Residents Shocked About Uranium Facility – Demand Closure

December 9th, 2012
submit to reddit Share

For decades, a nuclear fuel fabrication facility has operated on the outskirts of Toronto, Ontario.  Here, in a small industrial area, natural uranium oxide is brought to be compressed into small pellets, which are used for fuel in Canadian nuclear reactors.  The uranium is not enriched, as Canadian nuclear reactors use natural uranium with .7% uranium-235.   The material is identical to what is found in rocks and soil around the world, although it is purified and concentrated.  It’s about as common in the crust of the earth as tin, and, on rare occasions, may be found in a nearly pure oxide form in nature, as the result of geological forces.

No nuclear activities actually go on at the facility and the material does not result in any more radiation than would be found in many rock quarries.  The material is not a radiation hazard and only slightly toxic, considerably less toxic than substances like cadmium or mercury.

The plant also has never been a secret.  Granted, there are no big signs displaying the fact that the product produced on site happens to be uranium, but its operated completely in the open.  Copies of relevant licenses and permits can be obtained from the Canadian government.  Workers at the plant are free to discuss the nature of their employment openly.  If you knocked on the door of the plant and asked whoever came to open it what happens there, they would surely tell you that they make uranium fuel pellets.   There’s absolutely nothing hidden about it.

However, it seems that most in the community were simply unaware that the plant existed or that in this normal looking building uranium was being made into pellets.  They just went about their every day lives presuming that thenondescript building must be doing some non-scary industrial process, like storing large amounts of chlorine gas or hydrofluoric acid.

Until one day someone found out the horrible truth, that had never even been hidden to begin with…

Via the Globe and Mail:

Residents shocked by uranium facility that has been hiding in plain sight

For almost half a century residents of a west-end community in Toronto have lived side-by-side with a uranium processing facility, without ever noticing it. But the years of blissful ignorance have seemingly come to an end and this ‘new’ knowledge of the plant has left many in the community afraid and pushing for change.

In a nondescript, four-floor building on Lansdowne Avenue, just north of Dupont Street, a G.E. Hitachi Canada facility has been turning uranium – found in small amounts in rocks, soil, water and plants – into pellets, to be used in the production of nuclear fuel, for decades. (Uranium, in its natural form, emits low-levels of radiation.)

Information on the plant’s activities, its safety records and up-to-date compliance reports can all be found on the company’s website. Yet most residents had not only had no idea about this information, they didn’t even know it was a uranium plant.

But as word leaked out, the community held four meetings in the last month to raise awareness, soothe fears and figure out what’s next for the neighbourhood. More than 100 people showed up to the latest meeting on Saturday held by local Member of Parliament Andrew Cash, who said the residents “need to get answers.”

Reg McQuaid was at Mr. Cash’s meeting. He has lived with his wife in the Davenport area for over 30 years, at one point living just down the road from the facility. He admitted that he once saw a radiation symbol on the building, but never paid it much attention.

“I was surprised because I had no idea there was anything of that nature there but since it looked like a very ordinary building and I could see no sign of anything I associate with nuclear energy I didn’t pay much attention,” Mr. McQuaid said.

Ignorant no more, residents are demanding the facility be closed or moved, even though the facility has no history of safety issues and still meets the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. It has also received G.E.’s internal Global Star Award twice in the last decade for excellent health and safety performance.

None of that matters to Debbie Medeiros. She has lived a block away from the uranium plant for the last seven years without knowing it existed and now she wants it gone.

Despite the fact the facility has been operating safely unbeknownst to residents, she believes the risk of exposure to radiation is too much.

“It should be further away… they need to relocate,” Ms. Medeiros said.


Via the Star:

West-end residents are looking for answers after they discovered that an unassuming building on Lansdowne Ave. is actually a nuclear facility licensed to produce nearly 2,000 tonnes of radioactive uranium dioxide pellets each year.
The General Electric-Hitachi plant has been processing natural uranium powder into centimetre-long pellets that are assembled into fuel bundles elsewhere for Canada’s nuclear reactors since 1965.

“The shocking thing is that they can be there for so long and keep things so quiet,” said area resident Dawn Withers.

Withers, a mother of four who lives about a five-minute drive from the facility, has helped organize a Nov. 15 community meeting to raise awareness.

She said she and others were caught completely off-guard when an anti-nuclear activist arrived in Toronto several weeks ago to warn them about the plant.

That activist was Zach Ruiter, a 29-year-old Trent University graduate who became known several years ago for his vocal opposition to another GE-Hitachi facility in Peterborough.

Concerned about awareness of the Toronto plant, he decided to door-knock in the Lansdowne and Dupont St. area earlier this fall to alert the community to what he calls an environmental and public health hazard.

“People living close to the plant thought it made air conditioners,” said Ruiter. “I couldn’t find anyone who knew about GE-Hitachi’s uranium processing.”

Surrounded by a chain-link fence, the plant is owned by U.S.-based General Electric-Hitachi and is licensed by Canada’s federal nuclear power regulator.

Public ignorance combined with scary words like “uranium” and “nuclear” always seems to bring out the villagers with pitchforks.

In this case, the facility should absolutely not have to defend its practices or reputation. They were in the community long before most of those demanding they be shut down moved there. They never were a secret and their business is fully legal and complies with all regulations. Citizens the likes of Dawn Withers have only themselves to blame for moving to an area near the facility that terrifies them. Demanding it be shut down is like moving next to an airport and then complaining that its noisy and has to close, forcing travelers to go elsewhere.

None the less, GE/Hitachi has responded to these baseless concerns by trying to be more open about their plant, even inviting the media in to take videos of their operations. I doubt that will actually do much, of course.

A few things people might be scared to find out:

  • There are industrial facilities all over the place, and they are not required to have a billboard outside advertising exactly what they do and what kind of materials are used on the site.   If you have an extreme phobia that there might be something going around near you that involves an especially scary material or process, you should make an effort to actually find out what is going on at such facilities.   It’s not hard.  Most are not secretive.  Google is your friend.   If you don’t actually look up what they do, then don’t complain when you find out that it’s something you are afraid of.
  • If you are really afraid of naturally occurring radioactive material in industry, then I have bad news for you.  There’s probably a place near you that has some on site.  Aircraft facilities routinely have large amounts of depleted uranium on site.  Thorium-based welding rods are extremely common.  Industrial facilities use uranium-shielded x-ray machines all the time.
  • If you find radioactivity scary then this is nothing.  The substances here could be handled with your bare hands.  However, there are extremely dangerous radioisotopes at your local hospital.  The average hospital has enough radioactive material on hand to literally kill you.  It’s so potent some of it will kill flesh on contact.   Yes, they have it at your local hospital.  They may even have some at local clinics you never even noticed.
  • The soil in your back yard, where your kids play and at the school your kids attends contains measurable amounts of uranium.   You can’t get away from it.  Some of the rocks in your back yard do too.  Not only that, but glassware and ceramics with concentrated uranium in them are routinely sold at antique shops and flea markets without any oversight.  You might even own some!
  • If this really scares you, because you fear some kind of industrial accident, then I have bad news: This is absolutely nothing compared to some of the things that you are surrounded by.  Chlorine gas is stored at water treatment plants and transported in large train cars.  These can and have ruptured and when they do, they can kill.  Hydrofluoric acid, chlorine dioxide, hydrazine and other dangerous chemicals are routinely used in industry and they can and have killed if they are released accidentally.  Additionally, natural gas pipeline and propane storage facilities can explode and take out whole neighborhoods.   Part of this is the price of living in an industrial society.   The risks are manageable if proper precautions are taken, but they are there.
  • If you are concerned about “anything associated with nuclear energy” I have more bad news for you – all energy is nuclear.  The universe operates on nuclear energy.  The energy you are using to read this right now came from nuclear energy.   It may have taken a long path from sun to light to glucose to you, but it originated as nuclear energy.

    This entry was posted on Sunday, December 9th, 2012 at 9:41 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Enviornment, Just LAME, Nuclear, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
    View blog reactions



    24 Responses to “Residents Shocked About Uranium Facility – Demand Closure”

    1. 1
      DV82XL Says:

      The only thing these idiots are frightened of is their property values that they think will be depreciated now that the activities of this plant has made the news. The Toronto region is one of the most over heated real estate markets in Canada, and it is long overdue for a correction. Financial observers have been making this point for the last month or so in the media and as a consequence people there are hypersensitive to any news that might affect the price they could ask for their homes and this is probably driving the concern and demands that the plant close.

      What is also clear to me is that this Ruiter knew exactly what I wrote above and timed his door-knock campaign to take full advantage of the fact that folks were on edge.


      Quote Comment
    2. 2
      Ryan Says:

      Seems to me more like this is a case of professional traveling protestors and anti-nukes who make their living going from place to place creating a storm where none exists. After this is milked they will go to the next place to create some controversy to feed off.


      Quote Comment
    3. 3
      Jason C Says:

      I live about 3 miles from a few oil refineries. That’s far enough that I feel safe and I can easily see them from the hills dotting the neighborhood. They’ve been there for 50 years or more and the residents have not moved away. Enough accidents have occurred from these facilities that I’ve lost count. There is indeed an air quality concern to be had from these facilities. Given the choice, I’d prefer the uranium pellet plant any day. The fact that its been so discreet all these years is a bonus. Oil refineries along the waterfront are a huge eyesore.


      Quote Comment
    4. 4
      Nick P. Says:

      Maybe I’m not the most…diplomatic, of people.

      But once, just once I’d like to show up at one of these “ZOMG there’s radiations why won’t someone think of the children get the torches and pitchforks!” meetings with a bag full of the ceramic pellets that go inside of fuel bundles. Then I’d march up in front of all of them, announce what they are, pull a big ole’ heaping handful of them out and proceed to rub them all over my face whilst saying “OH SO RADIOACTIVE, YES THE RADIATIONS ARE SO GOOD YES LET IT SOAK IN MMMM!”


      Quote Comment
    5. 5
      Matte Says:

      “Demanding it be shut down is like moving next to an airport and then complaining that its noisy and has to close, forcing travelers to go elsewhere.”

      Well, yes, true. This is exactly what hapaned to an airport near me a few years back…


      Quote Comment
    6. 6
      Sigivald Says:

      Thorium-based welding rods are extremely common.

      And they sell them in stores – that allow children in them!

      It’s amazing we’re not all dead. Yet. I mean, I suppose we will be eventually.

      Just not because of trifling radiation exposure that rounds to zero.


      Quote Comment
    7. 7
      atheistmorons Says:

      steve,

      we really enjoy your atheist blog

      do a search for depleted cranium on ytube


      Quote Comment
    8. 8
      James Greenidge Says:

      Unbelievable clueless knee-jerk fear! You know, someone ought take a couple of ticking Radon detectors on basement tours through that community and see how many of these folks turn white and fly.

      Man, we need some SERIOUS nuclear education around here!

      James Greenidge
      Queen NY


      Quote Comment
    9. 9
      Douglas Says:

      Greenies are against everything and want to take us back to the Dark Ages.
      NIMBY’s don’t want a new facility X near them.
      I propose a new term – greedies. They move to an area that is cheap because of a nearby industry/activity eg airport. Then they want it closed down and to gain a nice improvement in the property value.
      Hypocrisy rules, OK?


      Quote Comment
    10. 10
      Gordon Says:

      All that this can possibly acomplish is that they might be able to get things bad enough that the politicians will smell blood and jump on and eventually the plant will have to shut down. How does that help anyone?

      Will it help property values? I think not. You replace a well maintained factory with a blighted abandoned industrial building that will grow up with weeds and acquire broken windows and rusted trim. We have enough of those already. It will not make the neighborhood better. You will add to the unemployment of the area and force people out and possibly foreclose homes because you fire everyone who lives there.

      What this nonsense does is it forces the plants to have their fuel manufactured somewhere that won’t encounter these problems. You will end up with a contract going out to a Chinese or Indian or some other country’s firm to make the fuel. There are CANDU reactors overseas and there are fabrication plants there, and you could just pay the ones in India or Romania to make the fuel and import it.

      That would increase the cost (and therefore the cost of electricity) and it would mean more imports and less exports and more money flowing overseas at a time jobs are needed here.

      The same idiots who make it nearly impossible to do anything here will then throw a fit at those who ‘outsourced’ the operation to some location where they can actually make the fuel without being subject to this.


      Quote Comment
    11. 11
      Gooner Says:

      Decent article, I guess. Reporting on someone elses shotty reporting leaves a lot to be desired. You don’t mention that as a part of GE’s 2010 licensed renewal they were obligated to do community consultation. They completed the community consultation 500km away in Ottawa. How do you think that sits with the locals? You also don’t mention that all of the new residential development rests on land once owned by GE. Perhaps GE should would have considered that selling all of the surrounding land for residential development may result in some scrutiny of what they are doing in the backyards of those new residents. It’s easy to sit and judge from the confort of your own radiated office, but consider that there may be more going on than what is reported by the mainstream media and the hippy-dippy media sites.

      Judgy commenters in here are pretty funny though.


      Quote Comment
    12. 12
      skh.pcola Says:

      @Goober: It is “shoddy,” not “shotty.” If you wish to make “decent,” “judgy” comments, you must not appear to be an ignoramus.


      Quote Comment
    13. 13
      you are an idiot Says:

      Just curious if you have legal rights to put these copyrighted images on your site?


      Quote Comment
    14. 14
      Jason C Says:

              you are an idiot said:

      Just curious if you have legal rights to put these copyrighted images on your site?

      You need to be aware of fair use policy before you start calling people idiots.

      Here’s a snippet of the law to educate you:

      the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.


      Quote Comment
    15. 15
      DV82XL Says:

              Gooner said:

      You don’t mention that as a part of GE’s 2010 licensed renewal they were obligated to do community consultation. They completed the community consultation 500km away in Ottawa. How do you think that sits with the locals? You also don’t mention that all of the new residential development rests on land once owned by GE. Perhaps GE should would have considered that selling all of the surrounding land for residential development may result in some scrutiny of what they are doing in the backyards of those new residents.

      Provide references for these statements or be deemed just another lying troll.


      Quote Comment
    16. 16
      Idiot Says:

      Don’t write about what you don’t know.
      Go **** yourself!

      ****ty article!


      Quote Comment
    17. 17
      F.ing Retard Says:

      Move close to an airport and ask that all airplane land inside your fu cking as shole.


      Quote Comment
    18. 18
      DV82XL Says:

              Idiot said:

      Don’t write about what you don’t know.
      Go **** yourself!

      ****ty article!

      The same can be said for these comments. All you are doing is underlining that you have no real argument to make and that hardly is going to convince anyone that you have a legitimate concern that should be taken into account in this matter.


      Quote Comment
    19. 19
      drbuzz0 Says:

              you are an idiot said:

      Just curious if you have legal rights to put these copyrighted images on your site?

      I’m not a lawyer, but my understanding is that this would be fair use, since I’m being critical of the reporting.

      That said, if the copyright holder has a problem, they are free to contact me.


      Quote Comment
    20. 20
      I'mnotreallyhere Says:

              skh.pcola said:

      @Goober: It is “shoddy,” not “shotty.” If you wish to make “decent,” “judgy” comments, you must not appear to be an ignoramus.

      May have been a deliberate mis-spelling of ****ty. I came across it the other day in a text message from a Canadian friend.


      Quote Comment
    21. 21
      John E Says:

      Everything you say might be true and it might be that it ws never hidden but just low profile. Probably nothing will happen and it will be safe, but who knows? Safety should always be number 1 and theres no reason to put it there when there are safer polaces to be. Uranium is still a chemical. So if you have to make it, put it out in the desert. It just makes sense for safety sake to put it some place where it won’t hurt a lot of people it it blows up. It makes no good sense to have anywhere with chemicals or dangerous things near where people are living.

      Thanks


      Quote Comment
    22. 22
      Jason C Says:

              John E said:

      Probably nothing will happen and it will be safe, but who knows?

      Some people do know. And there are a number of things they know that won’t happen. Simply casting doubt because *you* don’t know is not a justifiable reason for the place to shut down or move.

              John E said:

      Safety should always be number 1 and theres no reason to put it there when there are safer polaces to be. Uranium is still a chemical. So if you have to make it, put it out in the desert. It just makes sense for safety sake to put it some place where it won’t hurt a lot of people it it blows up. It makes no good sense to have anywhere with chemicals or dangerous things near where people are living.

      Technically, uranium is an element. It’s doubtful there are any volatile explosive hazards at the facility and accidents can still occur, but without fully knowing what processes are used at the facility neither I or you can speak with authority about it’s potential safety hazard. Maybe that’s worth finding out before making assumptions about things you don’t know about.


      Quote Comment
    23. 23
      Anon Says:

              John E said:

      Safety should always be number 1 and theres no reason to put it there when there are safer polaces to be. Uranium is still a chemical. So if you have to make it, put it out in the desert. It just makes sense for safety sake to put it some place where it won’t hurt a lot of people it it blows up. It makes no good sense to have anywhere with chemicals or dangerous things near where people are living.

      If you’re looking to move dangerous activities to the middle of nowhere (which does have its advantages) there are a lot of things more dangerous than nuclear fuel fabrication that should be moved first.


      Quote Comment
    24. 24
      DV82XL Says:

              John E said:

      Uranium is still a chemical. So if you have to make it, put it out in the desert. It just makes sense for safety sake to put it some place where it won’t hurt a lot of people it it blows up. It makes no good sense to have anywhere with chemicals or dangerous things near where people are living.

      Thanks

      If you had taken the time to look into this before extending an opinion grounded in ignorance you would have found that fuel fabrication is not a chemical process. The only thing that is happening at that plant is that uranium oxide is being pressed into pellets. These pellets are then placed into zirconium tubes, and the tubes subsequently assembled into bundles. All of this is essentially a mechanical process.

      As well because the uranium used to make CANDU fuel is unenriched and solid, it is not physically possible to accidently create a critical event, that is have a situation where there might be a nuclear reaction of any sort occurring.


      Quote Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Current month ye@r day *

    Please copy the string U9T29U to the field below:

    Protected by WP Anti Spam