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.



How do you safely store 40 years of radioactive waste?

The Toronto Star has asked, "How do you safely store 40 years of radioactive waste?" Do you bury it beside the drinking water supply for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations?

This is what Ontario Power Generation (OPG) proposes to do with 200,000 cubic meters of operational and refurbishment so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes from 20 atomic reactors across Ontario, at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station on the Lake Huron shoreline, just 50 miles to the east of the tip of Michigan's Thumb.

However, as mentioned in the article, OPG is trying to pull a fast one. Watchdogs, such as the regional environmental group Northwatch, have forced OPG to admit that it plans to nearly double the capacity of its so-called DGR (for Deep Geologic Repository), by adding decommissioning wastes. Critics refer to the DGR as the DUD, a sarcastic acronym standing for Deep Underground Dump.

An environmental coalition has also questioned whether this first DUD will simply morph with a second DUD in the nearby vicinity, this one for high-level radioactive waste from 22 atomic reactors across three Canadian provinces. A half-dozen Bruce area municipalities have "volunteered" to be considered as "willing hosts" for all of Canada's irradiated nuclear fuel. The same Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), comprised of nuclear industry officials, is in charge of both the DGR1 license application and the DGR2 site search.

As reported by the article, last Friday the federal Joint Review Panel (JRP) overseeing OPG's environmental assessment on DUD1 has rejected formal demands (Requests for Ruling) made by dozens of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, for full disclosure on what exactly is to be buried on the Lake Huron shore. The JRP will neither suspend the month-long hearings, nor require OPG to fully explain its intentions surrounding decommissioning wastes or irradiated nuclear fuel.


UCS Infographic: Safer Storage for Nuclear Waste

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has released an Infographic entitled "Safer Storage for Nuclear Waste," stating "Nuclear waste is piling up in our backyard—and it's not stored as safely as it could be."

While UCS refers to on-site dry cask storage as a "safer alternative" to densely-packed pools, Beyond Nuclear calls for safety upgrades to go one step further: HARDENED on-site dry cask storage. In fact, UCS itself has endorsed Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS), as have hundreds of environmental groups representing all 50 states.

While HOSS may be the least bad interim measure for commercial irradiated nuclear fuel that already exists (some 70,000 metrc tons in the U.S.), Beyond Nuclear strives to permanently shutdown atomic reactors, to prevent the generation of any more radioactive waste. The only real safe, sound solution for high-level radioactive waste is to not generate it in the first place!


Government shutdown undermines NRC's nuke waste con game

North Anna watchdog Erica Grey, and Diane D'Arrigo of NIRS, unfurl a banner at NRC's first Nuke Waste Con Game meeting, held Oct. 1st in the NRC Commissioners conference room at NRC HQ in Rockville, MD. Photo by Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps.The current federal government shutdown belies the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence." NRC holds that high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) can be stored safely, soundly, and securely, not just during atomic reactor operations, but for 60 years post-shutdown, 160 years, or even forevermore. NRC's false confidence applies not only at the reactor sites where the HLRW was generated in the first place, but also at away-from-reactor, so-called centralized or consolidated interim storage sites, what critics have dubbed de facto permanent parking lot dumps.

One of NRC's overly optimistic assumptions is that institutional memory, and societal control, will continue forevemore into the future. NRC's assumption ignores the fact, as pointed out by environmental coalition expert witness Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, that the oldest of human institutions, such as the Catholic Church, are but two millenia old. He also pointed out that North America has experienced major disruptive and violent societal events, such as the War of 1812, and the Civil War, within the past 150 to 200 years. This begs the question, might future, violent societal upheavals put the storage of HLRW at risk in the next century or two to come, not to mention further out in time? After all, even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was forced to admit, under a hard-won court order by an environmental coalition, that HLRWs remain hazardous for a million years. Actually, that's an under estimate. The radioactive poison Iodine-129, for example, has a half-life of 15.7 million years, which means its hazardous persistance lasts at least 157 million years, and perhaps even 314 million years (10 to 20 half-lives).

One of NRC's most far-fetched assumptions is that the HLRW dry cask storage systems, structures, and components can and will be entirely replaced once per century. In order to do this, unprecedented, unproven Dry Transfer Systems (DTS) will have to be built. Every hundred years, NRC assumes the inner canisters, dry casks, dry cask pads, and DTSs will be replaced, safely and smoothly, forevermore into the future, with no cut off point, if a deep geologic repository is never opened. However, NRC does not estimate the price tag for doing such replacements forevermore, nor identify where that funding will come from.

As part of its court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), NRC had committed to hold some two-dozen public comment meetings across the U.S. Beyond Nuclear attended the very first one, at NRC HQ in Rockville, MD, on October 1st, and testified. Beyond Nuclear had planned on participating at a number of other meetings as well, including Toledo on Oct. 15th, Chicago on Oct. 24th, Orlando on Nov. 6th, and NRC HQ again on Nov. 14th. Beyond Nuclear had pre-registered to provide oral comments at each of these meetings, as requested by NRC. Now, NRC has either postponed, or outright canceled (it's not clear yet) all those, as well as all the rest, of its public comment meetings. Many hundreds of concerned citizens and environmental group representatives had planned on attending these meetings. Now travel arrangements have to be postponed or cancelled, including having to deal with airline tickets that are no longer needed.

NRC cannot assure institutional control even today, as shown, ironically, by the cancellation of long-planned public comment meetings about its "Nuclear Waste Confidence," or nuke waste con game (see photo, above left, taken at the Oct. 1st meeting).

So what can be done? Written comments are still being accepted by NRC. The current deadline is Nov. 27th. You can submit written comments via webform, email, snail mail, or fax. It is essential that NRC receive large numbers of quality, heartfelt public comments.

Beyond Nuclear has prepared sample comments, as has NIRS. At a press conference last week, D.C. attorney Diane Curran, and experts Dr. Gordon Thompson (President of Institute for Resource and Security Studies) and Bob Alvarez (Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies), have also provided insights into the risks of HLRW storage pool fires, which NRC is currently ignoring. Curran and the experts are preparing sample comments, on behalf of an environmental coalition comprised of two dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, so watch for those in weeks ahead.


Resolutions, legislators, and petition signatures against Canadian Great Lakes radioactive waste dump!

MI State Rep. Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair), and Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), spoke to local press along the shores of Lake Huron at Macpherson Park in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada. Photo credit Kincardine Times.The number of resolutions against the Canadian Great Lakes radioactive waste dump is growing significantly, as Michigan legislators, State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor) and State Representative Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair), traveled to Kincardine, Ontario to testify in person before the Joint Review Panel (JRP) against the proposed dump on the Lake Huron shore. (see photo, left)

Sen. Hopgood and Rep. Roberts joined 31 Canadian and U.S. environmental and public interest groups, including Beyond Nuclear, in a Request for Ruling sent to the JRP today, asking for clarification on whether or not highly radioactive wastes would also be dumped at the DGR (Deep Geologic Repository, what critics have sarcastically dubbed the DUD, for Deep Underground Dump). This Request for Ruling follows a previous, similar one asking for clarification on decommissioning wastes, which alone could double the dump's capacity from 200,000 cubic meters of operational and refurbishment "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive waste, to 400,000 cubic meters altogether.

Sen. Hopgood and Rep. Roberts put out a press release about the Request for Ruling on highly radioactive wastes.

The Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump petition has added a thousand signatures in the past week alone, approaching nearly 36,000. If you haven't signed it, please do, and spread the word to everyone you know!


How to pre-register to make oral comments at NRC Nuke Waste Con Game public meetings

Following are NRC's pre-registration instructions:


Persons interested in providing oral comments at upcoming NRC public comment meetings are encouraged to register no later than 3 days prior to the meeting in question; however, registration will be accepted at the meetings, as well. Please note that individual oral comments may be limited by the time available, depending on the number of persons who register.

NRC will accept written comments any time during the meeting [as well as anytime until the final public comment deadline on Nov. 27th via such means as email, web form, snail mail, and fax].

Registration by Telephone to Make Oral Comments at the 11 Remaining Public Meetings:

To register for and request to provide oral comments at NRC public meetings, please call 301-287-9392. [Note that NRC is requiring oral comments to be made in-person at the 10 field meetings left across the country. Only the November 14th public comment meeting to be held at NRC HQ in Rockville, Maryland will allow oral comments to be made by teleconference; that Nov. 14th meeting will also be viewable online via webcast.]

Voicemail is available for calls received after hours or if no one is available to take your call directly. Please clearly state your name, affiliation or organization if appropriate, and request for accessibility accommodations if necessary. Also, please indicate whether you would like to provide oral comments. Registration will be confirmed by phone.

Registration by Email:

Please send your name, affiliation or organization if appropriate, and request for accessibility accommodations if necessary, to Also, please indicate whether you would like to provide oral comments. Registration will be confirmed by email.

To attend the open house and/or meeting at NRC headquarters [on Nov. 14th] in person, please provide your full name as it appears on a government-issued photo ID, which you must present upon entering the NRC facility. Directions to the NRC and parking information will be sent to you upon registration.

To provide comments by telephone during the webcast [on Nov. 14th only], dial 1-888-603-9749 and provide passcode 5132332. An operator will assist you. Speaking priority will be given to those who have registered in advance. Individual oral comments may be limited by the time available, depending on the number of persons who register.