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ARTICLE ARCHIVE

Fuel Chain Wastes

Radioactive waste is generated at every phase of the nuclear fuel chain. Whether high-level or so-called"low-level," no safe, proven, long-term solution has yet been found to manage these wastes.

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Monday
Jun092014

Markey, Burgess Release Report Showing Legal Concerns over Energy Dept.’s Deals with Uranium Enriching Company

U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA)A new GAO report, requested by U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass., photo left) and U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), finds that the shuttered U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) facility received hundreds of millions of dollars worth of uranium, while ignoring laws and losing taxpayer money.

The report details a pattern of actions by DOE that kept USEC’s facility in Paducah, Kentucky open and subsidized the development of questionable centrifuge technology at its Ohio facility, even as the company was rated as junk bond status, threatened with de-listing from the New York Stock Exchange, and ultimately spiraled into bankruptcy.

“Our government has kept this uranium company on life support, wasting money and flouting the law, even though it was clear that it would end up in bankruptcy. This is the kind of government waste that Americans just don’t understand,” said Senator Markey, who is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “It’s time to commit this junk technology to the junk bin.”

Some of the uranium involved is associated with supplying replacement tritium for U.S. nuclear weapons.

Sen. Markey has issued a press release, including a summary, and a link to the full 112-page GAO report.

Monday
Dec302013

"Smoldering controversy" at St. Louis area radioactive waste landfill flares up

Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey, long-time anti-nuclear watchdog, including on the West Lake Landfill's radioactive wastesThe Wall Street Journal has reported ("Neighbors Fume at Radioactive Dump: Legacy of Atomic-Era Weapons Work in St. Louis Suburb Stirs Worries About Health, Environment," by John R. Emshwiller, Dec. 29, 2013) on the West Lake Landfill near St. Louis, MO. (In a companion piece, the WSJ reports "Facebook Page Chronicles Accounts of Illnesses Reported by Residents"). The dumpsite contains one of the single largest concentrations of hazardous, radioactive Thorium-230 residues in the entire country, as recently documented by Bob Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Although the radioactive wastes in the West Lake Landfill originated from the nuclear weapons industry, the crisis holds lessons for nuclear power "uranium fuel chain" waste risks, as well.

The West Lake Landfill is an illegal dumping ground for the oldest radioactive wastes of the Atomic Age. The radioactive wastes originated from the Manhattan Project race for the atomic bomb, which culminated in the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. Mallinckrodt Chemical Works of St. Louis processed Belgian Congo uranium ore, with the radioactive wastes eventually dumped at West Lake Landfill.

The West Lake Landfill is located in the Missouri River floodplain, not far upstream from the confluence with the Mississippi River, as well as St. Louis metro region drinking water intakes. It is also immediately adjacent to an underground landfill fire. The Wall Street Journal coverage is the latest installment of major, national media coverage on the crisis.

Recently, Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey (photo, above left), a resident of the St. Louis area and a 40-year anti-nuclear watchdog, wrote to state and local elected officials in the area around West Lake Landfill, as well as fire department officials. She called for action to be taken to protect workers at the West Lake Landfill, as well as firefighters who could face the radioactive hazards if the underground fire intercepts the buried radioactive wastes.

Along the same lines, Kay previously penned a pamphlet, "Your Nuclear Workplace: Know Your Risks, Know Your Rights."

Friday
Jul122013

"A little Hope" for stopping the Great Lakes radioactive waste DUD!

Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump billboard, seen by hundreds of thousands of Toronto commuters dailyThe struggle against the Canadian nuclear establishment's proposal(s) to bury so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes from 20 reactors across Ontario, and perhaps even high-level radioactive wastes from 22 reactors across Canada, on the Lake Huron shore at or near the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, can be most daunting. Bruce "hosts" 9 reactors (8 operable reactors, 4 each at Bruce A and Bruce B, plus 1 pilot plant -- Douglas Point -- permanently shutdown), one of the single biggest nuclear power plants in the world. Bruce has also quietly incinerated most or all of Ontario's "low" level radioactive wastes for 40 years, with untold radiological emissions. All this, just 50 miles across Lake Huron from Michigan, and upstream from tens of millions of Americans, Canadians, and First Nations/Native Americans who draw their drinking water from the Great Lakes. In terms of the vast fortunes being made by Bruce Nuclear, as well as the harmful radiological releases occurring and radioactive wastes piling up, Bruce is making a killing, while getting away with murder.

Canadian federal decisionmakers have just closed the opportunity to register to speak out in opposition to the proposed "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive waste DGR (Deep Geologic Repository, or, more aptly, DUD -- Deep Underground Dump), and environmental assessment hearings will be held in September and October. As insane as this proposal is (would YOU bury poison next to your well?!, as the group Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump asks -- see photo, above left), the nuclear utility Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the nuclear utility comprised Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), and the Canadian Nuclear Safety (sic) Commission (CNSC) are racing, full steam ahead, to bury their forever deadly radioactive wastes within a mile of the Lake Huron shoreline.

But an antidote to such "nuclear madness" (à la Helen Caldicott's classic title) is at hand! In a recently published book, Tom Lawson of Port Hope, Ontario has shown that such insanity canbe stopped dead in its tracks. Crazy Caverns: How one small community challenged a technocrat juggernaut...and won! tells the inspiring story of a years-long struggle to prevent Canadian provincial and federal government decision makers from allowing Eldorado/Cameco's dumping of uranium processing wastes on the Lake Ontario shoreline.Tom has generously made the book available for free online -- simply click on the link to enjoy your free copy!

Tom has dedicated his "little book" to his wife Pat, as well as "to all those who accept responsibility as citizens in a free society, who agree that the best government is the one kept constantly on its toes by ordinary citizens with the courage to trust their common sense rather than the reassurances of the 'experts.' The experts do not know better than we know what is good for us."

Together, Tom and Pat Lawson, and their friends, neighbors, and colleagues in their tiny, picturesque, but badly contaminated community, have resisted the "biased bafflegab" of the "Pirates of Port Hope" headquartered in their town (Eldorado/Cameco, "Canada's National Uranium Company," as dubbed by Robert Bothwell's company-financed, dubious historical celebration of the firm, and the company's governmental henchmen). Together, this "small group of thoughtful, committed citizens" (à la Margaret Mead) did change the world for the better, by blocking the burial of "a million tons of radioactive and toxic waste 'out of sight, out of mind' under Port Hope's downtown waterfront."

Their important victory can inspire us now, as we struggle to resist OPG's, NWMO's, and CNSC's insane proposal(s) on the Lake Huron shore (more recently, incredibly, the vague specter of yet another DUD, this time for radioactive decommissioning wastes, has also reared its ugly head). In fact, Pat Lawson has spoken out strongly in recent years against the Bruce DUD(s), traveling in the nearby Georgian Bay, where her family has roots extending back many decades.

What can YOU do, right now, to help stop the Bruce DUDs?! Start by signing the Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump petition, and urge your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. to do the same!

Tuesday
Jul092013

Paducah uranium enrichment facility suffers radioactive contamination incident 4 weeks after permanently shutting down

Paducah (uranium enrichment) Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Photo credit: U.S.E.C./U.S. Department of EnergyDespite being permanently shutdown on June 1st, the Paducah facility experienced a radioactivity contamination accident on June 28th, according to a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) incident report dated July 2nd. The radioactivity contamination accident stemmed from a water leak. Given the mountain of radioactive materials at Paducah, such radioactive contamination risks to the facility, the environment beyond, and the people who live there (some directly across dirt roads from the fence line, in a community already showing signs of significantly elevated cancer incidence and death rates) will continue far into the future, despite the facility's welcome permanent shutdown.

In a very real sense, the entire Paducah complex is a radioactive waste -- and toxic chemical -- site that now needs to be dealt with.

Thursday
May302013

Risk of "dirty shutdown" at Paducah gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant

Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Photo credit: USEC/U.S. Department of EnergyIn a two-part series, Geoffrey Sea of Neighbors for an Ohio Valley Alternative (NOVA) has exposed deep financial troubles which could lead to major radiological risks at the Paducah gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant in Kentucky. Mind boggling mismanagement, or worse, by U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are to blame.

Part I, entitled "Countdown to Nuclear Ruin at Paducah," was published May 22nd, and warned that there were just 9 days left to avert a "dirty shutdown" in the many miles of enrichment cells. If the uranium laden gas solidifies within the system, it will make eventual decommissioning and clean up astronomically expensive for taxpayers, and radiologically risky for workers.

Part II, "Slow Cooker at Paducah Comes to a Boil,"  was published May 28th, with only three days left to avert dirty shutdown.

Paducah has operated since the 1950s. Sea reports that Paducah, which employs the highly energy intensive gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment process, has the single biggest electric meter in the country, electrified by two dirty coal plants. It is also one of the single biggest emitters of ozone layer destroying CFC-114, which also happens to be a very potent greenhouse gas.

In September 1999, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post broke the story that post-reprocessing uranium from Hanford Nuclear Reservation, containing fission products and transuranics, had been secretively run through Paducah. Local residents, such as Ron Lamb, had already been long protesting Technetium-99 in his drinking well water, however. Paducah whistleblower Al Puckett helped expose a secret dumping ground for radioactive and hazardous wastes on site. Such revelations help to explain the high cancer rate amongst Paducah workers and area residents.

As Sea reports, USEC is still seeking a $2 billion federal loan guarantee from the Obama administration for its proposed American Centrifuge Plant at Portsmouth, Ohio. Newly confirmed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has deep ties to USEC, both during his time in the Clinton DOE, as well as afterwards, as a paid private consultant.