Radioactive Waste

No safe, permanent solution has yet been found anywhere in the world - and may never be found - for the nuclear waste problem. In the U.S., the only identified and flawed high-level radioactive waste deep repository site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada has been canceled. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an end to the production of nuclear waste and for securing the existing reactor waste in hardened on-site storage.



DOJ Wins Stop To $367M Merger Of Radioactive Waste Firms; NRC suspends licensing proceeding on WCS CISF

A Delaware federal judge on Wednesday blocked the $367 million merger of EnergySolutions Inc. and Waste Control Specialists LLC, siding with the U.S. Department of Justice in the government's bid to enjoin the deal on antitrust grounds. [This story was broken by Law360 Environmental. The remainder of the article is behind a pay wall.]

WCS had hoped EnergySolutions -- its competitor in "low-level" radioactive waste dumping -- could take it over, which would allow for the resumption of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing proceedings on WCS's proposal to construct and operate a centralized interim storage facility (CISF) for 40,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel in Andrews County, TX. This court ruling appears to have dealt a severe blow to those plans.

By coincidence, the NRC Commissioners just affirmed their vote, at around 2pm Eastern on Thursday, June 22nd, to approve the combined request by WCS, NRC staff, and even opposing environmental groups (including Beyond Nuclear), to suspend the CISF licensing proceeding.

Here is a link to the NRC Commissioners' MEMORANDUM AND ORDER, which actually denies most of the environmental coalition's requests made on April 28, 2017, regarding procedures and deadlines to come, should this licensing proceeding resume.


Nuclear Waste “Russian” Roulette SPECIAL – Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear – Nuclear Hotseat #311

Nuclear Hotseat has featured Beyond Nuclear on its June 6th, 2017 edition, focused on radioactive waste issues. Listen to the audio recording, here, and see host Libbe HaLevy's write up, below:

This Week’s Featured Interview:

  • Kevin Kamps, Nuclear Waste Watchdog/Bulldog for Beyond Nuclear, gives an all-encompassing vision of nuclear waste problems faced by not just the United States, but the world.  Included in his discussion are:
    • Hanford Site
    • Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
    • San Onofre
    • Yucca Mountain
    • US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement

Numnutz of the Week (for Nuclear Boneheadedness):

Ontario Power Generation has studied every aspect of the problem and – believe it or not! – come to the conclusion that what’s a little desecration of First Nation lands and sacred burial grounds, and putting the safety of the entire Great Lakes water basin in nuclear danger when it’s SO convenient to site the nuclear waste REPOSITORY – NOT “BUNKER” AS THEY’RE TRYING TO RE-LANGUAGE IT!!!!! – on its own property. 


Scientists warn nuclear waste fire at power reactors is a greater risk than NRC “flawed analysis” claims

Magazine published an article by researchers at Princeton University and the Union of Concerned Scientists warning that an irradiated nuclear fuel pool fire at nuclear power stations would be far more damaging than the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) analysis currently claims.  The article’s principle author Princeton University’s Dr. Frank von Hippel and co-authors Princeton researcher Michael Schoeppner and Union of Concerned Scientists’ staff scientist Dr. Edwin Lyman argue that NRC inaction to re-evaluate the risk leaves extremely large populations of US citizens and the economy vulnerable to undue risk to a fire caused by an earthquake or an act of terrorism. 

Following the refueling of every nuclear power plant, the highly-radioactive and thermally hot irradiated nuclear fuel must be taken out of the reactor core and moved into a large adjacent storage pond to shield against the radioactivity and constantly cool the nuclear waste. The loss of cooling water will cause the nuclear waste to overheat and catch fire. Because the irradiated nuclear fuel is stored outside of containment huge amounts of radioactivity would be liberated into the atmosphere and return as fallout.

The researchers’ analysis finds that a nuclear waste fire in the "spent" fuel pool could radioactively contaminate an area twice the size of New Jersey causing an average of 8 million people to indefinitely relocate and cause as much as $2 trillion in damages.

The researchers further find that the NRC analysis has played down the consequences because it has been “pressured by the nuclear industry, directly and through Congress, to low-ball the potential consequences of a fire,” to shield the nuclear industry from cost and liability.

The researchers' recent findings are corroborated by several studies including a National Academy of Sciences 2006 report to the NRC and Congress. “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage” identifies that nuclear waste at reactor storage ponds could be credibly attacked by terrorists causing offsite radioactive releases and harmful contamination out to 500 miles. 

Beyond Nuclear supports a management policy for the cessation of production of nuclear waste and offloading the cooled waste from overcrowded pools into hardened onsite storage casks (HOSS). Low-density storage of the remaining hot nuclear waste in the cooling ponds until it can be transfered into casks greatly reduces the likelihood and consequences of a nuclear waste fire in the event of a drain down.


Beyond Nuclear presents at Heartwood re: courts deferring to agencies, on unprecedented highly radioactive liquid waste shipments

Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, presented at the 2017 Heartwood "Strong Roots!" forest protection council on Sat., May 27th.

Kevin's talk was entitled "Head-On Collision: Chevron Deference Meets Mobile Chernobyl on Steroids." (See the power point presentation; or the PDF version.) He described the efforts by an environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, to stop unprecedented high-risk, highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments from Chalk River Nuclear Lab, Ontario, Canada to Savannah River Site, South Carolina. Terry Lodge of Toledo, Ohio has served as legal council for the coalition since 2013; he was assisted by attorney Diane Curran of Washington, D.C. at oral arguments in Jan. 2017.

However, in Feb., 2017, a federal judge deferred to the U.S. Department of Energy's supposed expertise, greenlighting the truck shipments without an environmental impact statement. The judge cited an obscure, but widely invoked, legal doctrine called "Chevron Deference" (named after a 1984 lawsuit between Chevron and Natural Resources Defense Council) as a key basis for her adverse ruling.

The shipments began in April 2017. Routing is top secret, given the security risks, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But the most direct routes could take the 150 truck shipments, set to continue for four years, near the location of the Heartwood gathering in the mountains of western North Carolina -- as on highways such as I-81 and I-26, as through Asheville. (See map, above left, showing one such potential route; see here for a larger version of this route map). See Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Transportation website section for more information about this particular scheme, as well as similar ones.

Also presenting (see the power point, "Judicial Deference to Federal Agency Actions: In Theory and Practice") during the session was Perrin W. de Jong, an attorney who has faced adverse rulings based on the "Chevron Doctrine" himself, in lawsuits seeking to protect the tranquility of hiking and horseback riding nature trails through forested areas, against the threat of disturbance by gun shooting ranges.

Carol Polsgrove, a free lance journalist who organized the workshop sessions, compiled a bibliography, with links to documents on the subject matter. (See .docx version; see .pdf version.)


US nuclear regulators greatly underestimate potential for nuclear disaster, researchers say