Sens. Wyden & Murkowski threaten ENR Committee vote on "Mobile Chernobyl/Parking Lot Dump" bill this month
As reported by Hannah Northey of E&E on Nov. 22nd ("Senate panel to take up repository bill next month"), U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Chair and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, two weeks ago threatened to bring S. 1240, the so-called "Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013," up for a committee vote in December 2013.
U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Chair and Ranking Member on the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations, are co-sponsors. Critics have dubbed the "Gang of 4" U.S. Senators' proposed legislation the "Mobile Chernobyl/Parking Lot Dump" bill. It would represent a huge early Christmas present for the nuclear power industry, and coup for its lobbyists, if they get away with the radiologically-risky, multi-billion dollar boondoggle.
Beyond Nuclear provided extensive background on the dangerous bill last June, when it was first introduced. Despite calling for public comments on their draft legislation, the "Gang of 4" effectively ignored environmental and public interest concerns registered by the thousands. Shamefully, the bill, as introduced, was actually significantly worse than the initial "discussion draft," an indication of nuclear lobbyists' shady "ways and means" behind closed doors on Capitol Hill!
It is urgent that you contact your two U.S. Senators, and urge that they put the brakes on this "Mobile Chernobyl/Parking Lot Dump" bill, and stop it dead in its tracks. They can be contacted via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
If enacted, it would launch large numbers of risky high-level radioactive waste trucks, trains, and/or barges. The unprecedented shipping campaign would accomplish exactly nothing in terms of protecting public health, safety, and the environment. Quite to the contrary, it would bring high-level radioactive waste, in shipping containers vulnerable to severe accidents or terrorist attacks, through the heart of major metropolitan areas, such as Chicago.
Scores of environmental groups across the country have consistently opposed centralized interim storage, "de-linked" from progress on a permanent deep geological repository, for just such reasons, for a long time.
S. 1240 would create a radioactive waste shell game on the roads, rails, and waterways of many/most states, all in an effort to remove a major liability, cost, and PR headache from nuclear utilities' ledgers, and transfer them squarely onto the backs of U.S. taxpayers.
The federal court decision week before last, ending DOE's collection of the meager 1/10th of a cent per kilowatt-hour fee on nuclear electricity ratepayers' bills, means that once the money currently remaining in the Nuclear Waste Fund is spent, there will be no more. Thus, those costs will eventually fall entirely on federal taxpayers.
The bill seeks to open a "pilot consolidated interim storage site" by 2021. HLRW from "orphaned" or "stranded" sites -- permanently closed atomic reactors -- would be given priority in the shipping queue. The supposed justification for this is to return decommissioned nuclear power plant sites to productive, economic use. This ignores the fact that those sites are still radioactively contaminated, despite so-called "clean up." It also ignores community groups who oppose the immoral idea of dumping their community's problems onto someone else.
The top targets for the "pilot" parking lot dump include: already contaminated and/or radiologically-burdened U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sites, such as Savannah River Site (SRS), SC; Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), NM; and Idaho National Lab (INL); Native American lands, such as the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in UT, or a number of unnamed reservations which the Nuclear Energy Institute has claimed, for several years, to be in secretive negotiations with; and/or operating nuclear power plant sites, such as the co-located Exelon Dresden nuclear power plant/GE-Hitachi independent spent fuel storage pool, just southwest of Chicago, already "home" to 3,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste.
The bill largely guts any notion of "consent-based" siting, by allowing for potential interim storage sites to be characterized, and even declared suitable, before "consent" is even sought from the community. The momentum already built, coupled with lucrative, promised incentives, would make it very difficult for communities of color, or those in dire economic straits, to resist. The nuclear power establishment in industry and government has repeatedly violated environmental justice in this way for decades, and appears poised to do so yet again!
S. 1240 also expresses a preference that the "pilot" interim storage site become the full-scale interim storage site by 2025, and even then the permanent deep geologic repository (DGR, or dumpsite) by 2048. No limit to how much HLRW could be rushed to the interim storage site(s), nor how much HLRW could be dumped at the first DGR, could mean that a single site would become the "nuclear sacrifice area" for the entire country, as was previously attempted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. In fact, there are no safeguards in the legislation that would protect Yucca from again being targeted. And, a supposedly "interim storage" site appears all-too-likely to become a de facto permanent "disposal" site, whether that be by abandonment on the surface, or burial underground. This risk is made all the worse by the bill's lack of a requirement for any progress on permanent disposal during the first 10 years of interim storage facility operations.
What S. 1240 also does not call for is Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS), which is what hundreds of environmental and public interest groups representing all 50 states have called for, time and time again, for well over a decade now. In addition, more and more groups are saying "STOP MAKING IT!", as at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) nuke waste con game public comment meetings around the country.
To the contrary, Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) has attempted to justify her legislative proposals as essential for paving the way for SMRs (so-called Small Modular Reactors) to be built in the U.S. (to the tune of billions of dollars of federal taxpayer expense, in the form of RDD -- research, development, and demonstration -- subsidies, the subcommittee chair for such appropriations forgot to mention).
As reported by Beyond Nuclear on Jan. 16, 2013:
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, has praised the Obama administration's call for centralized interim storage. Revealingly, she expressed her support in the context of a pro-nuclear expansion agenda: "Delaying the creation of a long-term policy on nuclear waste would simply make the problems more complex and dangerous -- particularly with the development of a generation of new small modular reactors." (emphasis added)