Hyer’s nuclear road show part 2 of 3

On March 21, 2014 Bruce Hyer had a public (45 attendees) to discuss his concerns with the current nuclear waste repository site selection here in NW Ontario. A number of great questions were asked and this is a continuation of the question/answers as provided by the NWMO representative as well as my own observations/opinions in italics.

Another topic that has been recurring has been the small earthquakes experienced in the region – a recent 2.3 earthquake in 2013 “rattled” quite a few people it seems. As a geologist I am actually quite in my right to comment (and I have https://mybackyard.ca/surviving-the-great-earthquake/).

We DO NOT live in a geologically active area – we are in the middle of the Canadian shield, some of the most stable, non-active rocks on earth. Other than erosion not much has happened to the rocks here in a very long time (Billions of years in some areas, hundreds of millions in the “newest” areas).

Small micro quakes occur every so often in the region as a direct result of glaciers during the last glaciation period. They pushed the crust down, now that the ice is gone (8000 years later), the crust is still “rebounding” or pushing back up. This will continue for some time. The resulting quakes are tiny in comparison, Nothing larger than what may be caused by a train driving through town. But what if a big one comes?

Although I don’t know exactly how big of an earthquake a nuclear waste depository could withstand, its very construction and direct connection within the rock itself implies likely a category 9 or better. A category 2  earthquake is equivalent to 15kg of TNT being detonated, a magnitude 9 is equivalent to 480,000,000,000 kg of TNT. A mag. 9 Earthquake would mean total destruction and the only way something like this happening here in NW Ontario would be a meteor or comet impact. At which point nuclear waste would be the least of our problems.

A third major issue permeated the meeting as well – that of water. The potential for nuclear waste to pollute the great lakes watershed. This probably the most important issue with housing a nuclear waste repository in NW Ontario  as a whole.  I will not comment on this as there is ample information in regards to nuclear waste in water (spent nuclear waste is held in ponds of water, around which you can walk with no protective clothing at all. In general radiation stays with the source of the radiation and cannot penetrate water easily and for very far. Understanding the way radiation behaves in water, as well as the geology of the site selection coupled with the multiple engineered containment systems are the important factors in the water issues.

Some of the other questions brought up in regards to the transportation of waste through our region (No matter where the repository goes, nuclear waste will come through NW Ontario). I do know that nuclear waste has been transported in Europe for decades, with no single incident of a transportation pod breaking or releasing its cargo.

The transportation of nuclear waste occurs on highways or by train and the nuclear waste is encased in an engineered “flask”. These are multi-barrier encasement systems designed to withstand even the harshest of any accident related damage imaginable. They have undergone rigorous tests, they have had 160km/h trains smash into them, they have been exposed to intense fire, dropped from large heights, They try to break these things. One thing I can admit I am not concerned about is the transportation aspect. I am much more concerned of the oil/gas on trains going through the center of my town everyday.

Google: Operation Smash Hit (1984) for an interesting video from 1984 on the subject.

In addition to the physical concerns expressed, there is definitely an opinion that “We didn’t make or benefit from the nuclear waste so why put it here?”.


Well if you live in Canada or have lived in Canada in the last few decades, you have benefitted from Nuclear power. How may you ask? Well electrical power in Ontario today is over 50% nuclear generated. The biggest usage of electricity is by far industrial/manufacturing. Nearly 40% of Canada’s population lives in Ontario (over 50% when you add in Quebec). Canada’s economy coast to coast is intertwined. Everyone buys/deals and does business with someone directly or indirectly  tied to Ontario. Since we all live in this country, we have all benefited from nuclear power. Maybe it doesn’t run our lights, but it did help build that car in the driveway, or powers those great office towers where our financial wealth comes from. Nuclear power, if it disappeared tomorrow would not be a good thing. Imagine 40-50% of our population without enough power for lights, heat….

So yes, we have all benefited from Nuclear power and morally we as peoples of Canada need to be involved in the solution.


For More information:

www.nwmo.ca: All the technical information you could want

Visit the local community CLC offices (funded by NWMO, operated by the towns) and websites for more questions and answers.


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