Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling
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Some anti-DGR folks have raised a question about predictive geology. Their point is that geology is not a science that can be sure of future events. In predicting the next earthquake or volcano eruption, they are correct, but ...
One of the hallmarks of science is proposing a theory, gathering empirical data and being able to predict outcomes and understand events past, present and future given boundary values.
Skepticism concerning geology comes from two main sources:
1. The future to skeptics is not known because it cannot be predicted from theory and the past with 100% certainty.
2. The data gathered is never enough to justify decision making say the skeptics.
Number one is true. We don't know if the sun will rise tomorrow to 100% either. The sun has geology too. The solar system and the universe has a geologic past present and future.
One hundred percent is not a criteria of science or ordinary life for that matter. If we demanded absolute certainty, we would not venture out to bring in the garbage cans. We might be fried by the sun.
Number two is also true in the anti-mind because they do not trust geologic methods. They don't trust what they don't know. There are so many things to know and so few to trust is their motto.
At the Joint Review Panel hearings one skeptic said that there was too much information. No human could remember it all, he thought. He kept asking the same questions over and over again. I guess he proved his own thesis on memory.
Yesterday I browsed some sites relative to predictive geology and DGRs. The geologists looked at this DGR task like many other they tackle. They did the data gathering, core sampling and built the predictive models.
For the site in question in Sweden they felt that future glaciers would not disturb the site at depth nor was an action to disturb the site probable within the million or so years that they were asked to deal with at the present time. They deemed the site suitable
Geologists do this all the time. For example, Bruce County is laced with bore holes that have been done in the past looking for gas and oil. The data about them is available for all to see. Some of it was used in the study program for DGRs.
Geologists do the data gathering and they present their customers and peers with the results and they predict to a certainty less than 100%, but as close as possible. In statistical terms they want to be way out at 6 and more sigma. (Click Here) The greater the risk, the more study they do.
Do they tell the customer that they are 100% sure there is no oil in the survey area? Of course they don't. They inform them, but they don't do the impossible. Depending upon the question, they sample more or less and follow guidelines.
Let's look at the proposed DGR for Kincardine. Two of the panel members were very familiar with geologic techniques presented to them. One is a PhD Geologist and the other a PhD Mining Engineer.
They both became very engaged with the geology in the JRP hearings. I think we can trust the expert sources and JRP members on this one. The science will either satisfy the JRP or it won't. Non-experts did not supply convincing information for or against. Some even looked foolish, not understanding the basic way geologists present information like strata in charts.
One of the most puzzling parts of the DGR discussions has been local anti-groups taking credit for stopping the high level DGR in Saugeen Shores.
Here is why taking 'credit' missed the mark. NWMO disqualified Saugeen Shores on size of footprint, geology and incursion on restricted lands.
I noticed that groups up in Schreiber have taken credit too for their area being disqualified. NWMO points to the geology there also.
Well, the anti-groups say that that's just an excuse. Here is why it is not.
Do the anti-groups have any idea how wide and far these geologic investigations are distributed? They go world-wide and are poured over by professional scientists. NWMO scientists and hired consultants don't want to make fools of themselves by inventing reasons for or against. They would be called to task quickly.
The consultants have to justify to the nth degree their findings and decisions. Emails fly far and wide. Data and conclusions are examined. Why is this so?
The reason is that there is a world-wide community of experts, a network, who look at all these reports and opinions as they use the findings and methods for their own studies. This is what peer review is all about. This is how science moves forward.
Furthermore, if a site was deemed suitable like the Kincardine low and intermediate DGR, then it gets a lot more review. The geology is looked at and the core samples and number of them is reviewed.
It's ok not to want a DGR, but don't make up stories that don't give credit to all the hard work that goes into the geologic evaluations. Come on now!
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Saturday, March 21, 2015