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.



Beyond Nuclear press statement on DOE call for nuclear loan guarantee expansion and announcement of radioactive waste panel

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's watchdog on radioactive waste and nuclear power subsidies, issued a press statement in response to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu's proposal to more than double the federal nuclear loan guarantee program from $20.5 billion to $54.5 billion, as well as his announcement on the membership of his long-awaited "blue ribbon commission" on high-level radioactive waste management. Barack Obama's Presidential Memorandum about the radioactive waste panel has a very telling title: "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future". As reflected in the introductory language, it seems the Obama administration sees the unsolved, nearly 70-year-old (1942-2010) radioactive waste dilemma not as a mounting threat to public safety, health, and the environment, but more as a pesky public relations impediment impediment to the industry's coveted, will-o-the-wisp "nuclear renaissance." President Obama writes: "Expanding our Nation's capacity to generate clean nuclear energy is crucial to our ability to combat climate change, enhance energy security, and increase economic prosperity. My Administration is undertaking substantial steps to expand the safe, secure, and responsible use of nuclear energy. These efforts are critical to accomplishing many of my Administration's most significant goals." In terms of dirty, dangerous, and expensive nuclear power and radioactive waste, this is not change we can believe in. Regarding expanding nuclear loan guarantees, the National Taxpayers Union has blogged that this could easily turn into a ten billion dollar boondoggle. Consumer advocate and Green Party/independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, along with a coalition of national environmental groups including Beyond Nuclear, have written Energy Secretary Chu requesting a meeting to discuss energy policy in response to these developments of the past few days.


WIPP leaking toxic carbon tet into air

Opened in 1999, the U.S. Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico is the first "deep geologic repository" in the world for radioactive wastes, specifically for disposing of plutonium-contaminated nuclear weapons complex wastes. As described on WIPP's homepage, the "Waste Isolation Pilot Plant uses a continuous miner to carve disposal rooms out of the Permian Salt Formation, nearly a half mile below the surface," as pictured at the left. Despite assurances by WIPP's "Chief Scientist" that it could never happen, carbon tetrachloride leaks to the air outside the facility located 2,150 feet below ground have now reached a "level of concern," as reported by a Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) news update based on research by the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC). Beyond Nuclear, CCNS, and SRIC are members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. ANA's annual DC Days will be held in Washington March 14-17.


NRC Issues Notice of Violation to Entergy Nuclear Palisades for High-Level Radioactive Waste Risk

Beyond Nuclear, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, and Don't Waste Michigan issued a media release upon learning of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Notice of Violation issued to Entergy's Palisades Nuclear Power Plant on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest Michigan citing a nuclear criticality risk in the irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool that threated not only worker safety, but also public health. The coalition not only raised concerns about the waste storage pool, but also pointed out that the outdoor dry casks are defective and at risk of earthquakes.


New England governors "wish" high-level radioactive waste away

Seemingly suffering from a bad case of wishful thinking, a coalition of New England governors has written Energy Secretary Steven Chu urging that DOE remove irradiated nuclear fuel from their states as soon as possible. Perhaps the governors haven't kept up on the news for awhile, but there is nowhere for the waste to go away to. Ironically, their pressure might just backfire on them -- in late 2008, DOE reported to Congress and the President that there is need for a second repository (never mind that the first one has just been cancelled, so that means two new repositories are needed) for high-level radioactive waste disposal. And just as it did in the 1980s, DOE is sniffing around New England again, at granite geological formations, such as Sebago Lake ME, Hillsboro NH, and locations in VT for "suitable" sites to bury forever deadly high-level radioactive waste. The governors also claim that decommissioned nuclear power plant sites, such as Maine Yankee, Yankee Rowe in MA, and Connecticut Yankee could be readily returned to productive use. The problem is, despite NRC assurances to the contrary, the sites are still radioactively contaminated, posing health risks to future residents and visitors for a long time to come.


DOE and OMB "at odds" over speed of Yucca dump's cancellation?

A letter from U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu to White House Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag seems  to indicate a difference in positions as to how quickly the Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dumpsite should be phased out. Although President Obama and Energy Secretary Chu have made clear time and time again that Yucca is no longer an option for high-level radioactive waste disposal, the proposed repository's construction and operating license application proceeding before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been allowed to continue (in fact an oral hearing will be held at the end of this month in Las Vegas), raising the specter that the supposedly cancelled dump could come back to life someday under the right political circumstances. In the meantime, the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, Timbisha Shoshone Indian Tribe, and other dump opponents must remain vigilant until the final nail has been pounded down on the dump's coffin lid.