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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.

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Thursday
Oct092014

Dr. Frank Greening's closing remarks to DGR JRP

Dr. Frank GreeningDr. Frank Greening, a scientist who worked at Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and its predecessor (Ontario Hydro) for decades, has submitted his closing comments to the Canadian federal Joint Review Panel (JRP) overseeing the Environmental Assessment (EA) on the proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR). Closing comments are due on October 9, 2014.

The DGR would be located at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station (NGS), on the shore of Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada. It would bury all of Ontario's so-called "low-level" and "intermediate-level" radioactive wastes (L&ILRWs), from 20 reactors across the province.

Dr. Greening, whose previous submissions to the JRP have revealed major underestimates by OPG and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regarding such basic issues as the radioactivity content of the waste, has here focused on two mass-exposure accidents at OPG (and Ontario Hydro's) commercial nuclear facilities: 55 workers exposed to internal Carbon-14 contamination at Pickering NGS in March, 1985; and 557 workers exposed to internal alpha-particle contamination at Bruce NGS in November and December, 2009.

Greening argues that those accidents, as well as the February, 2014 radioactivity release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, should serve as a serious warning against rushing ahead with this ill-considered DGR proposal.

Greening ends with this powerful conclusion:

What concerns me most about the proposed DGR is OPG’s level of ignorance about its size, about its radionuclide inventory, about how it will operate and about the potential for things to go horribly wrong through unexpected synergisms, as in the tragic Lac Mégantic disaster where a combination of relatively minor problems led to a major catastrophe. It is quite evident that OPG’s DGR proposal is based on only a pretense of knowledge of all possible risks within the proposed facility. As a result OPG ignores true uncertainty, as defined by U.S. economist F.H. Knight, which is something that is not susceptible to measurement and can never be eliminated from human endeavor. Or as J.M. Keynes eloquently described it: “... matters where there is no scientific basis on which to form any calculable probability whatever. We simply do not know.”

Therefore I strongly urge the JRP to reject OPG’s DGR proposal. We know so very little about the long-term safety of a DGR and the American experience with the WIPP facility shows why we should err on the side of caution before proceeding with such a venture. After all, it took only one bad waste container to spoil an entire DGR facility! And besides, it is evident that a lot more research and development is needed before DGR technology could be declared to be safe and reliable. But in the meantime, we certainly do not need the existing WWMF [Bruce NGS's Western Waste Management Facility] to become home to a deep underground nuclear waste disposal test-bed on the shores of Lake Huron. Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread....".

Monday
Sep292014

17 groups urge NRC to halt licensing, relicensing of 23 reactors due to failure to address 2012 court ruling

Diane CurranAs reported by a coalition press release, 17 groups engaged in interventions against 23 old and new reactors have filed new contentions with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panels.

The contentions cite NRC's own lack of safety assurances regarding ultimate disposal of irradiated nuclear fuel, a recent reversal of NRC's previous so-called "Nuclear Waste Confidence." In addition to the contentions seeking to block new reactor licenses and old reactor license extensions, the coalition has requested stays on all proceedings until the matter is resolved.

Diane Curran (photo, above) of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg + Eisenberg, LLP in Washington, D.C., is a lead attorney representing the environmental coalition. Mindy Goldstein of Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University in Atlanta also serves as a lead attorney on behalf of the coalition.

Dr. Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, and Dr. Arjun Makhijani of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, have each filed expert testimony on behalf of the coalition.

Wednesday
Sep242014

Grassroots opposition to Canada's Great Lakes radioactive waste dump gaining traction at state and federal level!

Ontario Power Generation proposes to bury "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes from 20 reactors across the province at its Bruce Nuclear Generating Station on the Lake Huron shore. The Great Lakes comprise 95% of North America's surface fresh water, providing drinking water to 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations.As reported by the News Herald, an effort to block Canada's proposed radioactive waste dump on the Great Lakes shoreline -- initiated by Ed McArdle of the Sierra Club's South East Michigan Group -- first succeed at the state level, and has now moved into the federal realm. At the state level, Ed's Michigan State Senator, Hoon-yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), introduced a resolution opposing the dump that past the State Senate by a unanimous vote. At the federal level, Michigan and New York Democrats have introduced a congressional resolution opposing the dump in the U.S. House; a bipartisan resolution has likewise been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Thursday
Aug282014

U.S. Rep. Kildee to unveil major plan to block Canadian Great Lakes radioactive waste dump

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI)As reported by the Macomb Daily:

"On a ship moored along the banks of the Saginaw River, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee will reveal a major plan to protect the Great Lakes from a proposed nuclear waste facility on the Canadian shores of Lake Huron at 12:30 p.m. today...While aboard the Appledore IV Kildee is expected to reveal his plans to introduce a congressional resolution that would put Congress on the record against the proposed construction of the deep geological reservoir for nuclear waste."

The Canadian federal Joint Review Panel (JRP) overseeing Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) is about to hold a final round of public hearings in the DGR's targeted town. The DGR would bury all of the province's so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive waste, from 20 reactors owned by OPG. Kincardine is also "home" to the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, one of the world's single largest nuclear power plants. Beyond Nuclear staff will testify in person, for the second time, before the JRP on Sept. 16th.

Tuesday
Aug262014

By another name, NRC Commission blesses Nuclear Waste Confidence

Environmental coalition members from the Crabshell Alliance, Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign, NIRS, PSR, NEIS, and Public Citizen "just say NO!" at the NRC HQ nuke waste con game public comment meeting on 11/14/13 in Rockville, MD. Photo credit David Martin and Erica Grey.Today, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) four Commissioners blessed the NRC staff's "Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel" Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and Rule, previously called the NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy.

The vote went ahead, despite widespread calls for Commissioner William Magwood to resign, or recuse himself, due to conflict of interest, and despite a call for NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane to postpone the vote until after Commissioner Magwood's departure from the agency on Aug. 31st.

The Commissioners' explanations for their votes included a partial objection by NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, that NRC staff had not adequately considered the "catastrophe" that would unfold over time, if institutional control were to be lost over irradiated nuclear fuel storage. However, even she joined NRC Commissioners Kristine Svinicki, William Ostendorff, and Magwood, in approving finalization of the GEIS and Rule, pending a few, very minor corrections.

She also joined their unanimous Memorandum and Order, that stays on final NRC approvals for some two dozen operating license proceedings -- both at pending old reactor license extensions, as well as in proposed new reactor combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) proceedings -- be ended. Thus, licenses can now be approved by NRC licensing boards, 30 days after publication of these decisions in the Federal Register, which is set for next month.

These include the proposed new Fermi 3, MI and Grand Gulf 2, MS COLA proceedings, and several old reactor license extension proceedings (Seabrook, NH; Davis-Besse, OH; Grand Gulf Unit 1, MS; Fermi 2, MI), in which Beyond Nuclear has intervened, opposing NRC's approval of the operating licenses.

Thus, the NRC has ignored many tens of thousands of public comments, including in-depth comments made by Beyond Nuclear, a coalition of three dozen environmental groups, and a coalition of state governments and Native American tribes. The NRC has blessed the continued generation of forever deadly high-level radioactive waste, attempting to take the issue off the table in pending, and future, reactor licensing proceedings. But the big question remains: will NRC's flagrant flouting of federal court orders be allowed to stand?

Explaining how the NRC could, yet again, bless the "nuke waste con game," despite the inherent environmental and safety risks, Mother Jones quoted Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps: "The industry crawls all over that place in terms of lobbying. They own that place."