Celebrations were not limited to Mosaic Stadium, sports bars and residents’ homes at Regina, the host city. Some enthusiastic fans at Maple Creek took to the streets after the game and shared their joy with us and the rest of the town. The 101st Grey Cup truly was a game to remember for all the right reasons as Kory Sheets set a championship record by rushing 197 yards to smash a 156-yard record. Several Saskatchewan-born players also made big contributions. All in all, Nov. 24 was a happy day in all of Saskatchewan and Rider Nation.
I was also reading in the Leader-Post that the mayor of Creighton is celebrating, but for a different reason. The town has been short-listed as a possible site for a nuclear waste facility and the mayor is overjoyed. He is thrilled about the economic benefits that constructing and manning a federal underground waste site will create. As for me, I am not sure that having any type of highly-toxic waste site near a person’s home or town is a positive characteristic. Over the long run, I believe a toxic dump near a town will not add value to property. I suspect housing values will actually decrease as they did at Love Canal after it was discovered that houses had been built over a toxic waste dump site. Houses became liabilities and they had no resale value due to the waste that was seeping out of the ground and causing serious health problems in humans.
Who wants a garbage dump in their backyard or under the basement of their house, especially if it contains hazardous chemicals? Even worse is nuclear waste because it remains radioactive for thousands of years and poses a long-term threat for many, many generations. For example, byproducts such as iodine-129 has a half-life 15.7 million years and technetium-99 has a half-life 220,000 years. More troublesome are neptunium-237 and plutonium-239 that have half-lives of 220,000 years and 24,000 years.
Depending on the type of waste being stored, it will present storage and containment challenges for a minimum of 10,000 years and may extend into the future for millions of years. Practical studies involving effective planning and costs have only dealt with time frames up to 100 years which is a drop in the bucket compared to the rate of radioactive decay for nuclear waste. The most practical scenario for waste disposal is the old standby method of putting it out of sight by sealing it in deep caverns underground. Out of sight – out of mind, until radioactive waste begins to leach out in ground water many generations after our bodies have been reduced to dust.
I was reading about the slow and very dangerous clean-up of the Japanese nuclear reactors that were damaged by a tsunami in March 2011. Now, more than one-and-a-half years later, workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant were finally able to begin the slow and critical task of removing the nuclear fuel rods from one of the damaged reactors. It was off-line at the time of the disaster and its core did not melt down, so it will likely be the easiest unit to decommission. It is estimated that the process of removing its 1,500 sets of fuel rods will not be completed until the end of 2014, and simply storing the fuel rods will pose a major safety risk. It was one of three reactors that were not running at the time of the tsunami. The other three reactors will pose far more difficult challenges. The entire decommissioning process is expected to take 30 to 40 years. That makes a chemical spill – many of which cannot be cleaned up due to the vast size they cover – seem almost insignificant in comparison.
On the positive side, the creation of a nuclear waste facility at Creighton will definitely create local employment which is always an issue, especially in northern communities. Creighton is approximately 500 kms northeast of Saskatoon. After the construction boom is over, employment levels will decrease as only storage, maintenance and administrative workers will have to remain on site. However, just wait a few thousand years or until a natural disaster such strikes and it may then again offer massive employment opportunities. The problem is no one will want to work in such a toxic environment due to the long-term effects radiation has on living tissue.
As far as I am concerned, Creighton is far too close to me to be a safe nuclear waste site.