"Low-Level" Radioactive Waste

"Low-Level" waste is a convenient classification and a notorious misnomer as many so-called "low-level" radioactive wastes are extremely long-lived and highly dangerous to health.



J.F. Lehman & Company takes over bankrupt Waste Control Specialists, LLC

J.F. Lehman & Company ("JFLCO") has acquired Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS), the company announced in a press release on Jan. 26, 2018.

A year ago, WCS, with complicity from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), was poised to enter into a licensing proceeding to construct and operate a so-called "centralized interim storage facility" (CISF) at its Andrews County, west Texas location. The CISF was proposed to store 40,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel, about half of what currently exists in the country.

However, when the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) last June successfully blocked in court WCS's acquisition by rival EnergySolutions of Utah, WCS asked NRC to suspend its CISF licensing proceeding for lack of funds. DOJ argued that the takeover of WCS by EnergySolutions would have created a monopoly on "low-level" radioactive waste disposal in the U.S. The federal court in Delaware agreed.

It is unclear yet whether JFLCO's takeover of WCS will lead to the play button being pushed again on the CISF licensing proceeding.

WCS already operates a national so-called "low-level" radioactive waste dump for all categories, Class A, B, and C.

It has specialized over the years in accepting some of the most controversial and troublesome wastes to be had from across the U.S., including Belgian Congo K-65 ore wastes from the Manhattan Project (which were hauled down from Fernauld, Ohio), and potentially exploding barrels of military plutonium contaminated wastes from Los Alamos.

In addition, JFLCO also owns NorthStar, in which WCS was already a major partner. NorthStar would like to become the go-to company for decommissioning permanent shutdown nuclear power plants in the U.S. NorthStar has already made a major move to purchase the Vermont Yankee shutdown reactor from Entergy Nuclear. NorthStar is very likely also eyeing doing the same at soon-to-close Entergy reactors, such as Pilgrim in MA.

In this way, both the "low-level" radioactive waste (LLRW) stream from decommissioning nuclear power plants, as well as the highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel (INF) from those and other atomic reactors, could be shipped to the TX/NM border. The LLRWs would be permanently buried at WCS. The INF would supposedly only be stored there, at the surface, on an "interim" basis. But this could easily last a century, if not continue indefinitely -- leading to the risk of WCS becoming a de facto permanent "parking lot dump."

The WCS site is either above, or very near to (and upstream of), the Ogallala Aquifer, North America's single largest. The Ogallala is a critical source of drinking and irrigation water for eight states on the High Plains, stretching from TX to SD. Thus, it is essential for the lives of millions of Americans and Native Americans over a very broad region. The radioactive waste dumping, and storage, at WCS, puts this vital fresh water supply at risk.


DOJ Wins Stop To $367M Merger Of Radioactive Waste Firms

A Delaware federal judge on Wednesday blocked the $367 million merger of EnergySolutions Inc. and Waste Control Specialists LLC, siding with the U.S. Department of Justice in the government's bid to enjoin the deal on antitrust grounds. [This story was broken by Law360 Environmental. The remainder of the article is behind a pay wall.]

WCS of TX had hoped EnergySolutions of UT -- its competitor in "low-level" radioactive waste dumping -- could take it over, to staunch its financial losses.

(WCS had also hoped its acquisition by EnergySolutions would allow the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing proceeding for its proposed centralized interim storage facility to resume. WCS wants to park 40,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste in the west TX desert. See Beyond Nuclear's Waste Transportation website section for more info. on that.)



Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and Beyond Nuclear have submitted an Objection and Request for Reconsideration to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), protesting NRC's flippant rubber-stamp for the importation of 10,000 tons of Canadian (so-called) "low" level radioactive waste/material, into the U.S.

Once imported into the U.S. from Canada, the radioactive waste/material could then be "free-released" into commerce as "below regulatory concern" -- such as recycled into consumer products. It could also be buried in ordinary garbage dumps, as if it weren't radioactive. The radioactive wastes/materials could also be incinerated, or otherwise "heat treated" or "pyro-processed," with untold radioactive emissions to the atmosphere.

Leftovers from all these various processes in the U.S. could them be re-exported to Canada, for disposal.

Comparing the list of radioactive isotopes the radioactive waste/material firm UniTech predicts will be found in the radioactive waste/material stream, to NRC's “Illustrative List of Byproduct Materials Under NRC Export/Import Licensing Authority,” is revealing. The "Illustrative List" is a RULE, i.e., UniTech can import low amounts of these radioactive isotopes into the U.S. 

But UniTech is proposing to import the following radioactive isotopes, which are not covered by the RULE:

Lanthanum, unspecified as to isotope
Neptunium 239
Plutonium 238
Plutonium 239/40
Silver 108

It appears to Beyond Nuclear, NIRS, and their legal counsel, that there would have to be a rulemaking, i.e., that even if a general license is all NRC will do, the approval of a general license would itself have to be conducted as a rulemaking, with full rights to a public legal intervention hearing.

(See the above argument laid out on page 6 of the Objection/Request for Reconsideration.)

Terry Lodge of Toledo, Ohio and Brian Paddock of Cookeville, Tennessee serve as legal counsel for the NIRS-Beyond Nuclear environmental coalition.


Feds sue proposed Vermont Yankee disposal company

As reported by VTDigger.

The U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit to block the merger of Waste Control Specialists, LLC of Andrews County, TX and EnergySolutions of Salt Lake City, UT is certainly relevant to Vermont Yankee decommissioning, as the article reports. WCS is proposed to become a partner in the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee, by acquiring ownership and an NRC-approved license transfer from current owner Entergy Nuclear.

But the merger would also impact the entire realm of radioactive waste management and disposal in the U.S. EnergySolutions' dumpsite in Clive, Tooele County, UT is a national dump for Class A radioactive waste -- the lowest category of so-called "low" level radioactive waste.

WCS's dump in Andrews, TX accepts Class A, Class B, and Class C radioactive wastes from any state in the union.

WCS has also applied to become a centralized interim storage site (a de facto permanent parking lot dump) for up to 40,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel.


Beyond Nuclear thankful for indefinite delay on Great Lakes nuclear waste dump, vows to redouble efforts to nip the "DUD" in the bud

The Great Lakes serve as the drinking water supply for 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Canada's federal Environment Minister, has announced a major delay in the approval process for Ontario Power Generation's request to construct and operate a radioactive waste dump on the shoreline of the Great Lakes. Previously, Minister McKenna had set a March 1st deadline for making the final decision on whether or not to endorse a Joint Review Panel Environmental Assessment Report recommendation to allow the DGR (Deep Geologic Repository) to proceed, despite the high risks and countless uncertainties. Minister McKenna has ordered OPG to provide an estimate, by April 18th, as to how long it will need to provide the extensive additional information requested. The consequent delay in this proceeding could prove lengthy.

Beyond Nuclear, which has long helped lead the growing international national grassroots environmental opposition to the dump (which we prefer to call the DUD -- for Deep Underground Dump -- a phrase coined by Dave Martin of Greenpeace Canada), welcomed the announced delay. Beyond Nuclear released this response to Minister McKenna's announcement.

However, our coalition must remain vigilant, and use this opportunity to stop the DUD once and for all. And then move on to deepening and expanding our work to address the many other radioactive risks faced by the Great Lakes, including at the targeted DUD site itself: the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, the largest nuclear power plant on Earth, in terms of number of reactors. More.