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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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Wednesday
Dec232015

NRC Commissioners refuse to re-open Fermi 2 record; Beyond Nuclear will appeal to federal court on Nuke Waste Con Game

NRC file photo of Fermi 2 atomic reactor in Frenchtown Twp., Monroe County, MI on the Lake Erie shoreline.In an Atomic Scrooge move of their own, the four U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Commissioners voted unanimously to deny Beyond Nuclear's motion to re-open the record in the Fermi 2 license extension proceeding, because it relies on an illegal Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

Fermi 2 is a General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4. However Fermi 2 is super-sized, nearly as large as Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 put together. Detroit Edison has applied for a 2025-2045 license extension at Fermi 2, and NRC appears to be very amenable to rubber-stamping that.

Beyond Nuclear attended the hastily scheduled NRC Commissioners Affirmation Session at the agency's HQ. The Fermi 2 portion of the meeting last 30 seconds.

In dispute is NRC's Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel Generic Environmental Impact Statement and Rule. This NRC policy was formerly called Nuclear Waste Confidence, which critics renamed the Nuke Waste Con Game.

Beyond Nuclear will now appeal this NRC decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second highest court in the land, just beneath the U.S. Supreme Court. There, the case will be joined with many others, focused on the same issue, in a case called New York v. NRC II.

The New York v. NRC I ruling was issued by the D.C. Circuit in June 2012. Ruling in favor of an environmental coalition, and alliance of states and an Indian tribe (the Prairie Island Indian Community of Minnesota), the court ordered NRC to undertake an Environmental Impact Statement, due to the illegality of its Nuclear Waste Confidence policy.

The Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel GEIS and Rule are the result. But the same environmental coalition, and alliance of states and the Prairie Island Indian Community are back, alleging that NRC's final product flouts the previous court order, and is still in violation of various laws (National Environmental Policy Act, Atomic Energy Act, Administrative Procedures Act).

Beyond Nuclear is honored to be one of nine environmental groups, bringing 17 NRC licensing proceedings before the D.C. Court of Appeals. Beyond Nuclear's proceedings include the Davis-Besse license extension in OH, the Fermi 2 license extension in MI, and the Fermi 3 proposed new reactor license.

Toledo attorney Terry Lodge serves as Beyond Nuclear's legal counsel in all three proceedings. D.C. attorney Diane Curran, and Atlantic attorney Mindy Goldstein of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University, serve as Beyond Nuclear's legal counsel in New York v. NRC II.

Oral arguments are scheduled for New York v. NRC II on February 22, 2016.

Another victory would enable us to seek suspension of licensing proceedings still underway, and reversal of license proceedings already completed -- until NRC addresses the illegalities of its Nuke Waste Con Game.

Beyond Nuclear's intervention coalition parters at Fermi 2 include Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (CEA) and Don't Waste Michigan (DWM). Our intervention partners at Fermi 3 include CEA, DWM, as well as Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. At Davis-Besse, in addition to CEA and DWM, our intervention coalition also includes Ohio Green Party (and Sierra Club joined us in a separate intervention, against risky steam generator replacements).

In related Fermi 2 news, the coalition has requested the full time it deserves, under law and regulation, to submit comments on NRC's Draft Supplemental EIS in the license extension proceeding. The NRC's arbitrarily short deadline was set for Dec. 28, but NRC has agreed to consider comments received by Jan. 5. Beyond Nuclear plans to submit comments.

Friday
Nov272015

Great Lakes Nuke Dump Decision Postponed; Critics Call for Dump's Cancellation

OPG's DUD would be built on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by water, just 3/4ths of a mile from the shoreline of the Great Lakes.The newly appointed Canadian Environment Minister, the Honorable Catherine McKenna, has postponed the deadline for deciding whether or not to approve Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposal to bury radioactive wastes on the Great Lakes shore at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario. The deadline had been next Wednesday, December 2, 2015; she has postponed the decision until March 1, 2016.

Beyond Nuclear has issued a press release (see the Word version for live links to relevant documents). In it, Beyond Nuclear thanks a bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation of 32 Senators and Representatives for writing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and urging him to cancel the Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) outright, or at the very least, postpone the decision until they can meet with him in person to communicate the concerns and objections of tens of millions of U.S. citizens in eight Great Lakes states. Beyond Nuclear has expressed confidence that Minister McKenna's review of the 13 years of growing resistance to the DUD (short for Deep Underground Dump) will convince her to reject OPG’s proposal as unacceptably risky to the drinking water supply for 40 million people. See Beyond Nuclear's Canada website section for more information.

Friday
Nov202015

State of Nevada refuses to be "screwed" by half-baked attempt to revive cancelled Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump

Native Community Action Council bumper stickerRobert J. Halstead, the Executive Director of the State of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects, serving under the Office of the Governor, Brian Sandoval, has submitted comments to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on the agency's Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) on Yucca Mountain. The comments comprise powerful pushback against the half-baked attempt to revive the cancelled Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump. The chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has called the entire NRC SDEIS proceeding "a useless act," a multi-million dollar waste of time, energy, and taxpayer resources, not to mention public involvement.

Thus, the State of Nevada continues its tradition of resistance to the high-level radioactive waste dump that began with the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987, the most common name for the Amendments to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that singled out Nevada as the only site to be further studied for high-level radioactive waste disposal, despite its scientific unsuitability, known to the U.S. Department of Energy since the early 1980s. The "Screw Nevada bill," orchestrated by more politically powerful states also targeted for the country's first repository (Texas, Washington, and many in the East and Midwest), abandoned a process of scientific integrity and regional equity (90% of the commercial irradiated nuclear fuel in the U.S. is located in the eastern half of the country!), embracing raw politics instead.

As long-time, leading anti-Yucca dump advocate, Dr. Arjun Makhijani of IEER has put it, Yucca is the most unsuitable site for an irradiated nuclear fuel repository ever studied. The only way the dump project was repeatedly kept on life support for decades on end was by way of "double-standard standards," Dr. Makhijani has pointed out. That is, if Yucca could not meet the standards, they were either weakened or done away with.

Nevada's comments included appendices prepared by the Native Community Action Council, and Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, whose members live downstream of Yucca Mountain, and would drink the massive releases of hazardous radioactivity that would occur into the groundwater, if the dump is ever opened.

Friday
Nov202015

Resisting environmental racism at Yucca Mountain, Nevada

Corbin Harney (standing), Western Shoshone spiritual leader, and Raymond Yowell, then Western Shoshone Indian Nation chief, at Peace Camp, NV, Oct. 2002, leading protests against nuclear weapons testing, militarism, and radioactive waste dumping at the Nevada Test Site. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.November 20th marked the end of a rushed, "going-through-the motions" Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a thinly veiled attempt to revive the cancelled Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump in Nevada.

NRC didn't even bother to provide advance notice to the affected Indian tribes downstream from the targeted site, let alone consult with them in a government-to-government manner, as is the agency's legal obligation. But at least NRC is consistent: it didn't provide any funding to the tribes, either, placing an extraordinary burden on the tribal nations to meet the arbitrarily-short deadline. In this regard, NRC's SDEIS public comment proceeding itself was a violation of environmental justice (EJ), not to mention the agency's biased push to bury 70,000 metric tons, or more, of high-level radioactive waste on indigenous land, guaranteed to leak into the precious, even sacred, drinking water supply.

Despite NRC's own EJ violations, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe and the Native Community Action Council met the deadline, with powerful comments. They thereby continued a tradition of protecting Yucca Mountain, and its groundwater, that dates back not just years or decades, but centuries and millenia, to time immemorial. More.

Sunday
Nov012015

Where is America’s cyberdefense plan?

The Empire State Building towers over the skyline of a blackout-darkened New York City just before dawn. (George Widman/Associated Press)That is the online title of an op-ed by Ted Koppel appearing in the Washington Post (the hardcopy headline reads "Before the cyber-blackout"). Koppel, best known for hosting the ABC news program “Nightline” from 1980 to 2005, is the author of the new book, Lights Out: A Cyberattack, a Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.

The op-ed raises the specter of a power outage lasting not hours, or days, but weeks, or months, due to a coordinated cyber-attack on the vulnerable U.S. electricity grid.

But the op-ed does not address what this would mean at the 100 still operating atomic reactors across the country, and even at the numerous atomic reactors permanently shutdown.

Even if operating atomic reactors were able to power down and shutdown safely during a power outage, their thermally hot cores would still have to be cooled for several days, or longer, before cold shutdown was reached, or else risk melting down.

Although high-level radioactive waste storage pools would have a longer fuse -- days or even weeks before boiling would expose irradiated nuclear fuel to air, and risk a catastrophic fire -- the pools are not even required to be connected to emergency diesel generators, as reactors are. More.