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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
Nov212013

U.S. Congressmen, Cities of Toronto, Kingston, and Windsor, ON, join opposition to Canada's Great Lakes radioactive waste dump

As reported by the Macomb Daily Tribune, four Democratic U.S. Congressmen from Michigan have joined the growing chorus questioning the Great Lakes radioactive waste dump:

"U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, along with several fellow Democrats in the Michigan congressional delegation --Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint, Sander Levin of Royal Oak, who represents much of Macomb County, and John Dingell of Dearbon -- sent a letter to the Canadian review panel urging it to consider the potential threat that the site could pose to the Great Lakes. They also called for an open dialogue as the process proceeds."

Here is the letter the four U.S. Congressmen wrote to the federal Canadian Joint Review Panel overseeing the environmental assessment of the proposal.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI's 5th District) issued a press release.

Rep. Levin is the Ranking Member on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Dingell is the longest-serving Member of the U.S. House in history. Rep. Peters has announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Carl Levin (Sandy's younger brother), who is retiring.

They thus join with both of MI's Democratic U.S. Senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, in expressing opposition to Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR, or Deep Geologic Repository, DUD) on the Lake Huron shore. In the Michigan State Legislature, Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood and Representative Sarah Roberts have led the opposition to the dump.

Meanwhile, Canada's largest city -- Toronto, population 2.8 million -- just passed a resolution opposing the DUD (critics' sarcastic appellation for the DGR, standing for Deep Underground Dump).

This was followed by a resolution opposing OPG's DUD on Nov. 19th by the City of Kingston, Ontario, population 123,363. Kingston is where Lake Ontario flows into the St. Lawrence River.

On Oct. 27th, USA Today reprinted a Detroit Free Press article about the DGR.

The Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump petition now has nearly 42,600 signatures. If you haven't signed yet, plesae do. And please spread the word! Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump also has a sample letter you can use to contact your elected officials about this issue.

If you live in the Great Lakes Basin -- or if you regard the Great Lakes as a precious natural resource, the irreplacable drinking water supply for 40 million people in 8 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces, and a large number of Native American First Nations -- please urge your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative to join Michigan's in expressing opposition to the OPG DUD targeted at the Lake Huron shore! You can call your Members of Congress via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Thursday
Nov212013

Three hearings left: comment on NRC nuke waste con game by 12/20!

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.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Nuclear Waste Confidence Directorate has concluded most of its scheduled public comment meetings on the draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) regarding the agency's "Nuclear Waste Confidence." However, there are still a few opportunities left to make in-person or via-telephone oral comments! You can also make written comments at any time up till December 20th.

The GEIS was court-ordered, by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in June 2012. A coalition of environmental groups (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, as well as Natural Resources Defense Council) and states (CT, NJ, NY, VT, as represented by their attorneys general) won the court victory.

Oral comments can be submitted, in-person only, at two upcoming public meetings: 12/2 in Perrysburg, OH (near Toledo), and 12/4 in Minnetonka, MN (near the Twin Cities). On 12/9, you can submit oral comments to NRC via a phone-in public comment session. Please see the bottom of this post for more details on how to plug in.

Note that the 12/2 meeting in Toledo marks the 71st year since Enrico Fermi first split the atom in a prototype reactor core, generating the world's first high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) on Dec. 2, 1942, as part of the Manhattan Project. Thus, the mountain of radioactive waste is now 71 years high, and we still don't even know what to do with the first cupful!

It's time to stop making it!

Re: the 12/2 Toledo-area meeting, Michael Keegan of Don't Waste MI and the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes has put out a press advisory. Its headline is RALLY AGAINST NUCLEAR WASTE CONFIDENCE GAME: ‘THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES.’

The co-chairs of the Alliance to Halt Fermi 3, Keith Gunter and Carol Izant, have also issued a press advisory announcing that representatives from their growing coalition of groups will speak at the 12/2 Perrysburg, OH meeting.

In the meantime, please continue to submit your public comments to NRC via email, webform, fax, and/or snail mail.

You can submit as many public comments as you want, between now and the final public comment deadline (Dec. 20th).

Sample comments, which you can use to help you write your own, have been provided by Beyond Nuclear and NIRS, as well as NEIS.

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace also provided sample comments in advance of its NRC nuke waste con game public comment meeting, held on 11/20.

See a write-up of the Chicago NRC nuke waste con game, for more ideas on potential comments you can make.

Marilyn Elie of Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC) provided Beyond Nuclear with the written statements by IPSEC members, NY AG Schneiderman, and others, from the Oct. 30th NRC public comment mtg. in Tarrytown, NY near Entergy's Indian Point nuclear power plant. Beyond Nuclear has posted these, so you can use them to help prepare your own.

Douglas P. Guarino, the award-winning reporter, wrote an article entitled "Legal Battle Against Rule Crucial To All U.S. Reactor Licenses Rages On" for Global Security Newswire. He quote Janice Dean, Assistant Attorney General of the State of New York, who testified at the Tarrytown, NY meeting.

Please note that NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence Directorate has posted the archived webcast, as well as the audio recording, from the very first public comment meeting on Oct. 1 at NRC HQ in Rockville, MD; it has also posted the transcripts from the first five public comment meetings held around the country (see the bottom of the page). You can use the presentations made by hundreds of environmentalists and public interest advocates in these sessions to help you prepare your own comments.

At the Nov. 14th Rockville, MD NRC HQ public comment meeting, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps joined with numerous colleagues (see photo, above left) to testify.

In the short three minutes allotted for public comment, Kevin set the record straight on false statements the NRC has made in regards to its nuke waste con game policy.

At the Chicago public meeting on Nov. 12th, NRC Nuclear Waste Confidence Directorate Director, Keith McConnell, responded to a question from the audience about the scope of this draft GEIS. McConnell said that it had to do with "on-site" or "at-reactor" storage of irradiated nuclear fuel. Kevin set the record straight, pointing out that there is an entire section of the GEIS document, Chapter 5, about "Environmental Impacts of Away-From-Reactor Storage." This implies high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) transportation as well, a very significant issue that has gotten very short shrift in this draft GEIS.

And of course, the heart of NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" for 30 years now has been the assumption that a deep geologic repository will open someday, somewhere, somehow. The courts, however, have ordered NRC to consider the all-too-real possibility that a repository will never open, leaving HLRW risks at-reactor or away-from-reactor (as at so-called "consolidated" or "centralized interim storage" sites -- parking lot dumps -- the opening of which, by 2021, is a top priority of the Wyden-Feinstein-Murkowski-Alexander "Mobile Chernobyl" bill, S. 1240, in the U.S. Senate, now set for a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee vote in December 2013).

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 potentially catastrophic risks of high-level radioactive waste storage pool fires, which NRC is currently ignoring, despite an explicit court order for NRC to address them in the EIS.

Curran, along with Mindy Goldstein of Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University, are working with a team of experts, including Dave Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists, and Arjun Makhijani of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, to prepare comments, on behalf of an environmental coalition comprised of two dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, to be submitted by the 12/20 deadline.

If you plan to attend and make oral testimony at any of the three remaining NRC public comment meetings, NRC requests that you pre-register.

Here are the remaining three public comment meetings yet to come:

Monday,
December 2

Perrysburg, Ohio
Hilton Garden Inn Toledo/Perrysburg
6165 Levis Commons Blvd.,
Perrysburg, OH 43551

Open House
6:00-7:00 p.m. EST
Meeting
7:00-10:00 p.m. EST
Wednesday,
December 4

Minnetonka, Minnesota
Minneapolis Marriott Southwest
5801 Opus Parkway
Minnetonka, MN 55343

Open House
6:00-7:00 p.m. CST
Meeting
7:00-10:00 p.m. CST
Monday,
December 9

Public Teleconference to Receive Comments on Waste Confidence DGEIS and Proposed Rule
(Teleconference only – facilitated and transcribed.)

Prior to the start of the meeting, please dial
1-888-603-9749
and provide the operator with passcode 5132332

Teleconference
1:00 – 4:00 p.m. EST
Wednesday
Nov202013

Court rulings revive Yucca dump licensing proceeding, end collection of Nuclear Waste Fund fee

Will the Yucca dump zombie rise again? Nevada says NO! Political cartoon by Jim Day, Las Vegas Review Journal, 2010 (be sure to count the toes!)In 1987, it was "Screw Nevada." Now, it appears to be "screw the taxpayer," and "screw future generations."

Rulings issued by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia have led to a partial revival of the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) dump's licensing proceeding before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), while ordering the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to end Nuclear Waste Fund fee collections intended to ultimately pay for HLRW disposal.

On Nov. 18th, the five NRC Commissioners issued an order to the agency's staff to complete its Safety Evaluation Report (SER) regarding DOE's cancelled plan to bury 70,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel and HLRW less than 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, on sacred Western Shoshone Indian Nation treaty lands. The Commission order comes in response to a 2-1 split decision at the DC Appeals Court in August. Two Republican appointees mandated NRC resume the Yucca licensing proceeding, so long as related funds remain in its coffers to do so. The dissenting Democratic appointee referred to the majority decision as the "doing of a useless act."

In fact, the Commission order admits that completing the five volume SER over the next year will likely deplete most of the $11 million in NRC's carryover funding remaining from its Nuclear Waste Fund allocations. The NRC Commissioners also requested that DOE supplement its previous Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement.

Speaking of the Nuclear Waste Fund, another DC Appeals Court ruling issued on Nov. 19th appears to have ended it. The three-judge panel (comprised exclusively of Republican appointees) has ordered DOE to stop collecting Nuclear Waste Fund fees. Since the enactment of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act 30 years ago, DOE has collected one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour of nuclear generated electricity. This surcharge on ratepayers consuming nuclear eletricity has never been adjusted for inflation since. It has generated some $30 billion. Some $8 billion of that was spent studying the Yucca site. But Yucca's total price tag, if constructed and operated, was estimated to have been around $100 billion, tens of billions of dollars more than the Nuclear Waste Fund fee would ever collect.

The open secret was that federal taxpayers would have been looked to, in order to make up the shortfall. That geologic disposal shortfall will now grow even bigger, now that no collection will take place to pay for the management of irradiated nuclear fuel. Hence, today's court ruling amounts to one big "screw the taxpayer" and "screw future generations." The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was forced to admit, under court order, that HLRW will remain hazardous for a million years.

In the dwindling days of his administration -- beginning on the day Barack Obama won the presidential election, and ending two days after Obama took the oath of office -- George W. Bush's DOE very quietly signed new contracts with nuclear utilities, ultimately obligating federal taxpayers to pay for the forevermore-management of new reactor-generated HLRW. The contracts were so secretive, they were not even reported by the news media until March 2010, when Beyond Nuclear, IEER, and attorney Diane Curran publicized the news at a press conference, based on documentation obtained under FOIA. The silver lining is, though, that of the 21 new reactor HLRW management contracts hurriedly signed by DOE, only 4 of those new reactors have actually broken ground (Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA, and Summer 2 & 3 in SC). But if those 4 reactors are built and operated, taxpayers will be left holding the bag for their HLRW management costs, till the end of time (well, at least for a million years).

Of course, the only true solution to such costs and risks lasting forevermore is to not generate HLRW in the first place! But enough already existed by spring 2010 to fill the first (now cancelled) repository. This "mountain of radioactive waste" grows by 2,000 tons each year, as 100 atomic reactors are still generating irradiated nuclear fuel in the U.S. Thus, we don't need a repository -- we already need at least two!

Nevada's state and federal elected leaders have pledged vigilance against any effort to revive the Yucca dump. The Silver State never accepted the 1987 "Screw Nevada" amendments to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which singled out Yucca as the only proposed dumpsite in the U.S. to be further considered. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has led that resistance for over 25 years. He has blocked any additional congressional appropriations for the Yucca Mountain Project since Fiscal Year 2011, and appears ready, willing, and able to continue protecting his constituents. President Obama backs Sen. Reid on this, having defunded the Yucca dump and moved to withdraw DOE's license application.

Wednesday
Nov132013

NRC Region 3 Webinar on dry cask storage issues

No: III-13-042 November 7, 2013
CONTACT: Viktoria Mitlyng 630-829-9662
Prema Chandrathil 630-829-9663
NRC Regional Office to Discuss Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation Basics; Webinar to be Held November 14

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Region III office will hold a webinar Nov. 14th to discuss how dry spent fuel storage is regulated and inspected to ensure the public and environment are protected.
The office, located in Lisle, Ill., will explain our regulations, how dry casks are designed and the inspections performed to ensure the fuel is stored safely and securely.
“We remain committed to having discussions about the NRC’s oversight of nuclear power plants,” said NRC Region III Administrator Cynthia D. Pederson. “This webinar will give us an opportunity to continue the conversation with the public about issues of interest to them.”
The webinar will be held from 5:30-6:30 p.m. EST (4:30-5:30 p.m. CST). Participants will be able to view presentation slides prepared by NRC staff and submit questions in writing over the Internet. Interested members of the public must register online or follow the instructions on the meeting notice in order to participate.
Wednesday
Nov132013

Showdown on NRC nuke waste con game in Chicago: "This member of the public does not share your confidence!"

North Anna watchdog Erica Grey, and Diane D'Arrigo of NIRS, unfurl a banner at NRC's first Nuke Waste Con Game meeting, held Oct. 1st in the NRC Commissioners conference room at NRC HQ in Rockville, MD. Photo by Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps.On Nov. 12th in Oak Brook, IL outside Chicago, Beyond Nuclear joined with environmental and public interest colleagues at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) public comment meeting on the agency's court-ordered draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) on so-called "Nuclear Waste Confidence." The multi-state coalition included representatives from, and affiliated with, the following groups: Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS); Stand Up, Save Lives!; Nuclear Free Illinois; Global Warming Solutions Group of Central IL; Sierra Club Illinois Nuclear Free Committee; Michigan Safe Energy Future--South Haven Chapter; Missouri Coalition for the Environment; IL Families Against Toxic Wastes; Chicago Media Watch; League of Women Voters; Rainforest Action Network; Ministry for a Sustainable Earth; West Suburban Coalition for Peace and Justice, Citizens Acting to Protect Our Water (CAPOW!); Chicago Indy Media; and Multikulti.  Concerned citizens, as from the communities around Exelon Nuclear's Byron, Dresden, Braidwood, and Zion nuclear power plants, also spoke out. 

By a nearly 3 to 1 margin, public interest and environmental advocates expressed a resounding "no confidence in NRC nuke waste CON-fidence" at the public comment microphone. 38 "no confidence votes" were cast, as compared to 14 supporting NRC's nuke waste con game -- mostly representing Exelon Nuclear itself, or those directly under its direct financial influence. So many spoke out against NRC's nuke waste con job that the meeting went for around an hour longer than originally planned. The shellacking took place, interestingly enough, just 9 miles or so from NRC's Region 3 headquarters office in Lisle, IL. The meeting took place just 13 miles or so from Exelon Nuclear's world HQ in Warrenville, IL (where the Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp took place in August 2001, including a non-violent civil disobedience action resulting in a dozen arrests that disrupted Exelon's ribbon-cutting ceremony).

NEIS, Sierra Club Illinois Nuclear Free Committee, Stand Up, Save Lives!, Nuclear Free Illinois, and Michigan Safe Energy Future (MSEF)--South Haven Chapter put out a press release.

Bette Pierman of MSEF stated: 

“While reviewing the documents for comment, the term “adequate” repeatedly appears regarding the steps currently used to store toxic nuclear waste.  Whenever I hear the term used by NRC staff to describe any of the nuclear plants across the country, but in particular Entergy’s Palisades Nuclear Plant, I cringe.  I am not sure how the use of this term is supposed to be reassuring to the public since it means “good enough.”   The connotation connected with “good enough” is mediocre.  So, I ask you, how safe would you feel with an “adequate” pilot on a turbulent transcontinental flight?  Or, how quickly would you employ an “adequate” heart surgeon if you required surgery?  Yet, you throw the word “adequate” around to the public like that is supposed to reassure us about the safety of these aging, decrepit nuclear power plants around this country and what you propose as the generic treatment of waste storage for a number of years far into the future. This member of the public does not share your confidence!”

Read Bette Pierman's full comment to NRC here.

NEIS printed a series of signs, which supporters held up when they heard "waste confidence," or "safe storage," etc. Thus, this was a version of playing "Nukespeak Bingo"!

NEIS also distributed "ESSENTIAL POINTS TO MAKE IN YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT NRC'S WASTE CONFIDENCE RULE," as well as “IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO – DO WE TRUST THE NRC?”

Beyond Nuclear had an information table, displaying its banner and pamphlets, including its "Catastrophic Risks of GE BWR Mark I High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Pools" fact sheet.

During NRC's "open house" session, Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, donned a mock radiation protection suit and handed out "chunks of radioactive waste" ("Atomic Fireball" candies), affixed to NEIS info. cards, to passersby. This street theater action was to counter the Nuclear Energy Insitute and Exelon Nuclear's misleading info. table handout -- mock nuclear fuel pellets, which failed to mention how deadly irradiated nuclear fuel pellets are in the absence of radiation shielding.