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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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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.

Wednesday
May312017

Environmental Activists Suggest Dumping Nuclear Waste in National Monument

"Environmental activists" may be a bit generous, given their objectionable proposal. NIMBYs, blatantly violating environmental justice principles, may be a more appropriate appellation. (NIMBY is short for Not In My Backyard.)

As part of KCET and Link TV's “Summer of the Environment,” described by the media partners as offering "a robust library of content on multiple platforms from June-August intended to ignite compassion and action for helping to save and heal our planet," Chris Clarke has written a devastating exposé entitled "Environmental Activists Suggest Dumping Nuclear Waste in National Monument."

Despite being on the side of the environmental campaign to shut down the dangerously degraded San Onofre Units 2 & 3 reactors in s. CA in 2013, Citizens' Oversight has since demonstrated unjustifiable "get-it-out-of-here, we-don't-really-care-where-it-goes" NIMBYism ever since. The "it" is San Onofre's highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel, a whopping 1,800 metric tons worth.

Granted, parking highly radioactive waste 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean, barely above current sea level, is dangerously absurd. (It is made all the worse by the choice of dry cask to be used -- Holtecs, which likely have major quality assurance violations.) These are nuclear utility Southern California Edison's (SCE) current plans.

But this does not excuse Citizens' Oversight playing "pin the tail on the donkey" on a wall map of the U.S. when it comes to high-level radioactive waste. Two wrongs don't make a right. Citizens' Oversight's half-baked NIMBY proposals violate basic principles of health, safety, and environmental protection, as well as justice.

As a counter example, Don't Waste Michigan co-founder Dr. Mary Sinclair, in 2002, wrote to Michigan's U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, urging her to vote against the proposed Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump, because it so blatantly fails such basic tests as scientific suitability, environmental justice, and consent-based siting. This, despite Dr. Sinclair devoting decades of her life to protecting the Great Lakes against radioactive risks, such as irradatiated nuclear fuel storage, in some of the very worst dry casks in the U.S., on Lake Michigan's shore at the Palisades atomic reactor. The Great Lakes form the drinking water supply for 40 million people in eight states, two provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

And Citizens Awareness Network of the Northeast has co-led numerous national campaigns opposing such radioactive waste dump schemes as Yucca and PFS (see below), for similar reasons. This, despite CAN members and leaders knowing full well the dangers of the irradiated nuclear fuel stored at atomic reactors in their communities. But they have taken the moral high road, of not simply wishing their own problem onto others -- especially not onto low income, people of color communities, the one most often targeted for radioactive waste dumps.

Along these lines, for its Yes In YOUR Backyard (YIYBY?!) top targets list, Citizens' Oversight has focused on: the Palo Verde nuclear power plant west of Phoenix (apparently because SCE is a part-owner); Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS) in west Texas, and/or Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance (ELEA) in southeast New Mexico (another, massive Holtec-based proposal), within less than 40 miles of each other across the state line, for so-called "centralized interim storage facilities" (CISFs; truth in advertizing, CISFs could well become de facto permanent surface parking lot dumps); or a CISF/parking lot dump in rural, sparsely populated Fishel, a town to the east, in CA, but en route to Yucca Mountain, Nevada. (And Yucca, of course, has long been targeted for the country's highly radioactive waste dump, despite being located on land belonging to the Western Shoshone Indian nation, by treaty right.)

It is the latter proposal, Fishel, CA, that Clarke's article focuses on, and shines a lot of light on.

As Clarke reports:

Citizen Oversight characterized it as "just a spot on the map rather than a place where anyone lives"...

But in a section entitled "Missing the Wilderness," Clarke relates:

The group‘s contention that there are no nearby wildernesses or preserves may well be the most egregious of the errors in the document. The report was drafted in 2015, so its original draft could reasonably be excused for failing to mention the Mojave Trails National Monument established there in February 2016. But the 165,172-acre Old Woman Mountains Wilderness, whose border with the Mojave Trails National Monument runs right through Fishel, was established in 1994 as part of the California Desert Protection Act. The 19,935-acre Cadiz Dunes Wilderness, six miles northwest of Fishel, was established by that same piece of legislation in 1994, as was the 188,169-acre Sheephole Valley Wilderness 11 miles west of Fishel.

Clarke also points out that Citizens' Oversight's proposed high-level radioactive waste dump is "just 17 miles from the boundary of Joshua Tree National Park."

Quoting Citizens' Oversight, Clarke also reported on the NIMBY group's refined site search, so to speak (apparently undertaken with little more than a Google Earth search):

As we look north up this valley, which is called “Ironwood Wash” we see the darker areas to the east are the Turtle Mountains. It may be better to site the ISFSI [Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation] in the harder rock of these mountains rather than in the wash but more research would be required to determine this.

But as Clarke points out:

More research would also determine that the vast majority of the Turtle Mountains are protected as the 177,309-acre Turtle Mountains Wilderness, established with all the others in the neighborhood in 1994.

Clarke goes on:

Other errors of similar magnitude pepper the document, from a misunderstanding of Native concerns over the nuclear waste dump proposed for nearby Ward Valley in the 1990s, to omission of any mention of the Cadiz, Inc. proposal to ship water from the aquifer beneath Fishel to coastal cities, to the statement that the area lacks seismic activity — which Citizen Oversight walked back somewhat after learning of the existence of Amboy Crater in 2017.

Most startling of all is the failure to mention the Mojave Trails National Monument. Though the Monument hadn’t been designated when the first version of Citizen Oversight’s proposal was released in August 2015, the monument had been a very prominent proposal being coaxed through Congress by Senator Dianne Feinstein for six years before that.

Though the proposal was updated twice after the designation of Mojave Trails National Monument — first to make the above-mentioned suggestion that Cadiz might be a better location, and secondly after the authors learned on a field trip of the existence of Mojave Trails’ best known natural landmark, Amboy Crater, and noted that possible volcanism might undermine their suggestion — none of the updates mentioned Mojave Trails National Monument, despite the authors’ having had to pass the Monument’s welcome signs on the field trip in which they discovered Amboy Crater. (Emphasis added)

In a concluding section about protectors of the desert, Clarke reports:

These are activists that have stopped a LADWP [Los Angeles Department of Water and Power] transmission line that seemed inevitable. They have slowed a massive federal solar development initiative to a near halt. Activism by desert Native peoples, with support from their non-Native neighbors, killed a nuclear waste dump proposal that had been backed by both the state and federal governments. If not for Mojave Desert activists, people in coastal southern California would already be drinking water from the same Cadiz aquifer above which Citizen Oversight would perch tons of high-level radioactive waste. Desert activists have killed landfills, changed wildlife trapping laws statewide, and fought to establish one of the densest clusters of national parks, preserves, and monuments precisely to protect the landscape against proposals like Citizen Oversight’s.

Overlooking the existence of those desert activists might well be the biggest error Citizen Oversight made in crafting its proposal to store nuclear waste in California’s largest National Monument. The only apparent consideration of locals in the proposal is discussion of a labor supply for the nuclear waste dump, not of people who might be every bit as harmed by the spent fuel's proximity as concerned householders in San Clemente — and certainly not as a potential core of skilled and motivated opposition. (emphasis added)

Clarke's discussion of Native American traditionals joining in coalition with environmentalists to win wilderness protections brings to mind the major environmental justice victory a decade ago, when the CISF/ISFSI/parking lot dump targeted at the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Reservation in west Utah was stopped, despite a construction and operating license being rubber-stamped by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (or Nuclear Racism Commission). See this NIRS website linked here, for more info. on this defeat of the Private Fuel Storage, LLC (PFS) scheme, hatched by the nuclear power industry in cahoots with Holtec.

A proposal that even Citizens' Oversight has given a nod to, may be the face saving escape hatch, in more ways than one. Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, directly across the highway from San Onofre nuclear power plant, was mentioned as a possible alterntative "interim storage site" for dry casks holding irradiated nuclear fuel, instead of on the beach (isn't there a novel by that title?!), 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean, barely above current sea level (leave it to SCE -- for whom cost-saving safety shortcuts mean increased profit margins --  to come up with such an absurdly high-risk scheme; but every member of the California Coastal Commission who approved it should be summarily fired for incompetence, or collusion, as well!). 

Beyond Nuclear's radioactive waste watchdog, Kevin Kamps, has been proposing just that, for several long years now. Instead of shipping San Onofre's 1,800 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel a thousand miles to the east (to WCS, TX and/or ELEA, NM), with all the associated transport risks, why not ship it a few miles to the east -- deeper into Camp Pendleton, further inland, to higher ground? (San Onofre nuclear power plant is itself, located on Camp Pendleton property, under long term lease, where SCE has proposed dry cask storage for irradiated nuclear fuel, 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean, barely above current sea level.) This would get the waste out of the tsunami zone, further away from coastal earthquake fault lines, and away from rising sea levels. The added bonus would be, security provided by one of the largest concentrations of U.S. Marines in the world!