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Centralized Storage

With the scientifically unsound proposed Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump now canceled, the danger of "interim" storage threatens. This means that radioactive waste could be "temporarily" parked in open air lots, vulnerable to accident and attack, while a new repository site is sought.

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Wednesday
Jul262017

The Ethics and Politics of Nuclear Waste are Being Tested in Southern California

Jim Heddle of EON (the Ecological Options Network) in California has written an excellent article, published at Counterpunch, summarizing the current state of "play" of the irradiated nuclear fuel dilemma in the U.S., with the most hotly debated microcosm currently being at San Onofre in s. CA.

Please note, re: this passage in the article

Political maneuvering led to a ‘Screw Nevada’ strategy because it had the fewest Congressional votes,  and the million dollar development of the state’s Yucca Mountain site.  Originally thought to be dry and impermeable to the migration of radioactive elements, the discovery that trace elements from explosions at the nearby Nevada Nuclear Test Site had penetrated deep into the Yucca Mountain facility in a relatively few years debunked that contention. (emphases added)

that $11 billion, a combination of nuclear power ratepayer funds from the Nuclear Waste Fund, as well as federal taxpayer funds tied to nuclear weapons complex high-level radioactive waste management, has been spent thus far on the Yucca Mountain Project. The U.S. Department of Energy's most recent cost estimate for the first 200 years of construction and operation, if the Yucca dump opens, is close to $100 billion.

And the trace element found deep in the heart of Yucca Mountain (artificial, radioactive Chlorine-26) actually originated from nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific Ocean. It fell with rain onto Yucca, then percolated down into the mountain very deeply in just decades. The Cl-36 thus unintentionally served as a sort of radioactive tracer, showing how fast corrosive water travels through the site's geology. This would cause early failures of waste burial containers at Yucca, leading to massive, hazardous radioactivity releases into the environment over time.

Sunday
Jul022017

1,800 tons of radioactive waste has an ocean view and nowhere to go

As reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The centralized interim storage facilities (de facto permanent parking lot dumps) targeted at Waste Control Specialists, LLC in Andrews County, TX, and Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance in southeastern New Mexico, are mentioned in the article. The article also mentions Private Fuel Storage, LLC (PFS).

The PFS parking lot dump targeted at the tiny, low-income Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation in west Utah was blocked from opening a decade ago. 437 environmental justice groups, led by Native Americans, protested the environmental justice to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but NRC rubberstamped a construction and operation license nonetheless. Thankfully, a coalition between the U.S. congressional delegations of Nevada and Utah, the State of Utah, environmental groups, and traditional Skull Valley Goshute opponents to the dump, led to the establishment of the first federal wilderness area in Utah in a generation. The wilderness area around the Skull Valley Goshute community effectively blocked the laying of train tracks, preventing delivery of high-level radioactive waste to the reservation.

Late last month, Energy Secretary Rick Perry even floated the idea out loud at a U.S. House hearing that centralized interim storage could even be done at the Nevada nuclear weapons test site, while a permanent dump at Yucca Mountain next door is prepared. The State of Nevada and its U.S. congressional delegation's strong howls of protest and resistance were immediate, and Perry quickly backpedaled.

Thursday
Jun292017

Nuke waste bill to House floor soon?

From politico.com:

FULL SPEED AHEAD! House Energy and Commerce Environment Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus tells ME he's optimistic comprehensive nuclear waste legislation that would revive the Yucca Mountain site will get a full chamber vote before Congress steps away for August recess. Though longtime Yucca opponent Sen. Dean Heller called the legislation "dead on arrival in the Senate," Shimkus shot back that Energy and Commerce's 49-4 vote in support of the measure was "as good as anyone could have expected" and "probably troubling for those who want to keep the status quo."

Tuesday
Jun272017

50-group environmental coalition urges rejection of H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017

Beyond Nuclear joined with a 50-group environmental coalition, spearheaded by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), to urge members of the U.S. House of Represenatives Energy & Commerce Committee to vote against the latest incarnation of the Screw Nevada and Mobile Chernobyl bill, H.R. 3053 sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL).

The bill would also legalize private centralized interim storage facilities (CISFs) for commercial irradiated nuclear fuel. Waste Control Specialists, LLC in Andrews County, west Texas, and the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance in southeastern New Mexico, near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (for military plutonium contamination disposal) are the top targets for such de facto permanent surface parking lot dumps. The two CISFs are less than 40 miles apart, across the TX-NM border.

The legislation, which cleared Shimkus's Environment and the Economy Subcommittee a couple weeks ago, will undergo mark up before the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee, and a likely up or down vote, on Wed., June 28th at 10am Eastern. If it passes, it would then move on to the full U.S. House floor, for consideration.

Beyond Nuclear encourages everyone to contact their U.S. Representative, to urge strong opposition to this dangerously bad bill. (Look up your U.S. Rep.'s contact info. at this site, by typing in your ZIP code at the upper right, clicking GO, and following the internet links.) Feel free to cite, and share, the group letter above, when you communicate with your U.S. Rep.'s office!

Thursday
Jun222017

DOJ Wins Stop To $367M Merger Of Radioactive Waste Firms; NRC suspends licensing proceeding on WCS CISF

A Delaware federal judge on Wednesday blocked the $367 million merger of EnergySolutions Inc. and Waste Control Specialists LLC, siding with the U.S. Department of Justice in the government's bid to enjoin the deal on antitrust grounds. [This story was broken by Law360 Environmental. The remainder of the article is behind a pay wall.]

WCS had hoped EnergySolutions -- its competitor in "low-level" radioactive waste dumping -- could take it over, which would allow for the resumption of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing proceedings on WCS's proposal to construct and operate a centralized interim storage facility (CISF) for 40,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel in Andrews County, TX. This court ruling appears to have dealt a severe blow to those plans.

By coincidence, the NRC Commissioners just affirmed their vote, at around 2pm Eastern on Thursday, June 22nd, to approve the combined request by WCS, NRC staff, and even opposing environmental groups (including Beyond Nuclear), to suspend the CISF licensing proceeding.

Here is a link to the NRC Commissioners' MEMORANDUM AND ORDER, which actually denies most of the environmental coalition's requests made on April 28, 2017, regarding procedures and deadlines to come, should this licensing proceeding resume.