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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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Wednesday
Jun012016

DOE in Boston seeking “consent-based siting” of nuke dumps, roads, rails and waterways: We Do Not Consent!

On June 2, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) holds an evening live webcast of a public meeting in Boston, MA, the sixth such meeting this year in the United States, to test public sentiment for the “consent-based siting” of deep geological burial of high-level nuclear waste from the nation’s nuclear power stations. More immediately, the federal energy agency is looking for volunteers to be the indefinite and potentially permanent willing host to thousands of radioactive waste casks on fenced parking lots for the questionable future for licensing and building nuclear dumps and designate the hazardous transport routes from nuclear stations by road, rail and barge. DOE's current priority is to open "centralized interim storage" sites by 2021, which would launch Mobile Chernobyls onto the roads, rails, and waterways of most states, including into the Port of Boston itself.

The DOE was last in New England beginning in the Fall of 1985 and by contrast looking for the nuclear industry’s dump site by “eminent domain.”  The granite formations of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire came under the scrutiny of government and industry for the deep geological burial of at least 70,000 metric tons of dangerous irradiated fuel from nuclear generating stations. The DOE had already declared Texas, Nevada and Washington State as the candidate sites for the nation’s first nuclear waste repository. In January 1986, DOE officials announced the government singled out twelve sites for a second waste repository east of the Mississippi River including the crystalline rock bodies under Hillsborough, New Hampshire and several more neighboring Yankee towns for a 20,000 surface acre “national sacrifice area” and two more large granite sites in Maine.  

That earlier DOE plan did not work out by popular demand. By March 1986, there were 130 of New Hampshire’s 224 towns petitioning warrant articles before the state’s centuries old local town hall meeting process to oppose the siting of a nuclear waste dump in the Granite State. Of those towns, 100 towns voted more “to oppose the burial, storage, transportation and production of high-level nuclear waste” in the State of New Hampshire.  The broad majority of an informed, even conservative state citizenry made the ethical connection between not wanting to take and not wanting to make dangerous nuclear waste.

The DOE was similarly met by adamant and popular public opposition throughout New England as well as the rest of a nation that had just witnessed the technological disaster with the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion and soon the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine and across Europe. By December 2007 Congress and the DOE suspended the search for a second repository and singled out Yucca Mountain with the “Screw Nevada Bill.” 

Nearly a decade later, a $9 billion dry hole in a seismically active and defunded Yucca Mt., the DOE and Congress are on the hunt again to do the nuclear industry’s bidding.  Your comments and opposition is needed to make that first and most responsible step in long-term management of nuclear waste---Stop Making It!

You can read our suggested talking points and file your comments to the DOE by July 31, 2016.  We Do Not Consent!

Sunday
May292016

Next DOE "Consent-Based Siting" public meeting: Boston, MA, Thurs., June 2nd

Announcement from DOE:

On Thursday June 2nd, the Department of Energy will host a public meeting in Boston on designing a consent-based process to site facilities needed to manage our nation’s nuclear waste. The Department is seeking diverse viewpoints to strengthen the design of its consent-based siting process. We hope to hear from you on issues such as:

·         fairness

·         models and experience to draw from

·         the roles of communities, states, Tribal Nations, and others in consent-based siting

·         information and resources needed to achieve informed consent

·         other perspectives and values the Department should consider

Ultimately, based on your input, the Department will design a proposed process for developing a site, which will in turn serve as a framework for collaborating with potential host communities in the future.

The public meeting will be held at the Hyatt Regency Boston from 5:00 PM until 9:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time. Registration is encouraged in order to assist logistics planning. To register, please visit this registration page. Those unable to attend in person can view the meeting online through a live webcast. For more information, please visit our website at energy.gov/consentbasedsiting.

We look forward to your participation and hope to see you soon!

 

John Kotek

Acting Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

Wednesday
May182016

"We do NOT CONSENT!" Sample talking points you can use to prepare your own, to DOE, opposing the Yucca dump, parking lot dumps, and Mobile Chernobyls

Beyond Nuclear has prepared sample talking points, entitled WE DO NOT CONSENT!, that you can use to prepare your own public comments, for submission to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in opposition to high-risk, high-level radioactive waste shipments (by road, rail, and/or waterway) to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as well as to "centralized interim storage sites" (de facto permanent parking lot dumps).

Full length (13-page) version: Beyond Nuclear's WE DO NOT CONSENT! sample talking points are available in both PDF format, as well as Word format (with live URL links).

Short summary (2-page) version: PDF format, and Word format (with live URL links).

Please feel free to use one or more of the sample talking points (verbatim, or adapted to your own words) to prepare your own public comments, and then submit them to DOE by its July 31, 2016 deadline. Express your strong opposition to the Yucca dump, to parking lot dumps, and to Mobile Chernobyls/Floating Fukushimas/Dirty Bombs on Wheels! And please, spread the word.

Tuesday
May172016

Next DOE "Consent-Based Siting" public meeting: Denver, Tuesday, May 24th

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. Similar strong turn outs are needed at DOE's upcoming "Consent-Based Siting" meeting, to say "NO!" to Mobile Chernobyl and de facto permanent high-level radioactive waste parking lot dumps!Chip Cameron, a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy (ONE, or NE) on its "Consent-Based Siting" of high-level radioactive waste dumps public relations exercise, sent the following email to Colordo nuclear watchdogs on Tuesday, May 17th:

From: "Chip Cameron" <fxcameo@gmail.com>
Date: May 17, 2016 8:07 AM
Subject: Department of Energy (DOE) public meeting

Good morning--

I wanted to let you know that DOE will be holding a public meeting in Denver on May 24th at the Embassy Suites Denver, from 4:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m..  The meeting is to receive comments and suggestions from the public on the development of a "consent-based siting" process for the storage and disposal of radioactive waste. There will be several short presentations by notable people in the community, as well as by DOE.  A question and comment period will follow.  There will also be facilitated small group table discussions on the issues.  I am one of the facilitators for the small group discussions.  I have attached more information, as well as an agenda. Please contact me if I can provide further information.

Chip Cameron

Cameron attached an agenda. (Note that Don Hancock of Southwest Research Information Center, a long-time Waste Isolation Pilot Project watchdog in New Mexico, will speak on a panel.)
Cameron also provided a link to a DOE ONE website, with links to numerous documents.
(Please note that Chip Cameron has long been employed as a public interface for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as well. For example, he has long been employed as a facilitator at some of the most highly contentious public meetings across the country -- most recently, for example, during NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence public comment period meetings, as well as at Vermont Yankee decommissioning public meetings. Cameron was long based at NRC's Office of General Counsel, that is, its legal division. However, his public role meant he largely functioned, effectively, as a primary NRC Office of Public Affaris spokesman. Despite retiring from NRC several years ago, Cameron is still often tapped, to play similar or even identical functions and roles, right up to the present day. DOE has now tapped him for its "Consent-Based Siting" scheme.)
It must be pointed out, however, that DOE's "Consent-Based Siting" proceeding is not a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliant proceeding, by design. NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence pubilc comment meetings and public comment period were supposed to have been NEPA-compliant, although they fell far short -- the subject of a lawsuit (NY v. NRC II) before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Although many in the public think DOE's "Consent-Based Siting" proceeding is NEPA-compliant, and DOE has done nothing to disabuse that illusion, DOE ONE's official in charge of the proceeding, John Kotek, confirmed under direct questioning by Beyond Nuclear, at the Chicago meeting on March 29th, that this proceeding is not NEPA-compliant; it is more of a PR exercise, in pursuit of the nuclear power industry's agenda, which DOE ONE fully supports.

Denver will be the fifth of nine DOE "Consent-Based Siting" public meetings, extending from January to July. It will be among the very closest, geographically, to the top targets for parking lot dumps, namely, Waste Control Specialists, LLC in Andrews County, west Texas, and Eddy-Lea Counties, in the southeast corner of New Mexico, near the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP). The public comment period (again, non-NEPA compliant) ends July 31st.
Thursday
May122016

Senate Energy & Water Appropriations bill would open high-level radioactive waste parking lot dumps, launch large-scale Mobile Chernobyl program

To paraphrase investigative reporter Greg Palast, nuclear power industry lobbyists regard the U.S. Senate as the best that money can buy! They do so regularly, to advance their wish lists and agenda!

What You Can Do:

Please take action. Urge your U.S. Representative, and your two U.S. Senators, to block the opening of the Yucca dump, of one or more parking lot dumps, and the consequent launching of Mobile Chernobyls. (Most or all Members of Congress have Webforms on their Websites, where you can submit written comments. Most Member offices also provide FAX numbers. You can also write letters at the addresses provided at those Websites, and/or call your Members of Congress, via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard, at (202) 224-3121. You can also request in person meetings with your Members of Congress, or their staff, whether in district, or at their Washington, DC office.) Also contact President Obama, and urge the same.

As reported by the New York Times and The Hill, the Energy & Water Appropriations bill (H.R.2028, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016) passed the U.S. Senate today, by a vote of 90 to 8.

(If anything, the influence of nuclear power lobbyists on such federal institutions as the U.S. Senate has grown even worse than when American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop exposed the corruption in 2010.)

As AP reported: The legislation includes a pilot program to allow storage of nuclear waste at private facilities, such as one proposed in western Texas...

The legislation would fund a pilot program to relocate radioactive waste from shuttered nuclear power plants to a storage site near Midland, Texas. The project would provide a partial solution as lawmakers try to resolve a decades-old dispute over storing nuclear waste at a repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The Yucca site has never opened amid fierce opposition from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other lawmakers.

(Thus, nuclear power industry lobbyists have prevailed in getting what they want included, while emergency relief for Flint, Michigan amidst its drinking water lead poisoning catastrophe was left out. This, despite the best efforts of Michigan's U.S. Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters (both Democrats), due to a hold placed by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Learn more about Flint's cautionary tale vis-a-vis radioactive waste in Beyond Nuclear's article in Counterpunch, "After Flint, Don't Let Them Nuke the Great Lakes Next!")

A blog by Marc Boom, Associate Director of Government Affairs at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) warned that "Senate Energy and Water Bill [is] Not as Non-Controversial as Claimed."

Boom blogged:

For example, the bill contains a provision that authorizes a new pilot program to allow the Department of Energy to store nuclear waste at private facilities licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This is an unwise approach to one of the most contentious issues of American politics—nuclear waste—without any of the comprehensive work necessary for a full reform of the nation’s nuclear waste laws. Simply, this provision removes meaningful motivation and impetus for adherence to the long standing principle that the nation’s nuclear waste must be buried in deep geologic repositories, permanently isolated from the human and natural environments. We urge the controversial provision be removed.

In fact, NRDC has led opposition to so-called "centralized" or "consolidated interim storage" un-linked to permament geologic disposal. Way back in 2012 and 2013, NRDC's senior nuclear attorney, Geoff Fettus, testified at U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee hearings on radioactive waste management, about the importance of maintaining that linkage, lest "centralized interim storage" become de facto permanent surface storage, or parking lot dumps.

The ENR Committee Chairman in 2012, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), got it. De-linking "centralized interim storage" and permanent disposal did not happen on his watch. The risks of "centralized interim storage" becoming de facto permanent parking lot dumps, for lack of a permanent repository, was too great. New Mexico being targeted for so-called "centralized interim storage" -- at Eddy-Lea Counties, in the extreme southeastern corner of the state, near the DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) -- made that risk all too real to allow to happen.

Alas, such wisdom is not prevailing in the U.S. Senate now, as pro-nuclear U.S. Senators seek to do the bidding of the nuclear power industry's lobbyists.

The Senate version of H.R.2028 is posted online.

Here is the relevant legislative language, related to "consent-based centralized interim storage," extracted from the bill (Section 306).

Also see an overview of the bill's current status.

A congressional summary, posted online, describes Section 306 thus:

(Sec. 306) Authorizes DOE to conduct a pilot program with private sector partners to license, construct, and operate one or more storage facilities to provide interim storage for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Permits the Nuclear Waste Fund to be used for this purpose, subject to appropriations.

That same summary describes Section 311 this way:

(Sec. 311) Permits DOD [sic, should read DOE] to: (1) enter into contracts to store spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to which DOE holds the title or has a contract to accept title, and (2) enter into new contracts or modify existing contracts to accept title for high-level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel.

Regarding funding for "centralized interim storage," the bill reads:

Nuclear Energy

For Department of Energy expenses including the purchase, construction, and acquisition of plant and capital equipment, and other expenses necessary for nuclear energy activities in carrying out the purposes of the Department of Energy Organization Act (42 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.), including the acquisition or condemnation of any real property or any facility or for plant or facility acquisition, construction, or expansion, and the purchase of no more than three emergency service vehicles for replacement only, $1,057,903,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That of such amount, the Secretary of Energy may obligate up to $10,000,000 under existing authorities, for contracting for the management of used nuclear fuel to which the Secretary holds the title or has a contract to accept title: Provided further, That of such amount, $80,000,000 shall be available until September 30, 2018, for program direction. (emphasis added)

DOE has "standard contracts" to "accept title" to all commercial irradiated nuclear fuel in the U.S. (Incredibly, this includes for the high-level radioactive waste at proposed new reactors, such as Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA, and Summer 2 & 3 in SC, if their increasingly behind schedule and over budget construction projects should ever be completed, and the reactors ever actually operate. Between Election Day 2008 and Inauguration Day 2009 (early Nov. 2008 to mid-Jan. 2009), as the Obama administration was entering office, the George W. Bush DOE hastily -- even sloppily -- signed "standard contracts" with nuclear utilities to take ultimate responsibility for irradiated nuclear fuel to be generated by a large number of proposed new reactors. Most of these proposed new reactors, thankfully, have since been cancelled, so hopefully will never be built, and never generate high-level radioactive waste.)

But in U.S. Senate Energy & Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander's (R-TN) Report accompanying H.R. 2028, different funding levels are cited:

The Committee recommends $30,000,000 for used nuclear fuel disposition to implement sections 306 and 311. Within this amount, funds are provided for financial and technical assistance associated with a consent-based siting process, including education, technical analyses, and other support to entities considering hosting an interim storage facility; and for incentive payments to entities with signed agreements with eligible jurisdictions. (emphasis added; see summaries and additional information re: Sections 306 and 311, further above)

(See Pages 80-81 of the PDF version of the Report posted online.)

This Senate-passed version of the Energy & Water Appropriations bill now goes to a conference committee with the U.S. House, in order to try to reach a reconciled version. That final bill -- which could be different in significant ways from both the current Senate and House versions -- would then return to each House of Congress for final passage, and then would become law with President Obama's signature.

A most interesting impasse regarding radioactive waste, between the House and Senate, is the demand by U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and U.S. House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), that any radioactive waste management program include the Yucca Mountain, Nevada dump.

But Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid from Nevada, is adamantly opposed. Reid has led opposition to the Yucca dump since the 1987 "Screw Nevada" bill targeted his state in the first place. In 2010, Reid helped secure the Obama administration's cancellation of the Yucca Mountain Project. Reid has also played the lead role in slashing, or entirely zeroing out, Yucca's budget, for well over a decade, ever since attaining his position as Democratic Leader in the U.S. Senate.

Upton and Shimkus have pledged not to support parking lot dumps, unless the Yucca dump is included. Reid will oppose the Yucca dump with all his might.

(See update posted below.)

Whether the Yucca dump is opened, or one or more regional parking lot dumps (as at Waste Control Specialists, LLC in Andrews County, Texas; Eddy-Lea Counties, near WIPP in New Mexico; other DOE sites, such as Savannah River Site, South Carolina; Native American reservations, yet to be named; or even nuclear power plants, such as Dresden in Morris, Illinois), it would launch unprecedented numbers of shipments of high-level radioactive waste onto the roads, rails, and/or waterways: Mobile Chernobyls, Floating Fukushimas, Dirty Bombs on Wheels.

You can learn more about high-level radioactive waste transporation risks at the following sources:

NIRS Stop Fukushima Freeways! website section;

NIRS Mobile Chernobyl website section;

State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects Nuclear Waste Transportation website section;

Beyond Nuclear Radioactive Waste Transporation website section.

What You Can Do:

Please take action. Urge your U.S. Representative, and your two U.S. Senators, to block the opening of the Yucca dump, of one or more parking lot dumps, and the consequent launching of Mobile Chernobyls. (Most Members of Congress have Webforms on their Websites, where you can submit written comments. Most Member offices also provide FAX numbers. You can also write letters at the addresses provided at those Websites, and/or call your Members of Congress, via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard, at (202) 224-3121. You can also request in person meetings with your Congress Members, both back home in district, or at their Washington DC office) Also contact President Obama, and urge the same.