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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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Monday
Jan162017

Environmental coalition legal challenge against unprecedented highly radioactive liquid waste shipments coming to a head in D.C.

Political cartoon by Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News. Buffalo, NY, as well as Thousand Island, NY, are the two most likely border crossings for these shipments, although others could also be used. DOE has invoked security-related secrecy on the routing and timing of the shipments.A Canadian-U.S. environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, has been resisting unprecedented shipments of highly radioactive liquid waste, from Chalk River, Ontario, Canada to Savannah River Site, South Carolina, U.S.A., since they were first announced in spring, 2013. Last August, the coalition filed a federal lawsuit, demanding an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be conducted. Various court filings have gone back and forth since, between the coalition and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

In the latest round of legal filings, on Jan. 10, 2017, attorneys for DOE and the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a Defendants' Combined Reply in Support of their Motion to Strike and Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Supplement the Record and to Submit Extra-Record Documents.

On Jan. 12, 2017, Terry Lodge of Toledo and Diane Curran of Washington, D.C., the environmental coalition's legal counsel, responded, filing Plaintiffs' Reply to Defendants' Opposition to Motion to Supplement the Record and to Submit Extra-Record Documents.

On Jan. 18, 2017, at 10am Eastern, Lodge and Curran will square off against DOE/DOJ, and argue the environmental coalition's case at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20001.

If the environmental coalition prevails in the expedited legal proceeding, the court will order DOE to carry out a long overdue Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), significantly delaying or perhaps even aborting the truck shipments. If the DOE prevails, it could start trucking highly radioactive liquid wastes by mid-February, 2017. See Beyond Nuclear's Waste Transportation website section for more information.

Monday
Jan092017

Washington Congressional Delegation Urges President-Elect Trump to Prioritize Hanford Cleanup, Worker Health, Tri-Cities’ Safety

“This work is essential to protecting the health and safety of the Tri-Cities community, the Columbia River, Washington state and our nation.”

As posted on the website of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Democratic News section. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is the Ranking Member (Minority/Democrat) on the Committee.

Saturday
Jan072017

Documentary film "Containment" premieres on PBS on Monday, January 9, 2017 at 10pm Eastern (check local listings)

As part of the Independent Lens documentary film series on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television, the documentary "Containment" (by Peter Galison & Robb Moss) will premiere on many local PBS stations nationwide on Monday night, January 9, 2017, at 10pm Eastern time.

(Be sure to check your local listings, as not all stations will air it.)

The Independent Lens website about "Containment" includes a number of film trailers and short clips you can watch.

Beyond Nuclear was honored and privileged to serve in an advisory role for the film, and is thankful to have had a short interview included.

Others featured in the film include: Fukushima nuclear catastrophe survivors, the director of an independent investigation into the Fukushima catastrophe (Funabashi), and former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan; former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairmen Greg Jaczko and Allison Macfarlane; Rev. Willie Tomlin (whose congregation in Burke County, GA lives in the shadows of the Plant Vogtle atomic reactors, the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons complex, the Barnwell, SC radioactive waste dump, etc.); and such Beyond Nuclear colleagues as Dr. Arjun Makhijani of IEER, Dave Lochbaum of UCS, and Tom Clements of Savannah River Site Watch.

About the Film

How can we contain some of the deadliest, most long-lasting substances ever produced? Toxic remnants from the Cold War remain in millions of gallons of highly radioactive sludge, thousands of acres of radioactive land, tens of thousands of unused hot buildings, and  some slowly spreading deltas of contaminated groundwater. Governments around the world, desperate to protect future generations, have begun imagining society 10,000 years from now in order to create warning monuments that will speak across time to mark waste repositories.

Containment moves from a nuclear weapon facility in South Carolina where toxic swamps have led to radioactive animals, to a deep underground burial site in New Mexico, to Fukushima, Japan, where a triple meltdown occurred after the cooling systems at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant were interrupted, leaving that city a ghost town. The film is part graphic novel and part observational essay mixed with sci-fi that is more science than fiction, weaving between an uneasy present and an imaginative, troubled distant future, exploring the struggle to keep waste confined over millennia.

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.