Public's fear of radiation big hurdle: professor

TIMES-REFORMER: Monte Sonnenberg, - November 25, 2008

A radiation specialist will be a key player in a series of open houses related to the proposed construction of two nuclear reactors in Nanticoke.

Bruce Power recently hired Doug Boreham, a former professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, as its senior environmental scientist. He will answer questions about nuclear power at upcoming open houses in Simcoe, Jarvis, Port Dover and Cayuga.

"One of the biggest obstacles we have to overcome on these projects are people's fears of radiation," Boreham said yesterday. "What is the effect on me? What is the effect on my children? What are the effects on future generations? One of my main functions in this process is to dispel the fears people have about radiation."

Boreham and Duncan Moffett, the principal of Golder Associates, gave Haldimand council an overview yesterday of the environmental assessment now underway regarding a possible nuclear installation in Nanticoke. The pair are expected to make the same presentation tonight at Norfolk council.

The open houses scheduled for Dec. 1-4 will provide Bruce Power with an opportunity to introduce itself to the community. Experts on nuclear power will be on hand to address questions and concerns residents might have.

Questions on this subject tend to repeat themselves. As an example, an issue that has dogged the nuclear industry from the outset is the belief that nuclear waste remains highly toxic for as long as 250,000 years.

That, Boreham said, is not true. After 200 years, he said, a person would have to stand in the presence of a spent fuel rod for one hour to absorb as much radioactivity as is delivered by a standard CT scan.

Boreham added that advances have been made in recent years in recycling fuel rods. The industry one day hopes to extract all available energy from these bundles, leaving little if any waste behind.

Boreham and Moffett heard yesterday that a plant in Nanticoke may be an issue for Dunnville. The town is down current from the proposed site and draws its drinking water from Lake Erie.

Nuclear reactors use large amounts of water and discharge trace amounts of radioactive tritium in their effluent. The International Congress on Radiation Protection has set the safe limit for these emissions at 7,500 becquerels.

The amount of tritium released into Lake Huron at Bruce Power's plant in Tiverton averages about 50 becquerels, which is nothing compared to the amount of natural radiation in the environment generated by the sun, stars and radioactive materials in the earth. Moffett said Bruce Power is considering a design for the Nanticoke project that discharges no effluent into Lake Erie.

Boreham said another popular misconception suggests that employees of nuclear plants, over the course of their careers, are exposed to unsafe levels of radiation. Not true, he said. Airline pilots and stewardesses, he said, are exposed to radiation levels 50 to 100 times more intense due to the altitudes they work at.

Moffett added that nuclear power should be the choice of those who wish to minimize their carbon footprint.

"If you were to get all your electricity from one of these reactors, your share of waste over a lifetime would fit in a pop can," he said. "If you got all of your electricity over your lifetime from coal, your waste would fit into four dump trucks."

Moffett has participated in environmental assessments for 30 years. He said "Nanticoke looks like one of the best possible sites for a power plant" because it is remote, close to a large body of water and located at the entry point of a major transmission corridor.

The first open house will be held at the Lions Community Centre in Port Dover Dec. 1. The Lions Community Centre in Jarvis is up next Dec. 2. On Dec. 3, the Simcoe Recreation Centre plays host. On Dec. 4, the event moves to the Kinsmen Centre in downtown Cayuga. Each event starts at 3 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m.

Article ID# 1314336

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