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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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Thursday
Jan232014

NRC nuke waste con game status update Jan. 29; Final EIS & Rule delayed to Oct. 3

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 in Rockville, MD. Photo credit David Martin and Erica GreyThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Nuclear Waste Confidence Directorate will hold a public teleconference update on the status of its so-called "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) at 1:30 PM on Wednesday, January 29th. See the NRC notice for details on how to call-in.

The NRC has also just announced that its finalization of the Nuclear Waste Confidence EIS, and Final "Waste Confidence" Rule, has been postponed until October 3, 2014. The month-long delay reflects the federal government shutdown of October, 2013. The NRC press release also reported that the agency received more than 33,000 written comments on the DGEIS.

Those include comments submitted by Beyond Nuclear, by a coalition of environmental groups (including Beyond Nuclear), and by a coalition of state attorneys general, as well as the Prairie Island Indian Community.

Thank you to all our supporters who responded to Beyond Nuclear's regular alerts, and submitted comments to NRC either orally at public meetings across the country, or in writing by the December 20, 2013 deadline.

Thursday
Jan092014

Stop the Mobile Chernobyl bill from being included in impending congressional Appropriations bills

The Mobile Chernobyl mock nuke waste cask, a full size replica of a truck shipping container, shown in front of the State Capitol in Jefferson City, MO during a cross-country educational tour.Contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative. Urge they do everything in their power to block the provisions of S. 1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013, from being included in the impending Energy and Water Appropriations bill, or the Omnibus Appropriations bill it could be rolled into. Urge them instead to support an end to high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) generation, and to require Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS) for HLRW that already exists, as has long been called for by hundreds of environmental and public interest groups, representing all 50 states. You can call your two U.S. Senators, and your U.S. Representative, via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard, at (202) 224-3121.

As reported by CQ News on Jan. 7, 2014 (Updated 3:14 p.m.), the Energy and Water Appropriations bill is close, but not done yet. Yet again reflecting the power of atomic energy industry lobbyists over our threatened democratic model of governance, it has been revealed that the Mobile Chernobyl bill is a major sticking point.

The CQ News article reports:

“[Sen. Barbara] Mikulski [Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee] said Tuesday the Energy-Water and Homeland Security (HR 2217) bills also were near completion….

Energy-Water [Appropriations] Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told reporters she and ranking member Lamar Alexander [R-TN] held two conference calls with their House counterparts over the holiday break. However, she said it was unclear whether the measure would make it into the omnibus.

Alexander said the four principles [the Chairs and Ranking Members of both the U.S. Senate and House committees of jurisdiction] had made ‘good progress’ on the bill. ‘We’ve gone through most of the issues,’ he said. ‘So I think we’re close to agreement.’

But he said language that he and Feinstein support on spent nuclear fuel remains unresolved. The language would authorize the Department of Energy to move some spent nuclear fuel to interim storage facilities while a new permanent solution is mapped out. The House has shown little willingness to consider even narrow statutory changes on nuclear waste while various legal challenges to President Barack Obama’s plan to shutter the Yucca Mountain disposal site in Nevada are alive.” (emphasis added)

Speaking of nuclear lobbyists, E&E's Hannah Northey, in an article entitled "Bipartisan Policy Center [BPC] taps former DOE official to lead new initiative," reported on Jan. 9th that the so-called BPC has just hired "Timothy Frazier, a former Energy Department official, to lead its new initiative aimed at crafting policy options to jump-start the country's stalled nuclear waste policies." Frazier, who worked at DOE for two decades, also "served as Designated Federal Officer for DOE’s Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future." Before that, Frazier was in the Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE's nuclear power promotions office), as a senior career official during the George W. Bush administration's failed GNEP ("Global Nuclear Energy Partnership") initiative, a failed attempt to revive commercial reprocessing in the U.S.

Winning no points for originality, the BPC has dubbed its new lobbying project as "America's Nuclear Future: Taking Action to Address Nuclear Waste." The lobbying effort will undoubtedly push for centralized interim storage, the top priority of the BRC Frazier himself directed, as well as the top priority of S. 1240 -- all so heavily influenced by the revolving door of industry-government special interests, now most recently epitomized by Frazier's appointment at BPC.

Fortunately, a major revival of dirty, dangerous, and expensive reprocessing was stopped dead in its tracks during the Bush administration GNEP push, and yet another attempt to resurrect it more recently at the BRC was also blocked.

S. 1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013, would do more than "move some spent nuclear fuel to interim storage facilities." If enacted, this parking lot dump bill would open a "centralized interim storage site," euphemistically dubbed a "pilot" facility, by 2021. The "pilot" de facto permanent away-from-reactor surface storage bill would supposedly be limited to so-called "stranded" or "orphaned" high-level radioactive wastes from permanently shutdown reactors. The supposed justification is to release the former nuclear power plant sites for "unrestricted re-use," despite the lingering radioactive contamination in the soil, groundwater, surface water sediments, flora, fauna, etc.

But the bill also seeks to open full-scale "consolidated interim storage" by 2025. The bill expresses a strong preference to co-locate the "pilot" and full-scale facilities at one and the same site. It even expresses a strong preference to co-locate the permanent burial dump there, too.

Despite claiming to enact the final recommendations of President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC), S. 1240 actually rips the very heart out of BRC's Jan. 2012 Final Report. Based largely on the dismal failure at Yucca Mountain, where the federal government attempted to "Screw Nevada" against its will, the BRC concluded that "consent-based" siting of consolidated interim storage and geologic repositories was essential.

Yet, S. 1240 would allow the newly created Nuclear Waste Administrator to select sites, carry out characterization studies, and even declare them suitable, before seeking the community's or state's consent. The momentum towards ultimate approval would be immense. This is especially true, if the parking lot dumps are targeted at politically and economically vulnerable communities (such as Native American reservations).

Another risk of S. 1240 and the BRC's call for "consolidated interim storage" is that it could serve as a launch pad for reprocessing. This danger is especially acute at the Savannah River Site, the DOE nuclear weapons complex in South Carolina, on the border with Georgia.

Critics have also dubbed S. 1240 the Mobile Chernobyl bill, due to the unprecedented numbers of high-level radioactive waste shipments that would be launched onto the roads, rails, and waterways (Floating Fukushimas). In addition to concerns about severe accidents, the shipments are not designed to withstand terrorist attacks (Dirty Bombs on Wheels).

Beyond Nuclear has previously posted extensive background information and action alerts on S. 1240.

Monday
Dec302013

"Smoldering controversy" at St. Louis area radioactive waste landfill flares up

Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey, long-time anti-nuclear watchdog, including on the West Lake Landfill's radioactive wastesThe Wall Street Journal has reported ("Neighbors Fume at Radioactive Dump: Legacy of Atomic-Era Weapons Work in St. Louis Suburb Stirs Worries About Health, Environment," by John R. Emshwiller, Dec. 29, 2013) on the West Lake Landfill near St. Louis, MO. (In a companion piece, the WSJ reports "Facebook Page Chronicles Accounts of Illnesses Reported by Residents"). The dumpsite contains one of the single largest concentrations of hazardous, radioactive Thorium-230 residues in the entire country, as recently documented by Bob Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.

The West Lake Landfill is an illegal dumping ground for the oldest radioactive wastes of the Atomic Age. The radioactive wastes originated from the Manhattan Project race for the atomic bomb, which culminated in the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. Mallinckrodt Chemical Works of St. Louis processed Belgian Congo uranium ore, with the radioactive wastes eventually dumped at West Lake Landfill.

The West Lake Landfill is located in the Missouri River floodplain, not far upstream from the confluence with the Mississippi River, as well as St. Louis metro region drinking water intakes. It is also immediately adjacent to an underground landfill fire. The Wall Street Journal coverage is the latest installment of major, national media coverage on the crisis.

Recently, Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey (photo, above left), a resident of the St. Louis area and a 40-year anti-nuclear watchdog, wrote to state and local elected officials in the area around West Lake Landfill, as well as fire department officials. She called for action to be taken to protect workers at the West Lake Landfill, as well as firefighters who could face the radioactive hazards if the underground fire intercepts the buried radioactive wastes.

Along the same lines, Kay previously penned a pamphlet, "Your Nuclear Workplace: Know Your Risks, Know Your Rights."

Friday
Dec202013

Environmental coalition meets NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" public comment deadline

Environmental coalition attorney Diane Curran

[Please note that Beyond Nuclear also submitted its own independent comments, as did a multi-state coalition that includes the Prairie Island Indian Community.]

An environmental coalition of nearly three dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has submitted comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). The coalition is represented by a team of attorneys, including Diane Curran (photo, left) of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, Washington, D.C.; Mindy Goldstein, Director, and Jillian Kysor, Fellow, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; and Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director, and Deborah Brancato, Staff Attorney, Riverkeeper, Ossining, NY.

The coalition is also represented by a team of expert witnesses, including Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Takoma Park, MD; David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Chattanooga, TN; Dr. Gordon Thompson, Executive Director, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, MA; and Dr. Mark Cooper, Senior Research Fellow for Economic Analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT.

The environmental coalition's comments, as well as its expert witnesses' declarations, have been posted on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) website, as well as at the bottom of a press release featuring the work of Dr. Cooper on the economic costs of irradiated nuclear fuel management. The coalition's comment and expert witness declarations are also posted at the NIRS website.

Curran, on behalf of three environmental groups (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper, and SACE), in alliance with Natural Resource Defense Council, as well as four state attorneys general (CT, NJ, NY, and VT) won a landmark legal victory on June 8, 2012. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that NRC had to carry out an environmental impact statement on its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy and rule, including the on-site storage risks of irradiated nuclear fuel in pools and dry casks. The Dec. 20th public comment deadline on the DGEIS is a part of that court-ordered process.

Friday
Dec202013

Beyond Nuclear meets NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS public comment deadline

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 in Rockville, MD. Photo credit David Martin and Erica Grey.A special thank you to all those who took action, as urged in Beyond Nuclear's weekly email bulletins, and submitted comments in writing to NRC, or testified orally at public meetings. The final count is not in yet, but it's safe to say many hundreds -- if not thousands -- of high-quality comments were submitted by the Dec. 20th deadline.

In addition to its involvement in environmental coalition efforts, Beyond Nuclear also submitted its own public comments to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) re: its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) deadline on Dec. 20th. Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, submitted comments, as well as supporting documents (Exhibits: A to E; F to I; and J to O).

Kay Drey, a Beyond Nuclear board of directors member based in St. Louis, MO, also submitted comments. Kay is also the author of the numerous pamphlets listed below, and the inspiration behind the Dec. 2-3, 2012 "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference held at the U. of Chicago mentioned below.

Paul Gunter, Director of Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project, also submitted comments, telling the inspiring story of "at least 92 of 137 towns adopted identical language 'to oppose the burial, storage, transportation and production of high-level radioactive waste' in New Hampshire" in 1986. In a tremendous grassroots democracy victory, town warrant articles were passed across "the Granite State" -- the month before Chernobyl exploded and 25 years before Fukushima Daiichi melted down -- in opposition to the Department of Energy's proposal to destroy seven historic New Hampshire towns in order to build a national geologic repository for high-level radioactive waste beneath them.

In Nov. 2007, amidst the presidential primary campaign then raging in New Hampshire, Beyond Nuclear published a fact sheet entitled "A New Hampshire High-Level Radioactive Waste Dump?" In the section on "What's at Stake?", Beyond Nuclear reported:

"Several towns, including Hillsborough (frequently spelled Hillsboro), New Hampshire sit atop a large granite formation identified as the “Cardigan Pluton.” The rock body is part of the DOE’s Crystalline Rock Repository Project to site a second national nuclear waste repository. If selected, the populations declining a federal buyout would be subject to relocation and their property seized by eminent domain for the deep geological repository. This dubious distinction persists despite many geological and hydrological flaws in the candidate site including rock fractures, high amounts of rainfall, broad uncertainty about groundwater movement through the rock body and migration of radioactivity from nuclear waste into aquifers for drinking and agricultural irrigation supplies for large populations.  

In addition to the environmental impacts, federal confiscation would adversely impact the deep historical significance of the area: the nearby town of Washington, the first town in the U.S. to be named after our first president, just after the Revolutionary War; numerous preserved stone arch masonry bridges; the Franklin Pierce Homestead, the home of the 14th President of the United States; the founding congregation and church of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination are examples. There is also the natural beauty of the area: forested hills, scenic lakes and river-ways. Much of this, along with picturesque, historic towns and villages would cease to exist if a national high-level radioactive waste dump opened in New Hampshire."

In fact, as the Beyond Nuclear backgrounder warned, in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration in late 2008, Energy Secretary Bodman issued a Report on the Need for a Second Repository that indeed listed both New Hampshire and Maine (and most of the rest of the Lower 48) on the target list.  (The map on page 12 showed this.)                 

Re: NRC's nuke waste con game deadline, Kevin also submitted the following additional comments: regarding nuclear industry whistleblower Oscar Shirani's revelations on Holtec dry cask Quality Assurance violations, and NRC dry cask storage inspector Dr. Ross Landsman's support for Shirani; a cover letter and backgrounder on dry cask storage problems; a cover letter, and the Statement of Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors, in support of Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS), signed by hundreds of environmental groups representing all 50 states; a cover letter, and the Beyond Nuclear fact sheet "Catastrophic Risks of GE BWR Mark I High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Pools"; a cover letter, and Beyond Nuclear pamphlet "Routine Radioactive Releases from U.S. Nuclear Power Plants," as well as a chart, prepared by Russell Hoffman, showing into which particular organs specific radioactive contaminants lodge to cause harm in the human body; a cover letter, packet of materials from "A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference, and Beyond Nuclear pamphlet of the same title; a cover letter, and assorted humorous placards, prepared by NEIS for a "nuke waste con game" of "nuclear bingo" at NRC's public comment meeting in Oak Brook, IL; a cover letter, and Beyond Nuclear pamphlets "Dirty, Dangerous, and Expensive," as well as "Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing = Weapons Proliferation"; a cover letter, and sheet prepared by NEIS entitled "It All Boils Down To -- Do We Trust the NRC?".

In addition, Kevin had earlier submitted oral comments at a number of NRC public meetings:

Rockville, MD NRC HQ call-in public comment meeting, Dec. 9th (see NRC's transcript, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's testimony at transcript pages 30-34, and again at transcript pages 60-62).

Perrysburg, OH NRC public comment meeting, Dec. 2nd:

Kevin made points site-specific to Great Lakes reactors, including to Palisades in MI and to Davis-Besse near Perrysburg, from minute 3:00 to 8:37 on a video recording of the public meeting, filmed by Kathy Barnes of Don't Waste MI (Part 4). (Kathy coordinates the Don't Waste MI Facebook page.)

(See the NRC transcript of the meeting, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's comments from pages 41 to 45 of the transcript.)

NRC HQ (Rockville, MD) public comment meeting, Nov. 14th:

See the transcript from the meeting, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's remarks from page 102-107.

Oak Brook, IL public comment meeting, Nov. 12th:

See the transcript from this public comment meeting, including Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear's remarks at transcript pages 50 to 54.

NRC HQ public comment meeting, Rockville, MD, Oct. 1, 2013:

See the transcript of the meeting, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's testimony at pages 37-41 of the transcript.