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Environmental Impacts

The entire nuclear fuel chain involves the release of radioactivity that contaminates the environment. Radiation can affect the air, water, soil, plants, animals, places of residence and recreation and elsewhere.

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Friday
Jan172014

Volunteers Crowdsource Radiation Monitoring to Map Potential Risk on Every Street in Japan

As reported by Democracy Now! on the Pacifica Radio Network:

Safecast is a network of volunteers who came together to map radiation levels throughout Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. They soon realized radiation readings varied widely, with some areas close to the disaster facing light contamination, depending on wind and geography, while others much further away showed higher readings. Safecast volunteers use Geiger counters and open-source software to measure the radiation, and then post the data online for anyone to access. Broadcasting from Tokyo, we are joined by Pieter Franken, co-founder of Safecast. "The first trip we made into Fukushima, it was an eye-opener. First of all, the radiation levels we encountered were way higher than what we had seen on television," Franken says. "We decided to focus on measuring every single street as our goal in Safecast, so for the last three years we have been doing that, and this month we are passing the 15 millionth location we have measured, and basically every street in Japan has been at least measured once, if not many, many more times."

The atomic reactors that melted down and exploded at Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 were General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors. The U.S. has 23 still-operating Mark Is, as well as 8 more very similarly designed Mark IIs.

Friday
Dec202013

Environmental coalition meets NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS public comment deadline

Environmental coalition attorney Diane Curran

(The risks of generating, storing, and ultimately "disposing" of irradiated nuclear fuel includes risks to the environment and its plant, animals, and human inhabitants, of course. Environmental coalition expert witnesses have looked at the risks of high-level radioactive waste storage pools, dry casks, and repositories leaking, and/or releasing catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity due to natural disaster, accident, or attack.

Even the costs of storing and "disposing of" irradiated nuclear fuel reflects the risk to ecosystem health and well being. After all, the high cost has entirely to do with the need to isolate the high-level radioactive waste from being released into the living environment.

Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, expert witness on behalf of this environmental coalition, has estimated that storage and disposal of irradiated nuclear fuel could add $210 to $350 billion onto the costs of nuclear-generated electricity in the U.S. In addition, the once-per-century replacement of dry cask storage across the U.S., assumed by NRC in its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS, would add another $100 billion per replacement, Cooper estimates. Cooper asserts that NRC cannot ignore such "staggering" costs in its EIS on the costs and risks of generating irradiated nuclear fuel in the first place -- that is, approving new reactor construction and operating licenses, and old reactor license extensions.)

An environmental coalition of nearly three dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has submitted comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). The coalition is represented by a team of attorneys, including Diane Curran (photo, left) of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, Washington, D.C.; Mindy Goldstein, Director, and Jillian Kysor, Fellow, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; and Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director, and Deborah Brancato, Staff Attorney, Riverkeeper, Ossining, NY.

The coalition is also represented by a team of expert witnesses, including Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Takoma Park, MD; David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Chattanooga, TN; Dr. Gordon Thompson, Executive Director, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, MA; and Dr. Mark Cooper, Senior Research Fellow for Economic Analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT.

The environmental coalition's comments, as well as its expert witnesses' declarations, have been posted on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) website, as well as at the bottom of a press release featuring the work of Dr. Cooper on the economic costs of irradiated nuclear fuel management. The coalition's comment and expert witness declarations are also posted at the NIRS website.

Curran, on behalf of three environmental groups (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper, and SACE), in alliance with Natural Resource Defense Council, as well as four state attorneys general (CT, NJ, NY, and VT) won a landmark legal victory on June 8, 2012. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that NRC had to carry out an environmental impact statement on its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy and rule, including the on-site storage risks of irradiated nuclear fuel in pools and dry casks. The Dec. 20th public comment deadline on the DGEIS is a part of that court-ordered process.

Saturday
Dec072013

One oral comment opportunity (call-in only) left on NRC's nuke waste con game DGEIS, Mon., 12/9; final written submissions due by 12/20

Environmental coalition members from the Crabshell Alliance, Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign, NIRS, PSR, NEIS, and Public Citizen "just say NO!" at the NRC HQ nuke waste con game public comment meeting on 11/14 in Rockville, MD. Photo credit David Martin and Erica Grey.

From 1 to 4 PM Eastern on Monday, Dec. 9th is the last opportunity to submit oral comments to NRC -- via a call-in teleconference -- re: its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement. Here is how to join the call: Prior to the start of the meeting, please dial
1-888-603-9749
and provide the operator with passcode 5132332.

Please continue to submit your public comments to NRC via email, webform, fax, and/or snail mail. You can submit as many public comments as you want, between now and the final public comment deadline (Friday, Dec. 20th).

Sample comments, which you can use to help you write your own, have been provided by Beyond Nuclear, NIRS, NEIS, and many others.

For additional background, including reports back from the public comment meetings across the country, click here.

Saturday
Nov232013

Nov. 25th Forum on the Decommissioning of Vermont Yankee in Montpelier

A message from Debra Stoleroff of Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA):

After more than 40 years, our efforts have paid off and the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is closing in 2014 and will be decommissioned.  There are many ways to decommission a nuclear power plant; some more safe than others.

So, what does deliberate, thorough and responsible decommissioning mean?  What does it look like? And how can Vermont (and we) advocate for deliberate, thorough and responsible decommissioning with a greenfield when Vermont does not have a legal say in the process?

Deb Katz of the Citizens' Awareness Network (CAN) and Chris Williams of VCAN and VYDA will address what will happen to Vermont Yankee when it closes in 2014.  They will discuss transition, clean-up, long term waste storage and what role citizens can play In the process.

Join VYDA for a forum on The Decommissioning of Vermont Yankeewith Deb Katz, Executive Director of Citizens' Awareness Network  and Chris Williams, Director of VT Citizen's Action Network and member of VYDA

Monday, November 25,6:30 pm, at the Unitarian Church, 130 Main St., Montpelier
Sponsored by the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance

For more information call: (802) 476-3154

More.

Saturday
Nov232013

West Lake Landfill: A Radioactive Legacy of the Nuclear Arms Race

Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy StudiesRobert Alvarez (photo, left), Senior Scholar at Institute for Policy Studies, has prepared a report entitled "The West Lake Landfill: A Radioactive Legacy of the Nuclear Arms Race."

In 1973, the West Lake Landfill, in the Missouri River floodplain, and just upstream from a drinking water supply intake for St. Louis, became the illegal dumping ground for part of the Belgian Congo uranium wastes, leftover from the Manhattan Project, the race to build the first atomic bombs, tested in New Mexico, and dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. These wastes are loaded with Thorium-230, an alpha-particle emitting radioactive substance regarded as comparable, in radiological hazard, to Plutonium-239.

On Nov. 21st, Alvarez, along with Dr. Robert Criss of Washington University and Peter Anderson (Executive Director, Center for a Competitive Waste Industry), keynoted a presentation, sponsored by Missouri Coalition for the Environment, about an underground garbage dump fire now threatening the radioactive waste buried at West Lake Landfill. (See the event announcement and action alert). St. Louis Public Radio, KSDK, KMOV, KMOX, and the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on the event. A video recording of the Westlake Landfill community meeting has also been provided by Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

Criss prepared a report earlier this year entitled "Risk and Character of Radioactive Waste at the West Lake Landfill, Bridgeton, Missouri."

Kay Drey, a Beyond Nuclear board member, has long watchdogged the high-risk situation at the West Lake Landfill, along with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

Rolling Stone reported on the West Lake Landfill fire earlier this year, in an article entitled "St. Louis Is Burning." The article quoted Drey, Criss, Anderson, Ed Smith of Missouri Coalition for the Environment, as well as local residents.