We Could All Use a Second Look

25 08 2009
From: CTV, 2009

From: CTV, 2009

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. “

– From the film Dead Poets Society

How to Store Nuclear Waste in Canada

24 08 2009
From: ecofriendlymag, 2009

From: ecofriendlymag, 2009

Community resistance to hosting public need facilities such as power plants and landfills is nothing new. Governments historically have gone into communities and imposed these public need facilities on helpless citizens. Sometimes governments succeed in stifling community opposition but in other cases, communities band together to reject the proposal as was the case with the European and American multi-billion dollar nuclear waste storage plan. The same will likely apply to the storage of nuclear waste in Canada. Or will it?

The Canadian Government has opted to address the storage of nuclear waste by working with the public. On behalf of the Canadian Government, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was tasked with developing a site choosing process which will comprise of two major components: a willing host community and a good geological site with a steady rock formation where groundwater is not easily available. NWMO is working with organizations and individuals on important principles and elements for a fair process to identify an informed and willing community to host the storage facilities.  Interested communities are invited to volunteer themselves as a potential host community. It seems that the Canadian Government is willing to cooperate and ask rather than tell. Additionally, the Canadian Government has asked NWMO to work with the host community for 8 to 10 years to discuss concerns and issues regarding storage of nuclear waste.

An aside: Canada has more than two million high-level radioactive bundles of nuclear waste that needs to be stored for approximately 10 000 years. It will cost between 16 and 24 billion dollars just to construct the storage facility. While ample research has been done to ensure safe storage of nuclear waste no one really knows what will happen within the next 10 000 years, or even the next 100 years for that matter. So who should bear the potential unknown risks of storing nuclear waste? While the Canadian Government is putting emphasis on identifying a willing host, aboriginal communities appear to be targeted. NWMO has specifically identified aboriginal consultations as a separate component of implementing a nuclear waste storage plan. Is this a good thing? Are we honourably trying to better educate and consult with aboriginals? Or are we simply trying to entice certain communities who are in desperate need of money and job opportunities? Both of which will be made available to communities who host nuclear waste. Just a thought to consider…



Thanks to Sarah English for contributing

Carbon Capture: The Questions & Issues

6 07 2009
From: Stanford University, 2007

From: Stanford University, 2007

It’s time I talk about this issue. We’ve heard our Western World politicians go on and on about ‘clean coal’ and carbon capture and how it is in our best interest to pursue such technology in order to save the world from global warming. There are a LOT of things they don’t tell you about. Here are some huge issues – issues which I believe have only one answer: put the money into renewables.

  1. Same questions as Nuclear – If large concentrations of carbon dioxide are unsafe at ground level and in our atmosphere, what makes them safe underground? Storing our carbon gases beneath the earth raises the same questions as storing our nuclear waste beneath the earth. We don’t reallyknow what will happen in the future. The earth is incredibly porous. Much of our drinking water comes from aquifers buried deep beneath our land. Can you see the potential problems?
  2. Costs – The cost of researching and implementing this technology is unknown. It is certain to be very high and we hdon’t really know how much it could actually cost to do successfuly. Alberta, Canada has pledged $2 billion just for research into this technology. I’m sure that $2 billion would go a long way to improving the efficiencies of wind, solar, and tidal power.
  3. From: Greenpeace, 2009
    From: Greenpeace, 2009

    Coal is dirty at all stages –



    Even if we successfuly capture the carbon and store it safely, coal mining is an environmentally unsustainable practice, detroying thousands of acres of ecosystems and mountaintops. This affects our watersheds, which in turn affect all that we do.

  4. Coal is not renewable – This one is obvious. Eventually there will be no coal if we continue on in this manner. Why continue to prolong the shift to renewables?
  5. Human Error – This may be a more often overlooked issue. The transportation of carbon will be through pipelines over many many miles of land. These pipelines will inevitably be located near human and animal populations and we should all know, that pipelines are prone to bursting due to poor construction or poor maintenance, or due to attacks by terrorists, activists, militants, you name it. The explosion of a pipeline filled with concentrated carbon will not have a welcome effect on its surroundings.
  6. An Excuse – Carbon capture is an excuse to continue with business as usual rather than focusing our efforts on more sustainable technologies right now.

There are so many websites and resources that look at both sides of this issue. You can look it up yourself but I assure you that you will face this question. Do we seek a way to continue on with the cheap but dirty burning of coal to protect todays mining industry and keep our heating costs down this year, or do we invest in renewables, which may costs a few cents / kWh more at the moment, but will be necessary in the future anyways?