Friday, November 21, 2008

CSA Standards - Back in the Game

I'm going to a free CSA recognition dinner (have to dust off the suit!), and the next day I'm attending my first meeting in over a year, even though they aren't paying me, and I'm sure the old boys are really, really mad at me for allowing them to enrage every geologist on the planet!

CSA stands for Canadian Standards Association. Normally, they do standards for toasters, but for some reason they were drafted to do standards for nuclear facilities. Who else is doing them?

Why do we need standards? We need some common definitions so that we can have intelligent discussion. If everybody just makes up their own definitions, like Bill Clinton on sex, and certain disposal places on 'good', then we have the situation where every gas station defines its own 'litre'. Who could compare prices?

Weights and measures are the oldest standard, but in the past 200 years, we have had engineering standards. It all started out in the 1800's when lots of boilers blew up. These could destroy a whole city block, or disintigrate an entire passenger boat. The boiler makers at the time were just hammering things together out of any old junk they had lying around. The boiler codes defined a certification process which could be legalized by cities and states. In the code, they specified materials, ways of construction, testing, etc.

The same went for elevators which used to fall down a lot. In fact, there is hardly anything you touch that doesn't follow an engineering standard.

Of course, standards have gone way beyond that, to open standards for communication, quality standards, toilet standards, etc. Now they want to work on standards for nuclear facilities, such as the geology and seismicity.

A good standard will handle definitions, and quality of work. Somebody wanting to put in a nuclear facility will have to say "This meets the soandso standard." As I've said before, vendors will want standards to limit liability. For example, it would have been great for the Niagara Tunnel to have followed some sort of standard for long-term tunnels.

I hope one day to have a standard for nuclear waste. This might eliminate some of the 'airy-fairy' things going on right now with Yuk-Yuk and certain other waste facilities.

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