The Core Business blog

The nuclear industry has suffered badly from words being used to trick people into forming unhelpful images in their minds.  Sometimes it happens by accident as the author fails to understand the issue, sometimes it is done deliberately as an insidious propaganda trick, frequently it is just because people have seen it so often that they repeat it without thinking.  It is often difficult to tell.  But what we do know is that it has to stop.

Recently we saw used nuclear fuel inappropriately being described as detritus in this article by the CBC.

I wrote to the author.


 As a journalist, I hope you understand that your role is to publish factual information that leads people to a correct understanding. 

 So, I hope you understand how appalled I was to find a journalist, representing a government-funded organization, using the word “detritus” to describe used nuclear fuel.  Detritus is only a synonym for certain types of waste, those involving uncontrolled scatter so that the waste is a mess.  This is certainly the image that people form when the word is used, and it most definitely does not describe the careful management of used nuclear fuel. 

As a result, your article is unacceptably misleading.  

If you do not understand how used nuclear fuel is actually managed, please contact me and I will help you, so that you might use appropriate descriptions in the future.  

Regardless, I trust that you will avoid using this inappropriate word, as all it does when you do so is discredit the CBC as a reliable news source. 

 The Canadian Nuclear Society is an independent learned society of individuals that have an interest in nuclear issues in Canada.  We would be pleased to use the experience and expertise of our members to advise you or your colleagues at CBC on any future articles about nuclear issues.  


Neil Alexander

Head of Communications, Canadian Nuclear Society

If you see similar misuse of words, you can also, as an individual, write to the author and direct them to the CNS as a source.  I can help you if you want.  Or let us know and we can consider how CNS might respond.  Working together we can get nuclear issues properly described and correct many of the misunderstandings that the public have about our technology.