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Wednesday
May012013

U.S. Senators introduce Mobile Chernobyl bill on eve of Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe anniversary

An infrared photo of a high-level radioactive waste rail shipment. The high temperature of such shipments, however, is the least of our worries. A severe accident, or attack, involving such a shipment could breach the container, leading to disastrous releases of hazardous radioactivity

{Directions for Submissions

Please submit comments electronically to: Nwaste_feedback@energy.senate.gov 

Submission due date: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 5:00pm (EST)

The documents attached below can be used as a template for submitting comments.  We request that you submit your comments in the template format, but will accept comments in other formats.  Please feel free to respond to as many or as few of the questions as you like.

Please provide your name and affiliation in the header of your comments.

The committee may post the comments, including any personal identifying information you provide (street or e-mail addresses, or phone numbers) it receives on its website.  If you would like your personal identifying information withheld, please indicate that.

The comment period will close on Friday, May 24, 2013.

Please find the submission documents below [linked here] and the link to the discussion draft, summaries and questions here.}

For the second year in a row, U.S. Senators have introduced the latest Mobile Chernobyl bill on the eve of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe anniversary. On April 25, 2013 -- the eve of the 27th anniversary of the beginning of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe -- U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, as well as Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Chair and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, published a "Discussion Draft" of proposed legislation on high-level radioactive waste management. They issued a press releaseone page summary, section-by-section summary, and the full text of the 58-page bill. 

In essence, if enacted, the proposal would launch shipments of high-level radioactive waste onto the roads, rails, and waterways in unprecedented numbers, bound for "consolidated interim storage sites," from which they would have to be removed someday, to permanent dumpsites. Unless, that is, they never are transferred -- which would lead to de facto permanent surface storage, parking lot dumps for high-level radioactive waste.

Last year, on April 26, 2012 -- the actual 26th anniversary of Chernobyl, to the day -- Sens. Feinstein and Alexander led the passage of a Mobile Chernobyl bill through not only their Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, but through the full Senate Appropriations Committee. Their bill, however, was never considered by the full Senate last year.

Now, Sens. Feinstein and Alexander have -- simultaneously to the "Discussion Draft" rollout -- proposed alternative legislative language. It would further expedite the shipment of high-level radioactive waste on our roads, rails, and waterways to "consolidated interim storage sites." Their alternative proposal, and its summary, are also available.

As this is a "Discussion Draft" of the proposed bill, the Senators state in their press release:

"The members are seeking comment on the discussion draft and a number of policy and technical questions from experts and stakeholders, including utilities, conservation groups, Blue Ribbon Commission members and others, by May 24."

Perhaps the single most important question involves "linkage" -- or lack thereof -- between "consolidated interim storage sites" and permanent dumpsites. As stated in the Senators' list of "Nuclear Waste Questions":

"Linkage between storage and repository

Should the bill establish a linkage between progress on development of a repository and progress on development of a storage facility?  If so, is the linkage proposed in section 306 of the bill appropriate, too strong, or too loose?  If a linkage is needed, should it be determined as part of the negotiations between the state and federal governments and included in the consent agreement rather than in the bill?"

Currently, as stated in the one page summary section entitled "Linkage Between Storage Facilities and a Repository," there is no linkage:

"The bill authorizes the Administrator [of a newly established Nuclear Waste Administration, outside of the Department of Energy, DOE] to begin siting consolidated storage facilities immediately, and does not set waste volumes [sic] restrictions on storage."

In this regard, the currently proposed legislation is significantly worse than the bill proposed last September by U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the now-retired former chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Although Bingaman unaccetably "gave away" the first 10,000 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel for "centralized interim storage" as a political compromise (a "pilot" parking lot dump, strongly advocated by Sen. Feinstein, with no strings attached to permanent disposal), his bill would have required linkage between permanent disposal and any further "centralized interim storage." He did this in order to guard against "interim" storage sites -- including one threatened in his own state of New Mexico, at WIPP -- from becoming de facto permanent surface storage, if a geologic repository is never pursued, developed, and operated.

The most likely targets for "consolidated interim storage sites" are at DOE facilities, including the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, the Idaho National Lab, and as previously mentioned, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. In fact, SRS hopes to reprocess the irradiated nuclear fuel moved there for "consolidated interim storage." This would be not only a serious nuclear weapons proliferation risk, but also a risk of widespread radioactive contamination of the environment downwind and downstream. It would also cost taxpayers and/or ratepayers many tens of billions of dollars.

Other likely targets for "consolidated interim storage sites" are Native American reservations, as well as nuclear power plants themselves. Over the course of decades, scores of Native American reservations have been targeted for high-level radioactive waste parking lot dumps, a shameful history of environmental racism. And, as but one of numerous such examples, Illinois' three-reactor Dresden nuclear power plant, and immediately adjacent General Electric-Morris reprocessing facility, already "host" around 3,000 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel on a single site. There is a high risk that this bill, if enacted, would increase the pressure to import and "consolidate" yet more waste there, as documented in an Oak Ridge study.

Rushing into high-level radioactive waste shipments on the roads, rails, and waterways makes no sense. Risks of Mobile Chernobyls, Dirty Bombs on Wheels, and Floating Fukushimas include severe accidents (high-speed crashes; high-temperature, long-duration fires; underwater submersions; etc.) or even intentional attacks. Such shipments to parking lot dumps would merely launch a radioactive waste shell game, as the wastes would have to be moved again someday, this time to permanent disposal sites. Thus, high-level radioactive waste transport risks would be multiplied, for no good reason.

Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS) makes a lot more sense than this bad bill. HOSS calls for emptying vulnerable high-level radioactive waste storage pools into on-site dry cask storage, but would require significant upgrades to the safety, security, and environmental protections associated with dry cask storage: safeguards against accidents and natural disasters; concealment, distancing between casks, and fortification against attacks; and quality assurance on cask design and fabrication to ensure they will last not decades, but centuries, without leaking radioactivity into the environment. Nearly 200 environmental groups, representing all 50 states, have endorsed HOSS. They've been calling for it for well over a decade now.

Contact not only Sen. Wyden, but also your own two U.S. Senators, and urge that a strong linkage between "consolidated interim storage" and permanent disposal be re-established in this proposed legislation! Warn them that the risk of de facto permanent parking lot dumps for high-level radioactive waste is unacceptable! Let them know that rushing into Mobile Chernobyl shipments, and playing a radioactive waste shell game on the roads, rails, and waterways, makes no sense and takes unnecessary risks. Urge that Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS) be required instead, as a common sense interim alternative to this bill's bad ideas.

Contact Sen. Wyden at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee he chairs {per their instructions immediately below, as posted on their website}:

{Directions for Submissions

Please submit comments electronically to: Nwaste_feedback@energy.senate.gov 

Submission due date: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 5:00pm (EST)

The documents attached below can be used as a template for submitting comments.  We request that you submit your comments in the template format, but will accept comments in other formats.  Please feel free to respond to as many or as few of the questions as you like.

Please provide your name and affiliation in the header of your comments.

The committee may post the comments, including any personal identifying information you provide (street or e-mail addresses, or phone numbers) it receives on its website.  If you would like your personal identifying information withheld, please indicate that.

The comment period will close on Friday, May 24, 2013.

Please find the submission documents below [linked here] and the link to the discussion draft, summaries and questions here.}

You can contact your own two U.S. Senators at their websites, or via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge your Senators to oppose de-linking "consolidated interim storage" and permanent disposal. Urge them to block a rush into Mobile Chernobyl risks merely to play a radioactive waste shell game on the roads, rails, and waterways. Urge them to weigh in with Chairman Wyden and other members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.