News & Noteworthy

A special section to keep you up to date on events, research, and stories relevant to the NWMO’s proposal to site the Deep Geological Repository in South Bruce. It will be updated regularly. Sign up for updates here.
  • Accidents can and will happen

    Continuing Safety Problems with New Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Shaft.

    ecent monthly reports by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board relate disturbing stories about near-miss operational incidents in the fifth shaft, under construction, at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  The underground federal radioactive waste disposal site is located 2,150 feet below ground surface in a salt formation almost 30 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico.  The Board has reported broken cables, misaligned transport platforms for workers to reach the underground, and workers stuck in the new shaft.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/

    Continue reading this article at nuclear-news →

  • Ballooning costs and secret projects at Canada’s federal nuclear labs

    by Ole Hendrickson

    What does Canada get from its nuclear power corporation for its $1.54 billion budget?

    Canada’s national nuclear power corporation – Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) – has no functioning nuclear reactors, unlike similar state-owned bodies in China, Russia, France, Korea, and the United Arab Emirates, and despite a $1.54 billion annual budget.

    AECL’s three “prototype” CANDU reactors haven’t produced electricity for 37 years. Its three main research reactors are also shut down. Yet they must be maintained to protect nearby water bodies.

    Section 9 of Canada’s 2023 Public Accounts indicates that AECL’s liability will require ongoing public expenditures for the next 162 years. It records “decommissioning of nuclear facilities” as a $9.3 billion “asset retirement obligation.”

    Continue reading this article at rabble.ca →

  • In an Ontario town split over a nuclear dump site, the fallout is over how they'll vote on the future

    By Colin Butler

    The town will hold an online vote, but an opposition group demands paper ballots

    A citizen's group opposed to burying Canada's stockpile of spent nuclear fuel half a kilometre below a southwestern Ontario farm town is demanding a paper ballot rather than an online vote in an upcoming referendum on whether it should welcome radioactive waste. 

    Canada's nuclear industry's quest to find a place to store the growing amount of highly radioactive detritus it produces stretches back decades. The search has narrowed to two potential host communities in Ontario: Ignace (four hours northwest of Thunder Bay) and the Municipality of South Bruce (two hours north of London).

    For years, South Bruce has found itself divided over being a potential host — split, between those who believe a new industry is a way to reclaim lost prosperity that lapsed with the glory days of farming, and those who think jobs and subsidies from the nuclear industry has blinded the others to the risks of welcoming radioactive waste into the community.

    On Monday, town councillors in South Bruce voted to accept the official question on the ballot: "Are you in favour of the Municipality of South Bruce declaring South Bruce to be a willing host for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization's (NWMO) proposed deep geological repository?"

    'Our concern is the way that they're holding the referendum'

    "I have no issues with how the question is worded," Michelle Stein, a member of the grassroots Protect Our Waterways — No Nuclear Waste, said.

    "Our concern is the way that they're holding the referendum as an online vote."

    Stein said unlike paper ballots, which can be audited and verified by anyone, she argues the way a computerized voting system sorts and tallies ballots is largely a mystery to laymen, hidden beneath source code that's indecipherable to all who lack specialized knowledge.

    "This is a forever decision. Why wouldn't they want tangible physical proof? We can go back and count those paper ballots and they can say, 'look, here's the ballots. This is what the people voted for.'"

    But advocates of online voting say it makes voting easier, cheaper and can increase participation. For those reasons, online voting has become increasingly popular among Ontario municipalities with some 3.8 million Ontario voters voting online in the province's 2022 municipal elections. 

    South Bruce Mayor Mark Goetz said the reason council went with online voting for the referendum is because council needs a strong majority to either vote yes or no for the referendum to be binding. 

    Since adopting online voting for municipal elections, Goetz said South Bruce has never seen higher turnout. 

    "We achieved a 59 per cent voter turnout through electronic voting, which I believe is an Ontario record."

    Goetz said there were worries on council that, if the town couldn't achieve 50 per cent voter turnout, then it would be up to him and the town's six councillors to decide in an official vote. 

    "I want the people to make the decision in this referendum and I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen." 

    Errors or breaches can be difficult to detect

    Still, critics say online voting is prone to cyber attacks and there's no way to guarantee voter privacy, or the integrity of the vote. There is also no provincial standard in Ontario, or, for that matter, federally, when it comes to online voting systems. 

    "There's a lot of questions that this technology introduces around that. 'How do I know my vote counted? How do I know it was kept secret?'" Aleksander Essex, a Western University professor who studies cyber security and crytography, said.

    At the same time however, Essex notes, he has never seen any evidence of fraud or tampering with the vote in all the years he has studied online voting.

    "Now with that said, the concern is that we're not getting evidence in the other direction: that the election was counted up correctly."

    Essex said it can be difficult to detect errors or breaches in online voting systems, possibly allowing an incursion to go unnoticed.

    "What it comes down to in many of these elections is voters just having to take the election officials word for it and, indeed, the election official having to take the company's word for it."

    Essex said, case law sets out some important legal principles that must be followed when it comes to technology in municipal elections, including ballot secrecy and certainty in the mind of the public that the results of the election reflect the votes cast. 

    "There is a case to be made that the technology is not supporting or enforcing those democratic principles."

    'Nothing on the internet is 100 per cent secure'

    The company hired to conduct the online referendum is Montreal-based SimplyVoting.

    "Nothing on the internet is 100 per cent secure," company president Brian Lack wrote in a letter to South Bruce council dated March 20, 2024. "In the context of municipal elections, we believe that an internet voting system with robust security such as Simply Voting's provides excellent protection against the threats at hand."

    Lack said his company "is actively working on internet voting standards for municipal elections" and plans to have a number of "good transparency measures municipal staff may take" that he said were outlined in a sample procedure manual for Ontario's 2026 municipal elections. CBC News was unable to independently verify the document.

    "There is always going to be some element of risk in an election, even with paper ballots," Lack wrote, noting that, "for national elections, where much more power and money is at stake, and state actors are a threat, the level of risk is elevated."

    "To me, that's not an acceptable answer," Stein said of Lack's comments. "The scope of this project goes way beyond our municipality. It'll be a federal project and it's estimated to cost more than $26 billion and that was the figure they used before COVID."

    Stein said there may not be any recourse for activists, but it's she also acknowledges it's par for the course in what she describes as more than just a David-and-Goliath battle.

    "It's not just Goliath, it's Goliaths. We've got our municipality, we have the nuclear industry, there's just so many layers with organizations that have so much more money than we do."

    Continue reading this article at CBC News →

  • Canadian officials found radiation levels in these northern Ontario homes ‘well above’ the safe limit. Their response: ‘¯\_(ツ)_/¯’

    By Declan Keogh and Masih Khalatbari, Investigative Journalism Bureau

    In January 2021, a senior official with Canada’s nuclear regulator asked a colleague to do a rough, “back-of-the-envelope” calculation on the amount of potentially deadly radiation that residents in Elliot Lake were exposed to in their homes.

    The government had just received a complaint that long-forgotten radioactive mine waste was buried underneath some homes in the northern Ontario city. Ron Stenson, senior project officer at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), wanted to “confirm our assumption that 468 Bq/m3 is not an urgent health concern.”

    He did not get the answer he wanted. A senior official with the commission’s radiation protection division replied that those levels of radon are “well above” the public radiation dose limit set by federal authorities.

    Stenson’s response came 90 minutes later: “¯\_()_/¯.

    For too long, shrugging is all the Canadian government has done, as far as local homeowner Lisa Speck is concerned.

    The government official’s email is “a true visual representation of the response we’ve received to date,” she says. “It accurately summarizes the respect we’ve been shown.”

    Continue reading this article at The Toronto Star →

  • The Nuclear Narrative

    By Jean-François Nadeau

    The future of the world, at least according to the boss of the firm AtkinsRéalis, is nuclear. This company, formerly known as SNC-Lavalin, has changed its name. The scandals that have splashed it, she says, are a thing of the past.

    For its campaign to promote atomic energy, AtkinsRéalis enlisted the services of two former prime ministers : Jean Chrétien and Mike Harris. In 2019, as Radio-Canada revealed, Jean Chrétien had already gone so far as to offer, with astounding lightness, to store foreign nuclear waste in Labrador. In a letter, the former prime minister wrote to a Japanese firm: « Canada has been the largest supplier of nuclear fuel for years, and I always thought it would be appropriate for Canada to ultimately become the steward and guarantor of the safe storage of nuclear waste after their first cycle of service. »

    No nuclear-free carboneutrality, repeats the boss of AtkinsRéalis as an advertising slogan. Fossil fuels must be replaced, while doubling or tripling, thanks to nuclear power, electricity production, he pleads. There is no question, in this presentation, of rethinking a model of society based on an infinite expansion of consumption. Always more cars, as long as they are electric. Always more heating, it doesn't matter that our buildings are thermal colanders. In other words, what keeps counting is growth. And the increase in turnover of AtkinsRéalis is very attached to nuclear power, as noted The duty.

    Continue reading this article at Le Devoir →

  • Holderness: Government guarantees plans for nuclear waste dump will be dropped for good

    By Joe Gerrard
    A Government minister has guaranteed that proposals for a nuclear waste dump in south Holderness will be dropped for good, the area’s MP has said.
  • MEDIA RELEASE: Energy Minister Misses the Mark in Response to Proximity Principle Petition

    Update on Ontario Proximity Principle petition

    MEDIA RELEASE

    November 23, 2023


    Energy Minister Misses the Mark in Response to Proximity Principle Petition


    Thunder Bay – A northern Ontario alliance has expressed disappointment but not surprise at Ontario Minister of Energy Todd Smith’s response to a recent petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

    We the Nuclear Free North is joined by their counterparts in southwestern Ontario, Protect Our Waterways - No Nuclear Waste, in criticizing the Minister's response.

    "None of the public's concerns with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization's way of doing business were addressed in Minister Smith's response", commented Bill Noll, vice-president of Protect Our Waterways.
    The groups described the petition as having set out multiple issues related to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO)’s current siting process and proposed approach. As a remedy, the petition asked the Government of Ontario to adopt a Proximity Principle with regards to nuclear fuel waste. If adopted by Ontario, such a principle would prevent the dangerous long-distance transportation of this waste.

    In their reply to the Minister’s response, We the Nuclear Free North and Protect Our Waterways - No Nuclear Waste wrote that while the denial of the petition’s request did not surprise them, the nature of the Minister’s written response was a disappointment.

    “In our petition, we set out a series of facts and observations on the NWMO’s proposed project and siting process, which your response completely overlooked,” the groups wrote.

    In their critique of the government’s response, We the Nuclear Free North and Protect Our Waterways - No Nuclear Waste raised with the Minister the issue of the information sources the Minister and his staff rely upon.

    “Representatives in all levels of government find the science and issues around nuclear power generation and nuclear waste management to be complex and challenging, as do members of the public. It is all too easy for people in responsible positions to rely on nuclear industry representatives as their major – and often only – source of information about nuclear technology, its risks and its benefits. Our assessment of your response is that you have done just that,” the groups wrote. The letter likened the government’s apparent sole-sourcing information from the nuclear industry to “leaving the fox in charge of the henhouse.”

    The groups also dispute “several half-truths or misrepresentations” they assert that the Minister’s letter conveyed, including the notion that the NWMO’s proposal to bury and then abandon all of Canada’s high-level nuclear waste in a deep geological repository is based on “international best practice.” The group notes that there is not a single approved or operating deep geological repository for high-level nuclear waste anywhere in the world, despite more than fifty years of study and effort by the nuclear industry world-wide.

    “The Minister’s response should be a wake-up call for residents of Northern Ontario – the government of Ontario is not paying attention”, commented Charles Faust of Nuclear Free Thunder Bay, part of the We the Nuclear Free North alliance.

    “Ontario Power Generation holds the balance of power in the NWMO. While nuclear projects are in the federal government’s jurisdiction, it’s a provincial crown corporation that is driving the NWMO approach and paying the bills. Ontario’s Minister of Energy has a lot to answer for.”

    - 30 -


    We the Nuclear Free North's Reply to Minister Todd Smith is HERE

    Contact:

    Dodie LeGassick, Environment North, 807-630-8176

    Charles Faust, We the Nuclear Free North, 807-633-0202

    Bill Noll, Protect Our Waterways - No Nuclear Waste, 519-507 -9905

     

    Continue reading this media release →

  • Advisers to nuclear regulator bolster industry position on deteriorating pressure tubes

    By Matthew McClearn

    External experts looking into the unexpectedly rapid deterioration of key components in nuclear power reactors have concluded that the plants can operate safely, although they say it’s unclear what caused the problem in the first place.

    The External Advisory Committee on Pressure Tubes was convened in the summer of 2021 to help the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission after the discovery of unexpectedly high levels of deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen) in pressure tubes at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, violating the terms of its operating license.

    After two years, the committee agreed with all the conclusions previously arrived at by industry representatives and commission staff.

    In a final report dated July 4 and published without fanfare last month, the committee declared that while “a great deal of work” remains to be done to understand the problem’s cause, “enough has been done by the licensees to definitively provide assurance that the plants can operate safely.”

    The committee included Mark Daymond, a professor at Queen’s University’s engineering and physics departments, and Paul Spekkens, a former employee of Ontario Power Generation. (Its chair, John Luxat of McMaster University, withdrew for health reasons in January.) Their final report is a boon for Bruce Power, which has an application before the CNSC seeking to remove limits in its operating license that its pressure tubes violated more than two years ago.

    Continue reading this article at The Globe and Mail →

  • A River is Not a Radioactive Sewer

    Dr. Gordon Edwards, Media conference presentation,
    New York State, August 23 2023,
    Re: Plans to dump radioactive wastewater into the Hudson River

    In 2017, I was invited to give a talk on the shores of the Hudson River. At that time, I began by saying “The age of nuclear power is winding down, but the age of nuclear waste is just beginning.”


    Well, here we are. Welcome to the brave new world of human-made radioactive waste. It is a toxic legacy that will last for a hundred thousand years and more, because no one knows how to turn off radioactivity. The only thing we can do is keep it out of the environment. Keep it out of the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.


    Chronic exposure to radioactivity is harmful to all living things even in small amounts, causing cancers and other diseases. It also damages the reproductive abilities of all species.

    Continue reading this article at Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility →

  • Atomic Bamboozle: An Industry of Lies

    BY RON JACOBS

    Janice Haaken’s new film Atomic Bamboozle: The False Promise of a Nuclear Renaissance begins with a nuclear engineer stating that if he were “czar of the world,” he would ban nuclear weapons and all other uses with the possible exception of research. That comment is almost immediately followed by an overconfident and smiling former Texas governor and Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, introducing what he calls the millennial brain trust of nuclear energy. The haughty self-assuredness of the young people in this “brain trust” is apparent in their business suits and well-fed faces. This group, Perry tells us, will “make nuclear energy cool again.”

    The film is about what nuclear energy and its supplicant media tell us is a nuclear renaissance. As Attorney Greg Kafoury makes clear, not even two minutes in, this so-called renaissance is nothing but the same old routine where the industry and government pretend they have come up with solutions to the problem of nuclear waste storage. This solution then turns out to be letting future generations deal with it, which is no solution. Like so many other ongoing issues related to climate change and capitalism, Atomic Bamboozle makes it very clear that the pursuit of the dollar trumps all other possibilities.

    Continue reading this article at CounterPunch →