Robert Spencer

Hi, my name is Robert Spencer. I am speaking to you today on the topic of fear, hope, and Buster Brown Shoes.

I think it’s important for me to tell the Panel who I am, and that might in some way help understand why this proposal or this speech tonight is non-technical. I was hoping to add some value on the social side to what so far I’ve heard very excellent technical presentations.

I am married. I have one daughter. She is a feisty, bright, and wonderfully interested child. She’s learning all the time, whether at her school sport teams or in her after-school Mandarin classes or at piano lessons or in her choir.

I work as a contract social planner and researcher, manage a small community paper, act as a board member and treasurer for the Beach Community Energy Cooperative.

Today, I am speaking on my own behalf and for my daughter’s future. I want to live in an inclusive and democratic world where my daughter and all of us can work together towards a peaceful and sustainable future.

I’ve earned two degrees from the University of Toronto; the first in mathematics and physics, high-energy physics, and recently, a Master’s in Education in Comparative International Development Education.

I am currently completing a PhD program in Teaching Professional Development focusing on the history of heritage language programs in Toronto.

I was elected a Public School Trustee for five terms, and I was elected by my colleagues as Chair of the Board of Education for two terms. I was the first Chair of the Board’s Energy Conservation Committee, Chair of its Race Relations and Multiculturalism Committee, and the Building and Sites Committee.

I’m now a parent member of the Toronto District School Board’s Environmental Advisory Committee and its Inner City Advisory Committee; and I’m very active at my daughter’s school.

In another life, I was Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Food Banks. So when I arrived in town this morning, I looked for the food bank and, sure enough, the furniture store on the corner was offering $5 coupons for people who would buy furniture so they could provide food in the food bank in Kincardine.

We processed and transported food for 100 hungry people across 250 food banks across Ontario and then decided to rehabilitate more than 2 million kilograms of donated food to make prepared frozen food for 10,000 people a day.

Throughout my life, I’ve worked to improve my community and to encourage the ecological use of scarce resources.

I came to you today to speak about some of the details with respect to issues around nuclear costs and issues around the business case or lack thereof for nuclear power, and the need to constrain the waste at the source.

My daughter goes to a school which requires litterless lunches. The waste is not to show up in the school at all. That means some of it comes home and then we have to compost it but the bottom line is they are actually trying. And she certainly won’t let me drive her to school.

There was a message of hope recently in a deadline that was closed for the Green Energy Act Solar Energy Program Applications. My community participated heavily in that. We raised money, we — I became a notary public, so that I could sign that people were really residents. And the Ontario Power authority had set a goal of 200 megawatts for new solar power. I’m sure people from OPG will know that.

But when the application period closed on the 18th of January, 827 megawatts of new power projects were proposed by communities, Aboriginal Bands, and private citizens.

What was interesting was that only 146 megawatts was approved. Virtually all of the community energy co-ops were rejected for unbelievably silly reasons.

In our case we forgot to put the page numbers on and we put a box — we singled — we had an arrangement with the school board for a licence but it was only an in-principle arrangement because that’s the way the school board works. We were still negotiating the details. And so we were thrown out as well.

No bitterness. I mean, obviously we’ll try again, and we’re very stubborn down in the waterfront.

But as I listen today I thought, you know, I should tell you guys about my early experience. I’m an old fellow, I can’t have children, I’m sterile and I didn’t know that. For years and years my wife and I went over 20 years with no children.

And then we went through an intensive process of interrogation about an international adoption, and the physician said “Did you have any unusual experiences as a child, you know, mumps, measles, something like that” and I said “not particularly”.

A shoe-fitting fluoroscope similar to the ones used in the Buster Brown store.

Except the Buster Brown shoe store was on the corner of Glenforest and Yonge, and I wanted to be a dinosaur chaser as a kid, so on the way home from Bedford Park School, virtually every week, in fact sometimes twice a week, I would stand over the x-ray machine watching the skeletal image of my feet through the x-ray machine as the x-rays of course came up through my body.

Now, eventually everyone knows that by 1959 or 1960 these machines were quickly removed and a lawsuit was lost and all that kind of stuff.

But what I want to have you guys think about tonight is really the unintended consequences of what we do, because I was very happy to do that as a little kid. I was actually probably one of the last people to still be standing there. I was disappointed when the machine left.

But it had a huge effect on me, 1958 rolling through to a marriage in 1986 that was childless, rolling through to now just having a lovely, lovely Chinese daughter who we love to bits and she’s tremendous.

But that unintended consequence of a matter of a private sector company not really thinking through the impact of ionizing radiation, x-rays and human sterility is really one of the things that you guys have to got to think about when you put something away in the ground for 100,000 years when we know that — you can never know anything — that roughly 10,000 years ago there was a mile of ice on top of the current location of the Bruce nuclear power plant.

So things are going to change a lot — well, especially that intermediate stuff is working its way through to non-toxicity. So err on the side of caution.

I totally respect your qualifications. I read them and I said I can’t speak in front of this group, I don’t know enough, I don’t remember enough about high energy physics, except that I was tricked by my fourth year physics teacher into doing a little bit of thesis research.

Because he wanted me to do graduate work, and so he said “here is all the material that I’ve collected about some place called Chalk River, and I want you to look and try to figure out if in anywhere in that publicly available literature does it talk about tritium leaks.”

And I went away like a keen fourth year student and I kept finding little notes here and there, and I came back to him and I said, “Lynn Trainor, you know, those reactors all leak” and he said “that was the point I was trying to make”.

You can’t stop the leaks. You can’t stop the fact that calcium carbonate, which is limestone, will — when affected by water, will gradually rot and will gradually open up different little fishers and hollows and so on over a period of time, and we’re talking a long period of time, that may cause difficulties with 21 percent of the world’s clean water.

So I guess I don’t really have 10 minutes worth of stuff. One of the people who’s a reporter and who had done some tremendous detailed research for us in our little community paper, has given me a 60-page thesis, which I looked through while we were driving here, and I would commend it to you folks because it’s radiohydrolic flow testing of argillaceous limestone, which is the limestone you’re dealing with, and it’s a thesis submitted to McGill University in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Engineering.

And in that thesis in 4.5, the research says:

“There are some unique aspects of the Lindsay Limestone.” (As read)

Again, where you’re digging.

“A number of unique aspects concerning Lindsay Limestone should be noted. Firstly, carbonites and anhydrite in the Lindsay Limestone may be susceptible to dissolution and can therefore be responsible for the development of cavities within the rock mass, and furthermore, the reaction between the anhydrite and water to form gypsum will result in an expansion that may open cracks. Also, the thin shaley limestone interbeds and black shale partings may exhibit swelling and time dependent volume increase involving physiochemical reactions with water.” (As read)

That feels like fracking to me.

So I think there are some things that as you proceed through your work that you should look at in the current research.

I really hope one or two of you will actually look at the work that Erik Stark, our reporter, has done on not just Pickering but waste disposal and some of the difficulties around corporate responsibility and clarifying the democratic rolls between OPG, which is a public agency, and the private agencies which own the land that you’re about to be working on so that we can all feel comfortable that there might just be a future for us, and a future for our kids, and a future for their kids, and their kids on and on.

So I guess I’ll stop. If there are questions — please don’t ask too many detailed questions because I don’t remember physics.

But I can certainly tell you after 40 years in public policy that the silliest things are done on the basis of what appears to be pragmatic available evidence at this moment and then sure enough 59 seconds later somebody brings in something that says you guys were a bunch of idiots.

So please do a good job. You’re qualified people. It sounds like you’re getting some great presentations.

And thank you for letting me speak.

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