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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
Feb202014

DOE signs $6.5 billion federal nuclear loan guarantee for Vogtle 3 & 4

Aerial image of Plant Vogtle Nuclear Generating Station - photo credit to High Flyer. The photo shows the operating Units 1 and 2, as well as the construction site for proposed new Units 3 and 4.U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) will sign an agreement with Southern Co. and Oglethorpe Power for a $6.5 billion loan guarantee that puts federal taxpayers on the hook if the Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactor project defaults on its loan repayments. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will speak at the proposed new reactor construction site at 2 PM Eastern today, Thursday, Feb. 20th (you can listen to his address by calling 1-800-282-1696).

President Obama gave the Vogtle 3 & 4 federal loan guarantee offer (for a total of $8.3 billion) the highest profile possible, by announcing it himself at a press event in Feb. 2010. Despite this, it has taken over four years for the project proponents to sign on the dotted line, given their reluctance to put any of their own "skin in the game," in the form of credit subsidy fees. The nuclear loan guarantee program was authorized in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, and $22.5 billion was approved by Congress and George W. Bush for new nuclear facilities on Dec. 23, 2007 ($18.5 billion for new reactors, $4 billion for new uranium enrichment).

The $8.3 billion Vogtle 3 & 4 federal loan guarantee is 15 times bigger than the infamous Solyndra solar loan guarantee, which defaulted on its loan repayment, a $585 million loss to the U.S. Treasury. But the Vogtle 3 & 4 loan guarantee is at much higher financial risk of default than was the Solyndra solar project!

Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter blasted the deal in a Common Dreams interview. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) also blasted the deal in a press release. Harvey Wasserman has penned an essay entitled "Obama's Nuke-Powered Drone Strike on America's Energy Future."

Please contact President Obama and Energy Secretary Moniz, registering your disapproval of this $6.5 billion nuclear loan guarantee, and urging them not to grant the remaining $1.8 billion nuclear loan guarantee to project partner MEAG for Vogtle 3 & 4. Also urge them to withdraw any further nuclear loan guarantee offers, with the remaining $10.2 billion authorized for new reactors, and $4 billion authorized for new uranium enrichment.

But the federal nuclear loan guarantees, and even the CWIP charges which are gouging Georgia ratepayers, are not the only subsidies benefitting this proposed new reactor project. If Vogtle 3 & 4 do get built and operated, the George W. Bush DOE also obligated U.S. taxpayers to ultimate liability for the risks and costs of the high-level radioactive waste they would generate. DOE hastily signed the contract in the last days of the Bush administration, despite the fact that federal courts are awarding $500 million per year in damages to nuclear utilities for DOE's breach of contract for failing to begin taking title to irradiated nuclear fuel in 1998 under the contractual agreements signed in the mid-1980s. The hastily signed contacts were exposed by D.C. attorney Diane Curran, IEER President Arjun Makhijani, and Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps in a March 24, 2010 press conference based on a FOIA Request.

Thursday
Feb202014

Beyond Nuclear/PSR speaking tour across MI a big success!

Alfred Meyer, PSR board memberAlfred Meyer (photo, left), national board member of Physicians for Responsibility (PSR), spoke throughout Michigan on a tour organized by Beyond Nuclear from Feb. 12-17. His presentations of "Nuclear Power: What You Need to Know about Price, Pollution and Proliferation" were dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jeff Patterson, PSR's Past-President.

Alfred's first stop on Feb. 12, at Grand Rapids' Fountain Street Church, drew 35 attendees, despite the wintry weather. Corinne Carey of Don't Waste MI video-recorded the talk, and will post it to cable access t.v. in the near future.

Alfred had a productive day in Kalamazoo on Feb. 13th. His presentation at Western Michigan University (WMU) was attended by over 50 people, and garnered an extended interview by Gordon Evans on WMUK Radio, as well as an article by Yvonne Zipp in the Kalamazoo Gazette. Alfred also spoke at a press conference held at WMU's impressive solar panel array, launching a campus climate campaign to divest the university from fossil fuel investments. Alfred was also interviewed by Dr. Don Cooney, WMU Social Work professor and Kalamazoo City Commissioner, and Dr. Ron Kramer, WMU criminology prof., on "Critical Issues: Alternative Views" t.v. program. The interview will be aired on Kalamazoo cable access in the near future, as well as posted to YouTube.

The tour stop in South Haven (4 miles from Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor) on Feb. 14 drew 25 attendees, despite it being Valentine's Day. Kraig Schultz of Michigan Safe Energy Future--Shoreline Chapter video-recorded the talk, and will post the recording to the MSEF YouTube channel in the near future.

Ferndale in Metro Detroit on Feb. 15 drew 75 attendees. Damon J. Hartley of the Peoples Tribune did a write up and took lots of photos.

Monroe's event (within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone from the GE BWR Mark I, Fermi 2, as well as the proposed Fermi 3) on Feb. 16, drew 30 attendees, and garnered coverage in the Monroe News (text, PDF). The Ann Arbor (home base for PSR's new MI chapter) event on Feb. 17 also drew an audience despite an impending winter storm.

Beyond Nuclear has been honored and privileged to work with the following groups to make this speaking tour a success: Michigan Physicians for Social Responsibility; Sierra Club; Fountain Street Church; WMU Lee Honors College; WMU Environmental Studies program; WMU Institute of Government and Politics; Michigan Safe Energy Future (both Kalamazoo and South Haven chapters); Don't Waste Michigan; Ferndale Public Library; Alliance to Halt Fermi 3; Ellis Library; Don't Waste Michigan; Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes; and the Ecology Center.

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."