Nuclear Wastes: What, Me Worry? (1978 Original)

Canadian Coalition
for Nuclear

Regroupement pour
la surveillance
du nucléaire

Nuclear Wastes:
What, Me Worry?


[ click here for the 1987 Addendum ]

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CCNR: What is it?

The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility was formed in the summer of 1975. By the end of 1977 it represented over 100 citizens' organizations and several thousand individuals across the country, all of whom had serious concerns about Canada's nuclear policies.

During that two-and-a-half year period, CCNR member groups were active in bringing important nuclear-related questions to public attention, as evidenced by their participation in

  • the Cluff Lake Board of Inquiry into
    Uranium Mining in Saskatchewan,

  • the Royal Commission on
    Electric Power Planning in Ontario,

  • the hearings of the Quebec
    Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources,

  • the Prince Edward Island Legislature's "Energy Days",

  • the hearings of the Select Committee
    on Ontario Hydro Affairs,

  • the hearings of the House of Commons Standing Committee
    on National Resources and Public Works, and

  • the federal Environmental Assessment Hearings
    at Elliot Lake and Port Granby.

In all its activities, the CCNR has taken a positive and constructive approach by pointing out that the need for nuclear electricity has been greatly exaggerated and that alternative energy policies can be implemented which will cost less, create more jobs, and give quicker relief to our energy problems.

Since its inception, CCNR has been calling for a full public inquiry into Canadian nuclear power development at the national level, to allow for responsible, informed debate. The Government of Canada has not yet agreed to this very reasonable request, despite the backing of four provincial premiers, two distinguished generals of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Liberal Party's own Policy Committee, the leaders of both major opposition parties, religious leaders of many denominations, and many tens of thousands of Canadian citizens throughout the country.

Since May of 1977, the CCNR has been calling for a moratorium on all nuclear expansion in Canada until serious unresolved questions have been satisfactorily answered, including questions of radioactive waste disposal. During the moratorium period, money which is now slated for nuclear expansion can be diverted into energy-efficient housing, solar heating, industrial cogeneration, and other energy-conserving technologies. The pay-back period for these investments is so short that the money will be still available for re-investment at the end of the moratorium period.

This document provides detailed arguments, based on solid facts, to show why it is foolish to expand the nuclear power program until the waste disposal problem is well in hand.

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The Government Report, EP 77-6: What is it?

In November 1977, the Canadian Department of Energy, Mines and Resources released a special report -- a Green Paper -- entitled "The Management of Canada's Nuclear Wastes" (EMR Report EP 77-6).

The Report concludes that there is an urgent need to demonstrate a method for safely disposing of high-level radioactive wastes produced by nuclear reactors in a permanent and irretrievable fashion.

Recognizing that the safe disposal of these extremely toxic wastes is "essential for public health", the report optimistically concludes that there are "good prospects" for a satisfactory solution to this problem. After thirty years of relative inaction on this problem, Canadian authorities must now address themselves to its solution in a spirit of urgency, without allowing "economic expediency" to interfere.

The report favours the disposal of nuclear wastes underground, in specially excavated rock caverns located at the bottom of a deep shaft. At least two promising sites should be selected by 1983, and one of these should be ready to receive nuclear wastes by 1990 after an exhaustive series of experimental studies have been concluded.

There is no reason why Canada's plans for massive expansion of the nuclear industry should be delayed, says the report, provided that work is begun immediately on solving the waste disposal problem in the manner suggested above. The report does not consider the possibility that the proposed solution might turn out to be unworkable for any reason.

The report was prepared by three men -- A.M. Aikin, J.M. Harrison, and F.K. Hare -- in about three months. The Standing Committee on National Resources and Public Works was asked by the Canadian government to hold hearings on the report, and in January 1978 they called for briefs on the subject form any and all interested parties in Canada.

This brief was prepared in response to that invitation.

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