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.



City of Port Huron, Michigan passes resolution against OPG DGR

As reported at the website of Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, Port Huron, MI has joined the ranks of municipalities across the Great Lakes opposed to Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) -- a dumpsite for all of Ontario's so-called low and intermediate level radioactive wastes from 20 reactors across the province.

Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump keeps an updated map of the spread of such resolutions across 8 U.S. states and Ontario (image, left). A combined 10.5 million people reside in the communities that have passed anti-DGR resolutions, Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump reports.


"Nuclear waste plan unsafe, panel hears" 

As reported by the Globe and Mail of Ottawa, Ontario, Dr. Frank Greening has warned the Canadian federal Joint Review Panel overseeing the environmental assessment on a proposed Great Lakes radioactive waste dump that discarded pressure tubes could behave like cluster bombs.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) proposes to bury so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes from 20 reactors across the province less than a mile from the shoreline of Lake Huron.

The article reports:

'In a submission to a federal review panel, nuclear chemist Frank Greening said OPG’s contractors seriously underestimated the potential impacts of a bombing in the vicinity of pressure tubes that have been removed from reactors and stored as waste. In contrast to OPG assurances, Dr. Greening said the zirconium in the tubes would burn fiercely, setting off chain reactions similar to those in cluster bombs.

“I think this is quite alarming, what I’m suggesting could happen and what they seem to have entirely missed,” he said in an interview Monday. “This absolutely affects the safety case … This is the design of a cluster bomb, this is an incendiary weapon waiting to happen. In fact, I think this is absolutely reckless on their part.”'

As the article reports:

'Dr. Greening was a research scientist for OPG’s predecessor, Ontario Hydro, for more than 20 years until 2000, and has worked more recently as a consultant for Bruce Power. He has been a frequent critic of OPG and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) which – along with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency – is conducting the hearings.'



State of Michigan Senate unanimously passes bill and resolutions urging federal action against Great Lakes shore radioactive waste dump

Today, the State of Michigan's Senate unanimously passed a bill and resolutions package sponsored by sponsored by State Senator Phil Pavlov and co-sponsored by State Senators John Proos, Jack Brandenburg, Michael Green, Tonya Schuitmaker, Hoon-Yung Hopgood , Rick Jones, Goeffrey Hansen, James Marleau, Michael Kowall, and David Hildenbrand.

The bill and resolutions express grave concerns about Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) targeted at the Lake Huron shoreline at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada, where so-called "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes from 20 reactors across Ontario would be permanently buried.

The bill and resolutions call upon President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and the U.S. Congress to activate the International Joint Commission (IJC), under the U.S.-Canadian Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, to review the risks of OPG's DGR. The bill and resolutions also called upon the Great Lakes Commission, comprised of eight Great Lakes States and two Canadian provinces, to similarly review the risks of OPG's DGR, and take a position on the controversial issue. The bill and resolutions also call upon the other seven Great Lakes States (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York) to take similar action.

The Great Lakes provide drinking water to 40 million people in the U.S. and Canada.


DGR Action: Bill in Michigan Senate, Motion in Canadian Parliament, Ontario Election, Hearing Resumes

Thanks to Brennain Lloyd of Nukewatch for compiling the following updates on the DGR (Deep Geologic Repository) for "low" and "intermediate" level radioactive wastes, targeted at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station for permanent burial!

Michigan State Senate's Natural Resources Committee Considers Nuclear Waste Burial Bill 948 - Deadline for Written Submissions June 4th!

The Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee of the Michigan Senate has  Senate Bill 948 on its agenda for Thursday, June 5th. The Bill would "expressly prohibit storage or disposal for certain radioactive waste and establish advisory board on proposed Ontario repository". The Committee will also be considering three concurrent resolutions which urge the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and the Congress of the United States, the International Joint Commission on Boundary Waters and the Great Lakes Commission to all take various actions to oppose and/or further study the risks and impacs of OPG's proposed nuclear waste burial scheme. The Committee meets at 8:30 a.m. in room 210 of the Farnum Building in Lansing, 125 W. Allegan Street, Lansing, MI 48933. Committee Clerk CJ Galdes has indicated that all written submissions received by 5 pm on Wednesday, June 4th will be included in the Committee members' information packages. Email the clerk at

Ontario Election 2014

Questions to party leaders in the Ontario Election 2014 ask each of the four major political parties wither - if elected - they will direct OPG to suspend its efforts to bury nuclear waste beneath the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, and commission an independent examination of alternatives to nuclear waste burial and submit the findings to the Legislature. The Leaders' Survey is the product of a collaboration of public interest groups who have been active participants in the review of Ontario Power Generation’s proposed Deep Geologic Repository of Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Wastes. Responses and analysis will be posted on on Friday, June 6th. The Inverhuron Committee also prepared election questions about OPG's proposed Deep Geological Repository.

Masse to Table Motion Concerning Nuclear Waste Storage Near Great Lakes

Ottawa, ON-- Brian Masse, MP Windsor West and Official Opposition Critic for the Great Lakes, announced last week that he will table a motion raising concerns over the safety of Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) near Lake Huron's eastern shore. The motion also addresses the validity of the Joint Review Panel and regulatory approval process for the project. Masse was joined by representatives from The Inverhuron Committee, Save Our Saugeen Shores (SOS), the Bluewater Coalition Against the DGR and Northwatch when he made the announcement on Parliament Hill on May 27th.

DGR Hearing Restarts September 9 in Kincardine

The Joint Review Panel appointed to evaluate Ontario Power Generation's proposal to bury nuclear waste beside Lake Huron announced on June 3rd that the hearing will restart on September 9th for an estimated two weeks. Anyone wishing to make a presentation must fill out a Hearing Participation Form  by June 23rd. Written submissions will be required by July 21st and any supporting materials - such as presentation slides - must be submitted by August 25th.

The Review Panel has identified a short list of subjects to be addressed during the reconvened hearing. They are: the methodology used to determine the significance of adverse environmental effects; updates to the geoscientific verification plan; expansion plans for the DGR project; relative risk analysis of alternative means of carrying out the project; implications of revisions to the reference waste inventory; and  the applicability of recent incidents at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) to the safety case for the DGR project. The revised hearing procedures provide additional detail on the subjects to be addressed.


Fukushima lessons learned? None! NRC ends consideration of expedited unloading of radioactive waste pools

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission snuck out a major decision on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. Its generic study of whether or not to require the expedited transfer of "spent nuclear fuel" (irradiated nuclear fuel rods, highly radioactive waste) out of vulnerable storage pools will be unceremoniusly ended, with no requirement to unload pools into dry cask storage. The study was undertaken as part of NRC's Fukushima "lessons learned" process, created by former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese nuclear catastrophe.

The decision came in the form of a memo, sent from the NRC Secretary to the NRC EDO (Executive Director for Operations). The memo simply states: "The Commission has approved the staff's recommendation that this Tier 3 Japan lessons-learned activity be closed and that no further generic assessments be pursued related to possible regulatory actions to require the expedited transfer of spent fuel to dry cask storage."

Four of the five NRC Commissioners (Svinicki, Apostalakis, Magwood, and Ostendorff) voted to support NRC Staff's recommendation, made late last year, that irradiated nuclear fuel currently stored in densely-packed pools, need not be transferred to dry casks on an expedited basis.

The sole dissenting vote on the NRC Commission came from its Chairwoman, Allison Macfarlane. Chairwoman Macfarlane criticized the NRC staff's analysis, including that the only risk initiator considered was an earthquake. She called for a “more thorough analysis,” including consideration “of all natural and human-induced events (e.g., accidental, malevolent).”

Chairwoman Macfarlane provided a more than 10-page analysis explaining her dissent. Three of the other Commissioners who blessed the staff's recommendation for inaction provided a page, or less, of explanation for their own votes.

In Jan. 2003 (nine years before she would be appointed as NRC Chairwoman), Macfarlane herself co-authored a study, published by Princeton's Science and Global Security, warning about the potentially catastrophic risks of densely-packed storage pool fires. Malevolent acts were foremost in the co-authors' minds, as the 2003 warning came in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The 9/11 Commission documented that Al Qaeda had considered attacking nuclear power plants.

U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) blasted the NRC decision, stating: 

“Overcrowded spent nuclear fuel pools are a disaster waiting to happen. Experts agree an accident at one of these pools could result in damage as bad as that caused by an accident at an operating nuclear reactor. Pilgrim Nuclear Plant’s spent fuel pool contains nearly four times more radioactive waste than it was originally designed to hold. It is time for the NRC to post the ‘Danger’ sign outside the fuel pools and begin to swiftly move spent fuel to safer storage now before a disaster occurs.”

Pilgrim, near Boston, is a more than four decade old General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor (GE BWR Mark I), identical in design and vintage to the four wrecked reactors at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. Pilgrim is owned by Entergy Nuclear.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a leading critic of Entergy's Vermont Yankee atomic reactor, responded:

“We are one natural disaster, mechanical failure or terrorist attack away from a disaster. The sooner we get the spent (fuel) out of the pools and into dry casks, the better, and if the NRC will not change the rules, I will continue to work with my colleagues to change the rules through legislation.”

VY is also a GE BWR Mark I. Its owner, also Entergy Nuclear, announced VY will be closed by the end of 2014.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said she was “deeply troubled” by the NRC’s inaction, adding:

“Earlier this month, a wildfire came within a half mile of the now-closed San Onofre nuclear plant, which is storing most of its spent fuel in pools rather than in dry cask storage.”

Boxer chairs the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), on which Markey and Sanders also serve. EPW has oversight on NRC. Two weeks ago -- coincidentally, on the very day those fires threatened San Onofre nuclear power plant -- Boxer convened a hearing to address the risks of high-level radioactive waste pool storage. Boxer, Markey, and Sanders had just introduced legislation the previous day, requiring expedited transfer of irradiated nuclear fuel from pools to dry casks. The three Senators grilled a top official from the NRC, as well as the top official from the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's DC lobby HQ.

Please urge your two U.S. Senators to support these three bills. You can contact your Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Boxer has scheduled another EPW hearing for June 4th regarding "NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety." All five NRC Commissioners will likely be called as witnesses, where the four who voted against expedited transfer can be expected to be grilled.

David Lochbaum, the Director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), has denounced NRC's decision, stating “We’re very disappointed by that decision, because it’s wrong.” He called NRC's decision “very shoddy work. It was incomplete, inaccurate.”

In a statement on NRC's decision, Edwin Lyman of UCS stated:

"[W]e commend NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane for her clear, logical and courageous comments accompanying her vote, which directed the NRC staff to continue its assessment. Her vote commentary points out that, according to the NRC staff’s study, reducing the density of spent fuel in a pool at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, for example, could lower the human health consequences of a zirconium fire by more than a factor of 10, the number of individuals who may have to abandon their homes by a factor of 50, and the economic cost by $100 billion."

Peach Bottom Units 2 & 3 are also GE BWR Mark Is.

Along with Macfarlane, Lyman served as a co-author of the 2003 independent study.

David Wright, physicist and co-director of Global Security at UCS, has also published a blog on the NRC decision, entitled "Nuclear Power Regulator Sticks Its Head Further Into the Ground." Wright's blog contains numerous additional links to further analyses and documents.

(Fairewinds Energy Education chose the same metaphor for a May, 2013 podcast interview with Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps. "Nuclear Regulators Stick Their Heads in the Sand" focused on the problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor, which had just spilled more than 80 gallons of radioactive water into Lake Michigan.)

Hundreds of groups, representing all 50 states, have long called for Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS). A top priority of HOSS is thinning densely-packed pools, by expediting transfer of irradiated nuclear fuel into significantly upgraded dry cask storage systems.

The AP has reported on NRC's rejection of expedited nuclear fuel transfer out of pools.