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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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Tuesday
Apr262016

Goals of U.S. Department of Energy Meeting in Sacramento April 26 would Trigger Largest Nuclear Shipping Campaign in History: California Cities Would be Fukushima Freeways

As an environmental coalition put it in a press release, Goals of U.S. Department of Energy Meeting in Sacramento April 26 would Trigger Largest Nuclear Shipping Campaign in History: California Cities Would be Fukushima Freeways.

The coalition also released a map showing likely irradiated nuclear fuel shipping routes through CA, should the WCS parking lot dump in TX open. In addition, the coalition published a map showing likely national impacts of the WCS proposal.

Tuesday
Apr262016

Transcript and video from April 26th DOE "Consent-Based Siting" public meeting in Sacramento, CA

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sent the following to public participants in its unfortunately timed Sacramento, CA "Consent-Based Siting" public meeting (April 26th was the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe):

Thank you for your participation in the recent consent-based siting meeting hosted by the Department of Energy in SacramentoThe meeting transcript and video are available on our website and meeting notes from the small group discussion summaries will follow.

Feel free to provide feedback about our meetings by sending us an email, and stay involved by replying to the Invitation for Public Comment in the Federal Register.  As always, visit our website for the latest consent-based siting news and information. 

-The Department of Energy Consent-based Siting Team

consentbasedsiting@hq.doe.gov

Sunday
Apr242016

DANGER - Radioactive Leak at INDIAN POINT

This 30-minute interview has just been published and broadcast in New York City, and is also available for viewing online: Alfred C. Meyer, Board Member of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) & Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog at Beyond Nuclear, discuss the danger of continuing radioactive leaks at Indian Point, Buchanan, New York. An Access for All Production produced through the facilities of Manhattan Neighborhood Network, by Gloria Messer, Producer/Director.

High-level radioactive waste storage pools, as well as dry casks, are discussed during the course of the interview. The pools at Indian Point have been leaking hazardous radioactivity into the soil, groundwater, and Hudson River for over a decade. Also, the safety and security risks of losing the cooling water in the pools -- whether due to a sudden drain down, or slower motion boil down -- is very significant. The pools lack a robust radioactive containment structure, and a waste fire could unleash very large quantities of hazardous radioactivity, such as Cesium-137, into the environment.

Thursday
Apr142016

The nuclear industry, Congress, and federal agencies are working together to open parking lot dumps and launch Mobile Chernobyls -- we must stop them!

An infrared photo showing the thermal heat of a German CASTOR cask filled with irradiated nuclear fuel being transported by rail to centralized interim storage in Gorleben, Germany. The high-level radioactivity, not the thermal heat, is the hazard to human health, safety, and the environment, however.In a press release from the U.S. Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, its Republican Chairman and Ranking Democrat claim to be "Solving the Nuclear Waste Stalemate," and that their "bill includes a pilot program for consolidated nuclear waste storage, introduced by [U.S. Senator Lamar] Alexander [(R-TN)] and ranking member U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).  It also includes language that allows DOE to store nuclear waste at  private facilities that are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC]."

Waste Control Specialists, LLC in Andrews County, western Texas, is poised to apply for a construction and operating license to NRC, perhaps yet this month.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has held three "Consent-Based Siting" meetings thus far, with six more to go around the country.

By as early as 2021, DOE hopes to ram through approval for the first of one or more parking lot dumps, targeted at such additional sites as Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, New Mexico (WIPP, not far from WCS), other DOE sites, Native American reservations, and/or nuclear power plants such as Dresden in Illinois.

This would launch unprecedented thousands of Mobile Chernobyls, Floating Fukushimas, and Dirty Bombs on Wheels, onto the roads, rails, and/or waterways of most states. (Also see Beyond Nuclear's Waste Transportation website section, for more information.)

DOE will accept public comments until July 31st.

Learn more, including what you can do, at Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste website section.

Wednesday
Apr132016

U.S. Senate Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee bill seeks to do nuclear industry's bidding, at taxpayer expense and risk

Photo credit: Getty Images.As reported by The Hill, the U.S. Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, led by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN, photo at left) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), has passed a $37.5 billion funding bill. (Yes, billion with a B -- as in, YOUR taxpayer dollars!)

Disconcertingly, the Senate Appropriations bill prioritizes such vast U.S. taxpayer expenditures on fulfilling the nuclear power industry lobbyists' (a.k.a., one of Sen. Alexander's top campaign contributors') own wish list:

He also emphasized how much the bill does for nuclear power, a top priority for Alexander.

“Our legislation sends a strong signal about our support for developing new technologies that will support the next generation of nuclear plants,” he said, pointing to nearly $100 million in funding for advanced nuclear reactor research and another nearly $100 million for small modular reactors, along with a pilot project for consolidated nuclear waste storage that would be separate from the proposed Yucca Mountain site." (emphasis added)

In significant contradiction, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee funding bill, passed within recent days, states:

Yucca Mountain – The bill continues congressional efforts to support the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository, providing $150 million for the Nuclear Waste Disposal program and $20 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue the adjudication of DOE’s Yucca Mountain License application. The legislation also denies the Administration’s funding proposals for non-Yucca nuclear waste activities.

U.S. Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), and John Shimkus (R-IL), lead the current, shameful nuclear power industry-dominated House Energy and Commerce Committee efforts to off-load industry liabilities onto American taxpayers, as well as to target Western Shoshone Indian Nation land for the country's high-level radioactive waste dump, an environmental injustice of historic proportions.

Upton, for his part, has led congressional efforts to "Screw Nevada," for the past 20 years.

U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader, Harry Reid from Nevada, can be counted on, to do all in his power to block any such attempt to resurrect the Yucca Mountain dump zombie. He has done just that, since his rookie term in the U.S. Senate, when the "Screw Nevada" bill was passed, against his and Nevada's will, in 1987.

This Senate Appropriations Subcommittee pilot project for "centralized" or "consolidated interim storage" is promoted as relieving "stranded" or "orphaned" high-level radioactive wastes, from permanently shutdown, and even completely dismantled, "decommissioned" nuclear power plants. The supposed justification is so that those sites can be released for "un-restricted [so-called "productive"] re-use," despite the lingering hazards of radioactive contamination of soil, groundwater, surface water sediments, flora, fauna, etc., even after supposed completion of "clean up" activities. NRC regulations only require very shallow (inches or feet down, versus tens or even hundreds of feet down, as far as the radioactive contamination sometimes extends) "clean up" on-site, and do not even require "clean up" of "off-site" -- that is, immediately adjancent -- surface water sediments!

Sens. Alexander and Feinstein released a Subcommittee statement, which included this:

Solving the Nuclear Waste Stalemate – The bill includes a pilot program for consolidated nuclear waste storage, introduced by Alexander and ranking member U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).  It also includes language that allows DOE to store nuclear waste at private facilities that are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (emphasis and underline added)

As if the U.S. radioactive waste dilemma -- the oldest, and biggest, in the world -- is comparable to a mere game of chess!

Those "private facilities" include Waste Control Specialists, Limited Liability Corporation (WCS, LLC) in Andrews County, Texas. (LLCs are a relatively recent legal construct, intended to protect the "mothership" of funding against legal liability, as when the worst happens, in terms of radioactive catastrophe). WCS, LLC may yet apply, before the end of April, for a construction and operation license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), for a consolidated interim storage site for commercial irradiated nuclear fuel.

At the same time, so-called "defense" high-level radioactive wastes from the nuclear weapons complex, and other DOE jurisdiction high-level radioactive wastes (such as irradiated nuclear fuel from research reactors), appears to be targeted at WIPP in New Mexico for de facto permanent centralized interim surface storage.

This Senate E&W appropriations bill seeks to help authorize such "private fuel storage," as at WCS, as legal. Previously, an industry consortium called Private Fuel Storage, LLC, sought to dump 40,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel on the very tiny (a mere 125 members), severely low income, Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in western Utah. NRC rubber-stamped that construction and operating license too, but the blatant environmental injustice, or radioactive racism, was ultimately stopped in the end, at huge personal cost to traditional Skull Valley Goshutes opponents to the dump.

Oak Ridge Nuclear Lab, origin site for the weapons-usable, highly-enriched uranium that incinerated Hiroshima, Japan (and more than 100,000 of its civilian inhabitants) on August 6, 1945, remains a political and economic powerhouse in Sen. Alexander's home state of Tennessee. So too is the quasi-federal Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), headquartered in Knoxville, which owns and operates a fleet of so-called "civilian" atomic reactors (even though a number of them provide tritium for use in hydrogen bombs, compliments of a Bill Clinton administration/DOE Secretary Bill Richardson approval, in the late 1990s). 

In The Hill article linked above, Sen. Alexander also emphasized:

“The bill that Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein and I have negotiated has focused on discretionary funding; it invests in our waterways; it puts us one step closer to doubling basic energy research; it helps to resolve the nuclear waste stalemate that both she and I are determined, one way or another, to resolve,” Alexander said. (emphasis added)

With friends like that, who needs enemies?!

The problem is, Alexander and Feinstein's twisted resolve, "one way or another," includes launching unprecedented numbers of high-risk shipments of high-level radioactive waste, by road, rail, and/or waterway, to "centralized interim storage sites," more appropriately called de facto permanent parking lot dumps. The top targeted sites, currently, are focused on a small geographic area: the sparsely populated, and thus most vulnerable, borderland between western Texas and eastern New Mexico.

The over-riding driver of such a policy is not public health, safety, the environment, or taxpayer pocketbooks. Rather, it is ultimate transfer of the liability for high-level nuclear waste, away from the industry that profits from its generation, to the U.S. taxpayer, in spite of the risks to health, safety, and the environment. DOE, and Members of Congress like Sen. Alexander, see the U.S. Treasury as a slush fund for their friends and colleagues (and campaign contributors) in the nuclear power and weapons industry.

Such policies, of course, make Sens. Alexander and Feinstein but the latest sponsors of Mobile Chernobyl, Dirty Bombs on Wheels, Floating Fukushimas, and Parking Lot Dumps, at taxpayer and ratepayer expense and risk.

This "nuclear corridor" -- in the parlance of not-so-retired U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM; he still "serves" the public, up for dinner, to the nuclear establishment, at the so-called Bipartisan Policy Center), perhaps the top congressional advocate in favor of nuclear power and nuclear weapons of the past generation -- is already very heavily burdened with past radioactive scars, current risks, and forevermore-hazards, including:

---the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), a deep geologic repository (DGR, or permanent burial site) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, for nuclear weapons complex, plutonium-contaminated, or "trans-uranic" (TRU), radioactive wastes. WIPP experienced two underground accidents in one week in February 2014, including a radioactive release to the surface environment over a broad area. This exposed some two-dozen workers -- and additional countless members of the public, over time -- with ultra-hazardous lung burden doses of inhaled alpha-emiiting radioactivity, a severe risk for latent lung cancer. U.S. federal agenices, including DOE and EPA, had previously claimed that WIPP would not leak for at least 10,000 years, and would leak at most once in 200,000 years. In fact, WIPP leaked within 15 years (1999 to 2014). Plutonium-239, with a 24,400-year half-life, remains hazardous for 240,000 to 480,000 years.

---Waste Control Specialsts, Limited Liability Corporation (WCS, LLC) in Andrews County, Texas, now a top destination for so-called "low" level radioactive waste burial nationwide. The licensing of WCS, located adjacent to, or even immediatley above, puts the the Ogallala Aquifer at risk. The Ogallala provides vital, irreplaceable drinking- and irrigation-water to numerous Great Plains States, and their countless millions of residents, as far north as South Dakota.

The rubber-stamp approval of WCS's license by the State of Texas led to the resignation, in protest, of several career state environmental agency staffers. The extremist Right-Wing Republican founder of WCS, Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, was the same George W. Bush/Dick Cheney Political Action Committee funder, who shamefulluy-but-successfully "speed-boated" Democratic candidate for U.S. President, Vietnam War veteran, and multiple Purple Heart recipient, John Kerry (now Obama Secretary of State), during the 2004 election. After Simmons passed on, his children took over ownership and control WCS. Last autumn, WCS's competitor, EnergySolutions of Salt Lake City, Utah, took over WCS. WCS has become THE national dump-site for Class A, B, and C "low" level radioactive waste, and now seeks to become the parking lot dump for high-level radioactive waste from the commercial nuclear power industry (irradiated nuclear fuel). (EnergySolutions' site in the desert of western Utah, not far from the Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation, is also a major dumping ground for Class A "low-level" radioactive waste.) Incredibly enough, more than a hundred, potentially exploding, barrels of TRU waste from Los Alamos were rushed to WCS in the aftermath of the 2014 radioactive release at WIPP. They now sit, in the west Texas summer sun, in the open air, with no containment. Extreme heat could trigger the chemical reaction in one or more barrels that causes them to burst and release their ultra-hazardous contents, as happened in the WIPP underground. That single barrel burst will take $500 million to $1 billion to recover from, a process that has already taken more than two years, and is still not complete.

---URENCO (Uranium Enrichment Corporation) uranium enrichment facility, in eastern New Mexico. In fact, one of WCS's original primary "missions" was to accept the gargantuan quantities of chemically toxic, and forever radioactive, "depleted uranium" wastes from URENCO (WCS's radioactive waste disposal "mission" has expanded mightily, since then!). Despite committed resistance from the likes of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC), and their expert witness, Dr. Arjun Makhijani of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rubber-stamped the URENCO construction and operating license many years ago.

Of course, "Nuke Mexico" is also "home" to Los Alamos Nuclear Lab, birthplace of the atomic bomb, and still, to this day, a "top employer" (as well as radioactive and toxic chemical contaminator, source of political campaign contributions via contractors and employees, lobbyist powerhouse, etc.).

New Mexico also "hosts" Sandia National Lab, and an adjacent U.S. Air Force Base, in Albuquerque -- comprising one of the greatest single concentrations of nuclear weapons on the planet, stored in tunnels and caverns carved under mountains sacred to local Native American tribal nations.

Ironically enough, George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law at Sandia, backed up, in person, by not only "Senator Strangelove" Domenici, but also Democratic U.S. Senator from New Mexico, Jeff Bingaman. Among many other bad things, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized: $13 billion of taxpayer funding for an ill-advised, and since failed, Nuclear Power "Renaissance" (more appropriately dubbed a "Relapse"); and authorized unlimited amounts of taxpayer-funded nuclear power loan guarantees (thus far including $8.3 billion, appropriated for proposed new atomic reactors in Georgia, Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant Units 3 & 4). It also allowed for the "Halliburton loophole" -- the exemption of the fracking industry from various public health and environmental protection laws -- allowing for hydraulic fracturing's toxic chemistry to remain secretive.

The current U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) "Consent-Based Siting" proceeding (Dec. 23, 2015 to July 31, 2016) appears to be a "National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)-free zone" public relations effort, to bolster Sen. Alexander et al.'s congressional schemes, which happen, conveniently enough, to be the nuclear industy's own lobbyists' wish list agenda. And vice versa. A.K.A., you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

Spending vast amounts of taxpayer dollars on their own generous salaries, the nuclear powers that be -- at DOE, at NRC, and in industry -- seem quite content to "solve the radioactive waste problem," or not, so long as it is at astronomical taxpayer and/or ratepayer expense, paid to them, and their friends and colleagues in the nuclear establishment.

Such nuclear corruption must be resisted at every turn.