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Nuclear Waste: Its Final Resting Place

By

Rolf Haugaard Nielsen

THE elevator moves swiftly, but it still takes a minute and a half to reach the bottom. If this were a building, you would have descended 150 floors. As it is, you are now almost half a kilometre underground. Step across the cobblestones, pass through the metal door and you enter a huge hall that has been blasted into the granite. To the left a long driveway leads steeply upwards to the surface. To the right the road runs down into a circular tunnel, off which extends a labyrinth teeming with researchers, engineers, even TV crews and groups of tourists in hard hats. Welcome to Sweden's Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory, where scientists are perfecting the techniques that will be used in the world's first permanent underground nuclear repository.

What you notice most down here is the damp. Walking through the tunnels you hear the drips and the running water. You can smell it, too. You can even taste it – a brew of ancient brackish water from deep underground mixed with rainwater that has taken 7000 years to seep down from the surface. That makes this area near Oskarshamn a good test site, because water is the biggest obstacle to safe underground nuclear storage. Running water may carry corrosive chemicals that eat into the containment canisters, allowing radioactive particles to escape, and transport these particles back to the surface.

There are very few areas of the world where radioactive waste can be buried in dry places

(see "High and dry")

, so experimenting in wet conditions is essential if scientists are to develop a system that will …

Nuclear Waste: Its Final Resting Place 1

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else jQuery(".artImageLightbox").colorbox(rel:'group3', transition:"none", width:"980px", height:"551px"); yq("a.artImageLightbox").click(function(event) event.preventDefault(); ); var imagesArray = yq( "div[id^='citvCompId']" ); yq.each(imagesArray, function( index, value ) var imgTitle;var imgCredit;var imgTitleFinal;var imgTitleFinalAlt;imgTitleFinalAlt = '';imgTitle = yq(value).children().find('.citv_title').html(); imgCredit = yq(value).children().find('.citv_credit').html() || yq(value).children().find('.ya_citv_credit').html();imgTitleFinal = ""if (imgTitle != null)var lengthTitle = 90; var imgTitleLength = imgTitle.length;var TitleTrimmed;TitleTrimmed = imgTitle;if (imgTitleLength > lengthTitle) TitleTrimmed = imgTitle.substring(0, 90); TitleTrimmed = "...";imgTitleFinal = "" TitleTrimmed "" ; if (imgCredit != null)imgTitleFinal = "" "(" imgCredit ")" "" ;yq(value).find('a').attr('title' , imgTitleFinal); var str;var res;str = value.id;res = str.replace("citvCompId", ".magnifyPiccitvCompId");imgTitleFinalAlt = '';if (res != null) yq(value).find(res).attr('title' , imgTitleFinalAlt); yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css('display', 'block');yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css(background: "url(/images/articlepiclightbox/enlarge.png)")yq('#'value.id).mouseover(function() yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css('display', 'block'); ); yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).mouseover(function() yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css(background: "url(/images/articlepiclightbox/enlarge-over.png)"); ); yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).mouseout(function() yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css(background: "url(/images/articlepiclightbox/enlarge.png)"); ); )yq('.artImageLightbox .ya_main_relative_img').mouseover(function() yq(this).siblings('.ya_enlarge_button').fadeIn(200).css('display', 'block'); );yq('.artImageLightbox .ya_main_relative_img').mouseout(function() yq(this).siblings('.ya_enlarge_button').fadeOut(200).css('display', 'none'); ); );Photo: APLast year, he is believed to have sneaked into Gaza to draw four street murals, including one on a metal door that depicted the Greek goddess Niobe cowering against the rubble of a destroyed house. The painting, titled "Bomb Damage," was drawn on the last remaining part of a two-story house that was destroyed in the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers. var current_url = window.location.href; function PushOpeningPicture() dataLayer.push('event': 'GA_Event_zynet', 'Category': 'Article Gallery', 'Action': 'Show', 'Label': '); jQuery(document).ready(function() function _isMobile() var isMobile = (/iphone|ipod|android|blackberry|fennec/).test(navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase());return isMobile;var isMobile1 = _isMobile();if (isMobile1 == false) jQuery(".artImageLightbox").colorbox(fixed:true); if(typeof isMobile !== 'undefined' && isMobile) jQuery(".artImageLightbox").colorbox(rel:'group3', transition:"none", width:"100%", height:"400px"); else jQuery(".artImageLightbox").colorbox(rel:'group3', transition:"none", width:"980px", height:"551px"); yq("a.artImageLightbox").click(function(event) event.preventDefault(); ); var imagesArray = yq( "div[id^='citvCompId']" ); yq.each(imagesArray, function( index, value ) var imgTitle;var imgCredit;var imgTitleFinal;var imgTitleFinalAlt;imgTitleFinalAlt = '';imgTitle = yq(value).children().find('.citv_title').html(); 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); yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).mouseout(function() yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css(background: "url(/images/articlepiclightbox/enlarge.png)"); ); )yq('.artImageLightbox .ya_main_relative_img').mouseover(function() yq(this).siblings('.ya_enlarge_button').fadeIn(200).css('display', 'block'); );yq('.artImageLightbox .ya_main_relative_img').mouseout(function() yq(this).siblings('.ya_enlarge_button').fadeOut(200).css('display', 'none'); ); );Photo: AFP var current_url = window.location.href; function PushOpeningPicture() dataLayer.push('event': 'GA_Event_zynet', 'Category': 'Article Gallery', 'Action': 'Show', 'Label': '); jQuery(document).ready(function() function _isMobile() var isMobile = (/iphone|ipod|android|blackberry|fennec/).test(navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase());return isMobile;var isMobile1 = _isMobile();if (isMobile1 == false) jQuery(".artImageLightbox").colorbox(fixed:true); if(typeof isMobile !== 'undefined' && isMobile) jQuery(".artImageLightbox").colorbox(rel:'group3', transition:"none", width:"100%", height:"400px"); else jQuery(".artImageLightbox").colorbox(rel:'group3', transition:"none", width:"980px", height:"551px"); yq("a.artImageLightbox").click(function(event) event.preventDefault(); ); var imagesArray = yq( "div[id^='citvCompId']" ); yq.each(imagesArray, function( index, value ) var imgTitle;var imgCredit;var imgTitleFinal;var imgTitleFinalAlt;imgTitleFinalAlt = '';imgTitle = yq(value).children().find('.citv_title').html(); imgCredit = yq(value).children().find('.citv_credit').html() || yq(value).children().find('.ya_citv_credit').html();imgTitleFinal = ""if (imgTitle != null)var lengthTitle = 90; var imgTitleLength = imgTitle.length;var TitleTrimmed;TitleTrimmed = imgTitle;if (imgTitleLength > lengthTitle) TitleTrimmed = imgTitle.substring(0, 90); TitleTrimmed = "...";imgTitleFinal = "" TitleTrimmed "" ; if (imgCredit != null)imgTitleFinal = "" "(" imgCredit ")" "" ;yq(value).find('a').attr('title' , imgTitleFinal); var str;var res;str = value.id;res = str.replace("citvCompId", ".magnifyPiccitvCompId");imgTitleFinalAlt = '';if (res != null) yq(value).find(res).attr('title' , imgTitleFinalAlt); yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css('display', 'block');yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css(background: "url(/images/articlepiclightbox/enlarge.png)")yq('#'value.id).mouseover(function() yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css('display', 'block'); ); yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).mouseover(function() yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css(background: "url(/images/articlepiclightbox/enlarge-over.png)"); ); yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).mouseout(function() yq('.magnifyPic'value.id).css(background: "url(/images/articlepiclightbox/enlarge.png)"); ); )yq('.artImageLightbox .ya_main_relative_img').mouseover(function() yq(this).siblings('.ya_enlarge_button').fadeIn(200).css('display', 'block'); );yq('.artImageLightbox .ya_main_relative_img').mouseout(function() yq(this).siblings('.ya_enlarge_button').fadeOut(200).css('display', 'none'); ); );Photo: APThe artist's satirical stencils-rats, kissing policemen, riot police with yellow smiley faces-first appeared on walls in Bristol before spreading to London and then around the world. His artwork comments on war, child poverty and the environment. His identity remains a mystery, but his works have fetched as much as $1.8 million at auctions.
Girls, 6 and 7, Heard Screaming in Agony As They Die in a House Fire Alongside Their Great-grandmoth
Girls, 6 and 7, Heard Screaming in Agony As They Die in a House Fire Alongside Their Great-grandmoth
A house fire killed two young children and their great-grandmotherearly Friday in Louisiana's capital.Maylia Jackson, seven, and Michele Williams, six, died in the blaze alongside the matriarch of their family 77-year-oldGloria Anderson.A neighbor said he heard children screaming for help from the burning home in Baton Rouge and watched in horror as a young woman ran from the house with her clothes on fire.Firefighters later found the three bodies inside the house after the flames were extinguished.Anderson was the matriarch of the family and had helped to raise many generations including her ownchildren, grandchildren and then great-grandchildren in the three-bedroom house.Another relative said she had lived there since 1974 and was a retired housekeeper.A 19-year-old woman and a five-year-old boy were taken to a hospital and were in 'very critical' condition after the pre-dawn fire, Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman Curt Monte said.Officials didn't immediately determine the cause of the fire but were investigating whether heating equipment may have ignited it.'It certainly could be weather-related. They have no reason to suspect foul play at this point in time,' Monte said.'It's just heartbreaking; family members are coming on scene and firefighters are heartbroken.'It's unprecedented what we've seen since the first of the year. It's a time this community needs to come together. We need prayers for this family. I believe we need prayers for our community. We need prayers for our firefighters. It's just part of the job you just hate to face.'Reginald Howard, 54, who lives across the street from the charred home, said his dogs' barking awoke him before dawn.When he looked outside, he saw the young woman running out the front door in her burning clothes and collapsing onto a neighbor's porch. Neighbors put out the fire on her, he said.Howard approached the home and heard children screaming inside, he recalled.Howard, another neighbor and a police officer pried open a metal door at the rear of the home, but the smoke and flames were too intense for them to enter.'To hear those kids hollering, and you can't get to them - that really hurts,' he said.Norma Wright, who said she has lived across the street for 50 years, said she was awoken early, because her dogs were barking.'So, we got up and looked, looked out the front and nothing but fire,' she said to The Advocate.Wright said she saw the teenager running out of the house, clothes on fire. She said another neighbor wrapped her in a blanket and put out the flames.Douglas Johnson, who also lives across the street looked out his window and saw the house was already on fire.He called 911 and then rushed across the road to see if he could help.'I heard (the teenager) say, 'The babies are in the house! The babies are in the house!'' Johnson said. 'My mind zeroed in on that.'Johnson said the front door was blocked by flames but when he went around the back, the door as well as the windows were covered by burglar bars.'It was devastating to me, because I didn't want to give up, because I felt like they were still in there,' Johnson said.Elaine Williams, a grandmother of three children who lived in the home, bent over and sobbed as she watched investigators from behind police tape.She believed two of her grandchildren died inside the house and the third was flown to a hospital.'They were good kids,' she said. 'They brought home good grades. They came from two good parents.'Louisiana is in the midst of a recent surge in fire-related deaths - some of which are likely due to the recent spate of cold weather.The state fire marshal's office said in a statement Thursday that investigators believe four recent deaths may have been caused by the use of space heaters.In East Baton Rouge Parish alone, nine people have now died in four separate fires since Tuesday, according to Monte.'It's the most any of us have ever seen this close together,' Monte said.
Blazing Trails: Six Nations Training Firefighters From All Over Ontario in New State-of-the-art Faci
Blazing Trails: Six Nations Training Firefighters From All Over Ontario in New State-of-the-art Faci
Carrie Boshkaykin takes a break from trying to break open a metal door - a useful skill known as forced entry in the firefighting world - and steps out into a cool, windy March day.She's sweating under her heavy bunker gear, but smiling - an eager student, and a proud one as one of only two women to make it through the training being offered to firefighters from northern Ontario.Boshkaykin is among about a dozen left from the initial 20 who participated in the program the Six Nations Fire Department is running. The group, who will graduate April 6, are being put through the same rigorous six-week course undertaken by firefighters working on Six Nations - a department that, under the leadership of Chief Matthew Miller, has transformed from one lacking in everything (firefighters, stations, trucks, equipment, training) into a professionalized unit."It was kind of a shock at first because a lot of the stuff we are learning, we aren't taught at home," Boshkaykin said of her training. She's fire chief of a volunteer department at Seine River First Nation, about three-and-a-half hours northwest of Thunder Bay, which has nine volunteers.• • •"Usually, when we join the fire department back home, it's like, put that water on the fire, put it out, wet stuff on the hot stuff, you know, and that's about as far as the training goes." Boshkaykin said she jumped at the chance to train with Six Nations - the largest reserve in Canada - and will be bringing her new skills back home.The training began with theoretical classes in early February in Thunder Bay and then moved to the Six Nations' new training facility for practical lessons.The 50,000-square-foot facility is a retrofitted building originally planned to be a thermal plant on Fourth Line in Ohsweken. It's complete with an open- concept classroom and interior training house where trainees can simulate searches, hose advances and work with ladders. The building sat vacant for about four years before Miller went to the Six Nations Elected Council and asked to turn it into a training facility with the aim of eventually turning it into a revenue stream."If we took our experience in firefighting, because we have a whole lot of fires ... to generate revenue, I figured we could start to offer training," he said.It's also a remedy to the "fly-by-night consulting companies" that Miller said typically offer lacklustre firefighting training to First Nations communities.With a $50,000 budget from the elected council and a lot of labour from the community's firefighters, the facility opened in August. The department is seeking private career college designation, with the possibility of Six Nations becoming one of three designated First Nations firefighting training centres in the province. When Miller took over as fire chief in April 2015, his headquarters was a trailer while the new fire station was under construction. He had a pool of just 11 regular volunteer firefighters and just four pumper fire trucks. Flash forward to present day. The $2.6-million fire department headquarters opened last April (largely thanks to a $2 million private donation from tobacco manufacturer Grand River Enterprise). The department is hiring a deputy chief, two district chiefs, two captains, eight full-time and 12 part-time firefighters, on top of a roster of 48 volunteers. They have 16 apparatuses, including a new aerial ladder truck.The fire department has about a $1.4-million annual budget with about one-third coming from the federal government.Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has funded two structures that sit on the training facility grounds. A new live burn unit that cost about $400,000 just opened - it allows firefighters to work with actual fire inside the mock residence. The government also funded a flashover container for about $15,000 that allows firefighters to study how fire moves.Yet Miller, who left a career with Ornge air ambulance to return to his home community, says there is still a long way to go toward making Six Nations and all First Nations communities safer. Six Nations is still dealing with two or three major fires a month, he said. There have been fewer arsons, but deliberately set fires remain a serious problem. A lack of building code regulation also makes fires rage out of control very quickly. Those living on First Nations have a 10.4 per cent greater chance of dying in a house fire than those living off reserves, according to a 2007 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. report.Six Nations firefighters assisted in December at a house fire that killed a man and four children in Oneida Nation of the Thames, southwest of London.More worrying, Miller says, is the fact that nobody is tracking fires on First Nations, so the scope of the problem is just not known.A Toronto Star investigation into fires on reserves found at least 172 people have died in First Nations fires across Canada since 2010."I know in my heart that before we see greater change we will see more people passing away," Miller said.The northern Ontario firefighter training is part of the work Miller is doing to lobby for better fire training and standards in all First Nations communities.Last April, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada published an updated Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy. Miller is also part of an Ontario First Nations firefighting strategy that will be released in May. It will include calls for legislative change, including to building codes and a recommendation to establish a First Nations fire marshal office.Miller believes it's important to better understand the individual issues First Nations communities face instead of just throwing money at them for new equipment. He pointed to examples of communities getting fire trucks when they didn't have a station to prevent the truck from freezing overnight, or getting bunker gear that's not sized right. As part of the Be Fire Safe program, he will be visit 21 remote Northern Ontario fly-in First Nations to offer community training around fire prevention. "This is the first time in 17 years I feel positive," Miller said.Back inside the training facility, Matthew Hillier, a member of Caldwell First Nation from Leamington, Ont., said he was shocked over how much he had to learn from the training program.One day he dreams of taking the skills he's learned and going to remote First Nations to offer training. 905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec
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