18. All states shall prioritize the long-term control and safe storage of radioactive wastes, with public review.

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Rapporteur: Metta Spencer


First, we should clarify what we mean by “radioactive wastes,” as distinct from some risks that are addressed in other planks of this platform.

Radioactivity can cause a lot of human misery. For one thing, under certain circumstances it can explode. Hence we devote planks 1 and 2 to measures intended to prevent the creation of nuclear bombs and certainly their detonation in a nuclear war.

But radioactive substances can also explode, not as bombs, but in nuclear reactors that are meant to generate electricity. So plank 17 focused primarily on the need to prevent nuclear reactors from exploding and melting down.

Finally, even without any explosion, the radiation from fissile elements can damage living cells. Ordinarily we want to avoid contact with radiation, though occasionally physicians deliberately irradiate cancer cells precisely to destroy them. This plank, number 18, will address these non-explosive effects of radioactivity.

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Adam Wynne

Title: 12 Years And Counting: Effort To Lock Hanford’s Radioactive Waste In Glass Faces More Delays Author: Stang, John Publication(s): Crosscut Date: 14 February 2019 Link: https://crosscut.com/2019/11/12-years-and-counting-effort-lock-hanfords-radioactive-waste-glass-faces-more-delays Notes: An interesting article about delays (12 years and counting now) in opening the glass vitrification plants at Hanford in Washington State, USA. There are allegedly issues with under-funding. Article Excerpt: “Already 12 years behind schedule, a project at the Hanford nuclear complex meant to transform millions of gallons of radioactive waste into benign glass faces yet another delay. Since the 1990s, Washington state has been prodding the U.S. Department of Energy to… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Thank you to Evnur Taran for sharing with me this interesting article. Title: The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Site Has Always Been A Political Football. Trump Is The Latest President To Fumble Author: Macfarlane, Allison Publication(s): Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Date: 21 February 2020 Link: https://thebulletin.org/2020/02/the-yucca-mountain-nuclear-waste-site-has-always-been-a-political-football-trump-is-the-latest-president-to-fumble Notes: Discusses the ongoing challenge that the Yucca Mountain site poses – as well as the need for political innovation in the field of nuclear waste management and storage. Article Excerpt: “As with much policy-setting in the Trump administration, a single tweet from the president on February 6 appeared to reverse a previous… Read more »

Adam Wynne

On 3 and 4 March 2020, a two-day public hearing will be taking place regarding the renewal of BWXT’s operating license. BWXT operates two uranium processing plants which are up for licensing review – one in Peterborough ON and one in Toronto ON. Both of these are in increasingly dense residential neighbourhoods. The uranium processing plant in Peterborough ON is across the street from the Prince of Wales Public (Elementary) School and has requested to double the size of the plant via a licensing provision that would allow the Toronto operations to move to Peterborough if the Toronto plant closes… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) recently provided this insightful update on the Deep Geological Disposal projects in Ontario – and subsequently Indigenous responses to these projects. Here is Dr. Edwards statement – which was sent to the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) mailing list on 1 February 2020: “The Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) has voted against Ontario Power Generation’s Deep Geological Disposal (DGR) project, planned to house all of Ontario’s Low and Intermediate Level Waste at a site within a mile of the northwestern shore of Lake Huron. To prevent confusion: there are… Read more »

John Postman

I hope all of you who worry about this are also planning to attend the conference to be held in Toronto on April 28 with 46 visiting Japanese activists. There will be an afternoon session in City Hall , Committee Room One, and there will be an open Zoom window with people calling in from all over the world to discuss nuclear contamination of all sorts.

Adam Wynne

Dr. Gordon Edwards recently shared this article with his Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility mailing list. I thought it would be of interest to this group: Title: Nuclear waste dump proposal has many Ontario First Nations worried – Canada Author: Cory Bilyea Date: 24 January 2020 Link: https://nuclear-news.net/2020/01/29/nuclear-waste-dump-proposal-has-many-ontario-first-nations-worried-canada/ Excerpt: Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is running out of time to find a permanent solution for storing radioactive nuclear waste. Dry storage containers, the current method of storing contaminated items, have a minimum life span of fifty years and is ‘80s technology, according to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a non-profit… Read more »

John Postman

The Ojibway have said no to a proposal to bury low-level waste on their land. What is Plan B?

Adam Wynne

An interesting article from Thomas Nilsen at The Barents Observer [15 March 2018]: Link: https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/ecology/2018/03/russias-arctic-nuclear-dump-may-become-promising-fishing-area Russia’s Arctic Nuclear Dump May Become Promising Fishing Area Excerpts: “Thousands of containers with radioactive waste were dumped in the Kara Sea during Soviet times. Now, Russia’s Federal Agency for Fishing believes it’s a good idea to start fishing. […] “17 ships and barges loaded with radioactive waste are dumped here. So are 17,000 containers with radioactive waste. Even worse, along the east coast of Novaya Zemlya is 16 nuclear reactors dumped, six of them with spent uranium fuel still on board. ” […] According… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An interesting article on the Savannah River site in South Carolina. This plant was critical to the manufacturing of the United States’ hydrogen bombs. Link: https://www.postandcourier.com/news/deadly-legacy-savannah-river-site-near-aiken-one-of-the/article_d325f494-12ff-11e7-9579-6b0721ccae53.html Some excerpts: “That burial ground is where the plant dumped much of its solid radioactive waste at the time, often in cardboard boxes. Radioactive contamination continues to leach from burial trenches into groundwater and periodically the Savannah River despite efforts to cap the trenches and stem the leakage. Plant engineers built a dam to block most of the flow and create a large pond. […] The contaminated pond water is used as irrigation and… Read more »

Adam Wynne

I have heard several interesting reports of types of cat litter being used in fuel storage barrels at nuclear storage repositories. Apparently, certain types of cat litter can be used to assist with containing radioactive products. NPR identifies how “cat litter has been used for years to dispose of nuclear waste. Dump it into a drum of sludge and it will stabilize volatile radioactive chemicals. The litter prevents it from reacting with the environment.” Similarly, World Nuclear News identifies “each barrel of waste disposed of at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) contains around 26 kg of cat litter to… Read more »

Ruth Needham

>strong>Imminent Threat of Uranium Mining in the Grand Canyon By Miranda Green and Rebecca Beitsch, “Democrats Aim to Protect Grand Canyon from ‘Imminent’ Drilling Threat,” The Hill, October 29, 2019. U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) has proposed a bill to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining. Although a 20-year ban was implemented in 2012 to protect the Grand Canyon from mining, Grijalva fears the ban is no longer enough to keep out mining groups. In 2017, President Trump declared uranium to be a key component for national security. Grijalva expects the White House’s Nuclear Fuel Working Group to recommend… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Has there been further research into using high-power lasers to transmute radioactive waste? An article published in 2003 by New Scientist indicated that the Vulcan Laser at the University of Strathclyde had begun researching ways to transmute radioactive waste to reduce its half-lives. Of interest was Iodine 129 with a half-live of 15.7 million years which could be transmuted to Iodine 128 with a half-life of 25 minutes. The laser is the size of a “small hotel” and a million billion watts – producing gamma radiation. One of the concerns is producing enough energy to use the laser to transmute… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An alarming article from 12 July 2018 Angela Bischoff for the Bulletin: “The more than 760,000 spent fuel bundles stored at the Pickering nuclear plant are the legacy of 50 years of reactor operations with no long-term waste management solution in sight. This waste contains dangerous radioactive elements and enough plutonium to construct more than 11,000 nuclear warheads. Laid end-to-end, the radioactive fuel bundles stored at Pickering would stretch from Kingston to St. Catharines. More than half the waste that Ontario Power Generation has been quietly piling up at Pickering nuclear plant is kept in open water pools. One of… Read more »

Adam Wynne

A significant amount of low level radioactive waste was buried less than 150 meters from Lake Ontario near Port Hope. “Share this The Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) represents the Government of Canada’s commitment to the cleanup and safe, local, long-term management of historic low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) in two Southern Ontario municipalities – Port Hope and Clarington. The waste is the result of radium and uranium processing in Port Hope between 1933 and 1988 by the former Crown corporation Eldorado Nuclear Limited and its private-sector predecessors. The PHAI is based on community-recommended solutions for the cleanup and safe long-term… Read more »

Ruth Needham

Canadian Plans for Nuclear Power Emergency
Canada does have some plans in place for situations where a leak or other safety emergency occurred at a nuclear power plant. For example, here is a link to the plans for intervening if something bad happens in the Point Lepreau reactor. (See photo of the reactor.)

Metta Spencer

THE CONVERSATION Sharing Data can Help Prevent Public Health Emergencies in Africa Global collaboration and sharing data on public health emergencies is important to fight the spread of infectious diseases. If scientists and health workers can openly share their data across regions and organisations, countries can be better prepared and respond faster to disease outbreaks. This was the case in with the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Close to 100 scientists, clinicians, health workers and data analysts from around the world worked together to help contain the spread of the disease. But there’s a lack of trust when it… Read more »