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On-Site Storage

Currently, all radioactive waste generated by U.S. reactors is stored at the reactor site - either in fuel pools or waste casks. However, the casks are currently security-vulnerable and should be "hardened" while a better solution continues to be sought.

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Tuesday
Aug262014

By another name, NRC Commission blesses Nuclear Waste Confidence

Environmental coalition members from the Crabshell Alliance, Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign, NIRS, PSR, NEIS, and Public Citizen "just say NO!" at the NRC HQ nuke waste con game public comment meeting on 11/14/13 in Rockville, MD. Photo credit David Martin and Erica Grey.Today, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) four Commissioners blessed the NRC staff's "Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel" Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and Rule, previously called the NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy.

The vote went ahead, despite widespread calls for Commissioner William Magwood to resign, or recuse himself, due to conflict of interest, and despite a call for NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane to postpone the vote until after Commissioner Magwood's departure from the agency on Aug. 31st.

The Commissioners' explanations for their votes included a partial objection by NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, that NRC staff had not adequately considered the "catastrophe" that would unfold over time, if institutional control were to be lost over irradiated nuclear fuel storage. However, even she joined NRC Commissioners Kristine Svinicki, William Ostendorff, and Magwood, in approving finalization of the GEIS and Rule, pending a few, very minor corrections.

She also joined their unanimous Memorandum and Order, that stays on final NRC approvals for some two dozen operating license proceedings -- both at pending old reactor license extensions, as well as in proposed new reactor combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) proceedings -- be ended. Thus, licenses can now be approved by NRC licensing boards, 30 days after publication of these decisions in the Federal Register, which is set for next month.

These include the proposed new Fermi 3, MI and Grand Gulf 2, MS COLA proceedings, and several old reactor license extension proceedings (Seabrook, NH; Davis-Besse, OH; Grand Gulf Unit 1, MS; Fermi 2, MI), in which Beyond Nuclear has intervened, opposing NRC's approval of the operating licenses.

Thus, the NRC has ignored many tens of thousands of public comments, including in-depth comments made by Beyond Nuclear, a coalition of three dozen environmental groups, and a coalition of state governments and Native American tribes. The NRC has blessed the continued generation of forever deadly high-level radioactive waste, attempting to take the issue off the table in pending, and future, reactor licensing proceedings. But the big question remains: will NRC's flagrant flouting of federal court orders be allowed to stand?

Explaining how the NRC could, yet again, bless the "nuke waste con game," despite the inherent environmental and safety risks, Mother Jones quoted Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps: "The industry crawls all over that place in terms of lobbying. They own that place."

Friday
Aug222014

Will Entergy clean up its act at Palisades' security department?

Don't Waste Michigan board members Michael Keegan, Alice Hirt, and Kevin Kamps call for Palisades' permanent shutdown at the 2000 Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp, on the Lake Michigan beach at Van Buren State Park, with the atomic reactor's cooling tower steam visible in the backgroundJudging by Entergy's several years worth of security failures at Palisades, and breaches going back over a decade at other Entergy nuclear power plants such as Indian Point near New York City, the answer to that question is quite dubious.

Beyond Nuclear has published a backgrounder chronicling Entergy security problems at Palisades and Indian Point, and the lethal, and potentially catastrophic risks, at stake. See the PDF, as well as the Word version (containing live links to various documents cited).

The backgrounder was prompted by an NRC Confirmatory Order that went into effect on August 22nd.

Security risks include the on-site storage of high-level radioactive waste. Palisades' pool is vulnerable to a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity due to a waste fire; the outdoor dry cask storage is not designed to withstand terrorist attacks, as with anti-tank missiles.

Thursday
Aug212014

Groups urge NRC to postpone key votes in order to avoid “taint” of Magwood conflict of interest

NRC Commissioner William Magwood IV34 groups, including Beyond Nuclear, have written a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Chairman, Allison Macfarlane, as well as NRC Commissioners Christine Svinicki and William Ostendorff, urging them to postpone key Commission votes until after the departure of Commissioner William Magwood IV (photo, left) for his new job as Director-General of the Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris on September 1st.

The NEA's mission statement is to promote nuclear power, while NRC's is supposed to be public health, safety, and environmental protection. The 34 groups allege a glaring conflict of interest on Magwood's part, and have previously called for his resignation, as well as retroactive recusal on all nuclear safety votes dating back to his solicitation of the NEA directorship.

The key votes, now set for August 26th, are on NRC Commission approval of NRC staff's "Continued Storage" (formerly called Nuclear Waste Confidence) Generic Environmental Impact Statement (and very likely its closely associated Rule). The Continued Storage GEIS and Rule hold that irradiated nuclear fuel can be safely, securely, and soundly stored on-site at nuclear power plants, as well as at away-from-reactor consolidated "interim" storage sites, for many decades to come, and effectively, indefinitely.

The Commissioners could also vote to lift a stay on old reactor license extensions, and new reactor construction and operating licenses, in place since the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nullified NRC's indefensible Nuclear Waste Confidence policy in June, 2012. Via their standing as official intervenors, Beyond Nuclear and its environmental allies have helped secure stays against final approval of the Fermi 3, MI proposed new reactor construction and operating license, as well as the Davis-Besse, OH 20-year license extension, until the court-ordered revison of the Nuclear Waste Confidence policy has been finalized.

The 34-group environmental coalition, represented by attorneys Diane Curran of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg + Eisenberg LLP of Washington, D.C., and Mindy Goldstein of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University in Atlanta, has also issued a press release.

The Hill, the Washington Post, and E&E/Greenwire, have reported on this story. The latter article, which requires a subscription to view, mentions Beyond Nuclear et al.'s request to Commissioner Magwood, filed two months ago, that he recuse himself from the Fermi 3 licensing proceeding. Magwood refused to do so.

Katherine Fuchs at FOE has posted a blog about Magwood, "Revolving doors at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

Tuesday
Aug192014

Environmental groups oppose Fermi 2 license extension

NRC file photo of Fermi 2Multiple environmental groups have met an arbitrarily short, 11:59pm Eastern deadline, and officially intervened against the application by DTE (Detroit Edison) to extend the operating license at its Fermi 2 atomic reactor (photo, left) for an additional 20 years. Fermi 2's operating license is currently set to expire in 2025.

DTE's Fermi nuclear power plant, most infamous for the October 5, 1966 "We Almost Lost Detroit" partial meltdown of its Unit 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor, is located on the Lake Erie shore of southeast Michigan, in Monroe County.

Beyond Nuclear has entered into coalition with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, as well as Don't Waste Michigan, to file four contentions against Fermi 2's license extension.

Two of the contentions concern radioactive waste. The first is about the risk of catastrophic irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool fires. Fermi 2's storage pool holds around 600 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel, more than all four destroyed units at Fukushima Daiichi put together (419 tons). The second radioactive waste contention is about the lack of safety and environmental assurances, since the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy was declared null and void two years ago by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and NRC has not yet replaced it.

Another contention concerns the General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, and its containment's, long-known, fatal design flaws. Fermi 2 is largest GE Mark I BWR in the world, almost as big as the melted down Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 reactor cores put together. 

The final contention is about the interconnected risks between the age-degraded Fermi 2, and the untested, proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor, including the vulnerability of both sharing a common off-site electricity transmission corridor.

The three groups, joined by Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, as well as the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter, have also been intervening against the Fermi 3 proposed new reactor since March, 2009.

Both coalitions challenging Fermi 2, and Fermi 3, are represented by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge.

Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT) separately filed 14 contentions of its own against the Fermi 2 license extension. CRAFT released a press release.

Wednesday
May282014

Fukushima lessons learned? None! NRC ends consideration of expedited unloading of radioactive waste pools

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission snuck out a major decision on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. Its generic study of whether or not to require the expedited transfer of "spent nuclear fuel" (irradiated nuclear fuel rods, highly radioactive waste) out of vulnerable storage pools will be unceremoniusly ended, with no requirement to unload pools into dry cask storage. The study was undertaken as part of NRC's Fukushima "lessons learned" process, created by former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese nuclear catastrophe.

The decision came in the form of a memo, sent from the NRC Secretary to the NRC EDO (Executive Director for Operations). The memo simply states: "The Commission has approved the staff's recommendation that this Tier 3 Japan lessons-learned activity be closed and that no further generic assessments be pursued related to possible regulatory actions to require the expedited transfer of spent fuel to dry cask storage."

Four of the five NRC Commissioners (Svinicki, Apostalakis, Magwood, and Ostendorff) voted to support NRC Staff's recommendation, made late last year, that irradiated nuclear fuel currently stored in densely-packed pools, need not be transferred to dry casks on an expedited basis.

The sole dissenting vote on the NRC Commission came from its Chairwoman, Allison Macfarlane. Chairwoman Macfarlane criticized the NRC staff's analysis, including that the only risk initiator considered was an earthquake. She called for a “more thorough analysis,” including consideration “of all natural and human-induced events (e.g., accidental, malevolent).”

Chairwoman Macfarlane provided a more than 10-page analysis explaining her dissent. Three of the other Commissioners who blessed the staff's recommendation for inaction provided a page, or less, of explanation for their own votes. More.