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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
Sep062012

NRC's Nuke Waste Confidence EIS will delay reactor licenses for at least two years!

The cover of Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet "A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High"The five Commissioners who direct the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have just ordered NRC Staff to carry out an expedited, two-year long Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process to revise the agency's Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision (NWCD) and Rule. Critics have charged the NWCD is a confidence game, which for decades has prevented environmental opponents of new reactor construction/operation licenses, as well as old reactor license extensions, from raising high-level radioactive waste generation/storage concerns during NRC licensing proceedings, or even in the federal courts. 

But on June 8th, the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with a coalition of state attorneys general (from NY, CT, NJ, and VT) and environmental groups (including BREDL, NRDC, Riverkeeper and SACE) that NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence violated the National Environmental Policy Act. In effect, the court ruling, which NRC decided not to appeal, ordered the agency to carry out a decades-overdue EIS on the risks of extended (for decades, centuries, or forever) high-level radioactive waste storage at reactor sites, if a permanent repository is never opened.

This means at least a two year delay in any finalization of NRC licensing decisions for new reactors, or license extensions at old reactors, until this EIS process and NWCD revision are completed. However, all other aspects of the NRC licensing proceedings can still be finalized and dispensed with in the meantime, taking NRC rubberstamps of reactor licenses right up to the edge, just shy of finalization. Beyond Nuclear has raised Nuke Waste Con Game contentions in opposition to two proposed new reactors (Fermi 3 in MI, and Grand Gulf 2 in LA), as well as to two old reactor license extensions (Davis-Besse, OH, and Grand Gulf 1, LA). An environmental coalition has raised similar contentions against all three dozen new reactor construction/operation, and old reactor extension, licenses across the U.S.

Disconcertingly, the NRC Commissioners' press release announcing this EIS launch also stated: "The Commission said the staff should draw on the agency’s 'long, rich history' with waste confidence determinations as well as work performed by other agencies, such as environmental assessments, technical studies and reports addressing the impacts of transportation and consolidated storage of spent fuel."

This seems to indicate that the NRC has joined with the likes of President Obama's and Energy Secretary Chu's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future in pushing for "consolidated interim storage" instead of "hardened on-site storage" of high-level radioactive waste. This should come as no surprise, as NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane served on the BRC.

Legislation has already been introduced on Capitol Hill that would launch and fund "consolidated interim storage."U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman will hold a hearing on such legislation on Sept. 12th. Witnesses will include two other members of the BRC -- one of its co-chairmen, General Brent Scrowcroft, and former NRC Chairman Richard Meserve -- as well as Pete Lyons, himself a former NRC Commissioner, and now director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy, mandated to promote nuclear power, and in fact host agency for the BRC. Another witness is the head of Constellation Nuclear, recently acquired by Exelon Nuclear, which would love nothing more than transferring title -- and liability -- for high-level radioactive waste to the American taxpayer, once it begins moving by road, rail, and/or barge, in unprecedented shipment numbers, toward "consolidated interim storage." The final witness is Geoff Fettus, the nuclear attorney at NRDC who helped lead the environmental coalition's victory at the DC Court of Appeals on June 8th. 

Beyond Nuclear has already issued action alerts against the juggernaut revving its engines on Capitol Hill. We have also joined with the likes of Nuclear Energy Information Service, to hold a "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference Dec. 1-3 in Chicago. Kevin Kamps will speak about federal legislative threats on the high-level radioactive waste front, and what you can do about them. The grassroots environmental movement has held off the "Mobile Chernobyl" for 20 years, but this may be the most challenging fight yet in 2013. The Nuke Waste Con EIS also means we have to generate large volumes of public comments, so this conference will be a a launching pad for doing so. Please consider attending, and help spread the word!

For more information on "The Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High," see our pamphlet by that title (the pamphlet's cover is reproduced above, left), as well as the rest of Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste website section.

Monday
Sep032012

Saugeen Ojibway Nations challenge the targeting of their traditional territory for a high-level radioactive waste dump

Saugeen First NationThe Saugeen Ojibway Nations (SON, the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation) live on the Lake Huron shoreline of Ontario. Their Communal Lands are just 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the Bruce Nuclear Complex. With a total of 9 atomic reactors (8 operable, 1 permanently shutdown), as well as "centralized interim storage" (including incineration!) for all of Ontario's 20 atomic reactors' "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes, Bruce is amongst the world's single largest nuclear sites. 

But now a Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for burying all of Ontario's "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes has been proposed by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), owner of Ontario's 20 atomic reactors. 

As the SON have submitted to the Canadian nuclear establishment, the likelihood that its traditional lands are also targeted for Canada's national HIGH-level radioactive waste dump (for all of Ontario's, Quebec's, and New Brunswick's irradiated nuclear fuel) means that OPG's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the DGR is illegally deficient, failing to consider the cumulative impacts associated with the potential for this high-level radioactive waste DGR in the immediate vicinity of Bruce.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), comprised of Canada's nuclear utilities, has been hired by OPG to represent it in the "low"/"intermediate" DGR Environmental Assessment proceeding, and is also in charge of the high-level radioactive waste dump site search in Canada. NWMO has entered into ever deepening stages of consideration for locating Canada's national high-level radioactive waste dump at any of five municipalities surrounding the site of the proposed Bruce DGR, namely: Saugeen Shores, Brockton, Huron-Kinloss, South Bruce and Arran-Elderslie.

Saturday
Jan282012

"Interim" parking lot dumps for high-level radioactive waste storage could become de facto permanent

National Public Radio's coverage of the publication of the final report by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC) and its recommendations for radioactive waste management briefly mentioned a warning by Beyond Nuclear at the end of its online article: "The anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear has weighed in as well, arguing that the interim storage site is a bad idea because it may just become a permanent site." However, Beyond Nuclear was not mentioned in the on air story, while the nuclear establishment, including the BRC co-chairman and Nuclear Energy Institute, were quoted at length.

Thursday
Jan262012

BRC report continues shameful history of targeting Native American communities for radioactive waste dumps

Grace Thorpe helped stop dozens of radioactive waste dumps targeted at Native American communities by DOE's Nuclear Waste NegotiatorToday's final report by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC) continued the shameful history of the U.S. nuclear establishment, in both government and industry, of targeting Native American communities for radioactive waste dumps. Beyond Nuclear issued a media statement regarding the BRC report today, and an op-ed several days ago. At the very first public meeting of the BRC nearly two years ago, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps pleaded this environmental injustice be stopped. To the contrary, BRC's final report points to the U.S. Department of Energy's "Nuclear Waste Negotiator" as a model to be followed again now to advance "consolidated interim storage sites" and repositories. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, DOE's Nuclear Waste Negotiator contacted every single federally recognized Native American tribe in the United States, then targeted 60 in particular, focusing in the end on Mescalero Apache, New Mexico. It is a testament to the extraordinary efforts of Native American environmental justice activists like Grace Thorpe that all those proposals were defeated, and the Nuclear Waste Negotiator's program eliminated. The nuclear power  utilities picked up where the Negotiator left off, next targeting Skull Valley Goshutes, Utah -- a struggle that continues. Ironically, President Obama praised Grace Thorpe in his "Women Taking the Lead to Save our Planet" Women's History Month Proclamation on March 3, 2009, for launching "a successful campaign to organize Native Americans to oppose the storage of nuclear waste on their reservations" -- only now to have his own DOE's BRC recommend that the Nuclear Waste Negotiator model be revived,  including to re-target Native American communities for radioactive waste dumps.

Friday
Jul012011

Watch out for revived drive for parking lot dumps!

While the court ruling on July 1st against the Yucca dump is a major environmental justice victory for the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission for America's Nuclear Future is advocating "centralized interim storage" for commercial high-level radioactive waste -- de facto permanent parking lot dumps. In 2006, NRC (does it stand for Nuclear Racism Commission?!) approved a license for a parking lot dump for 40,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel on the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in Utah. Expect that fight to heat up big time as the Yucca dump's prospects fade!