"This is a bad, old idea that's been uniformly rejected on a bipartisan basis by politicians when it came up in the past, and it's been strongly opposed by citizen groups like mine and others," said Don Hancock, a member of the watchdog group Southwest Research and Information in Albuquerque. "It's also clear that it's illegal." Hancock was commenting on federal plans to ship some of the radioactive waste from Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reserve to New Mexico, a plan supported by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D). Both states will need to approve the plan. Six of the Hanford tanks holding radioactive sludge from nuclear weapons production have been found to be leaking intro groundwater. The plan would mean shipping 3 million gallons of radioactive waste from Hanford to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad.
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.
Hanford's radioactive leaks should not be exploited to enact commercial Mobile Chernobyl legislation
In 2002, George W. Bush's Energy Secretary, Spence Abraham, shamelessly exploited the 9/11 terrorist attacks in order to push the nuclear power industry's agenda -- ironically rushing the huge security risk of road, rail, and barge shipments of high-level radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain, Nevada for permanent burial. He argued before a congressional hearing panel that permanently closed atomic reactors, such as Big Rock Point in Michigan, needed to move their irradiated nuclear fuel to a single, consolidated storage site -- Yucca Mountain -- as soon as possible, as a homeland security priority. They didn't get away with it -- the Obama administration has wisely canceled the Yucca Mountain dump proposal.
However, the nuclear power industry, and its friends in government, are now pushing "centralized interim storage" -- moving commercial irradiated nuclear fuel to "parking lot dumps" at places like Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, NM; Savannah River Site, SC; Native American reservations; or nuclear power plants, like Dresden in IL.
Once again, permanently closed nuclear power plants, including Big Rock Point in Michigan, are being used, in an attempt to justify an expedicted "pilot" centralized interim storage facility. This time, Obama's resigning Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, and U.S. Senators such as Lamar Alexander (R-TN, Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK, Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), are leading the charge. They argue that permanently closed nuclear power plants need to be able to move their high-level radioactive wastes, in storage in dry casks, so these parcels of land can be released for "un-restricted re-use." This argument ignores the significant radioactive contamination of soil, groundwater, flora, fauna, and surface water sediments at these sites, despite decommissioning efforts costing hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars. Big Rock Point itself has lingering plutonium, and other radioactive, contamination, calling into very serious question the site's "un-restricted re-use" for residential development, a state park, or anything else.
These supposedly "interim" facilities could easily become de facto permanent surface storage sites, if a deep geologic repository is never opened. The now thankfully canceled Private Fuel Storage, Limited Liability Corporation (PFS LLC) parking lot dump targeted at the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians Reservation in Utah is a cautionary tale in this regard. If scores of rail-sized containers of Maine Yankee wastes had been moved to PFS, when the Yucca dump was canceled, they would have had to be "returned to sender" in Maine -- 4,000 miles of round trip risks through many states, which would have accomplished absolutely nothing.
Even if a deep geologic repository is opened someday, the centralized interim storage wastes would have to be moved, yet again, unnecessarily multiplying transport risks. If the repository is located back in the direction from which the wastes came in the first place, this would also represent needless round trip transport risks. In a recent letter to the editor to the Washington Post, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps warned about the risks of playing a radioactive waste shell game like this on our nation's roads, rails, and waterways.
There is the political danger, as Spence Abraham did in the aftermath of 9/11, that the recently announced high-level radioactive waste leaks from six Hanford Nuclear Reservation underground storage tanks in Washington State -- posing a severe risk to the nearby Columbia River -- could be twisted, in an attempt to create public panic, in order to rush the enactment of centralized interim storage legislation.
However, as Beyond Nuclear has warned in an action alert, Hanford's leaking wastes must be stabilized on-site as a top priority. As Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has called for, leaking tanks must transer their wastes into brand new, state of the art storage tanks, as soon as possible. And the liquid and sludge high-level radioactive wastes must be solidified (vitrified) into glass logs, to maximize the wastes' stability over the longer term. Vitrified glass logs, encased in steel canisters, would be the form in which the high-level radioactive wastes would be someday transported away from Hanford, to a deep geologic repository, where they would be permanently buried.
Just as Hanford's military high-level radioactive wastes must be stabilized first, before transport away, so too must commercial irradiated nuclear fuel, stored on-site at reactors, be safeguarded and secured, as soon as possible. For more than a decade, hundreds of environmental groups have called for Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS). HOSS calls for the emptying of extremely vulnerable storage pools, and the design and fabrication of quality dry casks that are safeguarded against accidents, fortified against attacks, and built to last for centuries without leakage of high-level radioactive waste into the living environment.
Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter is currently on a speaking tour of the Pacific Northwest. He will visit the Columbia Generating Station (CGS) located immediately adjacent to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, as part of Beyond Nuclear's "Freeze Our Fukushimas" campaign. CGS is a General Electric Mark II Boiling Water Reactor, similar in design to the Mark Is which melted down, exploded, and have released catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity at Fukushima Daiichi, Japan.
Paul will also speak as a panelist at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon this weekend. Hanford's recently revealed radioactive leaks will be a hot topic of conversation, for sure!
Please urge your U.S. Senators and Representative to block centralized interim storage legislation, which would launch unprecedented numbers of potential Mobile Chernobyls onto the roads, rails, and waterways. You can phone your Members of Congress via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or write them a letter, send them a fax, or email them by finding their contact information at their websites. The most effective way to influence your Members of Congress is to meet with them (or their staff) face to face. Consider coming to ANA's DC Days April 14-17, or arrange a meeting with your Members of Congress's district office nearest you!
As but the latest sign that Mobile Chernobyl's engines are revving on Capitol Hill, U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) told reporters yesterday that centralized interim storage nuclear waste legislation will be drafted in the near future. Sen. Wyden toured Hanford on Feb. 19th in the aftermath of the leaks being revealed, and ordered a Government Accountability Office investigation of matters at Hanford. Sen. Wyden also donned a radiation protection suit in April 2012 and toured the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Upon his return to Capitol Hill, he called on the full resources of the U.S. government to be deployed to Japan to prevent an even greater catastrophe from unfolding at Fukushima Daiichi's Unit 4 high-level radioactive waste storage pool, at risk of a cooling water drain down and irradiated nuclear fuel fire.
Maureen Headington of the Stand Up/Save Lives Campaign in Illinois has organized a petition sign-on campaign that has already garnered more than 86,000 signatures in opposition to the U.S. Department of Energy's latest proposal to "recycle" radioactive metals from the nuclear weapons complex into consumer products.
Maureen has pointed out that her petition has hit a nerve at Forbes, where a columnist felt the need to pooh pooh concerns about radioactive metal "recycling" (radioactive poisoning of the metal recycling stream) and dumping into ordinary municipal landfills, where it can then leak into groundwater and drinking water supplies. She urges folks to read the article, and post a comment at the Forbes site.
Another radioactive leak has sprung from a 1940’s vintage radioactive sludge storage tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington State. The now closed Hanford site hosts 56 million gallons of highly radioactive byproducts leftover from the nation’s nuclear weapons program since 1944. This latest radioactive leak is coming from one of the 149 single-shell underground storage tanks originally designed for a 20-year storage period. All told, more than 1 million gallons of nuclear waste are known to have leaked from the nuclear weapons production and storage facility into the desert soil over the years. The various radioactive plumes are moving in groundwater toward the Columbia River which borders on 50 miles of the reservation as close as seven miles away from the tank farm.
This most recent discovery was announced by the Department of Energy (DOE) on February 15, 2013 with a drop in the liquid level estimated at 150 to 300 gallons per year from the total 530,000 gallons stored in a tank identified as T-111.
Since 1989, the DOE has spent $16 billion on several schemes to manage Hanford’s nuclear waste all abandoned due to lack of credibility, cost escalations and unacceptable contractor performance. The DOE’s current plan is to finish construction of a $13.5 billion “Waste Treatment Plant” (WTP) to separate the dangerous waste stream into high-level and “low-activity” nuclear waste. The high-level waste is to be immobilized in a glass-forming material that is then sealed in stainless steel canisters to cool and harden for eventual deep geological burial. The “low-activity” nuclear waste would be “vitrified” (immobilized in glass material) and dumped on-site. However, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) recently warned in a December 2012 report that this massive clean-up project is already delayed beyond 2019 with out-of-control construction costs. If ever completed, the GAO identifies that the colossal operation itself will be faced with “significant safety and operation problems” due to the generation and build-up of explosive hydrogen gas in a pipeline system nearly one million linear feet long.
Facing facts, there is no “safe storage” of nuclear waste. Likewise, there is no permanent radioactive “clean-up” only “trans-contamination” of the environment. The most responsible long-term management plan for nuclear waste is to stop generating it. The utter and total irresponsibility of the nuclear industry is coming clearer to light with looming federal cuts to address threats from the endless legacy of the Atomic Age. It is now paramount that the Columbia River and the American Northwest be protected from our own Cold War nuclear attack.
There are now six of the 177 tanks known to be leaking high-level radioactive waste at Hanford according to news accounts including the New York Times.
As reported by Energy and Environment Daily, Mobile Chernobyl legislation is revving its engines on Capitol Hill. The Obama administration wants centralized interim storage for commercial irradiated nuclear fuel by 2021, which would launch unprecedented numbers of high-level radioactive waste shipments onto the roads, railways, and waterways.
Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps warned, in a letter to the editor in the Washington Post, about these irradiated nuclear fuel transport risks. This came in response to a Post editorial in support of rushed centralized interim storage.
Kevin put out a media statement in mid-January, responding to Energy Secretary Chu's call on Capitol Hill for centralized interim storage legislation. Kevin focused on the risks of radioactive waste transportation, and the radioactive waste shell game that would result from rushing into centralized interim storage.
Take action! Contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative. Urge them to block this risky radioactive waste shell game. You can reach their offices via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard, (202) 224-3121.
Contact the White House. Urge President Obama to put the brakes on the Mobile Chernobyls, dirty bombs on wheels, and Floating Fukushimas.
What are the alternatives? Well, we need to stop the generation of irradiated nuclear fuel in the first place. Atomic reactors should be permanently shutdown, their electricity supply replaced with energy efficiency, as well as renewable sources such as wind and solar.
For the wastes which already exist, hardened on-site storage -- endorsed by 170 environmental groups, representing all 50 states -- is an interim measure, addressing the potentially catastrophic risks of current indoor wet pool and outdoor dry cask storage vulnerabilities to accident, attack, and leakage.
Greenwire has reported on Senators Wyden and Murkowski cooperating to move forward centralized interim storage legislation.
While the Yucca Mountain dump proposal has been wisely canceled by the Obama administration, its Feb. 2002 U.S. Dept. of Energy Final Environmental Impact Statement still reveals nonetheless that opening a permanent repository -- or even centralized interim storage sites -- will launch unprecented numbers of risky irradiated nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste shipments onto the roads and rails through most states: see Appendix J, including national transport maps on pages J-24 and J-25; maps, and charts showing projected shipment numbers, for individual states and regions of the country can be found from Page J-134 to J-173.
But, it's not just truck and train shipments that would be launched. So too would barge shipments, in a number of states' waterways. This is because 26 atomic reactors across the U.S. lack direct rail access. DOE has indicated it prefers to ship highly radioactive waste in giant (100 ton or heavier) rail casks. To transfer wastes to the nearest rail head, either heavy haul trucks, or else barges, would have to be used.
Barge shipment maps can be found from Page J-78 to J-81. They include the following: Chesapeake Bay; James River of VA; Delaware Bay; waterways surrounding New York City in NY, NJ, and CT; Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts Bay, and Boston Harbor in MA; Lake Michigan, bordered by WI, IL, IN, and MI; the Mississippi River in AR, MS, and LA; the Tennessee River in AL; the Missouri River in NE; California's Pacific coastline; and Florida's Atlantic coastline.
As documented in the preceding links, a severe accident, or terrorist attack, upon highly radioactive waste barge shipments could release disastrous amounts of hazardous radioactivity into our country's surface waters. In that sense, these shipments represent "Floating Fukushima" risks, a phrase coined by Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). A fact that makes the use of high-level radioactive waste barges even more likely, in this rush to open centralized interim storage sites, is that the Savannah River Site in South Carolina -- near the Atlantic coastline -- is at the top of the target list.