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.



State of Vermont resists Entergy's attempts to eliminate emergency preparedness for high-level radioactive waste storage pool fire

NRC file photo of VY. The HLRW storage pool is located in the lighter colored upper portion of the reactor building, some 50 feet or more in the air.As reported by Vermont Digger, a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel has just denied a petition by the State of Vermont demanding NRC require Entergy Nuclear to maintain emergency monitoring data systems on its high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage pool at the recently permanently shutdown Vermont Yankee (VY) atomic reactor. VY's pool currently holds nearly 3,000 highly radioactive, thermally hot irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies.

As also reported three months ago by Vermont Digger, Entergy also wants to do away with emergency response planning by April 2016, even though HLRW will remain in the storage pool for several years beyond that. The State of Vermont wants emergency preparedness kept in place as long as HLRW is stored in the pool.

Whether due to a fast breaking drain down (as from the drop of a heavy load, natural disaster, insider sabotage, or terrorist attack), or a slower motion boil down (as from loss of offsite electricity to run circulation pumps), the loss of the cooling water in the storage pool would lead, within hours, to the ignition of the zirconium metal cladding on the fuel rods. A catastrophic radioactivity release over a wide region would follow, as the pool is located outside of robust containment structures.

Before later becoming NRC Chairman, Dr. Allison Macfarlane, et al., warned in a Jan. 2003 report about the catastrophic risks of pool fires. Robert Alvarez of Institute for Policy Studies, one of her co-authors, documented shortly after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began that VY's pool holds around 100 million curies of hazardous, radioactive Cesium-137. As cited in the 2003 Macfarlane et al. study, NRC has admitted that up to 100% of the volatile Cs-137 could escape into the environment in a pool fire.


Yucca Mountain dump still dead, despite congressional Republican and nuclear industry spin to the contrary

Political cartoon by Jim Day of the Las Vegas Review Journal (be sure to count the toes!). President Obama and his DOE defunded and walked away from the Yucca Mountain dump project in 2009-2010, declaring it "unworkable."As reported by Steve Tetrault at the Las Vegas Review Journal, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued the last two installments in a five-part "Safety Evaluation Report" on the proposed high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) dump at Yucca Mountain. The NRC coffers for licensing the Yucca dump are now largely empty, with no replinishment in sight on Capitol Hill, due to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) adamant opposition.

Despite congressional Republican and nuclear power industry spin to the contrary, the completion of the NRC SER does not represent the resurrection of the Yucca dump. The State of Nevada, its bipartisan congressional delegation, and the Obama White House and Department of Energy remain opposed to the project. Even the industry rubberstamp NRC has not endorsed the project, pointing out significant shortcomings, with lack of land title and water rights at the top of that list. There is also no guarantee that the essential titanium drip shields, needed to protect HLRW burial containers against dripping water from the fractured and saturated geology forevermore, would ever actually be installed.

Nevada's bipartisan U.S. Senate delegation has made it clear in no uncertain terms they will do everything in their power to continue to block the Yucca dump from ever happening.


Environmental coalition demands NEPA & AEA compliance re: Nuclear Waste Confidence in reactor licensing proceedings

Irradiated nuclear fuel being moved in a high-level radioactive waste storage pool. The courts ruled in 2012 that NRC's days (well, many decades!) of lawlessness regarding nuclear waste generation, storage, and disposal are over.In a legal filing today, a coalition of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has demanded that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fulfill its legally required obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), regarding its Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and Rule in various atomic reactor licensing proceedings around the country. The coalition is represented by attorneys Diane Curran of Washington, D.C., and Mindy Goldstein of Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University in Atlanta.

In several reactor licensing proceedings where Final EISs came out prior to court victories negating NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence policy (or "Nuke Waste Con Game," for short!) for violating NEPA and AEA in 2012, NRC has neither included the full 2014 Continued Storage GEIS and Rule in new reactor combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) proceeding FEISs, nor old reactor license extension proceeding FEISs. To not do so violates NEPA, and portions of AEA, and their implementing regulations at NRC, as well as the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

On Dec. 8, 2014, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, represented by Curran (as well as Henry Robertson of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center in St. Louis), filed a Nuclear Waste Confidence-related, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) "placeholder" contention in the Callaway atomic reactor license extension proceeding. That contention has, thus far, succeeded in staving off NRC's imminent rubberstamp of Callaway's 20-year extension.

Attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo represents Beyond Nuclear in the intervention against NRC approval of the proposed new Fermi Unit 3 reactor COLA in southeast Michigan, on the Great Lakes shoreline. Today's filing by Lodge  in that proceeding seeks to preserve Beyond Nuclear's opportunity to file a Nuclear Waste Confidence contention against Fermi 3, like was done at Callaway several weeks ago.


Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor to remain on NRC's "degraded cornerstone" list for second year, as winter storm bears down

NRC file photo of Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor on Cape Cod Bay near BostonAs reported by The Enterprise, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has kept Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor (photo, left), near Boston, on its "degraded cornerstone" list of worst performing atomic reactors in the country. Ironically, Entergy failed an NRC inspection, even though it told the agency when it was ready to be inspected. First of all, when do students get to tell the teacher when they're ready for the exam? And then fail the test?! Who's the regulator, and who's the regulated?!

This comes as a severe winter storm bears down on Boston. As the industry lobby and PR front, Nuclear Energy Institute, brags up nuclear power's supposed reliability during severe winter weather, anti-nuclear and environmental watchdogs near Pilgrim put out a press release warning that severe weather increases the safety risks of reactor operations and high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) management. Despite this, the reactor remains at 100% power, and inherently risky HLRW pool to dry cask transfer operations continue as if business is usual.

During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the storm surge came precariously close to flooding safety-significant pumps needed to keep cooling water circulating in the HLRW storage pool at Pilgrim.

Pilgrim is an age-degraded, General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1-4.


Battle lines drawn over Vermont Yankee decommissioning: "A Herculean task ahead"

In an email action alert with the subject line "A Herculean Task Ahead," Leslie Sullivan Sachs of the Safe and Green Campaign in Brattleboro, Vermont has written today:

"Dear Friends of the Safe & Green Campaign,     

Listen to Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear:

"I can point out to people that shutting down Vermont Yankee was a miracle, right? We weren’t, as the people, supposed to have that power. And people did it anyway. They insisted on it and they saw it through and made it happen. And so the same kind of courage and vision will have to be applied now to the decommissioning process. People have to stay in there, attend all the meetings, read all the documents. It’s a Herculean task and if anybody can do it, it’s the folks who have already forced the shutdown of Vermont Yankee." [Nuclear Free Future Yankee Post-Mortem 01.06.15]

It’s time – again - to show up and create a miracle. We need your courage and vision for the next month, while the focus is on Entergy’s decommissioning plan for Vermont Yankee. There are a lot of inspiring stories in this newsletter, most created by our own folks. First, mark your calendar with these events:

  •       Jan. 28  NDCAP Meeting
  •       Feb. 5   NRC Webinar on Yankee Decommissioning
  •       Feb. 9   Forum to prep for NRC Public Hearing (Safe & Green and CAN)
  •       Feb. 19 NRC Public Hearing on decommissioning plan

All the above, as well as events planned for March and April, are on the agenda of the Safe and Green Campaign steering committee’s next meeting on February 2nd. We meet once or twice a month on Mondays at 5:30pm, and it’s always a pot luck supper. Email if you’re interested in more info.

NDCAP January 28: Vermont's Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel will meet next Wednesday, January 28 at the Quality Inn (Putney Road, Brattleboro) from 6-9pm. (This is a change from the Jan. 22 date set at the December meeting). All NDCAP meetings are open to the public, and there is time after each Agenda item for public comment. We will post an agenda on our website once it is available.

NRC webinar on VT Yankee on February 5 at 3:00pm “to provide key facts about the decommissioning process and how the NRC regulates such activities through on-site inspections and other reviews… view slides prepared by NRC staff and ask questions in writing via a web page set up to host the session. Online registration is required to take part.” Click here to register.

Arnie Gundersen and Deb Katz will speak at a Forum on Entergy’s decommissioning plan on February 9th, from 6-9pm at Marlboro Graduate Center, downtown Brattleboro. The Safe and Green Campaign and the Citizens Awareness Network will co-host. The presentations, with time for Q&A, will help you prepare remarks for the one and only NRC hearing, and to write your comments to the NRC (March 23 deadline). Forums before the NRC public hearing are also planned for Montpelier and Greenfield. Please visit to our Decommissioning Resources page for issues we have identified to date and for info how to comment.

NRC public hearing on decommissioning Vermont Yankee - February 19, 6-9pm at the Quality Inn in Brattleboro).  Details on the hearing and how to submit written comments are on our website here..."

Certainly a big item for discussion will be on-site high-level radioactive waste management for decades to come.