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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
Feb032016

U.S. Senate approves bill to put Army Corps in charge of West Lake landfill

This radiation warning sign is one of many posted on the chain link fence surrounding part of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. Credit Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public RadioAs reported by St. Louis Public Radio, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill, S. 2306, transferring oversight authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), for the West Lake Landfill Manhattan Project-era radioactive wastes illegally dumped there.

Concerned local residents and environmental groups, from Just Moms STL to Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE), have long called for the transfer to ACE, for the dangerous wastes to be remediated, rather than just capped and abandoned in place, as long proposed by EPA.

As documented by a 1989 St. Louis Post-Dispatch multi-part, front page investigative series by Caroline Bower, as well as a Dec. 12, 1990 article in The Riverfront Times, very active citizen watch-dogging has persisted for decades.

The 1990 Riverfront Times article quotes Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey of St. Louis, who has long been deeply concerned about the potential for catastrophic flooding at West Lake Landfill, as it is located in the Missouri River flood plain.

In 2015, Kay published a pamphlet, warning about the risks to the drinking water supply of metro St. Louis. It includes a map, showing that the radioactive wastes at West Lake Landfill are upstream of the drinking water intakes for North County and the City of St. Louis, on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

For the past several years, concern has deepened over an underground fire at an adjacent garbage dump, slowly burning its way towards West Lake Landfill's buried radioactive wastes. Just Moms STL, MCE, and others' tireless organizing have succeeded in garnering extensive local and national media coverage. Fox 2 Now interviewed Just Moms leader, Dawn Chapman of Bridgeton, regarding the successful passage of the U.S. Senate bill.

In a recent edition of the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, Beyond Nuclear board member Lucas Hixson co-authored a study confirming that radium and uranium had migrated off-site from West Lake Landfill, into neighboring communities.

The U.S. House now picks up the matter, with a companion bill introduced before the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Monday
Feb012016

Take action to stop the Great Lakes nuclear waste dump!

Visit Stop the Great Lake Nuclear Dump's website at www.stopthegreatlakesnucleardump.comPlease act ASAP. Canada's Environment Minister has announced a decision by March 1st at the latest, on whether or not to proceed with a radioactive waste dump on the Great Lakes shore -- drinking water supply for 40 million people in eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations. She could act at any time, and is certainly formulating her decision as we speak, so please act right away!

Write to Canada's Prime Minister and Environment Minister, respectively: Justin.Trudeau@parl.gc.ca & Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca. (yes, even if you are American!)

Urge them to decide NO! on Ontario Power Generation's proposed Deep Geologic Repository for radioactive waste on the Great Lakes shore! More.

Thursday
Jan212016

Save the Date: DOE announces "Consent-Based Siting" public comment mtgs. in Chicago (March) & Atlanta (April)

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.

[Update: DOE has extended the public comment deadline to July 31, 2016: DOE is extending the comment period for the "Invitation for Public Comment to Inform the Design of a Consent-Based Siting Process for Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal Facilities'' to July 31, 2016. See the Federal Register Notice, dated March 22, 2016.]

Thank you to everyone who attended in person, or watch-dogged via Webinar, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) "Consent-Based Siting kick-off" meeting in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20th.

The environmental justice and public interest movement more than held its own yesterday! Just as the environmental movement has pushed back against the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "Nuke Waste Con Game" for the past several years (see photo, left), we will also have to resist DOE's current attempt to force high-level radioactive waste dumps down communities' throats!

There, DOE announced the next round of public comment meetings, in Chicago in March, and Atlanta in April. DOE said it will announce the details on location, exact date, and exact times in the near future. (DOE said it hadn't worked out those logistical details; however, disconcertiingly, in a one-on-one conversation during the closing poster session of yesterday's event, a contractor for DOE, who emceed the formal program on state, asked Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps how much advance notice the public needs for such events? Kevin replied, as much as possible!) Several additional meetings around the country will be held, before the public comment deadline on June 15, DOE said.

True to form, yesterday's meeting largely boiled down to DOE Office of Nuclear Energy leadership singing the praises of nuclear power's preservation, and expansion. For them, "solving the radioactive waste problem" is but a pesky road bump on the way to a nuclear power "Renaissance." And achieving "consent" for siting radioactive waste dumps is now a top priority for them. Problem is, "consent" has not even been defined, and may not be! One of DOE's main speakers yesterday even went so far as to say that "consent" could mean different things in different places, under different circumstances! It is clear DOE will do all it can to twist the definition of "consent" as much as necessary to achieve its goal: the opening of radioactive waste dumps.

This pro-nuclear promotion is very similar to how the public was treated during the 2010-2012 Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future process. In fact, a number of the DOE officials presiding over yesterday's meeting, were BRC staffers.

John Kotek, for example, presided over yesterday's meeting as DOE Acting Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. But Kotek was Staff Director at BRC.

Mary Woolen, BRC Government and Community Liaison, is currently playing a similar role at DOE.

Timothy Frazier, BRC Designated Federal Official, is still actively engaged at DOE on these matters, and was in attendance at yesterday's event.

And perhaps the icing on the uranium yellowcake, Dr. Ernest Moniz, then BRC member, is now DOE Secretary.

But after all, DOE Office of Nuclear Energy "hosted" BRC, as a part of its structure. With an executive branch agency mandated to promote nuclear power, "hosting" the panel charged with finding a solution for the radioactive waste problem, the conflicts of interest are all too clear. Of course, the very name of the panel, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, was a very bad sign from the very beginning!

Such revolving doors between "public service" and "nuclear industry promotion" mean that the public often gets "served" all right -- up for dinner, to industry lobbyists! -- during these DOE meetings and proceedings.

That said, public attendees pushed back yesterday, against any such agenda, at every oppotunity -- which the DOE kept to a minimum, as by denying any oral public comment opportunity, or any direct microphone time for critics.

"Consent-based" is but a focus-grouped, catchy PR phrase and concept for DOE, it appears. A way to gloss over, and get past, citizen concern and public opposition, on the road to DOE's, and the nuclear power industry it serves, goals. Although DOE gives lip service to public engagement and involvement, it is clear the agency's agenda is opening one or more parking lot dumps for irradiated nuclear fuel in as little as five years from now. This would launch the largest high-level radioactive waste shipping campaign in history, on the roads, rails, and waterways of most states. It would also transfer the title, and liability, for the mountain of radioactive waste generated over the past 60 years by the commercial nuclear power industry, onto the backs of taxpayers.

But representatives from numerous environmental groups (Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, Snake River Alliance, Southwest Research and Information Center, Union of Concerned Scientists, and others in the room and/or on the Webinar), attending in person or via the Webinar, asked tough questions of DOE.

DOE did not allow official public comments to be delivered orally at its DC meeting. A number of complaints were made, about the absurdity of a public comment period "kick off" meeting, with no opportunity for oral public comment!

But DOE did circulate blank question cards, and spent over an hour addressing questions submitted in writing. DOE also entertained questions submitted online via the Webinar, as well as by email.

(This nonetheless left many of the written questions from the public unaddressed, given the inadequate amount of time DOE allotted; DOE carved out an entire hour at the end for a "getting to know you," cocktail party without the alcohol poster session in the DC hotel conference room. DOE did say, however, it would address unansweredd questions, in writing, and post the results at its website.)

Three of the four questions submitted in writing by Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, for example, were read aloud and addressed (albeit inadequately, and with objectionable answers) by DOE.

Kevin asked:

(1.) Why DOE was still driving this train, when the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future had recommended DOE's replacement with a new, independent agency, due to the deep public distrust of DOE after years and decades of agency failure at radioactive waste management and public process;

(2.) What about "consent" from transport corridor communities along high-level radioactive waste shipment routes?

(3.) DOE argues that "stranded" or "orphaned" irradiated nuclear fuel from permanently shut down atomic reactors is a priority for shipping to centralized interim storage "parking lot dumps," so that decommissioned nuclear power plant sites can be released for "un-restricted re-use"; but what about community groups, such as at Big Rock Point, MI, and Citizens Awareness Network of the Northeast, who live in the shadows of dry cask storage installations, who have said "not in our names" can the wastes be transferred to other communities, in a way that violates environmental justice, not to mention the "Mobile Chernobyl" transport risks.

DOE's answers left a lot to be desired:

(1.) DOE would remain in charge, and advance its agenda, until a new change in law by Congress and the White House ordered it to do otherwise, and/or set up that new, independent "nuclear waste management organization";

(2.) the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution trumps opposition to shipments along the road, rail, and waterway routes, so consent is not even required;

(3.) DOE welcomes input from those communities living near "stranded" waste in the course of this "Consent-Based Siting" proceeding, but see the benefits to taxpayers as an over-riding factor (in terms of the damage awards nuclear utilities are winning in court, due to DOE's breach of contracts).

The one question of Kevin's that DOE did not read aloud or address in the group session was why there was no opportunity provided for oral comments at this public comment process "kick off" meeting.

Among the many other questions that were read aloud, and addressed (albeit inadequately, and in an objectionable way) was one from Don Hancock from SRIC (who attended by Webinar), as to how many times, and for how long a period, a community or state had to say "No," before DOE would recognize its non-consent to hosting a radioactive waste dump. Alarmingly, DOE's response was that hope springs eternal, that they are optimists, and that they are confident that if they keep pushing, they will achieve consent-based siting, somewhere, somehow, someday.

Another strong question was asked by Allison Fisher of Public Citizen: how can consent from future generations be determined? If future generations withdraw their consent, even at a site where an earlier generation gave its consent, how will this be dealt with? DOE's non-answer? That would be up to the host community to figure out!

Another questioner asked, how, and how late in the process, could a community or state withdraw its consent? DOE answered that after a license application had been filed to construct and operate a dump, then it would be too late for a community to withdraw its consent and back out. DOE is seeking legally, contractually enforceable commitments from host communities/states.

DOE handed out info. packets at the DC meeting. Many of the documents contained therein are posted on DOE's website, at:

http://energy.gov/ne/downloads/agenda-consent-based-siting-initiative-kick-meeting

and

http://energy.gov/ne/consent-based-siting

Kevin also took notes during this 1/20/16 DOE meeting in DC, posted here.

Wednesday
Jan202016

DOE undertaking logistical planning for shipment of "stranded" or "orphaned" high-level radioactive waste away from decommissioned nuclear power plants to de facto permanent parking lot dumps

The U.S. Department of Energy is pushing the envelope of its legal authority, and undertaking detailed logistical planning for the shipment of irradiated nuclear fuel from shutdown commercial atomic reactors.

The resultant study is entitled:

"Preliminary Evaluation of Removing Used Nuclear Fuel from Shutdown Sites," Fuel Cycle Research & Development, Prepared for U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Fuels Storage and Transportation Planning Project, Steven J. Maheras (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), et al., October 1, 2014, FCRD- NFST-2014-000091 Rev. 1, PNNL-22676 Rev. 4.

It is posted online at:

http://www.pnnl.gov/main/publications/external/technical_reports/PNNL-22676Rev4.pdf

The primary author, Steven J. Maheras, attended the Jan. 20, 2016 DOE "Consent-Based Siting" public meeting in Washington, DC, for opening de facto permanent parking lot dumps, as well as permament burial dumps. [Maheras also attended a meeting of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (on high-burnup fuel, including its transport), held in Knoxville, TN on February 17, 2016, as well as the DOE "Consent-Based Siting" meeting in Chicago on March 27, 2016.]

This report contains significant detail about transport logistics for "stranded" or "orphaned" waste. DOE and the nuclear power industry have used the excuse of "stranded" or "orphaned" irradiated nuclear fuel, at permanently shutdown and even entirely dismantled nuclear power plant sites, as a primary driver for launching Mobile Chernobyls, Floating Fukushimas, and Dirty Bombs on Wheels on the roads, rails, and waterways. The supposed justification for rushing into nonsensical "centralized interim storage" is to free up those decommissioned nuclear power plant sites for "unrestricted re-use." This emphasis on returning the sites to productive use ignores the residual hazardous radioactive contamination still present in soil, groundwater, fauna and flora, even after astronomically expensive decommissioning and "clean up" has been declared complete.

Wednesday
Jan132016

"Door cracks open to U.S. nuclear waste storage in Great Lakes basin"

A 2009 photo of the Wolf River, a tributary of the Fox River, near Lily, Wis. at a military park along Wisconsin Highway 55. The river is designated a National Wild and Scenic River. (Wikimedia Commons | Royalbroil) As reported by Garret Ellison at MLive, the State of Wisconsin House of Representatives' passage by voice vote (meaning how individual members voted was not recorded) of Assembly Bill 384 would open up the state to not only new atomic reactors, but also a radioative waste dump.

The legislation -- which has not yet cleared the State of Wisconsin Senate -- would repeal a 33-year old ban on new reactors in the state. As reported by Al Gedicks, executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, the ban was enacted in the first place, to protect Wisconsin from being targeted for a national high-level radioactive waste dump.

In the 1980s, Wisconsin was at the very top of the list for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in its "Eastern site search" for a commercial irradiated nuclear fuel and nuclear weapons complex high-level radioactive waste dump-site.

DOE specifically targeted a granite formation in northern WI named the Wolf River Batholith (see photo, above left). Another granite formation under consideration in northern WI by DOE was the Puritan Pluton.

But the Eastern site search was indefinitely suspended in 1986, and the sole focus for a national dump-site became Yucca Mountain with the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987 (officially entited the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act). A clause in the "Screw Nevada bill" prohibited granite formations from being further considered, but a 2008 DOE report revealed that the agency was still interested in the potential for a granite repository in any of a large number of states, including WI. And current DOE experimentation with deep borehole disposal is specifically focused on granite geology.

As Gedicks warned, Assembly Bill 384's passage by voice vote in the WI State House of Representatives has moved the state one step closer to placing itself back on DOE's target list for an Eastern high-level radioactive waste dump. Let's hope the WI State Senate has more wisdom, than to get rid of such basic protections.