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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
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!

Wednesday
Apr192017

Beyond Nuclear media statement re: WCS, TX request to NRC to suspend licensing for high-level radioactive waste centralized interim storage facility

News from Beyond Nuclear

For Immediate Release, April 19, 2017

Contact: Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Beyond Nuclear, (240) 462-3216; kevin@beyondnuclear.org

Beyond Nuclear Media Statement

re: Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS) request to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to suspend the licensing proceeding and environmental scoping on its application to open a Centralized Interim Storage Facility (CISF) for highly radioactive commercial irradiated nuclear fuel in Andrews County, Texas

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear’s Radioactive Waste Watchdog, stated:

“This latest radioactive waste Ponzi scheme has collapsed under its own weight. In its request to NRC to suspend the proceedings, WCS acknowledged ‘enormous financial challenges.’ In other words, WCS’s financial assurances for the future, and financial status at present, are little more than a wobbly house of cards, that have now come crashing down.

First and foremost, although the nuclear power industry would never admit it, this is yet another clear sign that there is no good solution for the dilemma of its forever deadly high-level radioactive waste. For this reason alone, the four new reactors under construction in Georgia and South Carolina should be terminated, and 99 dangerously age-degraded atomic reactors, located in 30 states across the U.S., should be permanently shut down, as soon as possible. Their electricity can be readily replaced with clean, safe, and ever more affordable energy efficiency and renewable sources, such as wind and solar power.

Our coalition of environmental groups and concerned local residents near WCS, and along targeted high-level radioactive waste railways, waterways, and highways across the country, in most states, celebrate this hard-won victory. Given the proposed WCS CISF’s risks to the Ogallala Aquifer, as well as the area’s low-income Latin American communities, already heavily polluted by extensive nuclear and fossil fuel industries, this is most welcome good news for the environment and environmental justice.

Beyond Nuclear congratulates our legal counsel, Diane Curran of Washington, D.C., Robert Eye of Lawrence, Kansas, and Mindy Goldstein of Atlanta, Georgia, for their capable service as legal counsel to our environmental coalition opposing the WCS CISF.

We also congratulate our environmental coalition colleagues at SEED (Sustainable Energy & Economic Development) Coalition, Public Citizen’s Texas Office, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and most recently Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign, including its legal counsel, Wally Taylor of Iowa, for their tireless commitment to this vital environmental justice fight.

And last but not least, we congratulate our allies at the grassroots, such as Rose Gardner in Eunice, NM, through whose community every single train car of high-level radioactive waste – up to 40,000 metric tons worth, about half of what currently exists in the U.S. -- bound for WCS, TX would pass. We are committed to trying to prevent this environmental injustice from ever coming to pass.

Our coalition will remain vigilant against any attempt by WCS to restart this licensing proceeding. We are equally committed to opposing, at every turn, the recently announced Holtec International/Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance application to open a CISF, a mere 35 miles west of WCS, in New Mexico, very near WIPP. These twin proposals seek to turn this area into an ever-worsening nuclear sacrifice zone. This must be stopped.”

--30--

Additional background information:

In its request to NRC to suspend the proceedings, WCS acknowledged ‘enormous financial challenges’:

WCS also is faced with a magnitude of financial burdens that currently make pursuit of licensing unsupportable. This is so because following the recent docketing of the CISF application in January 2017, the cost profile for WCS’ pursuit of the CISF application has increased dramatically.

The NRC recently provided WCS an estimate of the cost of the application review of $7.5 million, which is significantly higher than we originally estimated. Also, the costs associated with the commencement of the public participation process and a potential adjudicatory hearing before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, are estimated to be considerable, especially in the very near term. The cost sharing arrangement WCS had in place with one of its partners for this project has been depleted, and WCS has been unable to reach an agreement to extend these arrangements. At the same time, WCS has faced significant operating losses in each of its operating years, and the cost of actively pursuing the project only serves to increase those losses.

WCS nonetheless expresses optimism that its acquisition by competitor EnergySolutions (formerly EnviroCare) of Utah will enable the CISF application proceeding to resume, perhaps by as early as late summer 2017. But the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken antitrust legal action against the merger, scheduled for federal court hearings from April 24th to May 5th.  WCS’s confidence may well be false, given the unpredictable nature of the future court rulings.

WCS’s ‘enormous financial challenges’ also call into question whether CISF schemes even make good business sense. This specter will also haunt the prospects for the Holtec International/Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance (ELEA) application to open a CISF a mere 35 miles to the west of WCS in New Mexico, very near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which has itself leaked plutonium and other radioactive wastes into the environment, internally contaminating workers at the surface. Already, both WCS and Holtec/ELEA have made clear that constructing, operating, and decommissioning their CISFs would require the transfer of all costs, risks, and liabilities onto the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – that is, federal taxpayers, something prohibited by federal law, as pointed out by CISF proposal opponents like Beyond Nuclear.

 

Wednesday
Apr052017

Summary of Oscar Shirani’s Allegations of Quality Assurance Violations Against Holtec Storage/Transport Casks

Now that Holtec International and the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance (ELEA) want to open a parking lot dump in Southeastern New Mexico, it's time to look back at these whistleblower revelations from more than a decade ago:

Shirani questioned the structural integrity of the Holtec containers sitting still, going zero miles per hour, let alone traveling 60 miles per hour -- or faster -- on railways.

Landsman has compared the QA violations involving Holtec containers, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's incompetence (or worse, collusion) -- having done nothing about it -- as similar to the reasons why Space Shuttles have hit the ground.

Wednesday
Apr052017

Beyond Nuclear media statement, re: Holtec International application to U.S. NRC, to open a Centralized Interim Storage Facility for High-Level Radioactive Waste in Southeastern New Mexico

Friday
Mar312017

Opponents gird for nuclear waste dump battles in New Mexico and Texas

Potential radioactive waste transporation routes to WCS, TX. As Eddy-Lea, NM is close by, the routing to there would be very similar.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has extended the deadline for public comments on the environmental scoping of Waste Control Specialists' proposed centralized interim storage facility for commercial irradiated nuclear fuel in Andrews County, Texas until April 28th. Please submit comments! You can also make oral comments, on Thurs., April 6 from 7 to 10pm Eastern, during an NRC public comment teleconference/call-in meeting (Bridge Number: (800) 619-9084, Pass Code: 3009542; please register in advance, ASAP, by contacting Ms. Antoinette Walker-Smith at (301) 415-6957, or by email (to <antoinette.walker-smith@nrc.gov>). Please spread the word on these public comment opportunities!

NRC has also just extended the deadline for legal intervention against the WCS de facto permanent high-level radioactive waste parking lot dump, till May 31st; Beyond Nuclear fully intends to intervene, along with a coalition of environmental groups and concerned citizens, not only residing near the dump, but also along transport routes throughout the country. (See map, left; for a larger version, click here.)  

(And this late breaking news: Holtec International has just applied to NRC for a Centralized Interim Storage Facility (CISF) construction and operation license in Eddy-Lea County, Southeastern New Mexico -- just like WCS, TX, and only about 50 miles away! Combined with the Louisiana Energy Services/Uranium Enrichment Corporation, immediately adjacent to WCS, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP, for military trans-uranic waste disposal), close to the Holtec/Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance CISF, the nuclear establishment in government and industry is clearly attempting to turn the area into a nuclear sacrifice zone. Our coalition must rise to the challenge of resisting this latest environmental injustice. Stay tuned for updates as they come in, in the weeks and months ahead.)

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