Expert worries about burying nuclear waste

An expert on radioactive waste spoke with the South Bruce Community Liaison Committee which is studying Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear waste.

A release from the CLC reported Dr. Gordon Edwards told the group there are problems and concerns with the storage of nuclear waste in a DGR. He suggested that nuclear waste should not be buried or reprocessed without considering the consequences.

He says it is important to consider how the project would impact the community it is in, and what control that community has over the plans.

About 140 members of the public also joined last night’s virtual meeting, with one resident asking if Dr. Edwards considered it safer to place the spent fuel in a repository where it does not need to be actively managed.

Dr. Edwards stated that his concern is with the abandonment of nuclear waste in a DGR and that he believes burying the waste is convenient for the industry and for the society, but that it doesn’t solve any of the problems.

“If we say yes to NWMO’s plan, will we have control over the plans afterwards or is it a blank cheque?” he added.

Dr. Edwards was a Professor of Science and Human Affairs at Concordia University.   Dr. Edwards is currently the President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. He  has been active on issues surrounding radioactive waste for over forty-five years. Dr. Edwards has given workshops as well as expert testimony around the world on this subject. He has presented to other Community Liaison Committees previously, and was requested as a speaker by South Bruce community members earlier in the year.

With an accompanying slideshow, Dr. Edwards began his presentation giving an overview of several components in relation to nuclear waste before it is stored. He defined elements of radioactivity and used fuel bundles, discussed transportation of used fuel and the repackaging process, and the functioning of a CANDU reactor.  Dr. Edwards also spoke to impact of various radioactive materials on humans, plutonium
in particular. He explained that with the danger of plutonium – being used in atomic bombs – there is also an opportunity, insofar as that it may be used as a nuclear fuel and could be reprocessed in the future.

He identified three stages pertaining to nuclear waste – Denial, that nuclear energy is clean, then Pragmatism, being that there is a solution to bury and forget, and finally Realism, that we cannot afford to forget it. Dr. Edwards believes that we are currently in this third stage.