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.



Declarations of resistance to radioactive waste risks

Irradiated nuclear fuel being moved within a high-level radioactive waste storage poolFrom the Mojave desert of the American Southwest, to the shoreline of the Great Lakes in Canada, resistance to risky radioactive waste burial schemes is intensifying in the U.S. Congress. Meanwhile, grassroots resistance must rise against the latest incarnation of the Mobile Chernobyl bill, and in support of wiser legislation to safeguard and secure irradiated nuclear fuel on-site at reactors.

Yucca Mountain, Nevada

If you're U.S. Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) -- apparently, the Congressman from Exelon Nuclear and the rest of the nuclear power industry -- you see U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid from Nevada's announced retirement as a reason to waste tens of thousands of federal taxpayer dollars by touring the dead U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Yucca Mountain Project site in hopes of resurrecting it. (But then again, Shimkus undertook exactly the same PR stunt, shamelessly in the immediate aftermath of the beginning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe.)

But if you're U.S. Senator Harry Reid, you redouble your decades-long efforts, with your last two years left in the U.S. Senate, to protect your constituents against the nuclear power industry's endlessly risky schemes. Reid just joined with his Republican colleague, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, to introduce a bill that would give Nevada an absolute veto of any radioactive waste dump targeted at it by other states.

In fact, Nevada's bipartisan, vast majority opposition to the Yucca dump remains as strong as ever, as personified by Republican Governor Brian Sandoval and former Democratic Governor and U.S. Senator Richard Bryan.

Urge your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators to oppose the Yucca Mountain dump (you can phone your Congress Members' office via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121), and thank President Obama for his continuing commitment to cancel the Yucca Mountain Project.

Canada's Great Lakes shoreline radioactive waste dump

Bipartisan resolutions in the U.S. House and Senate have been reintroduced, in opposition to Ontario Power Generation's proposal to bury all of the so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes from 20 reactors across the province less than a mile from the waters of Lake Huron. As reported by the Detroit News, the U.S. House resolution is co-sponsored by 11 Democrats (Duckworth and Schakowsky of Illinois; Conyers, Dingell, Kildee, Lawrence, and Levin of Michigan; Higgins and Slaughter of New York; and Fudge and Kaptur of Ohio) and 4 Republicans (Dold of Illinois; Miller of Michigan; Joyce of Ohio; and Duffy of Wisconsin). The resolution has been designated H. Res. 194. The Detroit Free Press also covered this story.

The U.S. Senate resolution is co-sponsored by Michigan Democrats Stabenow and Peters. An identical resolution last session was co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Baldwin (D-WI), Durbin (D-IL), and Kirk (R-IL), so hopefully they will support this session's too.

If your U.S. Rep. or U.S. Senator(s) have already co-sponsored this resolution, please contact them and thank them (see links above). If your U.S. Rep. or U.S. Senator(s) have not yet co-sponsored this resolution, please urge them to do so. Even if you are not in the Great Lakes Basin, this natural resource (20% of the world's surface fresh water, 86% of North America's surface fresh water, and drinking water supply for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations) is deserving of national protection!

The Canadian federal Joint Review Panel (JRP, comprised of two Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and one Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panelists) is set to approve the Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) targeted at Kincardine, Ontario as early as May 6th. But opponents have vowed to fight on, even if the JRP grants its approval.

Nearly 150 Native American First Nations, states, counties, cities, towns, and villages -- including Michigan, Chicago, Toledo, and Toronto -- have passed resolutions opposing the DGR. These municipalities represent a population of nearly 20 million Great Lakes Basin residents!

Fukushima Freeways and Parking Lot Dumps

Energy Secretary Moniz, speaking at the pro-nuclear, so-called Bipartisan Policy Committee industry lobbyist front group, has called for passage of Senate Bill 854, the latest incarnation of the Mobile Chernobyl bill. The legislation would rush high-level radioactive waste shipments onto the roads, rails, and waterways, bound for "consolidated interim storage sites" -- more truthfully, de facto permanent parking lot dumps. Please urge your U.S. Senators to oppose S.B. 854.

Safeguarding and Securing High-Level Radioactive Wastes Here and Now

Rather than rushing high-level radioactive waste truck, train, and barge shipments through most states, for no good reason, U.S. Sens. Boxer (D-CA), Markey (D-MA), and Sanders (D-VT) have instead proposed legislation to safeguard and secure irradiated nuclear fuel storage where it currently is -- on-site at reactors. Please urge your U.S. Senators to support the Boxer-Markey-Sanders trio of bills: the "Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act of 2015," the "Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2015," and the "Dry Cask Storage Act of 2015."


U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, stalwart opponent of Yucca dump, announces he won't seek re-election

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid of NevadaU.S. Senator Harry Reid (Democrat from Nevada) has announced he won't seek re-election, and will retire 22 months from now. Reid, who has long served as either the U.S. Senate Majority or Minority Leader (depending on the number of Democrats serving in the chamber), has devoted his entire Senate career to successful opposition to the high-level radioactive waste dump targeted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

In 1987, when the "Screw Nevada" bill was enacted into law, Reid was a rookie U.S. Senator. In "Screw Nevada," other targeted, more populous and politically powerful states -- such as Texas and Washington, as well as Northeastern states -- ganged up on Nevada, singling out Yucca Mountain as the sole location in the country to be further studied as a potential irradiated nuclear fuel and HLRW dump. This, despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) already knew by then, via preliminary scientific studies, that the site was unsuitable.

But the nuclear lobbyists picked the wrong rookie Senator to mess with. For nearly three decades, Reid has led a bipartisan Nevada consensus that has blocked the dump at every turn. In 2000, he secured 34 Senate votes, enough to sustain President Clinton's veto of a congressional attempt to rush open the dump, despite incomplete scientific studies. In 2002, he secured 39 Senate votes against Yucca, the most ever. Coming off the Senate floor after that vote, Reid -- a former boxer -- spoke with environmental allies, saying "It's like at the bar. Sometimes, you've just got to take it out back."

Even during the pro-dump George W. Bush administration, Reid was able to put the brakes on multi-billion dollar annual Yucca dump budgets. Working closely with President Barack Obama, Reid convinced the new administration in 2009 to completely defund the project, and even move to withdraw DOE's construction and operating license application. This has resulted in the effective cancelation of the Yucca dump, and dismantlement of its personnel and physical infrastructure, in the past several years.

Even with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress pushing hard to revive the Yucca dump, Reid has continued his adamant opposition. Opponents to countless "Mobile Chernobyl" trucks, trains, and barges of HLRW traveling through most states, and to a radioactive waste dump guaranteed to leak massively if ever opened, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Democratic Leader, U.S. Senator Harry Reid.


"They're baaaaaaaaaack!" The return of the Mobile Chernobyl bill on Capitol Hill

An infrared photo showing the thermal heat of a German CASTOR cask filled with irradiated nuclear fuel being transported by rail to Gorleben. The high-level radioactivity, not the thermal heat, is the hazard to human health, safety, and the environment, however.As trumpeted by its "Gang of Four" co-sponsors (Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Democrats Maria Cantwell of Washington State and Dianne Feinstein of California) in a press release, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2015 has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Although the devil is always in the details, and further careful analysis and comparison is required, on the surface it appears that this session's bill is very similar to previous attempts in the Senate to open a "pilot" parking lot dump for commercial high-level radioactive waste in less than a decade, followed a few years later by a full-scale parking lot dump. This included Senate Bill (S.B.) 1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013, about which Beyond Nuclear published a comprehensive critique of the scheme's many risks.

As of April 3rd, the current Senate bill, given the bill number S. 854, is not yet available for public review. Only basic information about the proposed legislation is yet available.

Targeted locations for "consolidated" or "centralized interim storage sites" have yet to be specified. However, Waste Control Specialists in Andrews County, Texas -- already threatening the adjacent Ogallala Aquifer with so-called "low" level radioactive waste burials -- has volunteered to become a parking lot dump. Pro-nuclear "booster clubs" at Savannah River Site, South Carolina, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, New Mexico, and elsewhere are also blinded by radioactive dollar signs, and offering their "services."

Other top targets include nuclear power plants, such as Dresden in Illinois, as well as Native American reservations. The latter is an egregious example of environmental racism.

The press release speaks of "priority" transfers of irradiated nuclear fuel. "Stranded" or "orphaned" irradiated fuel, from permanently shutdown and even completely decommissioned nuclear power plants, would be given priority by the bill. "Emergency" transfers are also mentioned, as from on-site storage locations at risk of natural disasters.

Even the "pilot" parking lot dump would launch unprecented numbers of HLRW shipments, by truck, train, and/or barge onto the roads, rails, and/or waterways. The full-scale parking lot dump scheme would involve even greater numbers of potential Mobile Chernobyls, Floating Fukushimas, and dirty bombs on wheels.

However, as was made clear by the Private Fuel Storage fiasco, shipments to parking lot dumps could be "returned to sender," if permanent repository plans fall through. If 50 casks of HLRW had ever been shipped from the Maine Yankee atomic reactor and parked at the Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in Utah, they would have had to be shipped back to their point of origin when the Yucca Mountain, Nevada dump was canceled by the Obama administration. A 4,000-mile round trip, all for naught -- risking radiological disaster every mile of the way, as from severe accidents or even attacks.

As described by a U.S. Department of Energy blog, the Senate bill announcement came on the same day as Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a major reversal of U.S. radioactive waste policy. Decades-old plans to "co-mingle" nuclear weapons HLRWs and commercial irradiated fuel are over. Separate repositories for permanent disposal of "defense" and commercial HLRWs will now be built. In addition, Moniz expressed full DOE support for congressional calls for "centralized interim storage" parking lot dumps.

Moniz spoke at the Bipartisan Policy Center. A case study of the revolving door between government, industry, and academia, or the incenstuous nature of the nuclear establishment, Moniz served on President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) for America's Nuclear Future from 2010-12. (For that matter, the BRC was housed at DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, charged with promoting the atomic industry!) So too did former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane, as well as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. BRC member, U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), serves at the Bipartisan Policy Center, as does the former BRC Designated Federal Officer, Timothy Frazier. (As described in his BPC bio, Frazier worked for 20 years, including in the promotional Office of Nuclear Energy, on all aspects of nuclear power and radioactive waste, and even as a nuclear weapons engineer.) John Kotek, currently DOE principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Nuclear Energy, was staff director of the BRC. (See Kotek's DOE blog, linked above.)

The simultaneous timing of Moniz's announcements, and the Senate bill launch, begs the question: were they coincidental, or coordinated?


Remove the radioactive wastes NOW! Protect Metro St. Louis' water and air from West Lake Landfill's radioactive contamination!

On March 4, 2015, Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey and colleagues in St. Louis published a pamphlet entitled "Remove the radioactive wastes NOW! Protect Metro St. Louis' water and air from West Lake Landfill's radioactive contamination!"

It includes a map, showing that the radioactive wastes at West Lake Landfill are upstream of the drinking water intakes for North County and the City of St. Louis, on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

The pamphlet urges readers to:

"Please go to to sign a letter asking U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt and Congress members William Lacy Clay and Ann Wagner to work to transfer responsibility for West Lake’s radioactive wastes to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."


Margene Bullcreek, leader of Skull Valley Goshute resistance to radioactive waste dump targeted at her community, has passed on

Margene Bullcreek. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.It is with heavy hearts that we share the sad news that Margene Bullcreek passed on, on Sunday, March 1st, 2015. An In Memoriam has been issued by her colleague Ian Zabarte of the Native Community Action Council (NCAC), where Margene Bullcreek has long served as President.

As emphasized in a NIRS victory tribute, published in Sept., 2006, when the U.S. Department of the Interior effectively blocked the Private Fuel Storage, LLC high-level radioactive waste parking lot dump targeted at her community in Utah:

"The greatest commendations, of course, go to Margene Bullcreek and her organization Ohngo Gaudadeh Devia Awareness (OGDA), Sammy Blackbear, the Bullcreek and Blackbear families, and other Skull Valley Goshutes who have suffered tremendous sacrifices and painful punishments for many long years, for their tireless opposition to the proposed dump. Through it all, they have persevered and now triumphed. Their victory not only protects their own community and its future generations, but countless millions who live along the routes through dozens of states that were targeted for transporting the atomic wastes to Utah." (emphasis added)

Even before the nuclear utility consortuim PFS, LLC and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) targeted the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation, the U.S. Department of Energy's "Nuclear Waste Negotiator" already had been, for nearly a decade. Margene Bullcreek learned from none other than Grace Thorpe how to defend her community, and did so successfully and tirelessly, for decades on end. (Grace Thorpe, who served as President of NECONA, the National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans, passed on in April 2008. President Obama commended Thorpe's work in 2009 for Women's History Month.)

Learn more about the successful resistance to dozens of parking lot dumps targeted at Native American reservations by reading "Radioactive Racism: The History of Targeting Native American Communities with High-Level Atomic Waste Dumps."

And learn more about the long history of resistance to the dump targeted at Skull Valley Goshutes in particular.

Also see the 2001 NIRS backgrounder, written in the thick of the PFS fight, entitled "Environmental Racism, Tribal Sovereignty and Nuclear Waste: High-Level Atomic Waste Dump Targeted at Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation in Utah."

The nuclear establishment in industry and government have not stopped targeting Native American lands and communities for high-level radioactive waste parking lot and even burial dumps. But as Ian Zabarte has written, Margene Bullcreek "will be missed, but we will continue this work in the spirit she envisioned…until the end.”