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.



New reactors in WV still blocked due to no radioactive waste solution

The Charleston NBC affiliate reports that the State of West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee has killed for this year an attempt to overturn a 1996 state ban on the construction of atomic reactors in the state until the high-level radioactive waste problem has been solved.


Earthquake in Lake Michigan region raises specter of radioactive waste disaster at Palisades

A 3.8 magnitude earthquake epicentered in northern Illinois, but felt as far away as Michigan across Lake Michigan, serves as a reminder that the high-level radioactive waste dry cask storage facilities at Palisades nuclear power plant remain vulnerable to a catastrophic radioactivity release due to seismic risk. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Midwest region dry cask storage inspector Dr. Ross Landsman warned his agency's top official, 16 years ago now, that Palisades' dry cask storage pad just 100 yards from the Lake Michigan shore is vulnerable to earthquakes: "The casks can either fall into Lake Michigan or be buried in the loose sand because of liquefaction...It is apparent to me that NMSS [NRC's office of Nuclear Materials, Safety, and Safeguards] doesn’t realize the catastrophic consequences of their continued reliance on their current ideology." The high-level radioactive waste within casks buried in sand could dangerously overheat. If water infiltrates casks submerged underwater, there is enough fissile uranium-235 and plutonium-239 in the irradiated nuclear fuel that an inadvertent chain reaction could be sparked; this would make emergency response ultra-hazardous. In either scenario, disastrous radioactivity releases would be possible. Despite this, Dr. Landsman has been entirely ignored by NRC for going on two decades. In 2006, now retired, Dr. Landsman served as expert witness for an environmental coalition, co-led by Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, demanding that NRC address the fact that not only is Palisades' first, older pad vulnerable to seismic liquefaction, but its second, newer pad is vulnerable to seismic amplification, both in violation of NRC earthquake safety regulations. Unfortunately, as expected, NRC rejected the environmental coalition's and Dr. Landsman's emergency enforcement petition. The coalition then appealed to the federal courts, were again rebuffed by NRC, defended their contentions, but despite their warnings, were ultimately ruled against by the second highest court in the land. Thus, Palisades' high-level radioactive wastes remain vulnerable to a catastrophic release of deadly radioactivity into Lake Michigan -- source of drinking water for tens of millions downstream -- if a large enough earthquake strikes the site.


Hanford "clean up" will take at least 37 more years, cost as much as $100 billion, and still leave behind radioactive risks lasting thousands of years

An article in the Oregonian, written as the U.S. Department of Energy holds public hearings on its draft environmental impact statement for "cleaning up" high-level radioactive waste storage tanks and managing additional radioactive wastes and lingering radioactive contamination at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, reports that nearly a half century more ("clean up" has already been underway for decades), and a price tag that could top $100 billion, will be needed before the site's "clean up" is "finished." Even then, hazardous radioactive contamination will persist for many thousands of years, threatening the adjacent Columbia River and points downstream. The high-level radioactive wastes, and much of Hanford's contamination, have resulted from military reprocessing from 1943 to 1988. Commercial reprocessing of irradiated nuclear fuel, proposed as the latest "illusion of a solution" to nuclear power's waste problem, would involve vastly more waste than was ever reprocessed at Hanford, waste that is significantly more radioactive than military irradiated nuclear fuel. Thus, commercial reprocessing would likely cause radioactive ruination of the environment wherever it is carried out, with serious health consequences downwind and downstream for millenia.


Obama administration makes major moves to end Yucca Mountain dumpsite proposal!

Fulfilling a campaign pledge, President Barack Obama has zeroed out the Yucca Mountain Project's funding in Fiscal Year 2011. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has moved to end the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission construction and operating license application proceeding within the next month. Many observers regard these actions as a clear signal that the Yucca Mountain dumpsite proposal, after over 20 years, has now been cancelled. Extensive media coverage can be found at the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's "What News" page. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as a rookie Democrat from Nevada, suffered the humiliation of the "Screw Nevada Bill" in 1987 that singled out Yucca Mountain for the country's high-level radioactive waste dump based on raw political expedience, not sound science. Ever since, he has devoted his career to stopping the dump. He seems to have succeeded. Reid has called for the Yucca site to be considered for other uses. But the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, to whom Yucca belongs according to the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley signed by the U.S. government, must be consulted and agree with any such decisions, an environmental justice never granted them in regards to Yucca Mountain dumpsite decision making (the frame for a Western Shoshone sweat lodge at the foot of the western face of Yucca Mountain, photographed by Gabriela Bulisova in Jan. 2004, shows that the site has still recently been used for sacred ceremonies). Beyond Nuclear would like to take this opportunity to thank the over 1,000 grassroots and national environmental groups whose work over the past 20+ years has made this environmental and environmental justice victory possible. Special thanks and congratulations go to the grassroots Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, as well as such Western Shoshone Indian bodies as the National Council, Defense Project, Shundahai Network, and bands such as the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe in Death Valley, without whose tireless, and often thankless, efforts for over two decades, this fight would have been lost long ago. Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, issued a press statement.


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.