WCS de facto permanent parking lot dump in west TX for high-level radioactive waste would launch unprecedented numbers of Mobile Chernobyls
(What can you do to resist parking lot dumps, Yucca Mountain, and Mobile Chernobyls?
Contact your U.S. Represenative and your U.S. Senators, and urge them to oppose centralized interim storage, the permanent dumpsite at Yucca in Nevada, as well as the accompanying high-risk shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel that would be launched on roads, rails, and waterways. In addition to contacting your Congress Members via the links above, you can also phone their Washington, D.C. offices via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.)
As reported in a blog by Mark Lombard, Director of the Division of Spent Fuel Management at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS) in Andrews County, Texas -- on the border with New Mexico -- filed an application to construct and operate a so-called "centralized interim storage" site for high-level radioactive waste on April 28th. The application was filed two days after the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.
Most inappropriately, NRC has been colluding with industry to open centralized interim storage for high-level radioactive waste. NRC is supposed to protect public health, safety, and the environment. As the country's nuclear safety regulatory agency, NRC is not supposed to promote nuclear power, or the agenda of the industry.
Yet, at its Division of Spent Fuel Management RegCon (Regulatory Conference) late last year, NRC's Tony Hsia, Acting Director of the Division of Spent Fuel Management, in his closing remarks, concluded the two-day symposium with no less than a rally cry. He passionately called for industry and NRC (as well as DOE, and other nuclear establishment players) to work together ("[If we] all work together, we can make it [centralized interim storage] happen!"), to open parking lot dumps, such as at Waste Control Specialists, LLC in Andrews County, TX, or Holtec's proposal in Eddy-Lea Counties near WIPP in NM. This was objectionable, and clearly revealed NRC's improper bias in favor of these risky industry proposals.
The Japanese Parliament concluded that the root cause of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe was collusion between regulator, industry, and government officials. It was the reason the three reactors, that melted down and exploded, were so very vulnerable to the earthquake and tsunami that struck them on 3/11/11. Such dangerous collusion exists in spades in the U.S., as on radioactive waste, as between NRC, industry, DOE, and even the White House and Congress.
If opened, the WCS "de facto permanent parking lot dump," as we call it, would result in unprecedented numbers of shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel, by road, rail, and waterway, through most states. Critics have dubbed these truck, train, and barge transports "Mobile Chernobyls," as well as "Floating Fukushimas," and "Dirty Bombs on Wheels." They would pass through major metropolitan areas, as well as past -- or even on -- vital drinking water supplies, agricultural areas, etc.
(See NIRS' "Stop Fukushima Freeways" website section for more information, as well as Beyond Nuclear's congressional testimony on Mobile Chernobyl risks.)
The SEED Coalition and Public Citizen issued a press release opposing the WCS parking lot dump. The groups also released transport maps (see above, left) showing likley routes for irradiated nuclear fuel shipments from across the country, to west Texas. They've also released a fact sheet, and have a website.
As NRC's Lombard mentioned at the end of his blog: Incidentally, we are expecting an application for a second centralized interim storage facility Nov. 30. This one, to be filed by Holtec International, will be for a site in New Mexico. We’ll follow the same process in reviewing that application.
That de facto permanent parking lot dump would be near the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP), near Carlsbad, NM. Trans-uranic (TRU) military wastes are buried at WIPP in a salt formation. In Feb. 2014, in the space of just several days, WIPP experienced both an underground fire, as well as an underground burial barrel burst that resulted in airborne radioactive contamination that fell out over a wide area into the downwind surface environment.
Holtec International is infamous for major quality assurance violations in the design and manufacture of containers that would be used to ship irradiated nuclear fuel to a parking lot dump, as well as containers that would be used to store the high-level radioactive waste there.
Industry whistleblower Oscar Shirani questioned the structural integrity of the Holtec casks sitting still, let alone speeding 60 mph -- or faster -- down the rails. He was supported in his concerns by NRC dry cask storage inspector, Dr. Ross Landsman, who, on a WTTW PBS t.v. interview, compared the risk-taking by industry and NRC to the kind of behavior that led to "Space Shuttles hitting the ground."
The fire at WIPP in early Feb. 2014 sent numerous workers to the emergency room with smoke inhalation. One was permanently disabled by the accident.
The barrel burst a few days later resulted in around two-dozen workers at the surface suffering ultra-hazardous inhalation doses of trans-uranic radiation (alpha-particle emitting plutonium), putting them at significantly increased risk of contracting latent lung cancer. WIPP has been shut since this Valentine's Day, 2014 accident. DOE has estimated it will cost around $500 million to recover from the burst of a single barrel. The Los Angeles Times estimates it will cost a billion dollars. DOE hopes to re-open WIPP yet this year.
For its part, WCS already dumps all categories of so-called "low" level radioactive waste either immediately adjacent to, or even directly above, the Ogallala Aquifer. That aquifer provides vital drinking and irrigation water for a large number of Great Plains states, between Texas and South Dakota.
As yet another example of WCS's out of control risk taking, the dumpsite accepted 100+ barrels packed with the same volatile mix that burst in the WIPP underground, at its surface storage and trench disposal site in west TX. Those barrels have now baked in several summer season suns, at very high temperatures, risking another barrel burst -- this time on the surface of the land, rather than in an underground repository. If a barrel bursts at WCS, the radioactive release directly to the environment would be much worse than what took place 2,000-feet underground at WIPP in Feb. 2014 (which nonetheless resulted in contamination escaping the underground, via ventilation shafts, up into the biosphere).
Lombard wrote in his blog cited above that: We expect the review process to take us about three years, assuming WCS provides us with good information in a timely way during our review.
Thus, depending on NRC's sufficiency review, the agency could rubber-stamp the WCS construction and operating license sometime around 2020. This would jive with DOE's stated goal of opening a "pilot" consolidated interim storage site by 2021, for commercial irradiated fuel from so-called "orphaned" or "stranded" sites, and then a full-scale parking lot dump by 2024.
This push by industry and NRC to open parking lot dumps comes at the very same time that a U.S. Senate energy and water appropriations bill -- sponsored by Sens. Alexander (R-TN) and Feinstein (D-CA) -- would authorize the transfer of title and liability for the irradiated nuclear fuel, from the nuclear utiliities which generated and profited from the high-level radioactive waste, to the U.S. taxpayer.
(In 2013 U.S. Senate legislation that Sens. Alexander (R-TN) and Feinstein (D-CA) also had a major hand in, a preference was stated that the pilot and full-scale parking lot dumps could happen at the same location. They even stated the preference that a permanent geologic repository also be established on the same site, if possible.)
The U.S. House has resisted supporting parking lot dumps -- but only because Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) want the Yucca Mountain, NV permanent dump-site as part of the industry-wish-list package too.
(Regarding Yucca, NRC has just completed its long-delayed final supplement to the environmental impact statement (EIS), something U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland ruled was "the doing of a useless thing." As they have done repeatedly when earlier volumes of the supplemental EIS have been published by NRC, Upton and Shimkus can be expected to trumpet this latest report as proof positive that Yucca is a suitable radioactive waste burial site. However, they have consistently failed to mention another thing that NRC has reported -- DOE lacks clear title to the land and water rights at the site, an insurmountable hurdle to proceeding with the dump, given the State of Nevada's adamant opposition to being "screwed." The most common name for the 1987 amendments to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, that singled out Nevada for being dumped on at Yucca, is "the Screw Nevada bill." Even President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future cited "the Screw Nevada bill" in its Jan. 2012 Final Report.)
Meanwhile, DOE continues its "Consent-Based Siting" dog and pony shows around the country. The most recent meeting was held in Sacramento, CA on Chernobyl's 30th anniversary, April 26, 2016.
As an environmental coalition put it in a press release, Goals of U.S. Department of Energy Meeting in Sacramento April 26 would Trigger Largest Nuclear Shipping Campaign in History: California Cities Would be Fukushima Freeways.
The coalition also released a map showing likely irradiated nuclear fuel shipping routes through CA, should the WCS parking lot dump in TX open. In addition, the coalition published a map showing likely national impacts of the WCS proposal.
Another map shows the national impacts of the Yucca Mountain, NV dumpsite, in terms of shipping high-level radioactive waste in large numbers through most states.
See the previous Beyond Nuclear website post about the U.S. Senate effort to open a parking lot dump, as well as DOE's "Consent-Based Siting" dog and pony shows being held across the country. (The next one will be held May 24th in Denver, CO.)
And see Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste website section for more background information, as well as ways you can take action.
We've stopped such dumps before, and must do so again now.
To its shame, a decade ago the "Nuclear Racism Commission" rubber-stamped a license for centralized interim storage of 40,000 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel, on the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in west UT. NRC did so, despite 437 environmental justice organizations urging the agency not to do so. Fortunately, that parking lot dump was blocked from ever opening, despite NRC's flippant rubber-stamp approval. (See the NIRS website sub-section, for more information.)
What can you do to resist parking lot dumps, Yucca Mountain, and Mobile Chernobyls?
Contact your U.S. Represenative and your U.S. Senators, and urge them to oppose centralized interim storage, the permanent dumpsite at Yucca in Nevada, as well as the accompanying high-risk shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel that would be launched on roads, rails, and waterways. In addition to contacting your Congress Members via the links above, you can also phone their Washington, D.C. offices via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.