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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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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.

Tuesday
May132014

"Senators Markey, Boxer and Sanders Introduce Legislation to Increase Safety at Nuclear Plants"

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works CommitteeU.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA, photo at left), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced three bills today aimed at improving the safety and security of decommissioning reactors and the storage of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear plants across the nation. 

The three bills address safety of spent fuel storage and decommissioning plans. They are entitled: Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act of 2014; Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2014 (see the bill, Sen. Sanders' press release, and a one-page summary); Dry Cask Storage Act of 2014. To learn more, see the press release at Sen. Markey's website.

The EPW Committee will hold and webcast a hearing entitled “Nuclear Reactor Decommissioning: Stakeholder Views” on Wed., May 14th, at 10 AM Eastern. Witnesses include CA and VT officials, and spokespeople from NRDC and NEI.

Please urge your two U.S. Senators to support these three bills. You can contact your Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Friday
May022014

"Senators to NRC: Do Not Exempt Decommissioning Nuclear Reactors from Emergency Response and Security Measures"

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman, Environment and Public Works CommitteeFive Democratic U.S. Senators have written U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane, uring that NRC's rubberstamp of exemptions from emergency preparedness and security requirements at permanently shutdown nuclear power plants be stopped.

The five Senators are: Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Edward J. Markey (D-MA); Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Bernard Sanders (D-VT). Boxer (photo, above left) is Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, with oversight on NRC and nuclear power issues; Gillibrand, Markey, and Sanders also serve on the EPW Committee.

Their letter points out that nuclear utilities have always received requested exemptions, within just a year or two of reactor shutdowns, from NRC, at permanently shutdown nuclear power plants. This, despite the fact that the nuclear plants still have large amounts of irradiated nuclear fuel stored in pools, vulnerable to catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity, such as due to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, heavy load drops, etc.

The Senators list NRC's "perfect record" of such regulatory relaxation at: Humboldt Bay, CA; LaCrosse, WI; Fort St. Vrain, CO; Rancho Seco, CA; Yankee Rowe, MA; Trojan, OR; Haddam Neck, CT; Maine Yankee; Big Rock Point, MI; and Zion, IL.

Most ironically, NRC consistently stands by its indefensible claim that high-level radioactive waste storage is safe, sound, and secure, and will remain so for at least 60 years post-reactor shutdown, by citing the existence of emergency preparedness and security regulations. Yet, it is these very regulations that NRC consistently exempts shutdown nuclear plants from having to meet!

The Senators have urged NRC chief Macfarlane to not grant such requested exemptions at the five atomic reactors permanently shutdown in 2013 (Crystal River, FL; Kewaunee, WI; San Onofre 2 & 3, CA) or about to be shutdown by the end of 2014 (Vermont Yankee).

On April 10, Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project Director, Paul Gunter, urged NRC to enforce emergency preparedness and security regulations at decommissioning nuclear power plant sites, due to the potentially catastrophic risks associated with the irradiated nuclear fuel still stored there.

Tuesday
Mar252014

Gundersen: Forever deadly radioactive waste, versus renewables

Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds Associates, Inc.As Fairewinds Associates, Inc.'s Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen (photo, left), concluded his keynote presentation at the Beyond Nuclear/FOE/NEIS "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference in Chicago in Dec. 2012:

"What we're seeing is that the cost of solar is plummeting while nuclear is rising," Gundersen said, adding that he often hears the rebuttal that the sun doesn't shine day and night. "But if you believe that man can build a repository to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, surely those same people can find a way to store electricity overnight." ---GAZETTENET.com, November 16, 2012

Gundersen serves as the expert witness for an environnental coalition (Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club, Ohio Chapter) that has challenged the risky, experimental steam generator replacements at Davis-Besse.

An overlapping coalition (including the Green Party of Ohio) has raised the radioactive waste dilemma and the renewables alternative as major arguments against the 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse.

Tuesday
Mar252014

Opponents to 20 more years at Davis-Besse cite radioactive waste risks

Environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge of ToledoThe environmental coalition opposing the 20-year license extension sought by FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) at its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shore east of Toledo has spoken out at NRC Environmental Impact Statement public comment meetings. The coalition issued a press release, focused on the unsolved dilemma created by Davis-Besse's ongoing generation of forever deadly high-level radioactive waste, as well as the renewables alternative (wind power, solar PV, etc.) to a risky, dubious 20 more years of atomic reactor operations.

In fact, the coalition has joined forces with three dozen nation-wide allies, demanding NRC change it license extension regulations to include recently acknowledged risks of on-site high-level radioactive waste storage in pools.

The press release quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps: “The worsening cracking of Davis-Besse’s concrete containment, the corrosion of its inner steel containment vessel, the risks of its experimental steam generator replacement, and its recently revealed Shield Building wall gap are clear signs that this atomic reactor is overdue for retirement and decommissioning.”

The coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio. Terry Lodge of Toledo serves as the coalition's legal counsel.