At the urging of environmental allies in southeast Michigan, Beyond Nuclear in March 2012 prepared a backgrounder on reactor, radioactive waste, and other nuclear risks in the region. The backgrounder has been updated for use at a presentation by Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, to be held at the Huron Valley Sierra Club Chapter meeting in Ann Arbor, MI on May 20th. The backgrounder complements the "Great Lakes Region Nuclear Hot Spots" map, prepared by Anna Tilman at International Coalition of Concern for Public Health last year.
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.
In a press release entitled "NRC Prioritizes Detailed Earthquake Risk Analysis For Central and Eastern U.S. Reactors," the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has given nuclear utilities an extraordinarily long period of time to upgrade safety in light of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.
NRC speaks of having "set a priority list for 21 of 59 nuclear power plant sites in the central and eastern United States to conduct in-depth analyses of the plants’ updated earthquake risk," in recognition that seismic hazards could well be greater than the atomic reactors were originally designed and built to withstand.
And what are NRC's deadlines for the nuclear utilities to take "Fukushima lessons learned" urgent action by? Preliminary analysis, to determine if reinforcements to systems, structures, or components may be needed, is not due till Dec. 31, 2014 -- nearly four years after the Fukushima catastrophe began. If any such upgrades are needed, they need not be installed until Dec. 31, 2016 -- nearly six years post-Fukushima.
Perhaps more astounding, the "detailed," "in-depth risk" analyses described in the press release headline are not due until June 30, 2017 (over six years post-Fukushima) for 10 "priority" sites, and not till June 30, 2019 (more than eight years post-Fukushima) for another 11 "priority" sites.
At another 23 sites, NRC is still yet to decide whether or not they need to do the "in-depth risk analysis." If NRC decides they do, they have until Dec. 31, 2020 (almost a decade post-Fukushima) to get it done.
While NRC's "priority" requirements -- or lack thereof -- do mention radioactive waste risks, they appear to be even less of a priority than are reactor risks.
Apparently, we must simply hope earthquakes stronger than originally designed and constructed against many decades ago won't strike before NRC requires these actions to be taken.
It is John's response to an "expert report" done in support of Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposal to bury all of the province's so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes, from 20 reactors, less than a mile from the waters of Lake Huron. The dump would be immediately adjacent to OPG's Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, with eight operable atomic reactors, one of the single biggest nuclear power plants in the world.
40 million American, Canadian, and Native American First Nations residents drink from Great Lakes waters, which comprise more than 20% of the entire world's surface fresh water, and more than 90% of North America's.
John writes: "The ‘expert’ group’s report says it’s possible that as much as 1,000 cubic meters a year of water contaminated with radiation might leach from the dump, but calls such pollution 'highly improbable.' (Emphasis on 'predicted' and 'improbably' here: The US government’s 650-meter-deep Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico was predicted to contain radiation for 10,000 years. It failed badly on Feb. 14, after only 15.)"
In September 2013, John testified before the Canadian federal Joint Review Panel tasked with overseeing OPG's environmental assessment on OPG's proposed "Deep Geologic Repository," or DGR. (Critics have dubbed it the Deep Underground Dump, or DUD). He cited a 2008 OPG promotional brochure, which rhetorically asked “Will the [dump] contaminate the water?” then answered: “…even if the entire waste volume were to be dissolved into Lake Huron, the corresponding drinking water dose would be a factor of 100 below the regulatory criteria initially, and decreasing with time.”
This fatuous assertion prompted John to ask in his testimony: “Why would the government spend $1 billion on a dump when it is safe to throw all the radioactive waste in the water?”
As John writes, "Now, what I thought of then as a rhetorical outburst has become 'expert' opinion."
John and Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will co-present "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer," their annual workshop at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association fair held on summer solstice weekend in central WI.
"Senators to NRC: Do Not Exempt Decommissioning Nuclear Reactors from Emergency Response and Security Measures"
Five Democratic U.S. Senators have written U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane, uring that NRC's rubberstamp of exemptions from emergency preparedness and security requirements at permanently shutdown nuclear power plants be stopped.
The five Senators are: Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Edward J. Markey (D-MA); Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Bernard Sanders (D-VT). Boxer (photo, above left) is Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, with oversight on NRC and nuclear power issues; Gillibrand, Markey, and Sanders also serve on the EPW Committee.
Their letter points out that nuclear utilities have always received requested exemptions, within just a year or two of reactor shutdowns, from NRC, at permanently shutdown nuclear power plants. This, despite the fact that the nuclear plants still have large amounts of irradiated nuclear fuel stored in pools, vulnerable to catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity, such as due to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, heavy load drops, etc.
The Senators list NRC's "perfect record" of such regulatory relaxation at: Humboldt Bay, CA; LaCrosse, WI; Fort St. Vrain, CO; Rancho Seco, CA; Yankee Rowe, MA; Trojan, OR; Haddam Neck, CT; Maine Yankee; Big Rock Point, MI; and Zion, IL.
Most ironically, NRC consistently stands by its indefensible claim that high-level radioactive waste storage is safe, sound, and secure, and will remain so for at least 60 years post-reactor shutdown, by citing the existence of emergency preparedness and security regulations. Yet, it is these very regulations that NRC consistently exempts shutdown nuclear plants from having to meet!
The Senators have urged NRC chief Macfarlane to not grant such requested exemptions at the five atomic reactors permanently shutdown in 2013 (Crystal River, FL; Kewaunee, WI; San Onofre 2 & 3, CA) or about to be shutdown by the end of 2014 (Vermont Yankee).
On April 10, Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project Director, Paul Gunter, urged NRC to enforce emergency preparedness and security regulations at decommissioning nuclear power plant sites, due to the potentially catastrophic risks associated with the irradiated nuclear fuel still stored there.
Radioactive "Moral Hazard": DOE loans, and guarantees, $6.5 billion for two new reactors for a 0%, $0.00 credit subsidy fee!
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy reports in a press release entitled "New Documents Confirm Utility Giant Southern Company Gets Sweetheart Deal from Energy Department for Multi-Billion Nuclear Loan Guarantees for Vogtle Reactors":
"As revealed today in an Energy & Environment News story by Hannah Northey, the credit subsidy fee for utility giant Southern Company and its utility partner, Oglethorpe Power, for billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed federal loan guarantees, is nothing, $0. This shocking information was disclosed two months after the Department of Energy (DOE) finalized terms of $6.5 billion worth of loan guarantees that were offered as part of an $8.3 billion package to build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia. A third partner in the project, MEAG, has yet to have their $1.8 billion loan guarantee finalized."
Please register your disapproval of this nuclear sweetheart deal, at taxpayer expense and risk, to President Obama, your two U.S. Senators, and your U.S. Representative! You can be patched through to your Members of Congress via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
In the form of the risks stemming from the high-level radioactive wastes that would be generated, those "moral hazards" would extend forevermore into the future.
As if the Obama administration's $8.3 billion boost -- at taxpayer expense and risk -- to Vogtle 3 & 4 weren't bad enough, George W. Bush's DOE committed the U.S. taxpayer to ultimate liability for Vogtle 3 & 4's high-level radioactive wastes in his last day's in office, signing contracts with the nuclear utility just a day or two after Barack Obama won the presidential election, but before he took the oath of office.