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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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Tuesday
Nov152016

Beyond Nuclear on Radio EcoShock re: Mobile Chernobyls & parking lot dumps

Host Alex Smith of Radio EcoShock interviewed Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Specialist, Kevin Kamps, re: the proposal for so-called "centralized interim storage" of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel at Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS) in Andrews County, Texas. Listen to the interview from the 32:00 minute to 52:15 minute mark in the recording.

(Please note this correction: The plutonium-contaminated waste barrel burst at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico occurred on Valentine's Day, 2014, not 2012.)

(Smith interviews U.K. professor Kevin Anderson before that, regarding the danger of counting on yet-to-be-developed technologies for reducing global warming gases in the atmosphere, in current plans to avert climate catastrophe. Smith and Anderson compare and contrast the technological hubris of such optimistic assumptions in the climate realm, with that of the nuclear power industry and its unsolved radioactive waste problem.

Then, in the last segment of the program, Smith discusses Robert Mercer, a billionaire climate denier who donated more campaign contributions towards Donald J. Trump's successful bid for the White House than any other single individual.)

Thursday
Nov102016

Radioactive waste: Webinar this evening on HLRW "centralized" interim storage & transport risks

On Thurs., Nov. 10 from 8-9:30 PM Eastern, presenters from Beyond Nuclear, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Coalition, and Nuclear Information and Resource Service, will lead a Webinar focused on the dangers of so-called "centralized interim storage," as well as the risks of shipping irradiated nuclear fuel by road, rail, and waterway. Beyond Nuclear's presentation will be based on its testimony before a U.S. House hearing a year ago. The Webinar is pre-event preparation for a national grassroots strategy summit on high-level radioactive waste, to be held in Chicago, IL on Dec. 2-4. The summit is intended to analyze this week's presidential and congressional election results, to devise strategies and tactics to block de facto permanent parking lot dumps (such as the one targeted at Waste Control Specialists (WCS) in Andrews County, west Texas), as well as to keep the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada dumpsite dead, despite a long-simmering Republican campaign to resurrect it. Both industry-friendly schemes will now intensify on Capitol Hill in January; either one would launch unprecedented numbers of high-risk Mobile Chernobyls through most states (See WCS-bound shipment routes, left; or see larger map, here). Please pre-register for the Webinar to receive instructions on how to view/hear it, and submit your registration form for the Chicago summit ASAP, before all available participant slots are filled!

Wednesday
Oct262016

Despite setbacks, Beyond Nuclear and allies continue to challenge high-level radioactive waste generation, storage, transport, and dumping!

Maps showing the national and TX-specific routes for commerical irradiated nuclear fuel railway shipments to WCS.Despite setbacks, Beyond Nuclear and our allies are not backing down on high-level radioactive waste.

First, the setbacks. On June 3rd, a three-judge D.C. Ciruit Court of Appeals panel issued an outrageous ruling against us, and our environmental coalition partners, instead backing the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) absurd "Nuclear Waste Confidence" (as in Con Game) policies. Beyond Nuclear responded to the outrageous ruling on June 6th, and the coalition appealed en banc, to the full 13-judge D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, on July 18th.

Incredibly, on August 8th, the full 13-judge D.C. Circuit simply supported the outrageous ruling.

But we've not let these injustices slow down our challenges to high-level radioactive waste risks and illegalities.

On Wednesday, Oct. 26th, Beyond Nuclear and allies (Nuclear Information Resource Service, Public Citizen, and SEED Coalition) sent a letter to NRC, urging it stop reviewing a license application by Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS) to construct and operate a de facto permanent parking lot dump for commercial irradiated nuclear fuel in Andrews County, west Texas. (See maps of national and Texas transport routes to WCS; see a larger version here.)This is required, because the application, and its review, are illegal, in several regards.

On Thursday, Oct. 27th, the environmental coalition issued a press release.

Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, was quoted:

“By requiring a permanent deep geological repository to be operating before centralized interim storage could be opened, Congress wanted to prevent the very real danger of a de facto permanent parking lot dump – a nuclear waste storage site that would be designed for the short-term but be there forever," said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist, Beyond Nuclear. He added: “WCS is a cynical shell game and taxpayers are sure to lose. Congress was right that liability for the costs of storing commercial irradiated nuclear fuel belongs with the generators and should not be shifted onto the backs of the American public.”

On all of these high-level radioactive waste regulatory and legal matters, Beyond Nuclear and its environmental coalition allies are served by legal counsel Diane Curran of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg + Eisenberg, LLP of Washington, D.C., as well as Mindy Goldstein of Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.

Monday
Jun062016

Beyond Nuclear response to U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit panel ruling in NY v. NRC II, the Nuclear Waste Confidence Lawsuit

Media Statement by Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear’s Radioactive Waste Watchdog, in Response to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Panel Ruling in New York v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission II,

the Nuclear Waste Confidence Lawsuit:

“We are sorely disappointed by Friday’s ruling. The court did not seem to understand the very sound and forceful arguments our coalition of environmental organizations was making.

Our lawyers are reviewing Friday’s decision. We have options for moving ahead, and we expect a recommendation from our lawyers shortly about next steps. 

Suffice it for now to say, we will continue our efforts to demand the government address the very serious environmental risks posed by atomic reactor operation and highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel generation. More.

Thursday
May122016

Senate Energy & Water Appropriations bill would open high-level radioactive waste parking lot dumps, launch large-scale Mobile Chernobyl program

As reported by the New York Times and The Hill, the Energy & Water Appropriations bill (H.R.2028, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016) passed the U.S. Senate today, by a vote of 90 to 8.

As AP reported: The legislation includes a pilot program to allow storage of nuclear waste at private facilities, such as one proposed in western Texas...

The legislation would fund a pilot program to relocate radioactive waste from shuttered nuclear power plants to a storage site near Midland, Texas. The project would provide a partial solution as lawmakers try to resolve a decades-old dispute over storing nuclear waste at a repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The Yucca site has never opened amid fierce opposition from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other lawmakers.

(Thus, nuclear power industry lobbyists have prevailed in getting what they want included, while emergency relief for Flint, Michigan amidst its drinking water lead poisoning catastrophe was left out. This, despite the best efforts of Michigan's U.S. Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters (both Democrats), due to a hold placed by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Learn more about Flint's cautionary tale vis-a-vis radioactive waste in Beyond Nuclear's article in Counterpunch, "After Flint, Don't Let Them Nuke the Great Lakes Next!")

A blog by Marc Boom, Associate Director of Government Affairs at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) warned that "Senate Energy and Water Bill [is] Not as Non-Controversial as Claimed."

Boom blogged:

For example, the bill contains a provision that authorizes a new pilot program to allow the Department of Energy to store nuclear waste at private facilities licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This is an unwise approach to one of the most contentious issues of American politics—nuclear waste—without any of the comprehensive work necessary for a full reform of the nation’s nuclear waste laws. Simply, this provision removes meaningful motivation and impetus for adherence to the long standing principle that the nation’s nuclear waste must be buried in deep geologic repositories, permanently isolated from the human and natural environments. We urge the controversial provision be removed.

In fact, NRDC has led opposition to so-called "centralized" or "consolidated interim storage" un-linked to permament geologic disposal. Way back in 2012 and 2013, NRDC's senior nuclear attorney, Geoff Fettus, testified at U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee hearings on radioactive waste management, about the importance of maintaining that linkage, lest "centralized interim storage" become de facto permanent surface storage, or parking lot dumps.

The ENR Committee Chairman in 2012, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), got it. De-linking "centralized interim storage" and permanent disposal did not happen on his watch. The risks of "centralized interim storage" becoming de facto permanent parking lot dumps, for lack of a permanent repository, was too great. New Mexico being targeted for so-called "centralized interim storage" -- at Eddy-Lea Counties, in the extreme southeastern corner of the state, near the DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) -- made that risk all too real to allow to happen.

Alas, such wisdom is not prevailing in the U.S. Senate now, as pro-nuclear U.S. Senators seek to do the bidding of the nuclear power industry's lobbyists.

The Senate version of H.R.2028 is posted online.

Here is the relevant legislative language, related to "consent-based centralized interim storage," extracted from the bill (Section 306).

Also see an overview of the bill's current status.

A congressional summary, posted online, describes Section 306 thus:

(Sec. 306) Authorizes DOE to conduct a pilot program with private sector partners to license, construct, and operate one or more storage facilities to provide interim storage for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Permits the Nuclear Waste Fund to be used for this purpose, subject to appropriations.

That same summary describes Section 311 this way:

(Sec. 311) Permits DOD [sic, should read DOE] to: (1) enter into contracts to store spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to which DOE holds the title or has a contract to accept title, and (2) enter into new contracts or modify existing contracts to accept title for high-level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel.

Regarding funding for "centralized interim storage," the bill reads:

Nuclear Energy

For Department of Energy expenses including the purchase, construction, and acquisition of plant and capital equipment, and other expenses necessary for nuclear energy activities in carrying out the purposes of the Department of Energy Organization Act (42 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.), including the acquisition or condemnation of any real property or any facility or for plant or facility acquisition, construction, or expansion, and the purchase of no more than three emergency service vehicles for replacement only, $1,057,903,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That of such amount, the Secretary of Energy may obligate up to $10,000,000 under existing authorities, for contracting for the management of used nuclear fuel to which the Secretary holds the title or has a contract to accept title: Provided further, That of such amount, $80,000,000 shall be available until September 30, 2018, for program direction. (emphasis added)

DOE has "standard contracts" to "accept title" to all commercial irradiated nuclear fuel in the U.S. (Incredibly, this includes for the high-level radioactive waste at proposed new reactors, such as Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA, and Summer 2 & 3 in SC, if their increasingly behind schedule and over budget construction projects should ever be completed, and the reactors ever actually operate. Between Election Day 2008 and Inauguration Day 2009 (early Nov. 2008 to mid-Jan. 2009), as the Obama administration was entering office, the George W. Bush DOE hastily -- even sloppily -- signed "standard contracts" with nuclear utilities to take ultimate responsibility for irradiated nuclear fuel to be generated by a large number of proposed new reactors. Most of these proposed new reactors, thankfully, have since been cancelled, so hopefully will never be built, and never generate high-level radioactive waste.)

But in U.S. Senate Energy & Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander's (R-TN) Report accompanying H.R. 2028, different funding levels are cited:

The Committee recommends $30,000,000 for used nuclear fuel disposition to implement sections 306 and 311. Within this amount, funds are provided for financial and technical assistance associated with a consent-based siting process, including education, technical analyses, and other support to entities considering hosting an interim storage facility; and for incentive payments to entities with signed agreements with eligible jurisdictions. (emphasis added)

(See Pages 80-81 of the PDF version of the Report posted online.)

This Senate-passed version of the Energy & Water Appropriations bill now goes to a conference committee with the U.S. House, in order to try to reach a reconciled version. That final bill -- which could be different in significant ways from both the current Senate and House versions -- would then return to each House of Congress for final passage, and then would become law with President Obama's signature.

A most interesting impasse regarding radioactive waste, between the House and Senate, is the demand by U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and U.S. House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), that any radioactive waste management program include the Yucca Mountain, Nevada dump.

But Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid from Nevada, is adamantly opposed. Reid has led opposition to the Yucca dump since the 1987 "Screw Nevada" bill targeted his state in the first place. In 2010, Reid helped secure the Obama administration's cancellation of the Yucca Mountain Project. Reid has also played the lead role in slashing, or entirely zeroing out, Yucca's budget, for well over a decade, ever since attaining his position as Democratic Leader in the U.S. Senate.

Upton and Shimkus have pledged not to support parking lot dumps, unless the Yucca dump is included. Reid will oppose the Yucca dump with all his might. (See NRDC's blog, posted as an update below, re: Upton and Shimkus's attempt to keep the Yucca dump on life support.)

Whether the Yucca dump is opened, or one or more regional parking lot dumps (as at Waste Control Specialists, LLC in Andrews County, Texas; Eddy-Lea Counties, near WIPP in New Mexico; other DOE sites, such as Savannah River Site, South Carolina; Native American reservations, yet to be named; or even nuclear power plants, such as Dresden in Morris, Illinois), it would launch unprecedented numbers of shipments of high-level radioactive waste onto the roads, rails, and/or waterways: Mobile Chernobyls, Floating Fukushimas, Dirty Bombs on Wheels.

You can learn more about high-level radioactive waste transporation risks at the following sources:

NIRS Stop Fukushima Freeways! website section;

NIRS Mobile Chernobyl website section;

State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects Nuclear Waste Transportation website section;

Beyond Nuclear Radioactive Waste Transporation website section.

What You Can Do:

Please take action. Urge your U.S. Representative, and your two U.S. Senators, to block the opening of the Yucca dump, of one or more parking lot dumps, and the consequent launching of Mobile Chernobyls. (Most Members of Congress have Webforms on their Websites, where you can submit written comments. Most Member offices also provide FAX numbers. You can also write letters at the addresses providedn at those Websites, and/or call your Members of Congress, via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard, at (202) 224-3121.) Also contact President Obama, and urge the same.