6 ̶ Monitor Schmonitor
Okay. I have found out what will be monitored at the site of the deep geological repository. Here is the list:
1 – Groundwater;
2 – Surface water;
3 – Air quality (above and below ground);
4 – Temperature;
5 – Excavation stability;
6 – Seismic and vibration;
7 – Radiation;
8 – Chemistry; and
9 – Meteorology.
No metrics, no measurable limits of what will and will not be tolerated. Just the list.
Groundwater: There’s not supposed to be any groundwater present, remember? How soon we forget. Some sensible scientist is anticipating the incursion of groundwater. Good on him. So, what happens then?
Surface water: What’s this about? Every hole, every shaft is sealed up. There is supposed to be not a single fracture in the rock (good fairy tale, that). What will they do? Hold an umbrella over the port of entry?
Air quality: Above ground? What’s that about? Below ground? Unless a miner or worker gets trapped in a tunnel that’s sealed up, what’s that about?
Temperature: Now we’re talking. Used nuclear fuel (i.e., waste) gives off heat. That deep repository’s ventilation shaft will be plugged permanently. Heat is bound to build up underground. So, what is the acceptable level of heat? 100 degrees Celsius? 300? 600?
Suppose, just suppose, it is 300 degrees C. What if the temperature hovers around 298 for a year? For a century? For a hundred thousand years? What is the plan? Sink another ventilation shaft? Retrieve the used fuel? No, no, not that. That waste will never be retrieved. That’s the plan. What if the temperature is 600 degrees? Same plan. No retrieval and relocation, because that is the plan. There’s no safer place to put it anyway, so we’re told.
Excavation stability: When a roof collapses, what is the plan? Evacuate all contents?
Seismic and vibration: An earthquake. Lord knows what will be happening deep down there. So . . . fuhgeddaboutit.
Radiation: Oops. If there’s radiation, something’s gone wrong. How wrong can it be before someone does something about it? We need metrics.
Chemistry: Yep, those bundles are chemically toxic. Gonna have to do something if chemicals get into the groundwater. Okay, there should be no groundwater. But . . . there will be groundwater. So . . . sue the engineers . . . who died a hundred thousand years ago.
Meteorology: Weather. Climate change. Not sure what this means. Or how it will affect the repository. Maybe this is a reference to “a glacial event”.
Now, for the 40 years of on-site operation (when the repository is being filled), there will be monitoring. That period is followed by 70 years of more monitoring when the repository is partially sealed. That is followed by 30 years of decommissioning when the repository is permanently closed and sealed.
And if anything should go wrong during this 140-year period, what will be done? And who will make the decision? Who will be the supervisor who will say, Okay, folks, back to square one? Got to get down and dirty and dig it all up. That’s 16 billion dollars down the drain, but the Harper government will find that cash somewhere, after it erases the deficit. Who will say that?
What is the postclosure plan? Here’s where the experts get creative. They will drill a borehole and drop a monitoring device down the hole with “a long-lived battery and data logger”. No information on how deep this hole will be, but it is safe to assume that it will not be 500 metres deep. Then the hole will be sealed. “After a period of time, the borehole is drilled, and the monitor and data logger removed for analysis.”
Okay, some of the values will be monitored (maybe groundwater, temperature, and radiation) at that particular point in the geological formation. But, what’s happening a few metres over? Or under the repository? Monitoring may have to be “adapted”. That’s a favourite word of NWMO. When one encounters a problem, adapt. Which means, back to the drawing board. Start from scratch? As if.
Again, that . . . supervisor (excuse me, I almost said “sucker”) with the responsibility of saying “Dig it all up, guys!” will have to be wearing armour . . . like Batman. That’s when the politicians and the bureaucrats will be saying, “Hey, those guys back in the Age of Idealism, they set the limits too high. Let’s be realistic!”
That will be the day when “passive monitoring”, as NWMO calls it, will become “no meaningful monitoring”. Which it was all along anyway.
Where does that leave us today? It leaves us with 4+ million tonnes of nuclear waste from our nuclear generating plants. I found one line that said 4.6 million tonnes. That’s just from the existing plants, and the planned expansions to those plants. This does not account for any new plants that may come on line.
We have to have a plan to deal with this mountain of waste on a long-term basis.
Fortunately, my brief study of this problem has enabled me to formulate a plan.