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.



Rep. Shimkus (R-IL) to visit $11 billion hole in the ground in desert, again

Members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Economy are accompanied by their staff as the take a tour of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 (File, JESSICA EBELHAR/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL)No, it's not a headline in the satirical Onion newspaper, but it could be. As reported by Steve Tetreault in the Las Vegas Review Journal, U.S. Representative John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois), chairman of the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee, plans to visit the shutdown, boarded up, fenced off Yucca Mountain Project site for the second time in four years.

His last visit in April 2011, on the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe's 25th annual commemoration, cost U.S. taxpayers $15,000. But that's nothing compared to the $8 billion of ratepayer money, and $3 billion of taxpayer money, wasted at Yucca since the early 1980s.

Yucca dump advocates, like Shimkus, often adjust for inflation, and round up, to say $15 billion has been wasted at Yucca. But when they say "wasted," they mean because the project has been canceled. They would like to see another $100 billion or so spent there, to license, construct, open, and operate the dump.

As reported by the article: "“If Mr. Shimkus wants to come spend money in Nevada, then by all means,” Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said. “But what he will find at Yucca Mountain is a boarded-up, closed facility. Yucca Mountain is dead and no amount of visits by Mr. Shimkus and the pro-Yucca fanatics will change that.”

Shimkus's support for one of nuclear lobbyists' top legislative priorities should come as no surprise, however. He is from the most nuclear powered state in the Union (see NEIS's "Nuclear Illinois" map). His district includes the Honeywell uranium conversion plant in Metropolis -- an essential step in the uranium fuel chain, and the only such facility in the U.S.


Illinois speaks out against Canadian Great Lakes shoreline radioactive waste dump proposal

OPG's proposed so-called Deep Geologic Repository for radioactive waste burial would be located less than a mile from the Great Lakes shoreline.Today, DuPage County, the second most populous in Illinois, announced the passage of a resolution in opposition to the proposal by nuclear utility Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to bury radioactive wastes from 20 atomic reactors across the province at its Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, on the Lake Huron shore in Kincardine, ON (see photo, left). Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump shared the good news in a press release, with the DuPage Co. resolution attached.

On Feb. 6th, the City of Chicago also passed a similar resolution. As reported in the Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump's press release, the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, said: “The Great Lakes hold 84 percent of North America’s fresh water and Chicago’s position as the paramount Great Lakes city makes OPG’s proposed nuclear waste repository a threat to both public health and our environment. As shown by our City Council’s unanimous approval of a resolution opposing the repository, as well as the many voices throughout the United States and Canada, passionate support to protect our Great Lakes spans across North America and cannot be ignored.”

As tallied at the Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump website, the 142 resolutions, and counting, passed to date by tribes, states, counties, cities, towns, and villages across the Great Lakes Basin, represent a combined population of 17.9 million residents. Altogether, the Great Lakes provide drinking water for 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.

What's especially significant about DuPage County's and Chicago's resolutions, is the fact that these are themselves "nuclear municipalities." DuPage County hosts the national HQ of Exelon in Warrenville, the biggest nuclear utility in the country, with 23 atomic reactors in its fleet. And Chicago, encircled by Exelon reactors (including identical twin designs to Fukushima Daiichi), gets around 80% of its electricity from nuclear power. Yet, these municipalities have spoken out against the insane proposal to bury radioactive waste on the Great Lakes shore.

As Dave Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service of Illinois, has pointed out, if burying radioactive waste on the Great Lakes shore is a bad idea, it's also a bad idea to be generating and storing it there in the first place.


Environmental coalition speaks out against unprecedented, risky, liquid high-level radioactive waste shipments!

Peace Bridge between Fort Niagara, ON and Buffalo, NY is one of numerous border crossings where unprecedented liquid HLRW shipments could travel.A coalition of environmental groups has submitted comments to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regarding proposed truck shipments of liquid high-level radioactive waste, to travel from Chalk River, Ontario to Savannah River Site, South Carolina.

The comments were filed regarding CNSC's Technical Assessment Report: “NAC-LWT Package Design for Transport of Highly Enriched Uranyl Nitrate Liquid.”

NAC-LWT is short for Nuclear Assurance Corporation-Legal Weight Truck.

Comments were submitted by Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsiblity; Beyond Nuclear; Northwatch; and many others.

The shipment of liquid high-level radioactive waste is unprecedented, extremely risky, and unnecessary.


Many have tried, all have failed // Washington Examiner: GOP must overcome Reid to get to Yucca nuclear storage

As shown in Jim Day's political cartoon (be sure to count the toes) in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the President Obama zeroed out funding, and ordered his DOE to withdraw the license application, in 2010.U.S. Senator Harry Reid's (D-NV) Communications Director, Adam Jentleson, put it concisely with that Tweet above, in response to a Washington Examiner article.

Even as Minority Leader in a Republican majority Senate, Reid can be counted on to block any attempt to resurrect the long-canceled high-level radioactive waste dump targeted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as he has done for decades, ever since the "Screw Nevada bill" was passed into law in 1987.

In 2010, President Obama zeroed out funding for the Yucca Mountain Project, and ordered the U.S. Department of Energy to withdraw the construction and operating license application.


State of Vermont resists Entergy's attempts to eliminate emergency preparedness for high-level radioactive waste storage pool fire

NRC file photo of VY. The HLRW storage pool is located in the lighter colored upper portion of the reactor building, some 50 feet or more in the air.As reported by Vermont Digger, a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel has just denied a petition by the State of Vermont demanding NRC require Entergy Nuclear to maintain emergency monitoring data systems on its high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage pool at the recently permanently shutdown Vermont Yankee (VY) atomic reactor. VY's pool currently holds nearly 3,000 highly radioactive, thermally hot irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies.

As also reported three months ago by Vermont Digger, Entergy also wants to do away with emergency response planning by April 2016, even though HLRW will remain in the storage pool for several years beyond that. The State of Vermont wants emergency preparedness kept in place as long as HLRW is stored in the pool.

Whether due to a fast breaking drain down (as from the drop of a heavy load, natural disaster, insider sabotage, or terrorist attack), or a slower motion boil down (as from loss of offsite electricity to run circulation pumps), the loss of the cooling water in the storage pool would lead, within hours, to the ignition of the zirconium metal cladding on the fuel rods. A catastrophic radioactivity release over a wide region would follow, as the pool is located outside of robust containment structures.

Before later becoming NRC Chairman, Dr. Allison Macfarlane, et al., warned in a Jan. 2003 report about the catastrophic risks of pool fires. Robert Alvarez of Institute for Policy Studies, one of her co-authors, documented shortly after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began that VY's pool holds around 100 million curies of hazardous, radioactive Cesium-137. As cited in the 2003 Macfarlane et al. study, NRC has admitted that up to 100% of the volatile Cs-137 could escape into the environment in a pool fire.