"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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 

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