Radioactive Wastes - The Questions Multiply
View NetNewsLedger's video of Dr. Edwards' presentation and the Q&A:
The article (below the poster) by Graham Saunders, vice-president of Environment North, was originally published in the Chronicle Journal on April 15, 2023.
Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, is on tour in Northwestern Ontario. There are arranged stops in Kenora, Dryden and Thunder Bay. His presentation is called “Nuclear Wastes – The Questions Multiply”.
Gordon graduated from the University of Toronto in 1961 with a gold medal in Mathematics and Physics and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. He went on to complete two master’s degrees at the University of Chicago and in 1972 he completed a PhD in Mathematics at Queen’s University in Kingston. He has retired from teaching mathematics and science at Vanier College in Montreal.
In the early 1970s Gordon co-founded the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR). His organization began asking questions about the risks associated with nuclear energy.
A key question was and still is, “What about the problem of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors?”.
n addition to his teaching career, Dr. Edwards has been tireless in his efforts to increase awareness among policymakers and the public about the risks of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. He has worked as a consultant and has been invited to testify at hearings and courts throughout Canada, as well as in the USA and abroad.
In spite of the unresolved problem of what to do with nuclear waste, governments have permitted the nuclear industry to continue producing waste for decades.
An unsatisfactory plan to bury radioactive waste near Atikokan was considered in the 1970s and abandoned in the 1980s. Environment North, Gordon Edwards and many others were involved in the opposition to this plan.
Between 1989 and 1998, the Seaborn Panel, an Environmental Assessment Panel chaired by Blair Seaborn, studied the concept of geological disposal for nuclear fuel waste and held public hearings in sixteen communities including Thunder Bay. In their final report to the federal government, the Seaborn Panel had recommended that an organization at arm’s length to the nuclear industry be created to manage the waste and that the board of directors of this organization be appointed by the federal government. However, in 2002 the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was founded by Canada’s three nuclear fuel waste producers including Ontario Power Generation. The board of directors are appointed by these founding members.
The NWMO has been conducting a site selection process over several years and there are two potential sites remaining, the Revell site between Dryden and Ignace, and in South Bruce near Lake Huron. This is déjà vu! Forty years ago, test-drilling for radioactive waste disposal began near Atikokan, south of the currently proposed Revell site.
In 2020, Environment North joined with Northwatch and many others to create the alliance We the Nuclear Free North (WTNFN) which helped to intensify a public awareness campaign of the risks of burial and transportation of nuclear fuel waste.
The NWMO is planning to select a site in 2024. Affected communities must consider the risks of long-lived toxic waste. There is no precedent for making these types of decisions that could impact more than 5,000 generations. It is an important time to be asking critical questions.
What is the best legacy to leave for future generations? Gordon Edwards believes that “rolling stewardship”, carefully managing the waste near its site of production, is best until a better solution is found. This would also eliminate transporting the waste for thousands of kilometres, about 2 loads per day for 50 years, through numerous communities including Thunder Bay.
Environment North is pleased to welcome back Dr. Edwards as the guest speaker at our Annual General Meeting and public presentation on Earth Day, Saturday April 22. He speaks at 4:30 pm in the Castlegreen Community Centre, 213 Castlegreen Drive, Thunder Bay. Everyone is welcome. For details visit www.environmentnorth.ca. For more information about the entire tour visit https://wethenuclearfreenorth.ca/gordon-edwards-tour/
Graham Saunders is a climatologist with Lakehead University, advocate for climate change awareness and vice-president on the board of directors for Environment North — a Thunder Bay-based charitable organization dedicated to environmental protection and education.