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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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Thursday
Jun282018

NRC makes public two more key documents re: Holtec/ELEA CISF, in response to Beyond Nuclear FOIA request

On June 28, 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by Beyond Nuclear on May 1, 2018. The FOIA request was submitted by Washington, D.C. attorney Diane Curran, who serves as legal counsel for Beyond Nuclear in the proceeding re: the Holtec/Eddy-Lea Counties Energy Alliance irradiated nuclear fuel centralized interim storage facility targeted at southeastern New Mexico.

NRC publicly released two documents in response to the FOIA request:

(1) Holtec 2016a. Holtec International (Holtec). Data Call for the CISF Environmental Report. September 2016.

 (2) Holtec 2017a. Holtec International (Holtec). Cost-Benefit Analysis Data Call.       February 2017.

The letter from NRC, and both publicly released documents, can be viewed online at the NRC website, here.
Now that NRC has responded to this FOIA request, it is very likely that NRC will very soon announce the commencement of its licensing proceeding for Holtec/ELEA's CISF. Once the announcement is made, in a Federal Register Notice, opponents to the CISF will have a remarkably short 60 days to file their legal interventions. This is a hyper-strict legal deadline. If we miss it, we can never intervene legally again in the future. However, a broad coalition of environmental groups is gearing up to fight the Holtec/ELEA CISF, by legally intervening in the NRC's proceeding.

Thursday
Jun282018

Texas Democratic Party stands against environmental injustice, and highly radioactive waste transport, storage, and disposal

Thanks to Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition in Austin, TX for calling our attention to this good news.

In addition to municipal resolutions in both TX and NM, now a state political party has stated its opposition to highly radioactive waste centralized interim storage facilities targeted at the TX/NM borderlands.

The State of Texas Democratic Party, in the "Environmental Protection, Regulation, and Enforcement" section of its 2018-2020 party platform, has stated it support for:

  • the enactment of laws and regulations to protect low-income communities and communities of color from environmental racism and environmental injustice;
  • halting the plan to import high-level radioactive waste for consolidated storage or disposal in Texas due to risks of water contamination, security concerns and transportation accidents, and we oppose transport of high-level radioactive waste on our highways or railways...

The Texas Democrats Platform Committee passed this party platform on June 23, 2018.

There are two proposed schemes for the centralized, or consolidated, "interim storage" (CIS) of highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel that would significantly impact Texas. The first targets Texas directly: Waste Control Specialists, LLC's (WCS) proposal to "temporarily store" (for decades, centuries, or indefinitely into the future) 40,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel and highly radioactive waste in Andrews County, Texas, right on the state line with New Mexico.

But another CIS facility (CISF) proposal, by Holtec International and the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance (ELEA), targets a site in southeastern New Mexico located just 39 miles from WCS in TX.  The Holtec/ELEA CISF proposal is for up to 173,600 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel and highly radioactive waste.

Either one of these de facto permanent, surface storage, parking lot dumps opening would mean unprecedented large-scale shipment, by truck, train, and/or barge, on Texas interstate highways, railways, and perhaps even into Texas ports, of highly radioactive wastes. These shipments could number in the many thousands, over the course of not years, but decades.

If the wastes ever left the TX/NM borderlands (they might not ever leave, once delivered), they could well pass right back through the TX communities they have traveled through in the first place -- depending on where the geologic repository opens for permanent disposal. And in the case of contaminated or leaking containers, the CISF applicants have stated a "return to sender" policy -- meaning shipments could travel back through TX communities en route to the nuclear power plants from which they originated in the first place.

TX has also been targeted for permanent disposal of highly radioactive wastes in the past. In the mid-1980s, the federal Department of Energy had placed Deaf Smith County, TX (known as an agricultural breadbasket) on its short list for Western repository candidates. The George W. Bush administration in late 2008 repeated the possibility that TX could be so targeted again in the future.

Both the WCS, TX and the Holtec/ELEA, NM CISFs raise serious environmental justice concerns. The surrounding area is home to large Hispanic communities. The area is already heavily polluted by intense fossil fuel (natural gas fracking, oil extraction) and nuclear (uranium enrichment, both military and commercial "low-level" radioactive waste dumping, and plans for depleted uranium (DU) processing and disposal) industries.

If you are active in a state political party, please consider urging it to pass a similar platform plank to the one just passed by the Texas Democratic Party. After all, in addition to being directly targeted for CISFs (TX, NM), or a permanent burial dump (Yucca Mountain in NV), most states in the Lower 48 would be very hard hit by high-risk shipments to the dumps, if one ever opens. See, for example, the 44 states through which highly radioactive waste trucks and trains would pass en route to these Western dump-sites. And see the additional states at risk from potential barge shipments en route to these same Western dumps. (While the preceding maps show routes bound for the Yucca Mountain, NV targeted dump-site, the routes to the TX/NM borderlands would be similar, or the same, during the initial legs of the journeys nationwide, the further from the American Southwest. Only at a certain point would routes then diverge from each other, and take other routes to the borderlands of NM/TX, instead of NV.)

Thursday
Jun212018

Environmental coalition urges Congress to defund environmentally unjust nuke waste dumps

As fast and furious congressional votes on annual appropriations regarding energy-related matters take place on Capitol Hill, Beyond Nuclear has joined with scores of allied environmental and environmental justice organizations in urging the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to stop funding for both the Yucca Mountain, Nevada permanent burial dump scheme, as well as the de facto permanent, surface storage, "parking lot dumps" targeted at the New Mexico/Texas borderlands. These commercial irradiated nuclear fuel dump schemes have long targeted low income, and/or people of color communities: Western Shoshone Indian land at Yucca Mountain, NV; and already heavily polluted (from fossil fuel and nuclear industries) Hispanic communities near the Holtec/Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance, NM, and Waste Control Specialists, LLC, TX so-called "centralized interim storage facilities" (CISFs). In fact, Holtec International's previous attempt at "temporary storage" for highly radioactive waste ("Private Fuel Storage, LLC," or PFS) was targeted at the tiny, low income Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in Utah, blocked by a tireless nationwide EJ coalition campaign, led by Skull Valley traditionals Margene Bullcreek and Sammy Blackbear. In fact, southeast NM has previously been targeted for a CISF, at the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, but traditionals Rufina Marie Laws and Joe Geronimo led the successful opposition that blocked it. The nuclear establishment -- the nuclear power industry itself, Congress, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), etc. -- has long been guilty of "radioactive racism," targeting scores of Native American reservations and lands for such dumps, but thus far have been blocked by traditionals like Grace Thorpe of the Sauk and Fox Reservation in Oklahoma.

What can you do to help stop such environmentally unjust radioactive waste dumps? Contact your U.S. Rep., as well as both your U.S. Senators, and urge them to block the Yucca dump, as well as CISFs. (You can also be patched through to your members of congress by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.) The opening of either the Yucca of CISF dumps would launch unprecedented large numbers of highly radioactive waste shipments, by road, rail, and/or waterway, through most states (including high-risk impacts on a large number of Native American reservations). And please continue to submit comments to NRC in opposition to the Holtec/ELEA CISF targeted at southeastern NM, by the July 30th deadline.

Tuesday
Jun192018

NRDC, 39 Other Organizations Express Concern with Nuclear Waste Provision in Energy & Water Appropriations Bill

As posted at NRDC's (Natural Resource Defense Council) website:

In a letter to the U.S. Senate, NRDC joined 39 other organizations [including Beyond Nuclear] in raising concern over a controversial nuclear waste provision (Sec. 304) inserted into the FY2019 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (S. 2975), which is set for a vote on the Senate floor at any moment.

The Appropriations Committee wisely avoided controversy on the Energy and Water Appropriations Act by rejecting the inclusion of harmful riders from the House bill and rejecting damaging cuts proposed by the administration. However, Sec. 304 of the bill is an invitation for contentiousness. This section would unwisely alter our nation’s nuclear waste policies to prioritize the misguided aim of getting an interim spent fuel storage facility up and running as soon as possible at the expense of durable, lasting solutions like publicly accepted and scientifically defensible repository disposal. This provision has no place in an appropriations bill.

[See the full text of the letter, and the list of signatory groups, here.]

Wednesday
Jun132018

Coalition Letter to NRC, re: Failure of Regulations.gov for Comments on Scope of EIS for Holtec/ELEA CISF

Beyond Nuclear's legal counsel, Diane Curran, of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, L.L.P. in Washington, D.C.Beyond Nuclear's legal counsel, Diane Curran of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, L.L.P. in Washington, D.C. (photo, left), today submitted a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), on behalf of a coalition including Don't Waste Michigan (represented by legal counsel Terry Lodge), Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and Nuclear Issues Study Group (NISG).

The letter regards Failure of Regulations.gov for comments on Scope of EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] for Holtec International HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility Project, Docket No. 72-1051; NRC-2018-0052.

In the Federal Register Notice published March 30, 2018, NRC announced a 60-day public comment period for environmental scoping on the Holtec/Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) proposal for a massive (173,600 metric ton) irradiated nuclear fuel centralized interim storage facility (CISF) in southeastern New Mexico. A primary mechanism for public comments to be submitted was via Regulations.gov, the NRC announced in its Federal Register Notice.

(In May, NRC granted a 60 day extension for public comments, in partial response to a request from 52 groups, including Beyond Nuclear. Thus, NRC extended the original deadline from May 29, until the current deadline of July 30, 2018.)

However, Regulations.gov has been spotty at best, from April onwards. In fact, from May 18 until June 7, 2018, Regulations.gov did not work at all -- as experienced by several members of the public who attempted to submit comments, including Beyond Nuclear's staff.

Beyond Nuclear, as well as Nuclear Issues Study Group of Albuquerque, NM, alerted NRC to the problem on May 22nd. But NRC denied the problem existed at all, and did nothing that fixed the problem, which continued till June 7th.

NRC said in response that there were other mechanisms for submitting comments, such as an email address. But the only reason NRC established an email address for submitting comments was in response to a request made by Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety of Santa Fe, NM. Arends made the request at the May 1st NRC public comment meeting in Hobbs, NM. The reason Arends made the request in the first place is because she and others had already had so much difficulty with the spotty Regulations.gov site!

In today's letter, the enviironmental coalition has requested from NRC an additional 90 days of public comment opportunity (that is, a further extension, until October 30th). The coalition has also demanded that NRC make sure Regulations.gov is consistently working properly, or else replace it with another, functional public comment mechanism. All of this must be made official by NRC, with another updated Federal Register Notice.

We urge concerned citizens and environmental groups to take full advantage of this public comment opportunity. To see sample comments you can use to help you prepare your own, as well as instructions for how to submit them by the deadline, click here.

(Email and snail mail options for submitting comments are available, and Regulations.gov itself has supposedly been working again since June 7th.)

Despite the latter, we are still demanding 90 additional days for the public to submit comments. That is, we are urging NRC to extend the current July 30th deadline till October 30th. We'll keep you posted as to our success with this request!