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ARTICLE ARCHIVE

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
Jan102018

Rep. Darrell Issa, who was GOP’s attack dog against top Democrats, will retire

As reported by Mike DeBonis in the Washington Post.

(Politico has also reported on this story.)

U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (Republican-Southern California) could also be called the nuclear power industry's attack dog. At a September 26, 2017 U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled "Examining America's Nuclear Waste Management and Storage," Issa issued some real zingers from the dais. (See Beyond Nuclear's September 25, 2017 letter to committee Democrats, listing deep concerns about the next day's hearing; see Beyond Nuclear's September 26, 2017 press statement, distributed to reporters who attended the hearing.)

At the hearing, Issa bemoaned the fact that the San Onofre Units 2 & 3 reactors in his congressional district had been permanently shut down in June 2013 because of safety insignificant problems in a non-nuclear part of the plant.

He was flat out wrong about that. The defective replacement steam generators are actually very safety significant. If a large enough number of the steam generator tubes were to have suffered a cascading rupture, cooling to the reactor core would have been lost, and a meltdown would have very likely followed. The risk of this increased dramatically in Jan. 2012, when a steam generator tube failure led to a radioactive release to the environment. In fact, it was that incident that brought to light how dangerously flawed the brand new replacement steam generators were. The accelerated degradation of the steam generator tubes in the brand new replacement steam generators led to the permanent shutdown of the twin reactors, and has resulted in a multi-billion dollar fiasco.

Issa also advocated at the same hearing that the irradiated nuclear fuel stored on-site at San Onofre be barged to centralized interim storage sites in Texas and/or New Mexico.

As a Texas colleague has pointed out, a whole lot of water might need to be added to the Rio Grande River to accomplish Issa's plan. Even then, deep canals would have to be dug to connect to the Rio Grande in the first place, at an astronomical cost. The targeted sites for centralized interim storage facilities (a.k.a. monitored retrievable storage sites) are located in the landlocked Texas/New Mexico borderlands, far from any potential barging routes. This proposal by Issa is, of course, profoundly absurd.

Or did Issa mean barging the irradiated nuclear fuel through the Panama Canal, in order to off load it at ports in Texas for the final leg of the journey? Panama might have something to say about that -- it disallowed the trans-shipment of the San Onofre Unit 1 radioactive reactor pressure vessel (RPV), bound for a "low-level" radioactive waste dump in the U.S., more than a decade ago.

Or did Issa mean boating irradiated nuclear fuel all the way around the tip of South America, for off loading at a U.S. port on the Atlantic side of things? Tierra Del Fuego has some of the most treacherous waters on the planet. An Argentine judge ruled in favor of an anti-nuclear legal intervention, and blocked shipping San Onofre 1's RPV within 200 miles of the coastline.

Or did Issa mean taking advantage of the climate chaos and global warming (that he and President Trump and most of the rest of the Republican Party deny is even happening) that has melted the sea ice at the North Pole, and simply boating the irradiated nuclear fuel that way to the Atlantic side?

Or did Issa not know what the hell he was talking about? This may be the best explanation of his dangerously ignorant policy proposal.

Which is why it is so frightening that Issa's policy ideas have played a central role in the advancement of H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, now poised for a U.S. House floor vote this month or next, according to a December 22, 2017 Exchange Monitor article. The dangerously bad ideas contained in his legislation were largely to entirely absorbed in the Frankenstein's monster of H.R. 3053.

Issa distills the rabid "get it out of here, we don't care where it goes, nor how it gets there" hysteria in the region around San Onofre nuclear power plant. As Beyond Nuclear has pointed out in a L.A. Times letter to the editor, that risky environmental injustice cannot be allowed to proceed; a sensible interim measure would be to move the wastes a few miles to the east, deeper into the heart of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, away from rising sea levels, out of the tsunami zone, and further away from the earthquake faults on the CA coast. The added bonus would be several thousands of U.S. Marines to help guard it! This is all in keeping with the concept of Hardened On-Site Storage, as close to the point of generation as is safely and securely possible.

Issa has also joined with a rogue chapter of the Sierra Club, the Angeles Chapter, in ignoring the transport risks that would befall southern CA if any one of the dumps in Texas, New Mexico, or Nevada is actually opened. (*See more about the rogue behavior of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, in defiance of the national Sierra Club's clear and explicit policy of opposition to centralized interim storage, and a stab in the back to the Sierra Club chapters in New Mexico and Texas, below.*)

See the close up map of southern CA, on Page 9 of 20 on the PDF counter, showing the rail shipping routes for irradiated nuclear fuel that would be bound for Yucca Mountain, Nevada under the H.R. 3053 scheme.

See the map of road and rail routes throughout the State of CA that would be used to ship irradiated nuclear fuel to Yucca, at Page 4 of 45 on the PDF counter of this document.

All told, 1,612 shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel (755 by rail, and another 857 by truck) would travel CA's roads and rails, bound for Yucca. (See Page 4 of 20 on the PDF counter of this document.)

32 of CA's 53 congressional districts would be crossed by these Yucca-bound road and/or rail shipments (see Pages 7-8 of 20 on the PDF counter in this document.)

Those three documents cited above were published by Dr. Fred Dilger, a consultant to the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.

Another high-risk transport scheme, proposed by the U.S. Department of Energy under its Yucca Mountain dump scheme, is for 312 barge shipments of rail-sized irradiated nuclear fuel shipping casks, from Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo, south down the CA coast, to the Port of Hueneme in Oxnard.

In addition to the Trump administration's proposal to open up CA's Pacific Coast to offshore oil drilling for the first time in half a century (after the Santa Barbara offshore oil drilling spill of 1969), this irradiated nuclear fuel barge shipping proposal must be blocked!

Perhaps most ironically of all, for CA members of congress like Issa to advocate for a bill that would speed the opening of the Yucca dump in Nevada, is the fact that Yucca Mountain's groundwater ultimately flows into Death Valley, CA. Thus, CA would be on the receiving end of massive releases of hazardous radioactivity into groundwater, once the Yucca dump begins to leak (not a question of if, but when).

(*Sierra Club's official national policy is against centralized interim storage facilities (also called monitored retrievable storage sites). But the Angeles Chapter has continued to advocate for centralized interim storage, as targeted at Texas and/or New Mexico, despite the national Sierra Club policy. Of course, the Texas and New Mexico chapters of the Sierra Club don't want to "host" San Onofre's highly radioactive waste, or anyone else's for that matter. Given the demographics on the Texas/New Mexico borderlands -- with large Hispanic populations -- as well as the high levels of pollution already there from fossil fuel and nuclear industries, this would be an unacceptable environmental justice violation!*)

Saturday
Dec022017

104 Great Lakes mayors urge Canada's environment minister to reject OPG's DGR

See the letter, sent by 104 mayors and other elected officials throughout the Great Lakes basin, to Canada's Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna. Their demand is that she reject Ontario Power Generation's Deep Geologic Repository, a scheme to bury radioactive waste on the Lake Huron shore at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada.

See the press release about it, by Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump.

The following media covered this story:

The Times Herald

National Post

Nuclear News

Michigan Radio

The Voice

Monday
Nov062017

Michael Lewis: Many Trump Appointees Are Uninterested In The Agencies They Head Up [Including DOE!]

As reported by NPR's program, Fresh Air:

The Moneyball author is writing a series of articles for Vanity Fair about President Trump's picks to lead federal agencies — and the consequences of those appointments.

Show host Terry Gross introduces the interview:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. You might know our guest, journalist Michael Lewis, from some of his books, such as "Moneyball" and "The Big Short," both of which were adapted into movies. Lewis has spent a lot of this year exploring the ways the Trump administration is changing the federal government at the ground level.

Lewis has spoken to many career employees of the departments of energy and agriculture. He says they found Trump appointees ill-prepared for the jobs they have and uninterested in the work of the departments they're running. In a series of articles for Vanity Fair, Lewis reports that the consequences of such ill-informed leadership could be troubling in areas as critical as maintenance of the nation's nuclear arsenal and managing nuclear waste, both functions of the Energy Department. Lewis spoke to FRESH AIR's Dave Davies about his series and about his latest book, "The Undoing Project," which is now out in paperback. (emphasis added)

(See Michael Lewis's July 26, 2017 Vanity Fair article, "Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming from Inside the White House.")

Thursday
Oct122017

120 groups urge U.S. House of Representatives members to oppose H.R. 3053, the 2017 Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act

A letter signed by Beyond Nuclear, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and 117+ additional organizations from across the country, has been delivered to U.S. House of Representatives' offices, urging opposition to H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017.

There is still time to sign your group onto this letter -- another update will be delivered to U.S. House offices before the bill goes to the floor for a vote.

To sign on, there’s a google form here (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSflR0_uHQfQ9Ds4JRklF1VmtdbtxRVcDJzLIoOcn5633Vk2mA/viewform?usp=sf_link) that NRDC would prefer folks use, or else email Sean Alcorn at NRDC <salcorn@nrdc.org> your name, title, organization name, city and state.

Individuals can also take action. Please contact your own U.S. Rep., and urge them to oppose H.R. 3053.

Sierra Club has a webform you can fill out and email to your U.S. Rep.

SEED Coalition of Texas has launched a CREDO petition you can sign.

You can also phone your U.S. Rep.'s D.C. office, via the Capitol Switchboard, at (202) 225-3121.

Or look up your U.S. Rep.'s direct contact info. Find your U.S. Representative, by entering your zip code, clicking GO, and following the instructions.

Thursday
Oct052017

Sign your organization onto a coalition letter opposing H.R. 3053!

H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, sponsored by U.S. Representative John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois), was poised for U.S. House floor action as early as next week.

However, as Politico has reported:

NUCLEAR WASTE BILL ON ICE - FOR NOW: Shimkus said plans to bring a committee-passed nuclear waste package, H.R. 3053 (115), to the House floor are on hold for now as Nevada lawmakers, some of the most vocal opponents of the measure, deal with Sunday's massacre. "In light of the tragedy, there's no desire to move quickly," he said.

We must use this opportunity provided by additional time, to build resistance to this dangerously bad bill.

Please sign your group onto the coalition letter pasted in below! And please spread the word to other groups you know!

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has kindly spearheaded this group sign on effort, just as it did at the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee stage in late June 2017. (The scores of groups that signed onto that version of the letter will automatically stay on this time around, unless they explicitly communicate with us to be taken off.)

To sign on, there’s a google form here (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSflR0_uHQfQ9Ds4JRklF1VmtdbtxRVcDJzLIoOcn5633Vk2mA/viewform?usp=sf_link) that NRDC would prefer folks use, or else email Sean Alcorn at NRDC <salcorn@nrdc.org> your name, title, organization name, city and state.

Text of letter to U.S. House of Representatives:

 

Dear Representative:

On behalf of our millions of members, the undersigned organizations urge you to oppose H. R. 3053, the “Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017” (115th Congress, 1st Session). This bill will put our nation’s nuclear waste storage policy on the wrong track yet again. It ignores environmental concerns, states’ rights and consent to host the waste in the first instance, and attempts to truncate public review in order to force a “solution” – either Yucca Mountain or a new consolidated interim storage site – that have both proven to be unworkable. Rather than blindly charge forward at the cost of public safety and public resources, we urge Congress to reject this bill and start the important and necessary work on a comprehensive set of hearings to commence building a publicly accepted, consent based repository program.

The bill you will vote on retains the flaws contained in its earlier forms. Some of these harms include unwise efforts to recommence the licensing process for proposed repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. This is a project certain to fail the NRC’s licensing process due to the geology and hydrology of the site that make it unsuitable for isolating spent nuclear fuel for the required time. Next, the draft legislation suggests going forward with a consolidated storage proposal before working out the details of a comprehensive legislative path to solve the nuclear waste problem, entirely severing the link between storage and disposal, and thus creating, an overwhelming risk that an interim storage site will determine or function as de facto final resting place for nuclear waste. The draft provides no safety, environmental or public acceptance criteria, only speed of siting and expense. This is precisely the formula that produced the failure of the Yucca Mountain process and made it, as the previous administration noted, “unworkable.”

Other provisions conflict with the well-established and necessary requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. §4321, et seq. Doing so exacerbates the public interest community’s (and that of Nevada) objection of the last two decades – that the process of developing, licensing, and setting environmental and oversight standards for the proposed repository has been, and continues to be, rigged or weakened to ensure that the site can be licensed, rather than provide for safety over the length of time that the waste remains dangerous to public health and the environment. 

This bill was largely changed for the worse in committee. The bill now sets us on path to go forward in the next few years with a consolidated storage proposal before working out the details of a comprehensive legislative path to solve the nuclear waste problem and, frankly, creates an overwhelming risk that an interim storage site in New Mexico, Utah, or even Texas (although the Texas site just requested that its license application be held in abeyance) will be the de facto final resting place for nuclear waste.

This will not work. It is likely those states will, in some form or another, resist being selected as the dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste without a meaningful consent based process and regulatory authority that garners both public acceptance and a scientifically defensible solution. Further, and also just as damning, it sets up yet another attempt to ship the waste to Yucca Mountain irrespective of its certain likelihood of failing the regulatory process, or seek to revive the licensed Private Fuel Storage site that has been strongly opposed in Utah or even open up New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) facility for spent nuclear fuel disposal despite strong opposition and contrary to 25 years of federal law. The latter site also was designed and intended for nuclear waste with trace levels of plutonium, not spent fuel (and we note, a site that has already seen an accident dispersing plutonium throughout the underground and into the environment, contaminating 22 workers, and thus the site was functionally inoperable for years). All of this runs precisely counter to the core admonition of the previous administration’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (“BRC”) that “consent” come first.

The waste will not be going anywhere for years and it should be incumbent on Congress to fix problems in a meaningful fashion, not attempt an expedient solution that is destined to fail, again.

Our concerns, many of which were detailed above or in earlier letters, remain. We would be pleased to work with any representative on a feasible, constructive path forward, but this legislation would put the nation’s nuclear waste storage policy on the wrong track yet again and we urge you to reject it. Thank you for your consideration of our views.  

Sincerely, [99 groups currently signed on]

Alliance for Environmental Strategies

Alliance to Halt Fermi 3

Basin and Range Watch

Bellefonte Efficiency & Sustainability Team; Mothers Against TN River Radiation

Beyond Nuclear

California Communities Against Toxics

Cape Downwinders

Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility

Citizen Power

Citizens Awareness Network

Citizens’ Environmental Coalition

Citizens’ Resistance at Fermi 2 (CRAFT)

Coalition for a Nuclear Free Great Lakes

Code Pink (separate?)

Code Pink Women for Peace

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

Concerned Citizens for SNEC Safety
Crabshell Alliance

CT Coalition Against Millstone

Don’t Waste Michigan

Ecological Options Network (EON)

Energía Mía

Energy Justice Network

Environmental Working Group

Food & Water Watch

Friends of the Earth

Georgia Women's Action for New Directions (Georgia WAND)

Grandmothers Mothers and More for Energy Safety

Great Lakes Environmental Alliance

Green State Solutions, Iowa

Hip Hop Caucus

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater

Indigenous Rights Center

League of Conservation Voters

Los Alamos Study Group

Michigan Safe Energy Future, Kalamazoo MI Chapter

Michigan Safe Energy Future, Shoreline Chapter

Missouri Coalition for the Environment

Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment

Natural Resources Defense Council

Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force

No Nukes NW

North American Water Office

Northwest Environmental Advocates

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Nuclear Energy Information Service

Nuclear Free World Committee; Dallas Peace and Justice Center

Nuclear Information and Resource Service

Nuclear Issues Study Group

Nuclear Watch New Mexico

Nuclear Watch South

Nukefree.org

Nukewatch

On Behalf of Planet Earth

OurRevolution Ocala

Partnership for Earth Spirituality

Peace Action of Michigan

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Physicians for Social Responsibility – Chesapeake

Physicians for Social Responsibility – Kansas City

Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles

Physicians for Social Responsibility – Oregon

Physicians for Social Responsibility – San Francisco Bay Area Chapter

Pilgrim Legislative Advisory Coalition PLAC

Pilgrim Watch

Portsmouth/Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety and Security (PRESS)

Public Citizen

Public Health and Sustainable Energy (PHASE)

Public Watchdogs

Radiation and Public Health Project

Radiation Truth

Riverkeeper

Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center

Safe Utility Meters Alliance NW (SUMA-NW)

San Clemente Green

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace

San Onofre Safety

Sierra Club

Snake River Alliance

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Southwest Research and Information Center

Stand Up/Save Lives Campaign

Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment (SACCPJE)

Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition

Task Force on Nuclear Power, Oregon and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility

Tennessee Environmental Council

Tewa Women United

Texas River Revival

The Lands Council

The Nuclear Resister

The Peace Farm

Thomas Merton Center

Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy

Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Harford County

Vermont Citizens Action Network

Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance

Veterans For Peace Golden Rule Project

Western States Legal Foundation

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