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.



Radioactive contamination could leak from nuclear waste dump into Great Lakes, physicist/engineer admits

As re-posted by CTV, the AP has reported on resistance against Ontario Power Generation's proposed Deep Geologic Repository for radioactive waste on the shoreline of the Great Lakes.

As the article reports:

Charles Rhodes, an engineer and physicist, contended seeping groundwater would fill the chamber in as little as a year, become contaminated and eventually reach the lake through tiny cracks in the rock.

"It's only a question of how long, and how toxic it will be when it gets there," he said in an interview.


Sens. Wyden & Murkowski threaten ENR Committee vote on "Mobile Chernobyl/Parking Lot Dump" bill next month

The Mobile Chernobyl mock nuke waste cask, a full size replica of a truck shipping container, shown in front of the State Capitol in Jefferson City, MO during a cross-country educational tourAs 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, last week 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!

S. 1240 further revved its engines on July 30th, at an ENR Committee hearing.

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 utiltiies' ledgers, and transfer them squarely onto the backs of U.S. taxpayers.

Last week's federal court decision, 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)


Nov. 25th Forum on the Decommissioning of Vermont Yankee in Montpelier

A message from Debra Stoleroff of Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance (VYDA):

After more than 40 years, our efforts have paid off and the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is closing in 2014 and will be decommissioned.  There are many ways to decommission a nuclear power plant; some more safe than others.

So, what does deliberate, thorough and responsible decommissioning mean?  What does it look like? And how can Vermont (and we) advocate for deliberate, thorough and responsible decommissioning with a greenfield when Vermont does not have a legal say in the process?

Deb Katz of the Citizens' Awareness Network (CAN) and Chris Williams of VCAN and VYDA will address what will happen to Vermont Yankee when it closes in 2014.  They will discuss transition, clean-up, long term waste storage and what role citizens can play In the process.

Join VYDA for a forum on The Decommissioning of Vermont Yankeewith Deb Katz, Executive Director of Citizens' Awareness Network  and Chris Williams, Director of VT Citizen's Action Network and member of VYDA

Monday, November 25,6:30 pm, at the Unitarian Church, 130 Main St., Montpelier
Sponsored by the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance

For more information call: (802) 476-3154



Materials from Oct. 30 NRC public comment mtg. in Tarrytown, NY, re: its Nuke Waste Con Game DGEIS

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) public comment meeting on its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" in Tarrytown, NY, near the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, on October 30, 2013. Here are statements made and released by critics and skeptics of NRC's nuke waste con game:

NY AG Schneiderman statement (as read by Janice Dean, Assistant Attorney General, NY State AG's Environmental Protection Bureau), as well as press release.

Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC) press release. The following personal public comments came from persons associated with IPSEC: Gary Shaw's statement; Jeanne Shaw's statement; statement by Susan Hito Shapiro, Esq.

Additional statements were made by: New York City resident Catharine Skopic; Laurie Seeman (Member, Rockland Water Coalition; Member, Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance; Director, Youth Educator, Strawtown Studio); Margo Schepart (lifelong 10-mile zone resident, public school English teacher); Sally Jane Gellert (Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey resident, 32-miles as the crow flies from Indian Point).


West Lake Landfill: A Radioactive Legacy of the Nuclear Arms Race

Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy StudiesRobert Alvarez (photo, left), Senior Scholar at Institute for Policy Studies, has prepared a report entitled "The West Lake Landfill: A Radioactive Legacy of the Nuclear Arms Race."

In 1973, the West Lake Landfill, in the Missouri River floodplain, and just upstream from a drinking water supply intake for St. Louis, became the illegal dumping ground for part of the Belgian Congo uranium wastes, leftover from the Manhattan Project, the race to build the first atomic bombs, tested in New Mexico, and dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. These wastes are loaded with Thorium-230, an alpha-particle emitting radioactive substance regarded as comparable, in radiological hazard, to Plutonium-239.

On Nov. 21st, Alvarez, along with Dr. Robert Criss of Washington University and Peter Anderson (Executive Director, Center for a Competitive Waste Industry), keynoted a presentation, sponsored by Missouri Coalition for the Environment, about an underground garbage dump fire now threatening the radioactive waste buried at West Lake Landfill. (See the event announcement and action alert). St. Louis Public Radio, KSDK, KMOV, KMOX, and the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on the event. A video recording of the Westlake Landfill community meeting has also been provided by Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

In his summary, Alvarez reported:

"Of significance is the fact that the largest estimated amount of thorium-230, a long-lived, highly radiotoxic element is present at West Lake -- more than any other U.S. nuclear weapons storage or disposal site. Soil concentrations of radium-226 and thorium-230 are substantially greater than uranium mill tailing waste...The waste residues generated at the Mallinckrodt site were found to contain the largest concentration of thorium-230 from any single source in the United States and possibly the world. Thorium-230 concentrations were found to be some 25,000 times greater than its natural isotopic abundance. With a half-life of 77,500 years, thorium-230 makes up more than 80% of the measured radioactivity in soil at West Lake above cleanup limits set by the Department of Energy (DOE). Moreover, as the thorium-230 decays to radium-226, it will increase the radioactivity in the landfill 10 to 100 times over a 9,100 year period.
Given these circumstances, the West Lake landfill would violate all federal legal requirements, established over 30 years ago, for licensing of a radioactive waste disposal site...".

Criss has also prepared a report, earlier this year, entitled "Risk and Character of Radioactive Waste at the West Lake Landfill, Bridgeton, Missouri."

Kay Drey, a Beyond Nuclear board member, has long watchdogged the high-risk situation at the West Lake Landfill, along with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. They have long, tirelessly led the growing call for the radioactive wastes to be removed from this site vulnerable to flooding, erosion, and now underground fire. They are calling upon Missouri's U.S. congressional delegation to lead the effort to remove the decision making from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- which has previously called for the West Lake Landfill to simply be "capped" and abandoned to its fate -- and transfer it to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Rolling Stone reported on the West Lake Landfill fire earlier this year, in an article entitled "St. Louis Is Burning." The article quoted Drey, Criss, Anderson, Ed Smith of Missouri Coalition for the Environment, as well as local residents.