Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Trash Heap Deadly for 250,000 Years or a Renewable Energy Source?

This article is dated 2009. I wonder if much has changed since it was written. Click here to read the full article or an excerpt below.


This involves immersing the radioactive used rods in helium or some other inert gas and slotting them into a steel container that is further encased in a concrete cask—at a cost of roughly $1 million per cask. The encased rods still manage to emit roughly one millirem of radiation per hour and heat the outside of the 100-plus ton concrete casing to as much as 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).

“These are placed in rows on a concrete pad for stability. They’re essentially out in the air,” says NRC’s McIntyre. “Generally, they are putting them within the controlled area of the reactor site so they are protected under the physical security of the plant.”

Some 9,000 metric tons of spent fuel rods are already stored encased in some 900 such casks—the bulk of them stored vertically in concrete casks but some placed horizontally into concrete bunkers. Their makers—companies like New Jersey-based Holtec International and AREVA’s Transnuclear, Inc.—and the NRC maintain that such dry cask storage will last for at least a century, if not longer. “They’ve had an excellent safety record over the past 22 years they’ve been in use,” McIntyre says. “All signs are that they are safe and secure.”

The other nuclear waste
The U.S. produces as much as 160,000 cubic feet (4,530 cubic meters) of radioactive material from its nuclear power plants annually—a number that spikes higher dramatically when old nuclear plants are decommissioned, such as Maine Yankee in Wiscasset, Me., in 1997. Ranging from workers’ coveralls to water filters, some of this stream of nuclear waste no longer has a place for its disposal either—particularly the highly radioactive materials rated as classes B and C, such as reactor vessel heads. “That stuff has only one place it can go,” says Ralph Andersen, chief health physicist at NEI, “a deep geologic repository,” like Yucca Mountain.

The national nuclear dump in Barnwell, S.C., was closed to shipments of such waste from nuclear power plants in 36 states in July 2008. A new dump in Texas, granted a license by the state this month, will only accept low-level leavings from that state and Vermont, alongside similarly restricted dumps in Utah and Washington State. This has also left users of nuclear products such as hospitals and universities scrambling to find a place to dispose of their radioactive residue.

So now the waste from the majority of reactors on the east coast and Midwest typically sits alongside the spent nuclear fuel in dry casks on-site. In terms of safety, it’s the best that can be done at present.


Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts

The Svalbard ‘doomsday’ seed vault was “suppose to last for eternity.” I have yet to see where the best laid plans made by humans haven’t eventually failed because Mother Nature always wins. Click here to read the full article.


The Svalbard ‘doomsday’ seed vault was built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters


“A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” she told the Guardian. Fortunately, the meltwater did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now at the required storage temperature of -18C.

But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes. “It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said. “We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.”



How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the ‘1 Percent’

Do we need this in Canada or any of the provinces? Click here to read the full article or the pdf file to learn more.


How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the ‘1 Percent’

How long does it take to put a hazardous chemical on Canada’s list of toxic substances?

Too long! Click here to read the full article or an excerpt below.


So far, 11 years and counting. That’s how long government scientists have been working to get a chemical used in rubber tires put on the official list of toxic chemicals under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The process began in 2006 when Ottawa identified 200 high-priority compounds and grouped them into batches for regulatory consideration. BENPAT was one of them.

It’s a compound made up of three chemicals (1,4-Benzenediamine, N,N’-mixed phenyl and tolyl derivatives), which is imported to Canada and added to rubber tires to make them last longer. The compound gets into the environment in two ways: from industrial release and from the abrasion of tires when the rubber hits the road.

Rubber tires

For years, federal government scientists have been working to get a chemical used in rubber tires put on the official list of toxic chemicals. (Shutterstock)

Although no human health risk was established, government scientists determined that BENPAT is a persistent pollutant that is “highly hazardous to aquatic organisms.” In 2011 Environment Canada announced its intention to reduce the release of BENPAT in the environment “to the greatest possible extent.”

But today BENPAT is still not on the list of toxic substances. Just as Ottawa was about to make it official in 2011, Goodyear Canada filed a notice of objection, demanding a review of the environmental assessment process. When the minister refused, Goodyear Canada filed for a judicial review in Federal Court. The company lost on the first try, and then appealed in 2016. On Monday, it lost again, when the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed Goodyear’s appeal.

What happens now? Environment Canada told CBC Health in an email that it is reviewing the Federal Court decision and deciding whether to proceed with putting BENPAT on the toxic substance list.

“We are disappointed in the ruling,” Goodyear Canada spokesperson James Peate told CBC Health in an email. “We will review the decision and consider our options. We take seriously our responsibility to care for our associates, communities and the environment, and our facilities will always comply with applicable regulations.”

“This is an example of the problems that we have with our legislative framework that governs the way toxic chemicals are regulated,” said Muhannad Malas of Environmental Defence. “The issue of timelines has been an issue that for many years we’ve worked to try to improve.”

In June the House of Commons standing committee on environment and sustainable development recommended a series of changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Environmental groups applauded the proposed changes in part because they would tighten timelines of risk management actions, Malas said.



Canadian girls are being taken abroad to undergo female genital mutilation, documents reveal

I’m not surprised at all. This is especially true if you have children with an individual who is an Iranian citizen. My husband was an Iranian refugee and was able to renew his Iranian citizenship. Granted FGM doesn’t happen often in Iran but where there are similar international laws to Iran it could. Without exit controls Canadians are powerless as international passports could be issued by Iran for the child to travel abroad. Canadians get one chance to protect our citizens and after that they are subject to international law which doesn’t always recognize Canadian laws as in the Azer case where 4 Canadian children continue to live in Iran. I’m disgusted at how Canada is unable to protect its most vulnerable citizens, our children. I think it is time Canada form an office of the commissioner for children and young persons initiated by Irwin Cotler in 2015. Click here or on the pdf file to learn more.

BC: Updates to the Medical Services Commission Payment Schedule Commencing April 1, 2015

Click here or on the pdf file to learn more.