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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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Monday
Dec302013

"Smoldering controversy" at St. Louis area radioactive waste landfill flares up

Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey, long-time anti-nuclear watchdog, including on the West Lake Landfill's radioactive wastesThe Wall Street Journal has reported ("Neighbors Fume at Radioactive Dump: Legacy of Atomic-Era Weapons Work in St. Louis Suburb Stirs Worries About Health, Environment," by John R. Emshwiller, Dec. 29, 2013) on the West Lake Landfill near St. Louis, MO. (In a companion piece, the WSJ reports "Facebook Page Chronicles Accounts of Illnesses Reported by Residents"). The dumpsite contains one of the single largest concentrations of hazardous, radioactive Thorium-230 residues in the entire country, as recently documented by Bob Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.

The West Lake Landfill is an illegal dumping ground for the oldest radioactive wastes of the Atomic Age. The radioactive wastes originated from the Manhattan Project race for the atomic bomb, which culminated in the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. Mallinckrodt Chemical Works of St. Louis processed Belgian Congo uranium ore, with the radioactive wastes eventually dumped at West Lake Landfill.

The West Lake Landfill is located in the Missouri River floodplain, not far upstream from the confluence with the Mississippi River, as well as St. Louis metro region drinking water intakes. It is also immediately adjacent to an underground landfill fire. The Wall Street Journal coverage is the latest installment of major, national media coverage on the crisis.

Recently, Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey (photo, above left), a resident of the St. Louis area and a 40-year anti-nuclear watchdog, wrote to state and local elected officials in the area around West Lake Landfill, as well as fire department officials. She called for action to be taken to protect workers at the West Lake Landfill, as well as firefighters who could face the radioactive hazards if the underground fire intercepts the buried radioactive wastes.

Along the same lines, Kay previously penned a pamphlet, "Your Nuclear Workplace: Know Your Risks, Know Your Rights."

Friday
Dec202013

Environmental coalition meets NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" public comment deadline

Environmental coalition attorney Diane Curran

[Please note that Beyond Nuclear also submitted its own independent comments, as did a multi-state coalition that includes the Prairie Island Indian Community.]

An environmental coalition of nearly three dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has submitted comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). The coalition is represented by a team of attorneys, including Diane Curran (photo, left) of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, Washington, D.C.; Mindy Goldstein, Director, and Jillian Kysor, Fellow, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; and Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director, and Deborah Brancato, Staff Attorney, Riverkeeper, Ossining, NY.

The coalition is also represented by a team of expert witnesses, including Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Takoma Park, MD; David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Chattanooga, TN; Dr. Gordon Thompson, Executive Director, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, MA; and Dr. Mark Cooper, Senior Research Fellow for Economic Analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT.

The environmental coalition's comments, as well as its expert witnesses' declarations, have been posted on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) website, as well as at the bottom of a press release featuring the work of Dr. Cooper on the economic costs of irradiated nuclear fuel management. The coalition's comment and expert witness declarations are also posted at the NIRS website.

Curran, on behalf of three environmental groups (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper, and SACE), in alliance with Natural Resource Defense Council, as well as four state attorneys general (CT, NJ, NY, and VT) won a landmark legal victory on June 8, 2012. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that NRC had to carry out an environmental impact statement on its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy and rule, including the on-site storage risks of irradiated nuclear fuel in pools and dry casks. The Dec. 20th public comment deadline on the DGEIS is a part of that court-ordered process.

Friday
Dec202013

Beyond Nuclear meets NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS public comment deadline

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 in Rockville, MD. Photo credit David Martin and Erica Grey.A special thank you to all those who took action, as urged in Beyond Nuclear's weekly email bulletins, and submitted comments in writing to NRC, or testified orally at public meetings. The final count is not in yet, but it's safe to say many hundreds -- if not thousands -- of high-quality comments were submitted by the Dec. 20th deadline.

In addition to its involvement in environmental coalition efforts, Beyond Nuclear also submitted its own public comments to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) re: its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) deadline on Dec. 20th. Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, submitted comments, as well as supporting documents (Exhibits: A to E; F to I; and J to O).

Kay Drey, a Beyond Nuclear board of directors member based in St. Louis, MO, also submitted comments. Kay is also the author of the numerous pamphlets listed below, and the inspiration behind the Dec. 2-3, 2012 "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference held at the U. of Chicago mentioned below.

Paul Gunter, Director of Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project, also submitted comments, telling the inspiring story of "at least 92 of 137 towns adopted identical language 'to oppose the burial, storage, transportation and production of high-level radioactive waste' in New Hampshire" in 1986. In a tremendous grassroots democracy victory, town warrant articles were passed across "the Granite State" -- the month before Chernobyl exploded and 25 years before Fukushima Daiichi melted down -- in opposition to the Department of Energy's proposal to destroy seven historic New Hampshire towns in order to build a national geologic repository for high-level radioactive waste beneath them.

In Nov. 2007, amidst the presidential primary campaign then raging in New Hampshire, Beyond Nuclear published a fact sheet entitled "A New Hampshire High-Level Radioactive Waste Dump?" In the section on "What's at Stake?", Beyond Nuclear reported:

"Several towns, including Hillsborough (frequently spelled Hillsboro), New Hampshire sit atop a large granite formation identified as the “Cardigan Pluton.” The rock body is part of the DOE’s Crystalline Rock Repository Project to site a second national nuclear waste repository. If selected, the populations declining a federal buyout would be subject to relocation and their property seized by eminent domain for the deep geological repository. This dubious distinction persists despite many geological and hydrological flaws in the candidate site including rock fractures, high amounts of rainfall, broad uncertainty about groundwater movement through the rock body and migration of radioactivity from nuclear waste into aquifers for drinking and agricultural irrigation supplies for large populations.  

In addition to the environmental impacts, federal confiscation would adversely impact the deep historical significance of the area: the nearby town of Washington, the first town in the U.S. to be named after our first president, just after the Revolutionary War; numerous preserved stone arch masonry bridges; the Franklin Pierce Homestead, the home of the 14th President of the United States; the founding congregation and church of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination are examples. There is also the natural beauty of the area: forested hills, scenic lakes and river-ways. Much of this, along with picturesque, historic towns and villages would cease to exist if a national high-level radioactive waste dump opened in New Hampshire."

In fact, as the Beyond Nuclear backgrounder warned, in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration in late 2008, Energy Secretary Bodman issued a Report on the Need for a Second Repository that indeed listed both New Hampshire and Maine (and most of the rest of the Lower 48) on the target list.  (The map on page 12 showed this.)                 

Re: NRC's nuke waste con game deadline, Kevin also submitted the following additional comments: regarding nuclear industry whistleblower Oscar Shirani's revelations on Holtec dry cask Quality Assurance violations, and NRC dry cask storage inspector Dr. Ross Landsman's support for Shirani; a cover letter and backgrounder on dry cask storage problems; a cover letter, and the Statement of Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors, in support of Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS), signed by hundreds of environmental groups representing all 50 states; a cover letter, and the Beyond Nuclear fact sheet "Catastrophic Risks of GE BWR Mark I High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Pools"; a cover letter, and Beyond Nuclear pamphlet "Routine Radioactive Releases from U.S. Nuclear Power Plants," as well as a chart, prepared by Russell Hoffman, showing into which particular organs specific radioactive contaminants lodge to cause harm in the human body; a cover letter, packet of materials from "A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference, and Beyond Nuclear pamphlet of the same title; a cover letter, and assorted humorous placards, prepared by NEIS for a "nuke waste con game" of "nuclear bingo" at NRC's public comment meeting in Oak Brook, IL; a cover letter, and Beyond Nuclear pamphlets "Dirty, Dangerous, and Expensive," as well as "Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing = Weapons Proliferation"; a cover letter, and sheet prepared by NEIS entitled "It All Boils Down To -- Do We Trust the NRC?".

In addition, Kevin had earlier submitted oral comments at a number of NRC public meetings:

Rockville, MD NRC HQ call-in public comment meeting, Dec. 9th (see NRC's transcript, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's testimony at transcript pages 30-34, and again at transcript pages 60-62).

Perrysburg, OH NRC public comment meeting, Dec. 2nd:

Kevin made points site-specific to Great Lakes reactors, including to Palisades in MI and to Davis-Besse near Perrysburg, from minute 3:00 to 8:37 on a video recording of the public meeting, filmed by Kathy Barnes of Don't Waste MI (Part 4). (Kathy coordinates the Don't Waste MI Facebook page.)

(See the NRC transcript of the meeting, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's comments from pages 41 to 45 of the transcript.)

NRC HQ (Rockville, MD) public comment meeting, Nov. 14th:

See the transcript from the meeting, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's remarks from page 102-107.

Oak Brook, IL public comment meeting, Nov. 12th:

See the transcript from this public comment meeting, including Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear's remarks at transcript pages 50 to 54.

NRC HQ public comment meeting, Rockville, MD, Oct. 1, 2013:

See the transcript of the meeting, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's testimony at pages 37-41 of the transcript.

Friday
Dec202013

Coalition of states and Prairie Island Indian Community meet NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence DGEIS deadline

New York State Attorney General Eric T. SchneidermanA coalition of states (New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts), as represented by each state's attorney general, and the Prairie Island Indian Community -- instrumental in winning the major federal court victory against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the first place in June 2012 -- has filed strong comments challenging NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) by the agency's Dec. 20th deadline. The Office of New York State Attorney General Eric T. Scheiderman (photo, left), as well as the Office of State of Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell (and the State of Vermont Department of Public Service), have led the multi-state/tribe coalition efforts.

The COMMENTS SUBMITTED BY THE ATTORNEYS GENERAL OF THE STATES OF NEW YORK, VERMONT, CONNECTICUT, AND THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS, THE VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE, AND THE PRAIRIE ISLAND INDIAN COMMUNITY ON THE NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION’S DRAFT WASTE CONFIDENCE GENERIC ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT AND PROPOSED RULE are backed up by extensive exhibits: Exhibit A; Exhibit B; Exhibit C; Exhibit D; Exhibit E.

The submissions also include additional comments by the States of Vermont and Connecticut, specifically, those prepared by expert witnesses Fred C. Dilger, GISP Ph.D., and James David Ballard, Ph.D. Drs. Dilger and Ballard's abstract states: This report examines the Draft Waste Confidence Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) and the assumptions, methodology and conclusions used therein. The assumptions underlying the DGEIS prevent analysis of the real issues behind the indefinite storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF). The overall methodology used in the DGEIS does not provide a scientifically sound analysis of the issues. This report offers alternative methodologies, some of which have been used by the NRC in the past, in an effort to offer a roadmap for a more robust, valid and reliable means to analyze the environmental impacts of the proposed action. The conclusion addresses the need for the NRC to do a more meaningful and useful NEPA analysis.

The submissions also include additional ones by the State of New York, including: a Dec. 20, 2013 cover letter to NRC listing the additional submissions; a March 14, 2013 presentation by NYS Assistant AG John J. Sipos at NRC's Regulatory Information Conference; an August 20, 2013 NYS AG letter to NRC re: Aqueous Releases Following Severe Accidents at Indian Point Facilities; an Aug. 20 letter to NRC re: Oversight and Funding of Offsite Decontamination Following a Severe Accident at the Indian Point Facilities; a Dec. 20, 2013 review by International Safety Research; and Dec. 20th Additional Comments submitted by the NYS Office of AG.

Tuesday
Dec172013

Expert to NRC: Hidden costs of reactor waste storage & disposal make nuclear power less attractive than wind, solar, efficiency

Mark Cooper of Vermont Law SchoolOn Thurs., Dec. 19th at 11 AM Eastern, Diane Curran and Mark Cooper (photo, left), attorney and expert witness, respectively, representing a coalition of dozens of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, will hold a press conference entitled: EXPERT TO TELL NRC THAT HIDDEN COSTS OF REACTOR WASTE STORAGE & DISPOSAL MAKES NUCLEAR POWER LESS ATTRACTIVE THAN WIND, SOLAR, AND MORE ENERGY EFFICIENCY; Do High Costs of Nuclear Now Make Licensing and Re-Licensing Indefensible in Terms of the Economics?; Comments to NRC From Economist Mark Cooper State Federal Agency Must Consider Full Cost of Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal.  Cooper serves at the Vermont Law School. Curran serves at Harmon Curran Speilberg + Eisenberg LLP in Washington, D.C. See the Hastings Group's press advisory, with instructions on how to listen-in to the press conference, either live in real time, or to the audio recording afterwards.