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"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.

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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.

Friday
Jun142013

Radiation Expert Exposes Danger to Ohioans from Fracking Waste

Dr. Marvin Resnikoff of RWMADr. Marvin Resnikoff of Radioactive Waste Management Associates has authored a report, Hydraulic Fracturing Radiological Concerns for Ohio, on behalf of the FreshWater Accountability Project Ohio. FWAPOH also put out a press release, "Radiation Expert Exposes Danger to Ohioans from Fracking Waste," which calls for better public protections from the State of Ohio and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District [MWCD]. 

Resnikoff points out that much of the highly-radioactive solids such as rocks and soils pulled up during drilling, and contaminated muds and sands are cheaply disposed of in municipal landfills in Ohio, irrespective of actual radioactivity content, for 1/100th of the cost of disposal of comparable low-level radioactive waste from nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation in the nation's three facilities for that purpose. In Ohio, he stated, "It is evident that environmental concerns are trumped by the economics beneficial to the unconventional shale drilling industry." Similarly, Dr. Resnikoff identified evidence that the Patriot water treatment facility in Warren, Ohio, which delivers pretreated water to the Warren public water treatment plant, is likely sending radium-laden water into the Mahoning River watershed. "On a daily basis, Patriot does not test for gamma emitting radionuclides and for radium-226," he observed. 

"Dr. Resnikoff's work illustrates that Ohioans, from common citizens to truck drivers to landfill workers, are daily being exposed to radiation exposure or poisoning because the Governor, General Assembly and even a large conservancy district, the MWCD, are sacrificing public protections to prop up frackers' profitability," asserted Terry Lodge, attorney for SEOSOW. "Under the guise of 'austerity,' the state government is destroying protective regulations for everyone, while creating a business environment where those who threaten public health and the environment pay little to nothing. And even huge corporate welfare breaks aren't saving this dirty, low-productivity con game."

Lodge also serves as the attorney for environmental coalitions, including Beyond Nuclear, opposing the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor in southeast MI, as well as the 20-year license extension, and the proposed steam generator replacement, at Davis-Besse in northwest OH.

Fracking was exempted from such federal laws as the Safe Drinking Water Act by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the same law which automatically subsidized nuclear power to the tune of $13 billion, while additionally leading to the approval of $22.5 billion in nuclear loan guarantees thus far.

On May 22nd, Beyond Nuclear joined with 67 other groups to chastise Environmental Defense Fund for joining into a greenwashing alliance with the fracking industry.

Saturday
Jun082013

Dr. Gordon Edwards on the in's and out's of radioactive steam generators

Given all the attention being directed at steam generators due to San Onofre 2 & 3's closure, Dr. Gordon Edwards (photo, left), President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, has prepared a backgrounder on the subject. In doing so, he has shown yet again why he was awarded the Nuclear-Free Future Award in 2006: "for his enduring role in demystifying nuclear technology helping the public to understand its radioactive predicament."

In 2010, tremendous controversy was generated throughout the Great Lakes, in both the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Europe, when Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario proposed shipping 64 radioactive steam generators, by boat, to Sweden. Bruce wanted to "recycle" the radioactive steam generators' outer shells into the metal recycling steam. Bruce CEO, Duncan Hawthorne, admitted at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings in Sept. 2010 that there were no emergency plans in place if one of the shipments sank. 

Dr. Edwards documented the radiological hazards contained in the steam generators. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative documented that the breach of a single steam generator, and release of even a fraction of its radioactive contaminants, could cause a federal radiological emergency in Canada, leading to the shutdown of nearby drinking water intakes. The Great Lakes are the drinking water supply for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

The Bruce shipping plan was stopped dead in its tracks, thanks in large part to a resolution,signed by scores of Quebec municipalities representing hundreds of thousands of residents along the St. Lawrence leg of the route, as well as pledges by Mohawk First Nations to not allow the shipment to pass through their territory.

As Dr. Edwards has documented, even though the Studsvik Corporation of Sweden, the lead international outfit "recycling" steam generators' radioactive metal into consumer products, admits that the inner tube bundles are "highly radioactive," steam generators are nonetheless euphemistically labelled as "low" level radioactive waste.

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.

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