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.



Beyond Nuclear's comments to DOE on so-called "Consent-Based Siting" or radioactive waste dumps

Environmental coalition members from the Crabshell Alliance, Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign, NIRS, PSR, NEIS, and Public Citizen "just say NO!" at the NRC HQ nuke waste con game public comment meeting on 11/14/13 in Rockville, MD. Photo credit David Martin and Erica Grey.Beyond Nuclear submitted six sets of comments to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), by the July 31st deadline, re: "Consent-Based Siting" for so-called "centralized interim storage sites" (de facto permanent parking lot dumps), as well as permanent burial dumps (such as long targeted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada), for high-level radioactive waste/irradiated nuclear fuel.

The first set comprised Beyond Nuclear's "Top Ten List" of "We Do NOT Consent!" talking points.

The second set comprised Beyond Nuclear's two-page version of the "We Do NOT Consent!" talking points, providing more detail.

The third set comprised Beyond Nuclear's 13-page version of the "We Do NOT Consent!" talking points, providing yet more detail.

The fourth set, a 10-page document, protested the very illegitimacy of the DOE's entire "Consent-Based Siting" defintion-setting proceeding. Specifically, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (which, ironically enough, Energy Secretary Moniz was a commission member of, and several DOE officials in charge of "Consent-Based Siting" were lead staff members of) highly recommended that DOE no longer remain in charge of irradiated nuclear fuel management, or policy setting. This was due to the countless failures, and betrayals of the public's trust, over many years and even decades, perpetrated by DOE. And yet, DOE initiated and conducted the "Consent-Based Siting" proceeding, and appears determined to simply continue on, setting high-level radioactive waste management policies, despite the Blue Ribbon Commission's strong recommendation to the contrary.

The fifth set, a 10-page document, is entitled STOP RADIOACTIVE RACISM! It chronicles decades of DOE, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and nuclear power industry attemps to dump high-level radioactive waste on Native American reservations, lands, and communities across the U.S. It protests DOE's ongoing environmental injustice, even during this so-called "Consent-Based Siting" proceeding. But one example is DOE's decision to invite the infamous DOE Nuclear Waste Negotiator from the 1980s to 1990s, David Leroy, to participate on the panel at the Boise, Idaho public meeting. Two attachments accompanied this set of comments: President Barack Obama's March 2009 Women's History Month proclamation, honoring Grace Thorpe for blocking radioactive waste dumps targeted at Native American communities; and "Radioactive Racism: The History of Targeting Native American Communities with High-Level Atomic Waste Dumps," a six-page, fully referenced backgrounder prepared by NIRS and Public Citizen on June 14, 2005.

The sixth set comprised the submission of two documents for the record. Both documents came out of the same event, Citizen Awareness Network's (CAN) "People's Summit on High-Level Radioactive Waste," held at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT from April 12-14, 2002. The first document, entitled "Indigenous Anti-Nuclear Statement: Yucca Mountain and Private Fuel Storage at Skull Valley," was prepared for the event. The second document, "Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors," although promulgated in September 2006 (and later updated in March 2010), nonetheless had its origins at this same 2002 CAN event. Dr. Arjun Makhijani of IEER coined the phrase "Hardened On-Site Storage" (HOSS) at the 2002 event; the 2006 Principles (updated in 2010) hammered out, in writing, the HOSS principles, which have since been endorsed by hundreds of environmental organizations, representing all 50 states.

In addition to the written submissions above, Beyond Nuclear attended multiple DOE "Consent-Based Siting" meetings across the country, and provided additional verbal comments there.

Beyond Nuclear attended DOE's Jan. 20th "Kick-Off" meeting in Washington, D.C., firing off numerous questions there (incredibly enough, and very tellingly, DOE did not provide an oral public comment opportunity at this "Kick-Off" meeting for a seven month long public comment proceeding!).

Beyond Nuclear also attended DOE's March 29th meeting in Chicago, as reported by Kari Lydersen in Midwest Energy News.

(See comprehensive coverage, in multiple Beyond Nuclear website posts, about the Chicago meeting at the Radioactive Waste section, between the dates March 18 and March 31, 2016.)

And Beyond Nuclear also attended DOE's meeting in Boston, MA, on June 2nd, as reported by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!. There, Beyond Nuclear pointed out that it is disingenuous that the U.S. federal government and nuclear industry are now seeking public consent to dispose of high-level radioactive waste, when they never sought consent for the generation of nuclear waste in any of the operational licensing and license extension proceedings.

In fact, when the DOE was conducting its aborted 1986 crystalline rock repository search in New England, 130 town meetings in New Hampshire took up the issue in warrant articles.  Of those town meetings in the Granite State, 100 town meetings adopted the common language "to oppose the burial, storage, transportation and production of high-level nuclear waste" in the state of New Hampshire. (New Hampshire was targeted for a national high-level radioactive waste dumpsite -- seven historic towns faced extinction, as documented in this 2007 Beyond Nuclear backgrounder.)


Public Citizen's comments to DOE re: "Consent-Based Siting"

Public Citizen has published a press release, with a link to its comments to the U.S. Department of Energy regarding "Consent-Based Siting" of radioactive waste storage and disposal facilities.


IEER's Comments on the “Design of a Consent-Based Siting Process for Nuclear Waste and Disposal Storage Facilities”

Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., President of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Energy on the “Design of a Consent-Based Siting Process for Nuclear Waste and Disposal Storage Facilities.”


Fairewinds Energy Education Comments on "Consent Based Nuclear Siting"

Radioactive waste being dumped in an unlined ditchFairewinds Energy Education just submitted its comment to the United States Department of Energy regarding its "Consent based siting" process. Should you decide to comment, learn more here. Comments are due Sunday, July 31

Fairewinds Energy Education Comments on "Consent Based Nuclear Siting"

“Consent based siting” is the process proposed by the Department of Energy (DOE) to locate radioactive waste dump sites around the US.  Fairewinds Energy Education believes that such a process is biased against communities struggling financially due to factory closings and the global economy. Choosing an atomic waste dump is tempting to towns and villages so anxious to increase short term income and economic survival that they are willing to sacrifice long-term environmental damage in return for that income.  

At its heart, the consent based process is an environmental justice violation as well as a DOE method to avoid finding an appropriate scientifically viable site to dump by foisting it on impoverished citizens who will not mount a protest. 

Nuclear waste remains toxic for tens of thousands of years.  The consent based siting proposed by the DOE lures currently underemployed citizens to commit their hometown community for hundreds of future generations of potential genetic damage in return for a short term income gain to a few individuals, who own that land. 

While atomic power reactors have left all of us with mountains of radioactive garbage that will need monitoring and special handling for hundreds, and even thousands, of years, instead the DOE must find the best waste dump location, and not just stick the waste where the fewest individuals will launch protest actions.  When Litchfield County Connecticut and Orange County California have an equal chance at being chosen to be the site of a nuclear waste dump as environmentally sensitive low income counties in Texas or Native American reservations in the west, the DOE will have succeeded in optimizing its search for a waste disposal site.  The current Consent Based Siting process violates the basic tenants of environmental justice.


NRDC: Response to DOE’s Invitation for Public Comment To Inform the Design of a Consent-Based Siting Process for Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal Facilities

NRDC's logoNatural Resources Defense Council, Inc., (NRDC) has submitted its Response to DOE’s Invitation for Public Comment To Inform the Design of a Consent-Based Siting Process for Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal Facilities to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

One of the authors of NRDC's Response, Geoffrey H. Fettus, NRDC Senior Attorney, served as legal counsel for an environmental coalition (including NRDC, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Public Citizen, and others) from 2002 to 2004 that won a major legal victory against the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dump. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in Nuclear Energy Institute v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ruled in favor of the environmental coalition, and State of Nevada, and ordered EPA back to the drawing boards on its Yucca dump safety, health, and environmental protection regulations. The agency had tried to cut off regulations at 10,000 years, long before the hazard of the radioactivity waste would dissipate.

Four long years later, in 2008, EPA had finalized its court-ordered rewrite of the regulations. The agency acknowledged that high-level radioactive waste would remain hazardous for a million years, 100 times longer than EPA had first admitted. (Even this is an underestimate: Iodine-129, for example, present in irradiated nuclear fuel, has a half-life of 15.7 million years; its hazardous persistence, then, is 157 to 314 million years!)

The legal victory played a huge role in blocking the momentum of the Yucca Moutain dump during the George W. Bush administration. The Obama administration later cancelled the dump project as "unworkable," and U.S. Senator Harry Reid, Democratic Senate Leader from Nevada, successfully blocked any further funding for the highly controversial and scientifically unsuitable dump scheme.

Most recently, Fettus, on behalf of NRDC, worked with an environmental coalition (including Beyond Nuclear), and its legal counsel (Diane Curran and Mindy Goldstein), to challenge the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Nuclear Waste Confidence policy.

(After an adverse ruling by a three-judge panel on June 3, 2016, the environmental coalition on July 18th appealed its case to the full (en banc) U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.)

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