a new agency. The agency must be at arm’s length from the producers and current owners of the wastes. Its overall commitment must be to safety.
The Joint Committee is concerned that this body have high public credibility and considers that this requires detachment from the organizations which have been closely associated with the generation and handling of nuclear fuel waste.
Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada [Joint Committee of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society of Canada, Presentation, Phase I, p. 2.]
Seaborn report, Section 6.1.2
The Seaborn Panel further recommended that this new agency adhere to the following principles in order to avoid the failures of the previous attempt:
1) encourage and facilitate Aboriginal participation in all steps and decisions;
2) develop a plan for, and initiate, public participation in all steps and decisions;
3) develop options for managing nuclear fuel wastes;
4) develop an ethical and social assessment framework;
5) develop technical considerations;
6) prepare and present a comparison of the options, as measured against the assessment framework, revised AECB requirements and technical considerations; and
7) closely track social and technical developments in other countries to stay aware of those that might be relevant to Canada.
Seaborn report, Section 18.104.22.168
Unfortunately, except for item 5 and perhaps a bit of item 7, the federal agencies concerned with this project have completely ignored these recommendations. As a result, the project is again mired in the same problems it ran into 30 years ago. For everyone’s sake, maybe the next time things can be done better.
One of the most bizarre and contradictory features of the DGR as it currently stands is that the terms of the proposal render the DGR totally unnecessary. The current DGR proposal claims that it is mostly to house low-level waste from the Bruce plant’s operations – mops, filing cabinets… items that have seen minimal contact with actual radioactivity.
But if this were true, then the whole DGR is completely unnecessary – and might be the hugest boondoggle in Canada’s history. Low-level waste of the type described in the proposal is currently dealt with just fine by incinerating it and storing it in canisters for ten years, after which its radioactivity has decayed to the point where it is undetectable. Not only is there adequate space above-ground to store this waste, but the ten-year time-frame of processing the waste means that it is not piling up faster than it should be decommissioned. In other words, building a huge, multi-billion dollar underground facility to house it for thousands and thousands of years is a complete and utter waste of money and human capacity.
On the other hand, the volume of intermediate level waste produced by the Bruce complex is small enough that storing it is not going to be a problem for quite a while. It’s true that there is no dedicated permanent storage for it right now, but (unless there’s something extremely serious that OPG isn’t telling us) its current storage situation is not problematic, and it would be completely dwarfed by the volume of the DGR.
Historically, however, the original rationale for the DGR was that it would house high level waste. As with some other facilities, it seems to have been given a regulatory wink and nod that it’s okay to reclassify this high level waste as intermediate level [read more here], as well as serve as a storage facility for all sorts of nuclear waste from all over Canada.
This sort of bait-and-switch tactic is also characteristic of other underground storage facilities around the world. When the Asse (Germany) underground nuclear waste storage facility was investigated, all sorts of unauthorized additions were discovered [read more here]. We’ve already noted how the Forsmark facility seems to already be de-icing its access passageway with heat generated from stored waste that is supposed to be intermediate or low level. And nobody has much of an idea of what’s at the bottom of the Dounreay nuclear waste storage shaft, except for the radioactive sodium that keeps reacting with the seawater filling the shaft, thus releasing the hydrogen that caused their explosion (they have installed venting to remove the hydrogen before it reaches explosive concentrations again).
The truth is, once the facility is granted its license, it’s just really hard for a regulatory agency to keep tabs on what it actually stores there – even assuming the agency has the slightest interest in doing so.
But this also raises the questions of whether the proposed DGR, which truly is designed for low and intermediate level waste, is really capable of handling the high level waste that they plan to store there – and make no mistake that in spite of the intermediate level label, the description that OPG provides of the waste that it plans to store includes waste that is classified as high level waste virtually everywhere else in the world.
At the end of the day, it’s really hard to know how OPG plans to use this facility, because so little of what they say about that makes any sense. But it’s hard to think of any use that isn’t either (a) a total waste of taxpayer money or (b) storage of dangerous materials for which it is not designed.
Multiple Canadian organizations have expressed their concern that the approval process for the DGR is in the hands of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), which is essentially an advocate for the nuclear industry, rather than a regulatory body. This is especially egregious since the Joint Review Panel, which is tasked with providing an independent review of the proposal, consists of three members, two of whom are appointed by the CNSC! This is not a truly independent panel.
One example of the mutual hand-washing that has gone into the review process of the DGR is the involvement of Golder Associates Ltd., which has issued a lengthy and expensive “independent” review of the DGR proposal. The chair of the Joint Review Panel is chaired by Stella Swanson. She, in turn, has worked for Golder. This first of all shows how easy it is for the CNSC to steer its “independent” reviews into a closed circle of people who all know each other and can be counted on to return the sort of result that it wants. Secondly, Golder is an employee-owned company; so unless Dr. Swanson has either divested her holdings with them (or somehow never was vested in the first place), she has materially benefited from their involvement in the review process.
This lack of true independent review has been a recipe for disaster at other nuclear sites, most prominently Fukushima, where regulatory capture has led to a situation where there is essentially no regulation of the industry.
It is with this as a backdrop that the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) wrote
We join other environmental public interest organizations in expressing our grave disappointment that the staff of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) have not supported an upgrade of the current environmental assessment from a Comprehensive Study to an Independent Panel Review.
An independent review panel would ensure a fair hearing, independent of the CNSC and its inappropriately close ties to the nuclear industry. We note that, to the present, nuclear waste has been kept in temporary storage facilities. This proposal strays entirely from this practice and would be the first permanent deep underground disposal of nuclear waste in Canada. This significant departure from temporary to permanent storage alone merits as full a public review as is available…. Such review is all the more important for a permanent facility that has the potential to impact human health and the environment essentially in perpetuity.
Likewise, the Provincial Council of Women of Ontario object to the composition of the Joint Review Panel:
Given PCWO’s over-riding use of the precautionary principle in all of our policies, we strongly oppose the proposal in the Draft Joint Panel Agreement that two members of the Joint Panel be recommended by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC); that CNSC should have the veto power of the Minister of Environment’s choice for the third panel member; and, that the third panel member then becomes a “temporary member” of the Commission.
In our view it is imperative that a truly independent review panel must assess OPG’s deep geologic repository application, not the agency that is steering the proposal to its conclusion and will be regulating it should the proposal be approved.
Therefore, we would request that the Joint Review Panel have three independent panel members appointed by the Minister of Environment. This would ensure that the Review Panel would be independent. The expertise of CNSC staff would then be the only link between the applicants and the Panel, which would be counter-balanced by experts of interveners to the hearing.
Regulatory agencies that were unconcerned with protecting the public were a crucial part of the world’s three largest nuclear disasters: Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Kyshtym.
The Soviet/Russian authorities, then as now, have almost no concern for the public. In fact Mayak, the facility whose nuclear waste exploded in the Kyshtym diasaster, has remained in operation ever since, with 34 major documented further accidents. As of today, its radioactive effluent continues to flow into the Ob river (with the seventh largest drainage basin in the world) and causes continual health problems for the people who live along its shores.
The Fukushima Daiichi facility, site of the world’s second worst nuclear disaster, is a classic case of regulatory capture, a situation where a regulatory agency created to protect the public from the predatory or callous practices of a type of business instead performs the bidding of the industry it is charged with regulating.
The relationship between the Japanese nuclear industry and its regulators is a compromised one. Changes were made to the Fukushima plant without regulatory approval, safety records were falsified, and the regulatory agency did not require another plant to shut down even when a district court ordered it to do so for not meeting safety requirements. Read more here.
Just as in Japan, the oversight and review of development at the Bruce Nuclear Power Station has been characterized by stonewalling, obfuscation, and a dogged lack of interest in its mandated responsibilities – and in some ways, the situation is worse because the courts have also repeatedly ruled not to punish violations.
Just as in Fukushima, the Bruce Plant was allowed to make major changes to its design after its review process was complete [read more here]. Just as in Kyshtym, it continues to leak tritium into the local groundwater [read more here] and discharge toxic fumigants over the neighboring farms [read more here]. Just as in both of these previous disaster sites, regulatory interest (let alone intervention) has been nonexistent. Leukemia in Bruce County is 30% more prevalent than in surrounding counties, but the CNSC’s mandated study of this and other elevated cancer rates was fudged [read more here] in order to say that no conclusion could be drawn from this.
Construction has not even been started on DGR itself. Yet its regulatory approval has already been allowed to proceed in spite of multiple violations to its mandates for safety and feasibility. 34 scientific and engineering deficiencies are listed in the Saugeen Ojibway Nation’s submissions alone. The approval has also been allowed to proceed in spite of the plans lacking any specifications whatsoever for the incinerator, which is a major part of the waste treatment. In one particularly outrageous example, Greenpeace submitted a 66 page report showing how the metal canisters intended to contain the nuclear waste can degrade more quickly than claimed by their developers. The JRP sent the report back to Greenpeace, asking them to state how this was relevant to the review process. This is not how scientific planning and regulatory approval proceed when the planners and regulators have any interest whatsoever in the integrity of the process.
In addition, the DGR and its operator have been allowed to reclassify high-level waste as intermediate-level waste for the purposes of allowing it into the facility. It has thus, before even starting operation, already committed itself to storing waste that is beyond the level of danger that the facility was originally planned for. This has also been done in other inconvenient nuclear waste storage situations [read more here] and has had interesting consequences at the Swedish Forsmark DGR, one of the few that is already in operation [see discussion below].
We sincerely hope that the Bruce nuclear facility will not become the site of another tremendous nuclear catastrophe. But if it does avoid that fate, it will be in spite of the delinquent and negligent regulatory oversight it has hitherto received.
In a project such as the proposed DGR, many of our ordinary intuitions about feasibility don’t hold. For instance, in any ordinary situation, odds of failure of one in a hundred are great. And if the odds are one in a hundred per year, while your situation only lasts for a couple of days, then that’s even better! However, if the situation is going to continue for hundreds of thousands of years, a chance of one in a hundred per year that something will go wrong becomes an absolute certainty that it will.
In addition, the long time frame makes it important to evaluate the risks accurately and conservatively: when a risk is active for hundreds of thousands of years, a difference of hundredths of a percent in the short term can make the difference between a substantial risk and an inconsequential one.
For these reasons, it is very troubling when OPG underestimates the radioactivity of a major waste component by over 90%. For the same reasons, it is totally inappropriate for OPG to simply characterize a given facet of its operation as “safe” or “low risk” and saying that there need be no worries about it. Unless we know the numerical magnitude of the risk, it’s impossible to evaluate that risk properly.
And it is essential for people reading OPG’s submission to be able to evaluate that risk – after all it’s the whole point of the process of public review and response. But if its submission evaluates a given situation only in terms it being “safe” or “low risk”, this prevents the reviewers from doing their job and subverts the whole review process. We have the review process because OPG is legally prohibited from saying “Oh, this project is just safe” and proceeding. It is not allowed to simply label all the components of its proposal “safe” either, as the public won’t be able to use the review process to check OPG’s findings.
And yet OPG’s submission is riddled with language simply telling us that it has evaluated such and such a situation and determined it to be safe, with no data that would enable us to check its work. As Jim Preston stated in his testimony before the Joint Review Panel,
We continually read “not likely to”, “not expected to”, “therefore it is not expected that”, “based on this it can be estimated”, “OPG does not believe”. What are the certainties?
<href=”http://friendsofbruce.ca/dgr/local-voices/dgr-hearing-testimony/james-and-brenda-preston/”>Jim Preston, testimony on September 26, 2013, p. 131
Even when OPG recognizes that there is an issue, it doesn’t necessarily use quantitative evaluations. For example, as the International Institute of Concern for Public Health pointed out in its submissions:
IR EIS-04-108: Request # 11 (IICPH): Table 2.8
This section refers to uncertainties in the packages for newer “hotter” pressure tube wastes that will arise from future refurbishment. Likewise, section 3.2 refers to the “hot” ends of end fittings. IICPH asked for clarification as to the use of the terms “hot” and “hotter”.
“Hot” refers to radioactivity…. “Hotter” in reference to newer pressure tube wastes indicates that these wastes will initially have higher radioactivity compared to current older refurbishment wastes since there will have been less time for radioactive decay. As such, additional shielding may be required for future station refurbishment wastes compared to the waste packages currently in use for Bruce A Unit 1 and 2 refurbishment wastes.
The terms “hot” and “hotter” to describe radiation levels in the waste are not scientific and are inappropriate. Quantitative descriptors are needed. In addition, a description of the nature of “additional shielding” is required.
IICPH submission 89441E, p. 2-3
Unless OPG says exactly how much “hotter” these new wastes are than its baseline radioactivity for waste, and how much shielding it plans to use, it’s impossible to evaluate its plans for handling these wastes. And yet the whole purpose of having it submit its plans in the first place is so that the public can make those evaluations.
OPG and the regulatory agencies use a well-developed vocabulary for claiming that things are safe without giving any evidence that would back up this claim. This can be seen, for instance, in OPG’s plans to implement a stormwater management pond. This pond is supposed to hold the poisonous, intensely mineral-laden groundwater from the level of the DGR, and then gradually released into the lake. Even the CNSC had problems with the original proposal, as its analysis indicated that there would still be unacceptably toxic levels of minerals in this water. The JRP directed the CNSC and OPG to work this out in Undertaking #47, and they duly declared the problem fixed.
We discuss the inadequacy of their solution in detail in our page on meaningless procedures. Here, we just want to call attention to Environment Canada’s* summary of why they now feel the proposal is all right:
We also feel that the follow-up monitoring, adaptive management measures, contingency plans and the additional recommendation that we just made will ensure additional protection of aquatic biota.
Testimony before JRP, October 11, 2013, p. 12
Adaptive management is the practice of adjusting one’s policies and procedures in the face of new experience and evidence. We of course hope that OPG would do this; for example, we would not want them to blindly continue a policy that is clearly causing a disaster. However, inasmuch as adaptive management means “we’ll figure out things better as we go along” it is not a substitute for having a robust policy in place in the first place. If “adaptive management” – the promise to take care of problems as they arise – is allowed to be an assurance of safety without such a policy, this is simply an end run around the process of review.
A lot of adaptive management is common sense, of course. Who wouldn’t want to change what they’re doing if it is disastrous, or switch to a new way of doing things that works better? All of the other project features that Environment Canada mentioned are part of adaptive management and also common sense. Their “additional recommendation”, for example, is that
The water contained in the pond will be tested and compared against discharge criteria. In the event that water quality does not meet criteria, source reduction/elimination and treatment would be applied.
Response to Undertaking 47, p. 1
We would have hoped that this would be the case in any event – that OPG would check the pondwater for toxicity before releasing it, because (hopefully) approval of the project in general does not constitute a blanket license to discharge toxic effluent into Lake Huron. Likewise, in the event of emergency we certainly would hope that OPG would develop contingency plans; however, the response to Undertaking 47 doesn’t contain any contingency plans, so it doesn’t add any new information about safety to the proposal under review. A promise to develop contingency plans in the future, as events arise, is simply another end run around the review process.
As for the “follow-up monitoring”, first of all it’s not clear whether this is anything different from just testing the effluent before releasing it from the pond. Adaptive management and common sense both require feedback to function properly, but a promise to conduct monitoring without a plan for acting on the results do not add up to a safe situation – indeed, monitoring without a plan of how to respond can be virtually meaningless.
We see this in the existing American geological repository, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico: their air monitoring detected a radiation release on February 14, 2014, but as of a month and a half later, they still have not made public the faintest idea of what the problem is, or even how to locate and identify it. This is before they even begin to start figuring out how to fix things.
If their monitoring program had been designed from the start to support a plan of response – for instance, if their air monitors provided some information on where a radiation source is – then they would be a lot further along in knowing what to do. But it was just generic monitoring, and so hasn’t provided any helpful information other than that there’s a problem somewhere. I’m sure that the managers of the WIPP had a commitment to come up with a “contingency plan” if something like this happened. But clearly it would have been to everyone’s benefit if they had planned things through a bit more beforehand. That’s what review periods are for, not for saying “Don’t worry! If anything comes up, we’ll fix it just fine.”
Curiously, however, some of OPG’s decision processes appear to rule out monitoring of environmental effects:
Each decision tree for effects assessment on biophysical VECs [Valued Ecosystem Components] includes the possibility of a finding of “may not be significant” (the other two categories being “not significant” and “significant”). The EIS suggests that “an effect that ‘may not be significant’ is one that in the professional judgement of the specialists would not be significant; however, follow-up monitoring should be proposed (or rather ‘implemented’ in some instances) to confirm significant adverse effects do not occur”.
This is my first encounter with the concept of “may not be significant”. The explanation above leaves much to question. If an effect were to be assessed as “may not be significant”, it means not significant but monitoring is required. In other words, the confidence of the assessors is lower in making this call than when declaring an effect as “not significant” or “significant”. It suggests that monitoring is only required when a finding of “may not be significant” is made. As it turns out, no residual adverse effects were deemed to be either “significant” or “may not be significant”, with the obvious conclusion that nothing needs to be monitored.
Duinker report, p. 7
But without ongoing monitoring, how is OPG going to implement adaptive management?
There is also the issue of OPG deciding that something isn’t a danger and therefore not including it in its documentation at all.
The Proponent chose to ignore possible CEs [cumulative effects] associated with malfunctions and accidents because they “are considered too ‘rare’ to be assessed together with those caused by normal operational activities”.
Duinker report, p. 9
Actually, as with Chernobyl, Fukushima, the WIPP, and other problematic nuclear sites, “malfunctions and accidents” are the main cause for concern. If OPG says that they are too rare for it to plan for them, that’s a sign that its planning procedure has fundamental problems; it is certainly not a valid excuse for not taking the possibility of accidents into account. It seems that the organizations responsible for the Fukushima and the WIPP didn’t consider accidents probable either; and their lack of planning to address such incidents has contributed to their trouble in responding to them.
Leaving things out of the assessment process is especially problematic because of arbitrariness with which OPG has arrived at many of its conclusions supporting such decisions. For instance, Peter Duinker was tasked by the JRP with evaluating OPG’s calculation of cumulative environmental effects. His finding was that OPG’s methods were
– not credible – the work does not adhere to what I consider to be a robust approach to determination of significance of residual adverse effects;
– not defensible – the methods include huge elements of arbitrary and indefensible professional judgements;
– unclear – the scientific basis for many professional judgements in setting category limits and decision-tree combinations was not described;
– not reliable – other expert assessors could easily come to different conclusions;
Duinker report, p. 7-8
He gives the parameters assigned to eastern white cedar as an example of arbitrariness, noting that although this cedar is part of the analysis because it is considered a VEC [Valued Ecosystem Component], it has somehow been assigned a value of “significance = not significant”, which contributes to OPG’s finding that environmental impacts on this cedar are not generally significant.
I had understood from the Consolidated Responses document (page 471) that all VECs were important – otherwise they would not be VECs and therefore not included in the assessment.
Duinker report, p. 7
Likewise, John Bredehoeft showed that the pressure data studies used by OPG gave results that were inconsistent with each other, and were unable to model the hydrogeological measurements at the DGR site while taking into account all the relevant features of the rock. We go into Duinker and Bredehoeft’s findings in more detail in our page on meaningless procedures. Here, we will simply note that the arbitrariness of OPG’s evaluation procedures leads to the safety of important features of the DGR being never looked at, for arbitrary reasons. For example, in his testimony on October 11, 2013, Alex Monem, council for the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, pointed out as a result of OPG’s assumptions, no environmental impact evaluation had been carried out on a major portion of their fishery:
We have heard Dr. Duinker express a significant lack of confidence in the cumulative effects analysis carried out by OPG, and its methodology for predicting the significance of effects. He states that these shortcomings represent a failure of OPG to meet the requirements of CEAA and the guidelines.
One of his key concerns – I understand – is that unless a residual adverse effect from the project alone was identified, no subsequent cumulative effects analysis was performed to determine how that potential effect could combine with other stressors.
It was clarified for us that this approach was applied to potential impacts on the Lake Huron aquatic environment, and as OPG had identified no adverse effects on Lake Huron, no subsequent cumulative effects analysis was performed.
This is obviously a concern to SON, particularly when taken in conjunction with the uncertainties that have been raised about the adequacy of the stormwater management pond, and perhaps the response to the undertaking we’ve just heard clarifies some of these uncertainties but we haven’t had time to assess that, and it sounds like[…] uncertainty still remains.
It is also of concern to SON that OPG has assumed in its analysis that the quality of MacPherson Bay – the MacPherson Bay aquatic habitat is poor, and as a consequence we can assume not significant to the local ecosystem.
This conclusion appears to have been based on very old data, and one more recent sampling program conducted for Bruce Power in 2007. Our technical reviewers believe that this is likely an insufficient basis for coming to these conclusions.
Testimony before JRP, October 11, 2013, p. p. 17-19
At the beginning of this essay, we mentioned that risk situations from everyday life are often not a good model for the DGR, but there is one aspect in which thinking about everyday risks is extremely cogent.
Presumably, for any situation where we’d be taking a genuine risk in real life, the benefit would be substantial and the potential bad consequences manageable. In the case of the DGR, neither of these is true. The CNSC’s own report says that the current status quo for storing the nuclear waste is safe and in no danger of running out of capacity, so there is no substantial benefit. And the potential downside of contaminating Lake Huron and/or the groundwater of northern Ontario would be catastrophic, with no mitigation possible.
It is impossible to know what the risks of this project are if OPG is permitted to hide them. The whole point of the review process is for OPG to present the data behind its judgments and decisions so that others can look at the data and give feedback. It circumvents the whole process if OPG is allowed to simply label some project features “safe”, or decide without presenting evidence that other aspects simply don’t need to be considered.
* Environment Canada is Canada’s Department of the Environment, responsible for anything to do with the natural environment: from weather reports to environmental protection.
One of the most disappointing features of the review process for the DGR is the way that both OPG and the government invoke empty procedures as reassurance that potentially harmful effects will be avoided. Many of these procedures are invoked without any evaluation or sometimes without any apparent idea behind them – as if simply saying that there is a procedure in place is a guarantee that the procedure will have the effect that it is supposed to.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the consideration of environmental effects. One simple example occurred during the testimony before the JRP on September 26, 2013. One of the environmental regulations about construction in a site like this is that there must be fences surrounding the site to keep reptiles and amphibians from entering it and being killed. In an earlier session, a participant had asked the representative from Environment Canada how well these fences worked at excluding these animals. The representative did not know, so the questions was deferred to a later time. Here is that answer, from the representative from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources:
THE CHAIRPERSON: Great. So now that you’re here, the Panel would like to return to a couple of questions that we had originally addressed to Environment Canada.
One of them is a question around, in your experience – in your Ministry’s experience, how well do fences perform in excluding species of concern such as turtles and snakes?
MR. SHOREMAN: I’m not sure… we have performance data, but we do have a policy related to drift fences for reptiles and amphibians. And it was my understanding… I’m fairly certain, that Environment Canada used referenced that policy in applying mitigation measures for amphibians.
Testimony before JRP, September 26, 2013, p. 75-6
So apparently neither the national nor the provincial environmental ministries have the slightest idea whether these fences actually work, nor do they have any data whatsoever on whether they work. However, the provincial ministry does have a policy about the fences, and as long as that policy is being followed they’re happy.
Peter Duinker’s was asked by the JRP to examine OPG’s process for determining cumulative ecological impacts of the proposed project. He found that their process was founded on representing these impacts by means of abstract categories and arbitrarily defined numerical boundaries, to the point where the determinations no longer had any relationship to actual ecology:
As soon as one engages in assignment of ordinal categories to various attributes of a predicted effect, one enters the shifting sands of arbitrariness in professional judgements about limits and combinations.
[For example,] On what grounds has 5% been set as a lower limit for assignment of Low Magnitude? If Medium Magnitude is assigned limits of 11% on the low side and 25% on the high side, what is it about conifer woodlands that would see a Low Magnitude for a 10% reduction, and a Medium Magnitude for anything from 11% to 25%? … There is absolutely no ecological justification for the assignment of these limits, or indeed any such limits. If there were ecological justifications, such as conservation of gene pools of cedar or habitat provisions for important vertebrate species, then surely these would have been provided.
Duinker report, p. 5-6
Instead of grounding its decisions in ecology, OPG prefers to generate a bunch of abstract categories for each VEC and run them through a decision tree. Or rather, for only one VEC (cedar), because OPG decided beforehand that only cedar, out of all thirteen terrestrial VECs, could suffer a residual adverse effect from having a huge construction project proceed in its habitat. Duinker comments:
Thirteen terrestrial VECs are accounted for in section 7 of the EIS. All are predicted to incur measurable changes, but only one is assessed to suffer a residual adverse effect – cedar. A massive and elaborate decision tree is advanced in Figure 7.4.3-1 to show how one might arrive at a conclusion on effect significance. The point of the tree, which includes 19 unique pathways through the maze of considerations of magnitude, extent, irreversibility, timing and duration (curiously, frequency is missing), consequence, and social/ecological importance, is unclear when only one VEC is to be subjected to it. Cedar passes through the maze with magnitude = medium, extent = all, irreversibility = medium/high, timing and duration = low, consequence = low, and finally significance = not significant.
I do not challenge an EIS finding that the residual adverse effect on cedar is not significant. What I challenge is the rationale for making that finding. On what grounds does one judge that consequence is low on the basis that magnitude = medium, extent = all, irreversibility = medium/high, and timing and duration = low? To choose one of the other 18 pathways through the maze, on what grounds would one arrive at a conclusion of “may not be significant” (a term itself not defined) when the assessment says that magnitude = high, extent = medium, irreversibility = high, consequence = high, and social/ecological importance = low? Moreover, I had understood from the Consolidated Responses document (page 471) that all VECs were important – otherwise they would not be VECs and therefore not included in the assessment.
To me, the decision trees represent an unjustified, arbitrary set of pathways to conclusions about effect significance. They are unnecessary for someone to develop a reasoned set of arguments, grounded in an effect prediction and contextual analysis, leading to a conclusion about effect significance.
Duinker report, p. 6-7
Duinker’s conclusions, framed in the terms he was asked to address by the JRP, are:
The EA I examined from the perspective of determination of significance of residual adverse effects has significant flaws of approach and method. Against the criteria I was instructed to use, I find that the analysis embodied in the EIS and Consolidated Responses is:
– not credible – the work does not adhere to what I consider to be a robust approach to determination of significance of residual adverse effects;
– not defensible – the methods include huge elements of arbitrary and indefensible professional judgements;
– unclear – the scientific basis for many professional judgements in setting category limits and decision-tree combinations was not described;
– not reliable – other expert assessors could easily come to different conclusions;
– inappropriate – the methods, as shown above, are unnecessarily complicated and prone to challenge regarding limits and combinations.
Duinker report, p. 7-8
In other words, it is a procedure without meaning. It uses numbers and categorization in terms of importance to sound reliable and scientific; but it has no relationship to actual ecology.
In a similar vein, John Bredehoeft’s presentation examines the efforts to model northern Ontario’s hydrogeology in studies commissioned by NWMO and in the literature. The main NWMO study is by Sykes, Normani and Yin (2011). Their initial attempts to reconstruct the observed water pressure layers in the rock for the proposed site failed, even after multiple attempts using different parameters:
The plot in Figure 7 is typical of the plots of simulated versus observed head at the Bruce Site, obtained by the Sykes group. Using the single phase FRAC3D model the Sykes modeling group could not reconstruct observed heads for the site. The investigators were careful in their modeling and applications, but Figure 7 is a typical result—the match to the observations is bad; the simulated head does not match the observed head. Figure 8 summarizes all of Sykes et al (2011) attempts to match observed heads at the Bruce Site with FRAC3D:
The Sykes group, using their single phase model FRAC3D could not match the observed head at the site.
John Bredehoeft presentation, p. 12-13
However, the program FRAC3D has its limitations, so the Sykes group tried a different piece of software that also models gas flow (the rock in this formation often exhibits 80% water saturation and 20% saturation by gas). By doing so, they succeeded in modeling the observed water pressure – but at the cost of completely misrepresenting the gas:
Sykes et al (2011) used TOUGH2 to simulate two phase water and gas flow at the Bruce Site. In their scenarios it is necessary to introduce gas in the Ordovician rocks…. In one scenario gas was introduced into the Ordovician rocks for a period of 200,000 years, and then stopped. Figure 13 is a plot of simulated head and pressure at approximately 1 million years after the injection ceased. This simulation gets a good fit for the water head data. However when one looks at the simulated gas saturation values, they do not fit the observed data; there is almost no gas left in the rocks.
John Bredehoeft presentation, p. 19
Another major hydrogeological study quoted by OPG is Nasir, Fall, Nguyen, and Evgin (2011). Of this study, Bredehoeft notes
Nasir et al (2011) describe the results:
”First, past glaciation, particularly the second cycle (22,000 abp) had a great impact on pore water pressure gradient and effective stress distribution. The results are consistent with field observations of persistent pressure to the present time. However, the predicted values of anomalous water pressure is less than the observed values at the site, which could be attributed to additional sources, such as gas or somatic pressure.”
The FRACT3D model used by Sykes et al (2011) has similar hydro-mechanical coupling to that used by Nasir et al, but Sykes does not simulate similar under pressures for a glacial loading/unloading scenario. The Sykes et al models and the Nasi et al models appear to show conflicting results, even though their basic hydro-mechanical coupling is presumably the same – the same basic equations are solved.
John Bredehoeft presentation, p. 15-16
So the Nasir group is somehow able to get its model – running on much the same mathematical parameters as the Sykes group’s FRACT3D model – to get what it considers a good fit to the observed water pressures; but it also acknowledges some problems that might be fixed through accounting for gas (which it does not attempt).
Beyond these discrepancies, we would also point out that (as the Nasir quotation mentions in passing) the two groups come to diametrically opposed conclusions on the impact of glaciation on the observed water pressures. The teams were asked explicitly to consider glaciation – not only for its importance in understanding the history of these rock formations, but also in order to assess the possible impact of glaciation in the future.
The Sykes group found no impact:
Nine different paleohydrogeologic scenarios were investigated in this study. Based on these analyses it is concluded that glaciation and deglaciation is unable to yield the abnormal pressures observed in the DGR boreholes. Contributing to this conclusion is the strength of the rock, particularly the Ordovician sediments, and the resulting low storage coefficients that result. From the paleohydrogeologic analyses it is also concluded that flow in the more permeable units such as the Cambrian and Niagaran at the location of the proposed DGR is relatively insensitive to glaciation and deglaciation.
Sykes, Normani, and Yin. “OPG’s Deep Geological Repository for Low and Intermediate Level Waste — Hydrogeologic Modelling” (March, 2011) NWMO DGR-TR-2011-16. p. 237
This led them to conclude very strongly that
Under-pressures were measured in the Ordovician sediments at the DGR boreholes. There is high confidence that these under-pressures are not caused by glaciation and deglaciation.
Sykes, Normani, and Yin. “OPG’s Deep Geological Repository for Low and Intermediate Level Waste — Hydrogeologic Modelling” (March, 2011) NWMO DGR-TR-2011-16. p. 245
Meanwhile, the Nasir group declares
The last glacial cycle in the Northern Hemisphere started approximately 110,000 year ago. During that cycle, southern Ontario was buried under a continental ice sheet, with a maximum thickness of up to 3000 m at about 20,000 years ago. The ice cap retreated approximately 10,000 years ago. However, field data from deep boreholes in sedimentary rocks of southern Ontario show anomalous pore water pressure including underpressure and overpressure zones. In this paper, a large-scale coupled hydro-mechanical (HM) model is developed to investigate the hydro-mechanical (HM) response of the sedimentary rocks of southern Ontario to past glacial cycles. Particular emphasis has been placed on the evolution of pore water pressures and surface displacements. The HM model is verified using analytical solutions. The results of the large-scale HM modeling study shows that the past glaciation, particularly the second cycle (22,000 apb) had significant impact on the pore water pressure gradient and effective stress distribution in the sedimentary rocks of southern Ontario. Furthermore, good agreement between the large scale modeling results and anomalous pressures leads us to the conclusion that these anomalies could be glacially induced. The results of this research can provide information that will contribute to a better understanding of the impact of future glaciations on the long term performance of DRGs in sedimentary rocks.
Nasir O, Fall M, Nguyen TS, Evgin E (2011) “Modelling of the hydro-mechanical response of sedimentary rocks of southern Ontario to past glaciations”, Engineering Geology 123 (2011), abstract
Our point here is not to argue with any of the specific results presented in these hydrogeological papers. The point is that these are scientific investigations that do not match the observed reality and which disagree with each other. And they are simply presented as support for the DGR project without any discussion (or even acknowledgement) of these problems. In citing its hydrogeological research, OPG and the CNSC seem content to be able to point to the voluminous papers it has commissioned, without caring that these papers illustrate the extremely speculative and inexact nature of the field much more than they add up to a case in favor of the DGR proposal. The CNSC actually cites these studies in its Response to Undertaking #18 (Provide additional available research data related to the modelling of anomalous pressure):
In order to provide plausible interpretations of the anomalous pressures at the proposed DGR site, both OPG (Sykes et al., 2011) and the CNSC (Nasir et al., 2011; Nasir et al., 2013; Khader and Novakowski, 2013-under submission) have conducted and supported independent research.
CNSC, Response to Undertaking #18, p. 2
And it goes on to quote small bits of each report without ever indicating that there is any disagreement between them. Once again, CNSC cares much more that a gesture has been made and a procedure followed than whether it actually means anything about the real world. The additional research has been conducted! Whether or not it says anything valid about the DGR project is of no concern.