Contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative. Urge they do everything in their power to block the provisions of S. 1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013, from being included in the impending Energy and Water Appropriations bill, or the Omnibus Appropriations bill it could be rolled into. Urge them instead to support an end to high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) generation, and to require Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS) for HLRW that already exists, as has long been called for by hundreds of environmental and public interest groups, representing all 50 states. You can call your two U.S. Senators, and your U.S. Representative, via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard, at (202) 224-3121.
As reported by CQ News on Jan. 7, 2014 (Updated 3:14 p.m.), the Energy and Water Appropriations bill is close, but not done yet. Yet again reflecting the power of atomic energy industry lobbyists over our threatened democratic model of governance, it has been revealed that the Mobile Chernobyl bill is a major sticking point.
The CQ News article reports:
“[Sen. Barbara] Mikulski [Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee] said Tuesday the Energy-Water and Homeland Security (HR 2217) bills also were near completion….
Energy-Water [Appropriations] Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told reporters she and ranking member Lamar Alexander [R-TN] held two conference calls with their House counterparts over the holiday break. However, she said it was unclear whether the measure would make it into the omnibus.
Alexander said the four principles [the Chairs and Ranking Members of both the U.S. Senate and House committees of jurisdiction] had made ‘good progress’ on the bill. ‘We’ve gone through most of the issues,’ he said. ‘So I think we’re close to agreement.’
But he said language that he and Feinstein support on spent nuclear fuel remains unresolved. The language would authorize the Department of Energy to move some spent nuclear fuel to interim storage facilities while a new permanent solution is mapped out. The House has shown little willingness to consider even narrow statutory changes on nuclear waste while various legal challenges to President Barack Obama’s plan to shutter the Yucca Mountain disposal site in Nevada are alive.” (emphasis added)
Speaking of nuclear lobbyists, E&E's Hannah Northey, in an article entitled "Bipartisan Policy Center [BPC] taps former DOE official to lead new initiative," reported on Jan. 9th that the so-called BPC has just hired "Timothy Frazier, a former Energy Department official, to lead its new initiative aimed at crafting policy options to jump-start the country's stalled nuclear waste policies." Frazier, who worked at DOE for two decades, also "served as Designated Federal Officer for DOE’s Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future." Before that, Frazier was in the Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE's nuclear power promotions office), as a senior career official during the George W. Bush administration's failed GNEP ("Global Nuclear Energy Partnership") initiative, a failed attempt to revive commercial reprocessing in the U.S.
Winning no points for originality, the BPC has dubbed its new lobbying project as "America's Nuclear Future: Taking Action to Address Nuclear Waste." The lobbying effort will undoubtedly push for centralized interim storage, the top priority of the BRC Frazier himself directed, as well as the top priority of S. 1240 -- all so heavily influenced by the revolving door of industry-government special interests, now most recently epitomized by Frazier's appointment at BPC.
Fortunately, a major revival of dirty, dangerous, and expensive reprocessing was stopped dead in its tracks during the Bush administration GNEP push, and yet another attempt to resurrect it more recently at the BRC was also blocked.
S. 1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013, would do more than "move some spent nuclear fuel to interim storage facilities." If enacted, this parking lot dump bill would open a "centralized interim storage site," euphemistically dubbed a "pilot" facility, by 2021. The "pilot" de facto permanent away-from-reactor surface storage bill would supposedly be limited to so-called "stranded" or "orphaned" high-level radioactive wastes from permanently shutdown reactors. The supposed justification is to release the former nuclear power plant sites for "unrestricted re-use," despite the lingering radioactive contamination in the soil, groundwater, surface water sediments, flora, fauna, etc.
But the bill also seeks to open full-scale "consolidated interim storage" by 2025. The bill expresses a strong preference to co-locate the "pilot" and full-scale facilities at one and the same site. It even expresses a strong preference to co-locate the permanent burial dump there, too.
Despite claiming to enact the final recommendations of President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC), S. 1240 actually rips the very heart out of BRC's Jan. 2012 Final Report. Based largely on the dismal failure at Yucca Mountain, where the federal government attempted to "Screw Nevada" against its will, the BRC concluded that "consent-based" siting of consolidated interim storage and geologic repositories was essential.
Yet, S. 1240 would allow the newly created Nuclear Waste Administrator to select sites, carry out characterization studies, and even declare them suitable, before seeking the community's or state's consent. The momentum towards ultimate approval would be immense. This is especially true, if the parking lot dumps are targeted at politically and economically vulnerable communities (such as Native American reservations).
Another risk of S. 1240 and the BRC's call for "consolidated interim storage" is that it could serve as a launch pad for reprocessing. This danger is especially acute at the Savannah River Site, the DOE nuclear weapons complex in South Carolina, on the border with Georgia.
Critics have also dubbed S. 1240 the Mobile Chernobyl bill, due to the unprecedented numbers of high-level radioactive waste shipments that would be launched onto the roads, rails, and waterways (Floating Fukushimas). In addition to concerns about severe accidents, the shipments are not designed to withstand terrorist attacks (Dirty Bombs on Wheels).