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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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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.

Wednesday
Mar272013

Environmental coalition defends contentions against Fermi 3 proposed new reactor, challenges adequacy of NRC FEIS

Environmental coalition attorney Terry LodgeTerry Lodge (photo, left), Toledo-based attorney representing an environmental coalition opposing the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor targeted at the Lake Erie shore in Monroe County, MI, has filed a reply to challenges from Detroit Edison (DTE) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff.

The coalition's reply re-asserted "no confidence" in DTE's ability to safely stored Class B and C "low-level" radioactive wastes on-site at Fermi 3 into the indefinite future, due to the lack of sure access to a disposal facility. it also again emphasized the lack of documented need for the 1,550 Megawatts of electricity Fermi 3 would generate. And the coalition alleged that NRC has failed to fulfill its federal responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as by the illegal "segmentation" of the needed transmission line corridor from the rest of the Fermi 3 reactor construction and operation proposal.

This legal filing follows by a week upon the submission of public comments about NRC's Fermi 3 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The comments, commissioned by Don't Waste Michigan and prepared by Jessie Pauline Collins, were endorsed by a broad coalition of individuals and environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear. The FEIS comments included satellite images of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie in 2012, and in 2011 to 2012, attributable in significant part to thermal electric power plants such as Detroit Edison's Monroe (coal burning) Power Plant, at 3,300 Megawatts-electric the second largest coal burner in the U.S. Fermi 3's thermal discharge into Lake Erie will worsen this already very serious ecological problem.

In the very near future, the environmental coalition intervening against the Fermi 3 combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) will submit additional filings on its contentions challenging the lack of adequate quality assurance (QA) on the project, as well as its defense of the threatened Eastern Fox Snake and its critical wetlands habitat. The State of Michigan has stated that Fermi 3's construction would represent the largest impact on Great Lakes coastal wetlands in the history of state wetlands preservation law. 

Monday
Feb042013

Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump!

Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump billboard in Toronto

A new group has formed in opposition to the radioactive waste dump(s) targeted at the Great Lakes shoreline near the Bruce Nuclear Complex in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada. Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump has a website, and has launched a petition drive.

As reported by Bayshore Broadcasting, Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump has also erected a billboard on the Gardiner Expressway in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), in order to draw wider attention to this national -- and even international -- threat. The report, which includes a short audio recording of Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump spokeswoman, Beverly Fernandez, points out "The billboard, on one of Canada’s busiest commuter strips, could be seen by up to one million people a week."

Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump encourages U.S. citizens to sign their petition. The petition is directed to Canada's Minister of the Environment, Peter Kent.

The Bruce Nuclear Complex "hosts" a total of 9 reactors (including a permanently shutdown prototype), one of the single biggest nuclear power plants, and concentrations of radioactive waste, in the world. For decades, all of Ontario's 20 reactors have "temporarily" stored their so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes at Bruce. Low-level radioactive waste has been incinerated. Now, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) proposes burying these low- and intermediate-level radioactive wastes on-site, just 400 meters from the waters of Lake Huron.

To make matters worse, Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is considering applications from several Bruce area municipalities, which are volunteering to "host" a national high-level radioactive waste dump for all of Canada's 22 atomic reactors. These communities are disproportionately populated by Bruce Nuclear workers. They stand to receive substantial sums of money for being studied, and perhaps ultimately selected, as Canada's national high-level radioactive waste dumpsite. Kincardine, Bruce's "home town," has already received millions of dollars for agreeing to "host" OPG's proposed "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive waste burial dump at the Bruce Nuclear Complex.

In addition to the Bruce region, a number of municipalities in Canada's Lake Superior basin, and further north and west (including the Province of Saskatchewan, with one of the world's single biggest uranium mining industries), have also "volunteered" to "host" Canada's high-level radioactive waste dump.

Proponents have dubbed these proposed dumps "Deep Geologic Repositories," or DGRs. Critics refer to them, sarcastically, as Deep Underground Dumps, or DUDs.

The Great Lakes comprises 20% of the world's surface fresh water. It serves as the drinking water supply for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states (from west to east, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York), 2 Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec), and a large number of Native American First Nations.

Friday
Jan182013

Arnie Gundersen on health hazards of "recycling" radioactive metals into consumer products

Fairewinds' nuclear engineer Arnie GundersenIn the most recent Fairewinds Energy Education weekly podcast, "REPAIRS AT FOUR NUCLEAR REACTORS ARE SO EXPENSIVE THAT THEY SHOULD NOT BE RESTARTED," Fairewinds' nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen (photo, left) lays out the case as to why the atomic reactors at Fort Calhoun, Nebraska on the Missouri River, Crystal River in Florida, and San Onofre Units 2 & 3 in southern California should all be permanently shutdown.

Of these, Fort Calhoun had already gotten a 20-year license extension rubberstamp by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while Crystal River was deep into the application process for one.

In the second half of the program, Arnie also discusses a recent letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and an accompanying press release, from U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), which expressed strong opposition to U.S. Department of Energy plans to "recycle" radioactive metals and other materials from its nuclear facilities (such as nuclear weapons complex sites, uranium enrichment facilities, national labs, etc.) into consumer products.

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