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Wednesday
Jan102018

Rep. Darrell Issa, who was GOP’s attack dog against top Democrats, will retire

As reported by Mike DeBonis in the Washington Post.

(Politico has also reported on this story.)

U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (Republican-Southern California) could also be called the nuclear power industry's attack dog. At a September 26, 2017 U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled "Examining America's Nuclear Waste Management and Storage," Issa issued some real zingers from the dais. (See Beyond Nuclear's September 25, 2017 letter to committee Democrats, listing deep concerns about the next day's hearing; see Beyond Nuclear's September 26, 2017 press statement, distributed to reporters who attended the hearing.)

At the hearing, Issa bemoaned the fact that the San Onofre Units 2 & 3 reactors in his congressional district had been permanently shut down in June 2013 because of safety insignificant problems in a non-nuclear part of the plant.

He was flat out wrong about that. The defective replacement steam generators are actually very safety significant. If a large enough number of the steam generator tubes were to have suffered a cascading rupture, cooling to the reactor core would have been lost, and a meltdown would have very likely followed. The risk of this increased dramatically in Jan. 2012, when a steam generator tube failure led to a radioactive release to the environment. In fact, it was that incident that brought to light how dangerously flawed the brand new replacement steam generators were. The accelerated degradation of the steam generator tubes in the brand new replacement steam generators led to the permanent shutdown of the twin reactors, and has resulted in a multi-billion dollar fiasco.

Issa also advocated at the same hearing that the irradiated nuclear fuel stored on-site at San Onofre be barged to centralized interim storage sites in Texas and/or New Mexico.

As a Texas colleague has pointed out, a whole lot of water might need to be added to the Rio Grande River to accomplish Issa's plan. Even then, deep canals would have to be dug to connect to the Rio Grande in the first place, at an astronomical cost. The targeted sites for centralized interim storage facilities (a.k.a. monitored retrievable storage sites) are located in the landlocked Texas/New Mexico borderlands, far from any potential barging routes. This proposal by Issa is, of course, profoundly absurd.

Or did Issa mean barging the irradiated nuclear fuel through the Panama Canal, in order to off load it at ports in Texas for the final leg of the journey? Panama might have something to say about that -- it disallowed the trans-shipment of the San Onofre Unit 1 radioactive reactor pressure vessel (RPV), bound for a "low-level" radioactive waste dump in the U.S., more than a decade ago.

Or did Issa mean boating irradiated nuclear fuel all the way around the tip of South America, for off loading at a U.S. port on the Atlantic side of things? Tierra Del Fuego has some of the most treacherous waters on the planet. An Argentine judge ruled in favor of an anti-nuclear legal intervention, and blocked shipping San Onofre 1's RPV within 200 miles of the coastline.

Or did Issa mean taking advantage of the climate chaos and global warming (that he and President Trump and most of the rest of the Republican Party deny is even happening) that has melted the sea ice at the North Pole, and simply boating the irradiated nuclear fuel that way to the Atlantic side?

Or did Issa not know what the hell he was talking about? This may be the best explanation of his dangerously ignorant policy proposal.

Which is why it is so frightening that Issa's policy ideas have played a central role in the advancement of H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, now poised for a U.S. House floor vote this month or next, according to a December 22, 2017 Exchange Monitor article. The dangerously bad ideas contained in his legislation were largely to entirely absorbed in the Frankenstein's monster of H.R. 3053.

Issa distills the rabid "get it out of here, we don't care where it goes, nor how it gets there" hysteria in the region around San Onofre nuclear power plant. As Beyond Nuclear has pointed out in a L.A. Times letter to the editor, that risky environmental injustice cannot be allowed to proceed; a sensible interim measure would be to move the wastes a few miles to the east, deeper into the heart of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, away from rising sea levels, out of the tsunami zone, and further away from the earthquake faults on the CA coast. The added bonus would be several thousands of U.S. Marines to help guard it! This is all in keeping with the concept of Hardened On-Site Storage, as close to the point of generation as is safely and securely possible.

Issa has also joined with a rogue chapter of the Sierra Club, the Angeles Chapter, in ignoring the transport risks that would befall southern CA if any one of the dumps in Texas, New Mexico, or Nevada is actually opened. (*See more about the rogue behavior of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, in defiance of the national Sierra Club's clear and explicit policy of opposition to centralized interim storage, and a stab in the back to the Sierra Club chapters in New Mexico and Texas, below.*)

See the close up map of southern CA, on Page 9 of 20 on the PDF counter, showing the rail shipping routes for irradiated nuclear fuel that would be bound for Yucca Mountain, Nevada under the H.R. 3053 scheme.

See the map of road and rail routes throughout the State of CA that would be used to ship irradiated nuclear fuel to Yucca, at Page 4 of 45 on the PDF counter of this document.

All told, 1,612 shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel (755 by rail, and another 857 by truck) would travel CA's roads and rails, bound for Yucca. (See Page 4 of 20 on the PDF counter of this document.)

32 of CA's 53 congressional districts would be crossed by these Yucca-bound road and/or rail shipments (see Pages 7-8 of 20 on the PDF counter in this document.)

Those three documents cited above were published by Dr. Fred Dilger, a consultant to the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.

Another high-risk transport scheme, proposed by the U.S. Department of Energy under its Yucca Mountain dump scheme, is for 312 barge shipments of rail-sized irradiated nuclear fuel shipping casks, from Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo, south down the CA coast, to the Port of Hueneme in Oxnard.

In addition to the Trump administration's proposal to open up CA's Pacific Coast to offshore oil drilling for the first time in half a century (after the Santa Barbara offshore oil drilling spill of 1969), this irradiated nuclear fuel barge shipping proposal must be blocked!

Perhaps most ironically of all, for CA members of congress like Issa to advocate for a bill that would speed the opening of the Yucca dump in Nevada, is the fact that Yucca Mountain's groundwater ultimately flows into Death Valley, CA. Thus, CA would be on the receiving end of massive releases of hazardous radioactivity into groundwater, once the Yucca dump begins to leak (not a question of if, but when).

(*Sierra Club's official national policy is against centralized interim storage facilities (also called monitored retrievable storage sites). But the Angeles Chapter has continued to advocate for centralized interim storage, as targeted at Texas and/or New Mexico, despite the national Sierra Club policy. Of course, the Texas and New Mexico chapters of the Sierra Club don't want to "host" San Onofre's highly radioactive waste, or anyone else's for that matter. Given the demographics on the Texas/New Mexico borderlands -- with large Hispanic populations -- as well as the high levels of pollution already there from fossil fuel and nuclear industries, this would be an unacceptable environmental justice violation!*)