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.



Obama administration makes major moves to end Yucca Mountain dumpsite proposal!

Fulfilling a campaign pledge, President Barack Obama has zeroed out the Yucca Mountain Project's funding in Fiscal Year 2011. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has moved to end the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission construction and operating license application proceeding within the next month. Many observers regard these actions as a clear signal that the Yucca Mountain dumpsite proposal, after over 20 years, has now been cancelled. Extensive media coverage can be found at the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's "What News" page. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as a rookie Democrat from Nevada, suffered the humiliation of the "Screw Nevada Bill" in 1987 that singled out Yucca Mountain for the country's high-level radioactive waste dump based on raw political expedience, not sound science. Ever since, he has devoted his career to stopping the dump. He seems to have succeeded. Reid has called for the Yucca site to be considered for other uses. But the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, to whom Yucca belongs according to the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley signed by the U.S. government, must be consulted and agree with any such decisions, an environmental justice never granted them in regards to Yucca Mountain dumpsite decision making (the frame for a Western Shoshone sweat lodge at the foot of the western face of Yucca Mountain, photographed by Gabriela Bulisova in Jan. 2004, shows that the site has still recently been used for sacred ceremonies). Beyond Nuclear would like to take this opportunity to thank the over 1,000 grassroots and national environmental groups whose work over the past 20+ years has made this environmental and environmental justice victory possible. Special thanks and congratulations go to the grassroots Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, as well as such Western Shoshone Indian bodies as the National Council, Defense Project, Shundahai Network, and bands such as the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe in Death Valley, without whose tireless, and often thankless, efforts for over two decades, this fight would have been lost long ago. Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, issued a press statement.


Beyond Nuclear press statement on DOE call for nuclear loan guarantee expansion and announcement of radioactive waste panel

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's watchdog on radioactive waste and nuclear power subsidies, issued a press statement in response to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu's proposal to more than double the federal nuclear loan guarantee program from $20.5 billion to $54.5 billion, as well as his announcement on the membership of his long-awaited "blue ribbon commission" on high-level radioactive waste management. Barack Obama's Presidential Memorandum about the radioactive waste panel has a very telling title: "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future". As reflected in the introductory language, it seems the Obama administration sees the unsolved, nearly 70-year-old (1942-2010) radioactive waste dilemma not as a mounting threat to public safety, health, and the environment, but more as a pesky public relations impediment impediment to the industry's coveted, will-o-the-wisp "nuclear renaissance." President Obama writes: "Expanding our Nation's capacity to generate clean nuclear energy is crucial to our ability to combat climate change, enhance energy security, and increase economic prosperity. My Administration is undertaking substantial steps to expand the safe, secure, and responsible use of nuclear energy. These efforts are critical to accomplishing many of my Administration's most significant goals." In terms of dirty, dangerous, and expensive nuclear power and radioactive waste, this is not change we can believe in. Regarding expanding nuclear loan guarantees, the National Taxpayers Union has blogged that this could easily turn into a ten billion dollar boondoggle. Consumer advocate and Green Party/independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, along with a coalition of national environmental groups including Beyond Nuclear, have written Energy Secretary Chu requesting a meeting to discuss energy policy in response to these developments of the past few days.


WIPP leaking toxic carbon tet into air

Opened in 1999, the U.S. Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico is the first "deep geologic repository" in the world for radioactive wastes, specifically for disposing of plutonium-contaminated nuclear weapons complex wastes. As described on WIPP's homepage, the "Waste Isolation Pilot Plant uses a continuous miner to carve disposal rooms out of the Permian Salt Formation, nearly a half mile below the surface," as pictured at the left. Despite assurances by WIPP's "Chief Scientist" that it could never happen, carbon tetrachloride leaks to the air outside the facility located 2,150 feet below ground have now reached a "level of concern," as reported by a Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) news update based on research by the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC). Beyond Nuclear, CCNS, and SRIC are members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. ANA's annual DC Days will be held in Washington March 14-17.


NRC Issues Notice of Violation to Entergy Nuclear Palisades for High-Level Radioactive Waste Risk

Beyond Nuclear, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, and Don't Waste Michigan issued a media release upon learning of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Notice of Violation issued to Entergy's Palisades Nuclear Power Plant on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest Michigan citing a nuclear criticality risk in the irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool that threated not only worker safety, but also public health. The coalition not only raised concerns about the waste storage pool, but also pointed out that the outdoor dry casks are defective and at risk of earthquakes.


New England governors "wish" high-level radioactive waste away

Seemingly suffering from a bad case of wishful thinking, a coalition of New England governors has written Energy Secretary Steven Chu urging that DOE remove irradiated nuclear fuel from their states as soon as possible. Perhaps the governors haven't kept up on the news for awhile, but there is nowhere for the waste to go away to. Ironically, their pressure might just backfire on them -- in late 2008, DOE reported to Congress and the President that there is need for a second repository (never mind that the first one has just been cancelled, so that means two new repositories are needed) for high-level radioactive waste disposal. And just as it did in the 1980s, DOE is sniffing around New England again, at granite geological formations, such as Sebago Lake ME, Hillsboro NH, and locations in VT for "suitable" sites to bury forever deadly high-level radioactive waste. The governors also claim that decommissioned nuclear power plant sites, such as Maine Yankee, Yankee Rowe in MA, and Connecticut Yankee could be readily returned to productive use. The problem is, despite NRC assurances to the contrary, the sites are still radioactively contaminated, posing health risks to future residents and visitors for a long time to come.