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.



Media Statement by Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, on Today’s U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee Mark Up Hearing re: U.S. Rep. John Shimkus’s (R-IL) Bill, H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017:

Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist at Beyond Nuclear, issued a statement today. It begins:

“Yesterday, Beyond Nuclear joined a coalition of 50 national, regional, and local grassroots environmental groups, in a letter calling on members of the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee to oppose H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, as dangerously misguided. This letter is part of a decades-long campaign, by over a thousand environmental groups from all 50 states, in opposition to the Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dump scheme. This environmental coalition remains as vigilant and determined as ever.

“Yucca Mountain has repeatedly failed the test to serve as a high-level radioactive waste burial dump for the past several decades, and still does.

“First and foremost, Yucca Mountain is located on Western Shoshone Indian land, as recognized by the United States government when it signed the ‘peace and friendship’ Treaty of Ruby Valley in 1863. Thus, the Yucca dump scheme is illegal and unconstitutional. Treaties are the highest law of the land, equal in stature to the Constitution itself. It would be like the U.S. trying to force the burial of its radioactive wastes onto Canada or Mexico, against their sovereign will. As with nuclear weapons testing at the adjacent Nevada Test Site, the Western Shoshone have made clear for decades, they do not consent to this dump on their land.

“In fact, the Native Community Action Council (NCAC) has achieved official party status by establishing standing in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing proceeding for the Yucca dump. NCAC’s contentions assert that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) does not hold title to the land or water at Yucca Mountain. This belongs to the Western Shoshone Indian Nation. Read the full press release.


50-group environmental coalition urges rejection of H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017

Beyond Nuclear joined with a 50-group environmental coalition, spearheaded by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), to urge members of the U.S. House of Represenatives Energy & Commerce Committee to vote against the latest incarnation of the Screw Nevada and Mobile Chernobyl bill, H.R. 3053 sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL).

The bill would also legalize private centralized interim storage facilities (CISFs) for commercial irradiated nuclear fuel. Waste Control Specialists, LLC in Andrews County, west Texas, and the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance in southeastern New Mexico, near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (for military plutonium contamination disposal) are the top targets for such de facto permanent surface parking lot dumps. The two CISFs are less than 40 miles apart, across the TX-NM border.

The legislation, which cleared Shimkus's Environment and the Economy Subcommittee a couple weeks ago, will undergo mark up before the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee, and a likely up or down vote, on Wed., June 28th at 10am Eastern. If it passes, it would then move on to the full U.S. House floor, for consideration.

Beyond Nuclear encourages everyone to contact their U.S. Representative, to urge strong opposition to this dangerously bad bill. (Look up your U.S. Rep.'s contact info. at this site, by typing in your ZIP code at the upper right, clicking GO, and following the internet links.) Feel free to cite, and share, the group letter above, when you communicate with your U.S. Rep.'s office!


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.