Press Release - For Open Distribution
Shepherd's Decades Long Struggle with Nuclear PlantInverhuron Farmer/Businessman Speaks Out
To the Editor: Please excuse the length of this press release. It does, however, contain elements of a story which has evolved over 30 years and, thus, requires some detail. Its implications are far ranging. A second version of this story, with more and different detail, can be read by clicking on this link.
INVERHURON, Ontario – December 29, 2002: Eugene Bourgeois is “tired of the games. I want some simple steps taken to help keep us from harm.” The Inverhuron, Ontario sheep farmer and entrepreneur and his family have been in an ongoing dispute with his next-door neighbour, the Bruce Nuclear Generation Station, its regulators and government agencies for nearly two decades.
The “games” started in May of 1985 when what Bourgeois describes as “a pocket of colourless, odourless gas
descended from out of the blue on two occasions, causing serious long term illness. Similar and considerably
more damaging incidents have occurred over the years since.”
The effects on Bourgeois' health, that of his family and his sheep are summarized in this press release and well
documented by scientific and medical experts. Most of this evidence was entered into public record during Mr.
Bourgeois successful 1997 appeal hearing before the Ontario Ministry of Finance Assessment Review Board
(ARB). (The ARB arbitrates property tax disputes between residents and the provincial body that administers
these values. In many cases, disputes arise with respect to the proximity of a property to an environmental risk,
of which the purchaser was unaware at the time of purchase.) Bourgeois’ presentation to the hearing can be
read by clicking on this link , and includes references to documents which he submitted as exhibits to the hearing. These documents are all on file with Bourgeois, at the Bruce Centre and/or the ARB offices.
In ruling in Bourgeois favour, the ARB acknowledged that Ontario Hydro, the Ontario Ministry of Energy and
Environment (MOEE, now Ministry of Environment - MOE) and the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB,
now Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission - CNSC) had long known the risks and hazards posed by flare
stack emissions from a heavy water plant at the Bruce nuclear site.
The first stage of Bruce Heavy Water Plant A (BHWP “A”) was completed as the Bourgeois family bought their farm in 1974. BHWP went into full operation in 1976. None of the responsible agencies warned Bourgeois or his neighbours about documented risks of living near such a facility. But authorities did close the Inverhuron Provincial Park adjacent to the Bourgeois farm to overnight camping. And a little known 8 mile "exclusion zone" (later reduced to 8 km) had been put in place some years previously; property owners living inside the zone were restricted to one residence per property. Hydro bought out many owners and tore down structures. Even then, Bourgeois contends that no one inside the zone was given knowledge of the real risks of living near the BHWP.
The risks of living near a heavy water plant were clearly demonstrated in siting guideline documents prepared
years earlier for agencies such as AECB. In later years, Hydro, AECB and MOE each referenced the
guidelines in their own documents, which Bourgeois and his staff unearthed prior to the 1997 ARB hearing.
And so, what irks the sheep farmer even more than the gassing incidents themselves is that "even with the
evidence in their own documents, even after the minimal actions they took in the 70's based on the risk, even
after the ARB ruling five and a half year ago, CNSC, MOE and Bruce Power continue to hold to the pretense
that the events which caused and are causing our illness are a mystery”
The TIBL Effect
Bourgeois' complaint centers on what happens when gasses vented from the Bruce nuclear facility intersect with
local weather phenomena, such as the Thermal Internal Boundary Layer (TIBL). According to meteorological
experts from Cornell University who studied the phenomena around Inverhuron, the TIBL acts like a ceiling over
an area around the plant. Gasses emitted at the nuclear facility rise to the ceiling and are carried down to ground
level by the TIBL effect, where they drift about in pockets until they are dispersed by air currents.
During certain times of the year, the TIBL is more likely to be in place. "For some reason," says Bourgeois, "the
plant seems to like those times of year to conduct tests or vent gas."
In the 80's and 90's, hydrogen sulphide was among the gasses vented from the flare stacks of the Bruce Heavy
Water Plant. Medical studies of Bourgeois by McMaster University indicate the symptoms experienced by the
farmer are consistent with contact with that gas.
The BHWP was mothballed in 1997. “But recently,” says Bourgeois, “fumes from substances used in test burns
during fire drills at the nuclear site seem to be landing here.”
Bruce Power conducted a test burn and fire drill on August 29, 2002. At the Philosopher’s Wool store on the
Bourgeois farm, family members, staff and customers present at the time experienced sore throats, headaches
and nausea . "Our customers left and I'm sure they had tales to tell to friends. This fumigation doesn't help our
business much," said Bourgeois.
He communicated with Bruce Power officials right after the incident. “A plant public relations person told me
that the gas had probably come from construction on Highway 21, 3 miles to the east. The prevailing wind was
westerly," Bourgeois points out. "The construction occurred east of the area of the TIBL effect. I find it hard to
believe that gas blew around the world and back onto my farm in that instant."
Bourgeois tried to enlist the help of the Ministry of Environment. After exchanging a series of letters with the
agency, an MOE representative wrote, "As I mentioned in my previous correspondence to you, the operation
may not cause an adverse effect under our legislation." Bourgeois shakes his head. "What is that supposed to
mean? That what happened didn't happen because its not supposed to have happened? The event occurred in
August of 2002 and no action has been taken yet!"
Bruce Power plant management has said it will send men out with instruments to test the air the next time it plans
a test burn. "But how are they are going to predict where to stand in order to measure the grayish tendrils of
Tekflame gas which fall beneath the TIBL? This changes with each incident and with the weather conditions of
the day. It'll be like the Keystone Cops chasing shadows. There is laser technology available to do this job, but
they don't possess it. They have no motivation to look for such a technology because current management
insists it is unaware of the TIBL and its role in fumigation." says Bourgeois.
In early test burns, Bunker “C” oil was used by the plant. It gave off telltale black clouds of smoke “which
rolled along over my fields. In 1992, an employee and I got caught up in the smoke. He wrote and had
notarized a statement describing his experience. Copies went to the MOE, Atomic Energy Control Board (the
then regulator), the plant and others. We never heard back”
Tired of it all
"I'm just tired of being fumigated," Bourgeois says. He was diagnosed by the Occupational Health Clinic at
McMaster University as having suffered central nervous system disorders from the exposures. Extensive lab
tests on the farmer and on-site studies by the University of Guelph and even the MOE itself have ruled out
conditions on the farm, pre-existing medical conditions or any form of self-inflicted injury as causes.
"McMaster concluded that my illness is due to external sources. The staff of the nuclear regulator (formerly
AECB, the Atomic Energy Control Board – now CNSC, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) and the
MOE just keep trying to prove me wrong or that it's somehow my fault. When that doesn't work, they just walk
away. They're just toying with me, pretending these incidents and TIBL are all a mystery to them.”
The local TIBL effect was first discussed in the siting documents available to AECB before the BHWP “A” plant
was built in the early 70's. That report listed population limits, topology, environmental and meteorology factors
which, if in place, would mitigate against building such a plant in such an area. Most of these factors were in
effect in Inverhuron and thus predicted that fumigation would likely be a problem if a heavy water plant were to
be built at the Bruce site.
Ontario Hydro, the plants owners and then operators, studied the local meteorological phenomena, including the
TIBL, in 1984 . The 1984 Hydro study was mentioned specifically in a 1993 consultant's report. That report
goes on to point out that the TIBL is present up to 46.9% of the time at certain periods of year, such as during
May, the month of Bourgeois’ first encounter with the gasses.
This is the paper trail which Bourgeois and his researchers and experts uncovered prior to the ARB hearing in
1997. Says Bourgeois: “Since the siting documents demonstrated that the Bruce site was among the worst
possible choices for a Heavy Water Plant, and since my farm, my neighbours farms, Inverhuron Provincial Park
and the popular beach are in the shadow of the TIBL effect, why did they go ahead and build the plant there?
Why didn't they warn us? Its unbelievable.”
Sheep and Lamb Losses
In 1985, Bourgeois began using his pasture to feed the sheep. Before that, the sheep were confined to the
barn. Once outside, the sheep lost their lambs at incredibly high rates (in the 99th percentile), according to
independent studies. "Sheep and lambs died at a rate far above the norm. Once, half of our flock went blind.
When Hydro closed the heavy water plant, my lamb loss rate dropped more than 400% over the next five
The MOE and the University of Guelph studied his farm. They could find nothing to suggest that the high lamb
loss rate and other incidents were due to farming practices or farm conditions. The cause had to be external.
"But," says Bourgeois, "neither the plant, nor the staff of the regulator, nor even the Ministry of Environment,
were willing to do anything about it. They all acknowledged something was wrong. I have studies and
correspondence with them a mile high. I've talked to them hundreds of times. But nothing."
Why not Give Up?
His near two decade long struggle with the plant and authorities has him angry and mystified. The incidents have
left him suffering physical and emotional symptoms, including lethargy and memory loss, all of which are listed in
medical literature as typical effects of exposure to hydrogen sulphide.
So why not just walk away from it all? Says Bourgeois, "I've built the buildings on this land with my own hands.
I've built my wool company into an international business with knitting books, videos and all kinds of wool and
sweater products. We've been here 30 years. This is my life."
In the years since the incidents of the mid 80's, Bourgeois has taken an interest in energy matters. He keeps tabs
on the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, and on energy issues in general. He designed an energy saving passive
solar model for his house and built solar gain maximizing features on his barn roof, in preparation for solar panel
installation. He ran heavy cable from the barn to his house to take advantage of this solar collection. He
investigated involvement with alternate power generation, such as wind. And he become the first president of
the not-for-profit company, the Bruce Centre for Energy Research and Information.
"I remember the first conversations I had with Hydro staff about solar and wind power. They said I was crazy,
that it would never be practical. Now, OPG has built windmills on the Bruce site and are experimenting with all
kinds of things. Times change. Attitudes sometimes take longer."
Bourgeois knows what he wants the plant to do. "I want them to notify me and my neighbours personally when
they plan to conduct a test burn or fire drill. I want them to stop conducting burns or gas vents when the TIBL is
in effect. I want them to take responsibility. The plant's motto is 'Safety First'. For whom? The CNSC motto
is "Protecting People and the Environment..." It seems to me that the regulator's staff defend the industry and the
MOE keeps finding ways of looking the other way. What is wrong with these people? What happened to the
use of the precautionary principle?"
(In a 2001 Scientific American article, author David Appell wrote: "Although there is no consensus definition of
what is termed the precautionary principle, one oft-mentioned statement, from the so-called Wingspread
conference in Racine, Wis., in 1998 sums it up: 'When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or
the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are
not fully established scientifically.')
Bourgeois thinks he knows why he has had no luck in getting the attention of authorities regarding his issues.
“Their ongoing problems at the Bruce site are so big that I just never show up on their radar.”
Indeed, the plant has had to contend with facility closings and labour issues. And, most recently, Bruce Power
has had the extra load of post 9-11 security issues, possible energy shortages in Ontario and the consequent
restart of two aging reactors at Bruce A, as well as maintenance problems with Bruce B reactors, the near
bankruptcy of former plant lease co-owner British Energy and the in-progress lease sale to new owners.
On January 15th, 2003 Bruce Power must appear before the CNSC concerning issues related to possible
breach of license. A Commission statement following the last hearing December 13th, 2002 stated: “...this is
the third meeting where this issue of financial guarantee for Bruce B has been addressed and Bruce Power is still
unable to meet its license condition. This is a serious matter of grave concern to the Commission.”
In late December, 2002, Bourgeois wrote to Commission Chairperson, Linda Keen, regarding the matters
detailed in this press release. He thinks his relationship with the plant contains a broader message. "This cat and
mouse game of theirs with me as the mouse has been going on for 18 years. If they are willing to be so callous
about me and my neighbour's safety for so long, what is their attitude toward all of us in this part of Ontario?"
Bourgeois denies that he is the "screaming radical" he's been painted as being. "When I moved here, I may not
have known anything about heavy water plants, but I studied the Candu system long and hard. My father-in-law
is a physicist at Cambridge who was involved in the Candu program. I'm not trying to get the place closed; I
just want the plant, the regulator, the government agencies to act responsibly. Surely this talk of safety is not all
words. The nuclear industry's ALARA principle ("As Low As Is Reasonably Achievable") shouldn't just apply
to radiation for nuclear workers. It should apply to all of us in this society. Surely someone is responsible for
seeing that it does," says Bourgeois.
Click on this link to read a longer account of this story, including further detail of the studies, reports and
Eugene Bourgeois can be contacted at 519-368-5354. After January 8, 2003, Mr. Bourgeois will be involved
in commercial travel for his wool business, but is in daily contact with staff at the above phone number.
To view documentation mentioned in this release, in the longer version, or in Mr. Bourgeois’ presentation to the
ARB, contact email@example.com