Findings on High-Level Radioactive Waste

Canadian Coalition
for Nuclear

Regroupement pour
la surveillance
du nucléaire

Findings on
High-Level Radioactive Waste

Verbatim Quotations from Official Documents

prepared by G. Edwards 1996

Excerpts from

Excerpts from:

A Race Against Time
Interim Report on Nuclear Power

Ontario Royal Commission on Electric Power Planning
~ commonly known as the Porter Commission Report ~

Toronto, September 1978.

from A Race Against Time, pp. 73 - 76:

  • The Committee recommends  [Recommendation VIII]  that in the selection of a site for demonstration leading to the emplacement of nuclear wastes, community involvement should include those people that feel affected by the decision. All citizens should:

    • have the right to be fully informed about the exact nature of the waste disposal program including any and all risks associated with it;

    • have an opportunity to ask questions on a regular basis of responsible officials relating to any aspect of the entire program;

    • have the right to express points of view to an independent decision-making body responsible for protecting public health and safety.

    The decision making body will hold public hearings in the areas of the province most directly affected by the demonstration and operation of the repository.

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    Excerpts from:

    "Moral and Ethical Issues Related to
    the Nuclear Fuel Waste Disposal Concept"

    Report of a two-day workshop
    conducted by Hardy Stevenson and Associates

    for the AECL Environmental Review Office.
    Whiteshell Nuclear Research Laboratories

    Pinawa, Manitoba, 1991.

    from Moral and Ethical Issues: an AECL Workshop

  • Credibility and trust must be considered vitally important principles when looking at the nuclear waste decision-making process. One dimension of this comes out in the suggestion that the word "proponent" is an unfortunate one for AECL because it suggests that they are advocating a proposal that is not only technically feasible, but something "that ought to be done." It is generally agreed that a combination of legitimate scientific expertise and a mix of other (i.e. non-technical) elements is required in the decision-making process.

    There is general agreement that there is a high level of public distrust about the nuclear energy program, and a lack of public faith in institutions such as AECL. This presents a real problem for these organizations; e.g. an AECB regulation does not provide reassurance to the public -- on the contrary, it invites mistrust. (p. 11)

  • The credibility of scientific studies is also an issue for many. For instance, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), from the point of view of non-scientific "outsiders" and scientists who are critical of the nuclear option, is a group of "insiders". Within the scientific culture they may well be helpful to the evaluation process, but they "participate in the same culture." It is important to recognize that, for some, independent scientists named by learned societies are not perceived as being independent.

    AECL, AECB, and Ontario Hydro have to look at the steps necessary to broaden the discussion about nuclear fuel waste disposal. In order to preserve the credibility of those who will be initiating the discussion, the community has to be deeply engaged and feel that they have control -- they must not be made to feel that anything is being hidden. The involvement of a neutral third party (i.e. non-governmental, non-proponent) could be very important here. (p. 11)

  • There is a plea for flexibility with regard to the future. With respect to a permanent nuclear fuel waste disposal facility, future generations should have the possibility of rethinking and redoing what has already been done. This too may have some linkages to uncertainty -- if we were absolutely certain, then this waste could just be sealed away and forgotten, and that would be the end of it. (p. 13)

  • It is stated that "everyone knows very well that the waste will not be disposed of in a built-up area -- it will be in a remote location." It is therefore important to get information about the nuclear fuel waste disposal concept to the native populations, because, in the absence of information, they would likely resist the program to the best of their ability. (p. 15)

  • It is widely recognized that there exists a crucial difference between "informed consent" seen as a process incorporating genuine openness, and "persuasion", which suggests that we already know what is right. The results of the Canadian Nuclear Fuel Waste Management Program should indicate either that AECL feels it has a feasible proposition for which it should seek consent, or that it is willing to participate in developing some other option.

    If those presenting the concept suggest that their minds are already made up, then they are not engaging in informed consent based upon reasoned discourse, but rather in a subtle form of persuasion. (p. 16)

  • In dealing with disadvantaged groups, the issues of compensation and informed consent become somewhat complicated. We cannot "buy consent" if people are in dire circumstances; it is not "genuinely given consent" if individuals do something for a desperately needed immediate benefit; e.g. the poor selling their organs for transplant. (p. 20).

  • It is suggested that, from a humanist perspective, the technological view that a permanent solution can be found has some serious problems. It almost goes against the "essence of life", by trying to shape things into a rigid structure.

    With reference to the disposal concept, we cannot think that we have done a perfect job, seal it, and forget about it. We must remember our responsibility to future generations. They must be able to repair the facility, for instance, because the only thing we know for sure about human beings is that they make mistakes. (p. 21)

  • It is recognized that native groups have a tendency to worry much more about the implications for future generations, and generally tend to act in a stewardship role. They believe that there is no such thing as solving a problem permanently, because in solving one problem we create another. Science has continued to "interfere with nature" and continues to create problems, and mankind is never happy to use what nature has provided, prudently and conservatively.

    With regard to the future, has science considered the consequences? We must not forget that the Egyptian pharaohs were supposed to be entombed until the end of time, and that there is no such thing as indestructibility -- that "nothing man-made lasts forever." (p. 21)

  • We need to recognize that there is a level of "dread and distrust" about the kinds of things nuclear energy organizations do. Indeed, these issues take on an almost mythological status in general society, and it is very important that we realize this.

    Moreover, not all the currents of public opinion are represented in the workshop and we would be wise not to forget this. There exists a body of opinion that . . . waste should be stored and monitored. This view was not represented at the workshop, but should be considered. (p. 21)

  • Recommendation #1: It is recommended that AECL shift the emphasis, in its presentation of the nuclear fuel waste disposal concept, from that which implies they have the answer to that which implies they have a proposal worthy of careful consideration. The nuclear fuel waste disposal concept might be characterized as a "good course of action" rather than as the solution. (p. 24)

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