Scientific consensus says DGR is best option

The February 17, 2022 Letter to the Editor, titled “The fuller truth on Swedish government’s DGR decision” completely misrepresents the European Parliament’s ‘World Nuclear Waste Report’. 

As a European who attended the launch and met the authors of the Report in Brussels, its conclusions are absolutely clear — geological disposal is the “least worst option” for the long term management of radioactive waste. This is also the position of the German Green Party, one of whose MEPs led the Report.

The fact that there are a small number of scientists who disagree with this conclusion does not mean that there is not an international scientific consensus — consensus does not require unanimity. There are scientists who dispute climate change, vaccinations, and even that the world is round — however there are international scientific consensuses for each of these, which the vast majority of us rightly accept.

Those concerned about burying radioactive waste deep underground seek guarantees which science can never provide. However, they seem to be happy to accept, with no guarantees, that over the next 100,000 years the planet’s surface will remain constant and unchanging, and that humans will never ever make a mistake.

Because there are only two options available to us with to regards radioactive waste — keep it overground on the surface or bury it deep underground. If something goes wrong, it will either go wrong deep underground or overground on the surface.

You don’t need to have a PhD to work out which is the lesser of two evils — radioactivity leaking underground far away from the surface and people, or radioactivity on the surface leaking instantly into the air we breathe, the soil we grow our food in, and the water we drink. But those are our only two choices — hence why the European Parliament and German Green Party conclude that geological disposal is the “least worst option”.

This is not a ‘Canadian’ issue. This is a global environmental issue, with the EU and every major economy, after 40+ years of detailed analysis and discussion, also coming to the same conclusion – that geological disposal is the least worst option. Radioactive waste is an emotive issue wherever you live on this planet, and public concern is completely understandable.  But we do ourselves and our future generations a disservice if we ignore the (like climate change) overwhelming but ever-incomplete evidence, by burying our heads deeper than is planned for the waste.

I have no axe to grind for NWMO, and I certainly do not advocate for more nuclear. But I do believe that if we are to build a greener future, we have an ethical and environmental responsibility to start the process of cleaning up the mess we’ve inherited.

Roy Payne
Executive Director
GDFWatch, UK

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