The current federal government shutdown belies the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence." NRC holds that high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) can be stored safely, soundly, and securely, not just during atomic reactor operations, but for 60 years post-shutdown, 160 years, or even forevermore. NRC's false confidence applies not only at the reactor sites where the HLRW was generated in the first place, but also at away-from-reactor, so-called centralized or consolidated interim storage sites, what critics have dubbed de facto permanent parking lot dumps.
One of NRC's overly optimistic assumptions is that institutional memory, and societal control, will continue forevemore into the future. NRC's assumption ignores the fact, as pointed out by environmental coalition expert witness Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, that the oldest of human institutions, such as the Catholic Church, are but two millenia old. He also pointed out that North America has experienced major disruptive and violent societal events, such as the War of 1812, and the Civil War, within the past 150 to 200 years. This begs the question, might future, violent societal upheavals put the storage of HLRW at risk in the next century or two to come, not to mention further out in time? After all, even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was forced to admit, under a hard-won court order by an environmental coalition, that HLRWs remain hazardous for a million years. Actually, that's an under estimate. The radioactive poison Iodine-129, for example, has a half-life of 15.7 million years, which means its hazardous persistance lasts at least 157 million years, and perhaps even 314 million years (10 to 20 half-lives).
One of NRC's most far-fetched assumptions is that the HLRW dry cask storage systems, structures, and components can and will be entirely replaced once per century. In order to do this, unprecedented, unproven Dry Transfer Systems (DTS) will have to be built. Every hundred years, NRC assumes the inner canisters, dry casks, dry cask pads, and DTSs will be replaced, safely and smoothly, forevermore into the future, with no cut off point, if a deep geologic repository is never opened. However, NRC does not estimate the price tag for doing such replacements forevermore, nor identify where that funding will come from.
As part of its court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), NRC had committed to hold some two-dozen public comment meetings across the U.S. Beyond Nuclear attended the very first one, at NRC HQ in Rockville, MD, on October 1st, and testified. Beyond Nuclear had planned on participating at a number of other meetings as well, including Toledo on Oct. 15th, Chicago on Oct. 24th, Orlando on Nov. 6th, and NRC HQ again on Nov. 14th. Beyond Nuclear had pre-registered to provide oral comments at each of these meetings, as requested by NRC. Now, NRC has either postponed, or outright canceled (it's not clear yet) all those, as well as all the rest, of its public comment meetings. Many hundreds of concerned citizens and environmental group representatives had planned on attending these meetings. Now travel arrangements have to be postponed or cancelled, including having to deal with airline tickets that are no longer needed.
NRC cannot assure institutional control even today, as shown, ironically, by the cancellation of long-planned public comment meetings about its "Nuclear Waste Confidence," or nuke waste con game (see photo, above left, taken at the Oct. 1st meeting).
So what can be done? Written comments are still being accepted by NRC. The current deadline is Nov. 27th. You can submit written comments via webform, email, snail mail, or fax. It is essential that NRC receive large numbers of quality, heartfelt public comments.
Beyond Nuclear has prepared sample comments, as has NIRS. At a press conference last week, D.C. attorney Diane Curran, and experts Dr. Gordon Thompson (President of Institute for Resource and Security Studies) and Bob Alvarez (Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies), have also provided insights into the risks of HLRW storage pool fires, which NRC is currently ignoring. Curran and the experts are preparing sample comments, on behalf of an environmental coalition comprised of two dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, so watch for those in weeks ahead.
Today, NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence Directorate spokesperson, Sarah Lopas, has confirmed in an email to NIRS that the Chelmsford, MA, Tarrytown, NY, Charlotte, NC, Orlando, FL, and Rockville, MD public comment meetings, scheduled between Oct. 28th and Nov. 14th, are again "a go" now that the federal government is no longer shutdown. If you plan to attend these public comment meetings, NRC requests that you pre-register if you plan to make oral public comments. Only the NRC HQ public comment meeting in Rockville, MD on Nov. 14th will provide webcast coverage and the option of phoning in to make oral public comment; the other public comment meetings must be attend in-person.
Sarah Lopas also indicated that the public meetings previously scheduled between Oct. 7th and 24th for CA, MN, OH, IL -- all postponed due to the government shutdown -- will now be rescheduled, at the same previously announced locations. The new dates and times will be announced at a later point by NRC, perhaps as early as next week.
The NRC Nuclear Waste Confidence Diretorate plans to extend the public comment deadline beyond Nov. 27th, provided the NRC Commission approves the extension. The new deadline will be announced by NRC at a later point, likely next week.
NRC's announcements re: rescheduled public comment meetings and the new deadline for written public comments will likely crystallize next week. NRC will communicate these updates via its website, as well as via emailed announcements, as well as the publication of revised Federal Register notices. As soon as Beyond Nuclear obtains these updates, we too will publicize them.
You can submit as many public comments as you want, between now and the final public comment deadline.
At a press conference on Oct. 2nd, D.C. attorney Diane Curran, and experts Dr. Gordon Thompson (President of Institute for Resource and Security Studies) and Bob Alvarez (Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies), also provided insights into the risks of high-level radioactive waste storage pool fires, which NRC is currently ignoring. Curran and the experts are preparing sample comments, on behalf of an environmental coalition comprised of two dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, so watch for those in weeks ahead, as well.