Published in the June 2006
issue of the Canadian
Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol.27, No.2.
Trump and Triumph
by Jeremy Whitlock
As you know this has been a monumental year for Sceptical Citizens Against Radiation Exposure (SCARE). Our well-organized campaign against Aggro Corp.'s plan to blend slightly-enriched potassium fertilizer at its Port Hope facility resulted in a decision to cancel the project and import the blended fertilizer from SEB (Someone Else's Backyard).
It was SCARE's research that showed that fertilizer is a significant source of radiation exposure: one 25 kg bag of all-purpose (7-7-7) fertilizer contains over 50,000 Becquerels of radioactive potassium! Each Becquerel is a mini nuclear explosion of a single atom.
This is over five times the legal possession of radioactive Potassium without a licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), and that's in each 25 kg bag.
A couple of years ago Aggro Corp. announced plans to import enriched potassium fertilizer (30-40%) from the U.S., to be blended down to slightly-enriched fertilizer (typically 15-20%) in Port Hope. This meant importing tonnes of potassium into our community, next door to our homes and schools: Each tonne of potassium contains over 30 million Becquerels of radioactivity, representing over 3000 times the legal limit without a CNSC licence!
It was SCARE's research that showed how this amount of radioactive potassium, spread as an aerosol, would cause increased cancer rates and birth defects in our region. This is the true cost of living next to the fertilizer industry.
Aggro Corp. tried to argue that such calculations are a misuse of the Linear No-Threshold Theory (LNT), but SCARE's research showed these sorts of calculations to be widely accepted, even in government documents.
Aggro Corp. tried to argue that the formation of potassium aerosols is unlikely, but SCARE uncovered documents revealing not only the pyrophoric nature of powdered potassium metal (related to the form of potassium Aggro would use), but also the fact that the steel containers used to store the fertilizer will, when exposed to oxygen, burn!
It was SCARE's research that raised the spectre of an Oklahoma City-style explosion, caused by the combination of fertilizer and fuel oil. There are many fuel oil depots in the Port Hope area, and Aggro Corp. could not categorically rule out the possible mixing of these two materials under certain conditions.
In fact, SCARE asked so many questions that their very weight brought Aggro's development process to a standstill, and ultimately forced its cancellation.
SCARE has demonstrated that average citizens can have an impact! No amount of scientific argument can stand up to Time, and Time, dear friends, is what we have plenty of.
It also helps to have a very nice website and to get Dr. David Suzuki on board.
Where will SCARE go from here? Certainly not content to rest on our laurels, we will train our sights on other forms of Radioactive Aggression in our community.
Wherever there is a dairy, a beer store, or a grocery store under development, we'll be there. Wherever a house is being constructed or a granite monument being built, we'll be there. These cesspools of Nuclear Negligence will no longer be allowed to fester with impunity in our midst.
A frightening 4000 Becquerels of radioactive potassium are imported within every visitor to our region, and each day billions of Becquerels pass dangerously close by on the 401, the rails, or by ship. A single VIA passenger train alone can transport a million Bequerels past our homes and playgrounds, recklessly stowed in single-hulled steel containers perched on narrow steel tracks - all, we have found, prone to burning when exposed to oxygen.
Nor do we anticipate much solace in the "safety oversight" afforded by government officials, for we've found this cohort to be especially wily in the use of numbers and statistics to counter real public concerns.
It is this faction, for instance, that insists on doubling and tripling the amount of spent nuclear fuel stored in each of our households, claiming that smoke detectors are now "required" on each occupied floor.
A key weapon in our righteous fight is you, our membership. Your abundance is our credibility. Your support is our lifeblood. Please give generously and get your neighbours to sign up. Tell them their life depends on it.
FARE, SEU, CAMECO