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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.

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Saturday
Jan072017

Radioactive Waste is Good for You, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rick Perry as Energy Secretary

As Food & Water Watch wrote in an action alert (Worst. Cabinet. Ever. Trump Is Building a Cabinet Full of Corporate Control. Tell Your Senators: Block These Appointments!)

Sign Food & Water Watch's petition!

And sign the FOE petition!

And sign MoveOn.org's petition!

And sign DailyKos's petition!

Rick Perry, former governor of Texas for Energy Secretary — until just days ago, sat on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). [See Beyond Nuclear website posts on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's and the water protectors' resistance to DAPL.]

But Perry also has a blatant conflict of interest involving the Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS) radioactive waste dump in Andrews County, Texas.* WCS's owner, Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, was a top campaign contributor to Rick Perry -- and numerous other Republican candidates and causes -- over the course of many years, even decades. In return, the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry approved every permit, expansion, and license WCS applied for, despite the risks to people and environment. Now WCS has applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct and operate a de facto permanent parking lot dump for more than half of the commercial irradiated nuclear fuel (high-level radioactive waste) that currently exists from all across the country. Its sole customer would be the U.S. Department of Energy, which Trump has tapped Perry to lead. Taxpayers would pay all the costs, and be burdened with all the liabilities, while WCS -- reported 11 months ago to still be owned and controlled by Harold Simmons' family (he died in late 2013) -- would make billions of dollars.

Beyond Nuclear has prepared a backgrounder about Perry's blatant conflict of interest with Waste Control Specialists, entitled Radioactive Waste is Good for You, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rick Perry as Energy Secretary.

(Counterpunch published this article on Monday, Jan. 9th.)

In addition to the Food & Water Watch webform email to your U.S. Senators linked above, you can also phone your U.S. Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to block former Texas governor Rick Perry's nomination as Energy Secretary. (You can also look up your U.S. Senators' direct phone numbers, fax numbers, webforms to send emails, etc. at this website.)

If you U.S. Senator happens to serve as a member of the Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, your contacting them is especially critical right now. Rick Perry's nomination could be blocked in the ENR committee, before it ever reaches the full Senate floor. Please take action ASAP!

The schedule for the ENR Committee confirmation hearing for Rick Perry has just been announced: the hearing will take place at 10am Eastern on Thursday, Jan. 19th.

[See also: U.S. Sen. Ed Markey's (D-MA) statement re: President-elect Trump's nomination of former Texas governor Rick Perry as Energy Secretary; Rick Perry, as Energy Secretary, May Be Press to Resume Nuclear Tests; and an article by Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of ArmsControlWonk.com in Foreign Policy entitled "Not Even Rick Perry Is Stupid Enough to Resume Testing Nuclear Weapons."]

*WCS is the lead "private initiative" for so-called centralized interim storage (de facto permanent parking lot dump) for commercial irradiated nuclear fuel in the U.S., followed by the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance in Hobbs, New Mexico (less than 50 miles from WCS). However, AFCI in Loving County, TX, and Culberson County, TX, are also in the running. Both WCS and AFCI have close connections to Trump's pick for Energy Secretary, former TX governor Rick Perry, representing a blatant conflict of interest and ethical violation.

As reported by the Austin American-Statesman: "Austin attorney Bill Jones, Perry’s former general counsel before Perry appointed him to the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents and then the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, has been involved in a years-long effort to land an interim storage facility in Texas."

For more information, see these two Austin American-Statesman articles for more information on the AFCI proposal(s): "Will Rick Perry brings high-level radioactive waste to Texas?", January 8, 2017; "Two Austin attorneys seeking radioactive waste deal," August 9, 2014.

Wednesday
Jan042017

WIPP claims to be back in business, nearly three years after severe radioactive contamination of underground facility, and environmental release impacting workers

As reported by the Carlsbad, New Mexico Current-Argus and the Albuquerque Journal, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has emplaced the first trans-uranic (TRU) -- plutonium-contaminated nuclear weapons-related -- waste in nearly three years.

The Journal article reports:

“What they are doing is very risky,” said Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, a longtime WIPP watchdog group. “There still is a lot of contamination in the underground. Workers have to use protective equipment, which makes it slow and more likely to have problems.”

In February 2014, WIPP suffered two disasters in just several days. The first was an underground haul truck fire, that sent a couple dozen workers to the emergency room with smoke inhalation. One worker suffered permanent disability.

The second disaster (which took place on Valentine's Day, 2014) involved an underground barrel burst, which contaminated a large part of the underground WIPP facility with TRU, and even resulted in radioactive releases to the atmosphere, which then fell out downwind in the surface environment. Another couple dozen workers above ground suffered internal alpha particle inhalation, significantly increasing their risk for lung cancer in the future.

Estimates for the recovery from the barrel burst range from $1 billion (L.A. Times) to $2 billion (a recent DOE admission). Federal taxpayers will be forced to pay for this.

Recent problems at WIPP include the collapse of ceilings in the underground mine, caused by lack of maintenance due to the complications of protecting workers in full body suits and respirators, given the serious contamination. One of many recent collapses happened near workers.

The rush to restart WIPP emplacement operations, despite the risks, is likely due to the end of the Obama administration, on Jan. 20th. Energy Secretary Moniz, who will attend an ironic VIP ribbon cutting ceremony at WIPP next Monday (WIPP began operations in 1999!), would likely relish being able to say WIPP restarted on his watch.

WIPP is the first and only deep geologic repository for radioactive waste disposal in the U.S., and so is held up as a poster child of success, as the U.S. Department of Energy and rest of the nuclear industry seek DGRs (or DUDs, for Deep Underground Dumps) for such other waste streams as highly radioactive commercial irradiated nuclear fuel.

Wednesday
Dec212016

Coalition defends legal challenge against unprecedented high-risk truck shipments of highly radioactive liquid waste

Attorneys Terry Lodge of Toledo, OH, and Diane Curran of Washington, D.C., legal counsel for an environmental coalition that includes Beyond Nuclear, have filed a Reply Memorandum to the D.C. Circuit Court in defense of a lawsuit against unprecedented truck shipments of highly radioactive liquid waste (also referred to by the U.S. Department of Energy, obscurely, as irradiated target material, or, even more obscurely, as HEUNL, short for highly enriched uranyl nitrate liquid).

The 100 to 150 high-risk truck shipments would travel more than a thousand miles, from Chalk River Nuclear Lab, Ontario, Canada, to Savannah River Site, South Carolina, U.S.A.

See the PLAINTIFFS' REPLY MEMORANDUM, here.

And see the related PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO SUPPLEMENT THE RECORD, here.

More.

Wednesday
Dec142016

SRS Watch: Internal DOE Documents Reveal Details of Highly Unusual Canadian Spent Fuel Dropping Incident at Savannah River Site

Savannah River Site (SRS) Watch released the following press release:

Savannah River Site Watch

For Immediate Release

December 14, 2016 

Internal DOE Documents Reveal Details of Highly Unusual Canadian Spent Fuel Dropping Incident at Savannah River Site; Squabbling Amongst SRS Officials over Follow-Up Meetings

SRS Official States Delay in Shipment of Liquid High-Level Waste from Canada has DOE Headquarters “In a Lather”

FOIA Documents & Photos Received by SRS Watch on December 13, 2016 are Linked Here

Columbia, South Carolina – Details about the unexpected dropping of a highly radioactive spent fuel bundle in the L-Reactor storage pool have come to light in documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request by Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch).   The incident, which occurred on July 12, 2016, involved a drop of Canadian NRX research reactor spent fuel as it was being moved in the storage pool in the old L-Reactor, where spent nuclear fuel from research and medical isotope reactors is stored. The incident resulted in a “timeout” in spent fuel handling operations. During evaluation of the incident, DOE expressed concern about the situation impacting the shipping schedule of more NRX spent fuel from the Chalk River Labs in Ontario.   An “L-Area Technical Review Board” was convened the review the incident, which appears to have been caused by lifting cables twisting and falling free from lifting slots in the fuel assembly, causing the fuel to release and fall back into a storage basket.  Though the event was unanticipated and could have damaged the fuel, DOE has reported no such damage and no release of radioactive materials. The height of the drop is unclear but appears to be between 8-10 inches and 2 feet.

“As damage to the spent fuel could have had negative impact to workers and operation of the L-Area spent fuel facility, it is imperative that DOE adjust its procedures to make sure such a potentially harmful incident never happens again,” said Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch.  “DOE must now fully inform that public as to what steps it’s taking to improve spent fuel handling procedures in the aftermath of the incident involving dropping of the Canadian spent fuel.”

An “Occurrence Report” dated July 13 called event the “Inadvertent NRX Fuel released from Fuel Tool.” That report summarizes the event:

On July 12, 2016, during the unloading and bundling of National Research Experimental (NRX)-5 fuel from the NRX basket in the unloading station, an NRX fuel assembly was being removed from basket position 4. After the fuel assembly was raised 24 inches for fuel identification per procedure, the assembly became disengaged from the NRX tool and fell back into its original basket position. Fuel handling was stopped and a timeout was called. Limiting Conditions for Operations 3.1.4 was entered to allow Spent Fuel Project (SFP) Engineering and Nuclear and Criticality Safety Engineering to determine status of compliance with the nuclear safety data sheet. SFP Engineering is inspecting the NRX tool in use to help determine the cause of the disengagement.

After the timeout – “Limiting Condition for Operation” (LCO) was called, the “Spent Fuel Project (SFP) Engineering” and “Nuclear and Criticality Safety Engineering” groups were called in to analyze the situation and determine the cause for the fuel to be dropped.  Their final report was not released in the FOIA documents sent to SRS Watch.

The FOIA documents reveal a testy email exchange between DOE officials ensued after the incident as there was argument over who was authorized to attend incident-review meetings and if the incident would impact NRX spent fuel shipments from Canada.  The internal squabble arose as the L-Basin is operated by DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) and the spent fuel “take-back” program in under the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), causing officials to clash over their respective jurisdictions.

Of note, in a July 15 email from the NNSA official, concern was expressed about attention being drawn to the issue of shipment from Canada of NRC and NRU reactor spent fuel and that of liquid high-level nuclear waste, which DOE calls “Target Residue Material” in order to downplay the fact that it is a deadly brew of highly radioactive isotopes:

“My HQ is always very interested in the NRU/NRX and TRM shipment schedule and perceived hiccups.  The TRM delays are what’s really got them in a lather, unfortunately that means the NRU/NRX program is getting a little additional attention.  Once the TRM gets going, I’m hopeful NRU/NRX will fall a bit off the radar (fingers crossed).”

###

Notes:

FOIA documents and photos on NRX spent fuel incident, received vial mail on December 13, 2016, are linked here:

http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/foia_nrx_spent_fuel_incident_dec_1_2016.pdf  

Contact: Tom Clements Director,

Savannah River Site Watch Columbia, South Carolina

tel. 803-834-3084

cell 803-240-7268

srswatch@gmail.com

http://www.srswatch.org/

https://www.facebook.com/SavannahRiverSiteWatch

Friday
Dec022016

National Grassroots Radioactive Waste Summit, December 2 to 4, 2016, Chicago, Illinois

A Retreat for Those Who Focus on High-Level Radioactive Waste

(Please note that this event is open to persons working for a nuclear-free future, but not to persons working with/for the nuclear power industry.)

Beyond Nuclear, Takoma Park, MDThis Summit will bring people together from nuclear power reactor areas where highly radioactive waste is located now, communities being targeted for new nuclear waste sites, and those along transport routes in between.  International alliances with Native American and Canadian colleagues are important here too. This event is designed for those “in the trenches” of radioactive waste proposals and policies.

Anyone new to the issue and interested in attending is invited to contact Mary Olson (maryo@nirs.org; phone 828-252-8409) or Dave Kraft (neis@neis.org; phone 773-342-7650) to explore options. The venue, Cenacle Center in Chicago, is limited to 88 beds; another dozen participants may stay off-site. Cost information and registration is available here:

LINK TO REGISTRATION FORM (in .pdf format)

LINK TO REGISTRATION FORM (in .docx format)

Native Community Action Council (NCAC), Las Vegas, NVTO REGISTER AND PAY:

Option 1: Two step process: 1.) Complete the registration form. Email it back to: neis@neis.org; 2.) go to www.neis.org, click the "Donate Now" button to make payment for the Conference by credit card. Fill out fields, and in the field marked, "select a designation," click "RadWaste Summit". YOU WILL NOT BE REGISTERED IF YOU FAIL TO DO THIS!

Option 2: Complete form and mail it back to: NEIS, 3411 W. Diversey #16, Chicago IL 60647, along with your check made payable to "NEIS", and marked "RadWaste Policy Summit" in the memo field.

North American Water Office (NAWO), Lake Elmo, MNThe Summit will convene on Friday, December 2 with Dinner (starting at 5pm local Chicago time), and will adjourn Sunday afternoon at 4pm Central time. This will primarily be a working Summit to define a national campaign for 2017. Selected technical updates will be addressed during the Summit.

Friday afternoon, December 2nd pre-Summit working groups will convene at the venue earlier in the day. For more information on these, and who to contact for more info., see:

Check-in/Registration (All Day)

Mothers for Peace, San Luis Obispo, CA11:30 AM--12:30 PM Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign meet-and-greet (Please RSVP with markmuhich0@gmail.com if you plan on attending.)

1:30 to 3:00 PM Panel Discussion: Stop Small (Multiple) Modular Reactors (read description here). Presenters: Don Safer, Tennessee Environmental Council and Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign <dsafer@comcast.net>; Chuck Johnson, Oregon/Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility <chuck@oregonpsr.org>; and Sara Barczak, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) <sara@cleanenergy.org>. (Please RSVP with Sara Barczak at

sara@cleanenergy.org if you plan on attending.)


 

3:15 to 4:45 PM Presentation: How To Stop Producing More Waste Nuclear Fuel In 3 Easy Steps (read description here). Presenter: George Crocker, North American Water Office, <gwillc@nawo.org>.


Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC), Albuquerque,

***Here is the full schedule (Friday through Sunday) for the Summit.*** (Updated as of October 31, 2016)


SUMMIT VENUE DESCRIPTION

DIRECTIONS TO CENACLE RETREAT CENTER (.pdf format)

DIRECTIONS TO CENACLE RETREAT CENTER (.docx format)

SUGGESTIONS FOR RAISING TRAVEL MONEY

 

PRE-Conference Preparatory Webinars (Open to All)

Three teleconferences/webinars have been held; they were focused on content/technical/political info., of these topics described below; the first two Webinars' recordings are already posted online, and the third one will be soon as well:

(1) 

Nuclear Power and Fuel Chain - Intro.                            

Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016  8pm to 9:30pm Eastern 

[The recording of this Webinar is now posted here:

https://www.nirs.org/category/media/video/]

Presenter: Diane D'Arrigo, NIRS

This webinar could also be titled "Nuclear Power and Fuel Chain 101," for folks who usually only focus on only one part, including Targeted Sites for Proposed Centralized Storage and Disposal - Yucca Mountain, Native American reservations, Waste Control Specialists (WCS, Texas), Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA, New Mexico), Savannah River Site (SRS, South Carolina), Idaho, Illinois, etc., and Transportation Issues, etc.

(2) 

Centralized ‘Interim’ Storage [CIS] and  Nuclear Transport Dangers                                                

Thurs, Nov. 10, 2016  8 pm to 9:30pm Eastern

[This Webinar's recording is also now posted here:

https://www.nirs.org/category/media/video/

Also see Beyond Nuclear's Power Point Presentation, and our congressional testimony from a year ago, upon which the presentation was based.]

Presenters: Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition TX, Arjun Makhijani, IEER, Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear

Nukewatch, Luck, WI(3)

 Irradiated (‘Spent’) Nuclear Fuel                                       Thurs, Nov. 17, 2016  8pm -9:30pm  Eastern

High “Burnup”, Aging Fuel, Characteristics and Dangers of Pools and Casks, Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS), Reprocessing     

[This Webinar will be posted here in the near future:

https://www.nirs.org/category/media/video/]

Presenters: Dr. Gordon Thompson, IRSS, Donna Gilmore, San Onofre Safety

 

A GRASSROOTS SUMMIT:

Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), Takoma Park, MDTimed shortly after the US elections and also the anticipated departures of the Obama Administration and Harry Reid, this Summit is called now to build Grassroots agreement on High Level Radioactive Waste policy. Based on that agreement, we will put pieces of a working campaign together.

 

 

Citizens Awareness Network (CAN), Shelburne Falls, MAThese values have formed the basis of our work for decades:

  1. It is essential that all communities dealing with High Level Radioactive Waste (both reactor and storage/disposal) work together.
  2. We need to once again create effective strategies and actions to defeat bad policies that will support the survival and expansion of the nuclear industry.
  3. New plans to relocate waste once again target vulnerable communities. Until the criteria of sound science and environmental justice drive policy, waste should remain where it is, at reactor sites. 
  4. At the same time, keeping waste where it is for now, in reactor communities, must include upgrades for greater safety and security.
  5. The communities around reactors are forced to be guardians of the world’s most toxic and long-lasting waste. The ultimate goals of long-term containment and isolation of radioactivity from our environment can only be met if met now, at the reactor sites. 

 

Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), Chicago, ILWhat does responsible “interim” of storage of waste on reactor sites look like? Our community has broad support for Principles of Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactor Sites, also referred to as Hardened On-Site Storage, or “HOSS” (see: URL HERE). HOSS is a mandate to remove accumulated High Level Radioactive Waste from reactor fuel pools and to provide greater safety and security for all waste storage on reactor sites. Can we expand our agreements to specify additional steps to strengthen local storage? At the Summit we will consider additional Principles addressing shortfalls in containers, waste management and monitoring to adopt in addition to the HOSS Principles.

Tennesse Environmental Council (TEC), Nashville, TNAlthough the nuclear industry and federal government committed to dispose of high level radioactive waste (HLRW), no acceptable program exists.  Congress mandated a repository program in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and then abandoned science in favor of politics when Yucca Mountain of the Western Shoshone in Nevada was targeted, even though the site did not meet basic scientific criteria and the local community, the Western Shoshone Nation and the State of Nevada all said “No.” Billions of dollars have been expended to establish Yucca Mountain as a permanent repository. This boondoggle failed (though the cancellation is not complete) due to site unsuitability, corruption, inadequate safeguards, Western Shoshone and Nevada’s opposition.

 

Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, Monroe, MIThe Industry has a pressing need to create an illusion of a solution because dangerous waste piling up at reactor sites undermines its position that nuclear is clean and safe.  Once again the industry’s plan is simple: Move the waste to another site (or sites). The new site, known as a “Parking Lot Dump” would use the exact same dry storage technology in use at reactors. As reactors continue to make more waste, the new site is simply “one more” site. In addition to the absurdity that simply moving the waste is a “solution,” there is the danger that these sites will become de facto permanent. Proposed consolidated storage sites do not have to meet the environmental standards of a permanent site.

Sierra Club Nuclear-Free CampaignLike every existing nuclear site, from mining to milling to processing to reactors to waste disposition, these new proposed sites are routinely sited in low income, rural, people of color and Native American communities. A new wrinkle is the idea that the nuclear industry “winning consent” from a “host community” makes this picture “ok.” Moving this waste more than once and treating storage of the worst waste ever as “economic development” for communities in need is something that our community explicitly opposes. The Department of Energy will need a change in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to move ahead, but it is even now making plans for "consent-based siting" of High Level Radioactive Waste at the WCS so-called “low-level” waste site in Andrews County, TX; and / or Eddy-Lea Counties Energy Alliance, in NM; at possible but undisclosed Native American reservations; at the Dresden nuclear power plant in IL; and possibly on or near the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

SEED Coalition (Sustainable Energy & Economic Development), Austin, TXThe Industry and some of its newest, youngest proponents seek to pit nuclear communities against each other: reactor communities fear inadequate storage casks, lack of onsite protections and HLRW abandonment by the Feds.  Targeted communities for nuclear waste disposal share the same concerns but don’t want dangerous nuclear waste in their backyard, particularly given the abysmal record of leaks and inadequate environmental protections. Waste communities face unconscionable choices:  short- term economic survival or long-term health and safety. Nonetheless, we all have more in common with each other than we do with the nuclear industry that seeks to manufacture more and more of this waste.

Diné No Nukes, Albuquerque, NMWe are communities that share the same overall goals: the end of the production of highly radioactive waste and a robust commitment to its continued security, containment and isolation from our environment. We, and communities along the roads and rails between us, must work together.  When we work together, we can create effective strategies & and actions to defeat the Industry’s illusion they have eliminated the waste problem. When we work together, we can influence US energy policy to turn away from making more nuclear waste of any kind.

The national elections will form a backdrop, but this event is non-partisan. Both major political parties in the US have had a large hand in creating the nuclear waste problem. It is unlikely that the elections will resolve any of these concerns — but the new Congress and Administration will be the terrain in which our action over the coming years will unfold. Gathering at this time to chart a path makes sense. Nuclear Watch SouthJoin us!

Coalition Against Nukes

"No permanent, safe location or technology has ever been found to isolate even the first cupful of radioactive waste from the biosphere. And yet we continue to generate more and more, a mountain of waste [now 74] years high." ---from Beyond Nuclear pamphlet by board of directors member, Kay Drey, St. Louis, MO.

Logo from A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High. Graphic art by Tom Engelhardt.See NEIS's online posting of materials from the "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference, held at the University of Chicago on Dec. 2, 2012 -- the 70th year since Enrico Fermi et al., built the world's first atomic reactor, and generated the world's first high-level radioactive waste, on Dec. 2, 1942.

Kay Drey also organized a 40-year commemoration (Dec. 2, 1982), and a 50-year commemoration (Dec. 2, 1992), from which was published a summary booklet of transcripts and additional information.

Organizational Co-Sponsors of the Dec. 2-4, 2016 National Grassroots Radioactive Waste Summit (listed below in alphabetical order, with links to their websites; see logos above): 

Beyond Nuclear; Citizens Awareness Network (CAN); Coalition Against Nukes; Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes; Diné No Nukes; Don't Waste Michigan; GRAMMES (Grandmothers, Mothers, and More for Energy Safety); Mothers for Peace; Native Community Action Council (NCAC); North American Water Office (NAWO); Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS); Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS); Nuclear Watch South; Nukewatch; Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR); Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign; Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC); Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition; Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC).