Reprocessing - the chemical separation of uranium and plutonium from irradiated reactor fuel - is arguably the most dangerous and dirty phase of the nuclear fuel chain. Reprocessing generates huge waste streams with no management solution and isolates plutonium, the fissile component of a nuclear weapon. Countries such as England and France, where reprocessing has been carried out for decades, face a legacy of contamination and an enormous plutonium surplus vulnerable to theft or attack.



House NDAA Blocks DOE From Reclassifying High-Level Waste in Wash. State

As reported by the ExchangeMonitor.

NDAA is short for National Defense Authorization Act.

The high-level radioactive waste that the U.S. Department of Energy would like to now call "low-level" is an inevitable byproduct from reprocessing irradiated nuclear fuel. DOE's hopes to save money by not cleaning up high-level radioactive waste, as at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and disposing of it in a permanent geologic repository, as is legally required under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as Amended.

To abandon high-level radioactive waste in situ, as along the banks of the Columbia River, risks catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity into the environment over long enough periods of time.


Centralized interim storage of irradiated nuclear fuel at Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance site in southeast NM would lead to reprocessing!

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Holtec officials say that WCS’ problems haven’t deterred their plans for an underground storage site, saying interim storage could save the federal government billions of dollars, particularly if the Yucca Mountain plan is again postponed.

The company has strong support in New Mexico, which already has a dump for nuclear weapons waste, a uranium enrichment plant, a nuclear weapons armory and two nuclear weapons laboratories.

“We are very well-informed,” said Sam Cobb, mayor of nearby Hobbs, rejecting arguments by antinuclear groups that the industry preys on communities that need money and don’t understand the risk.

“It is not a death grab to get money,” he said. “We believe if we have an interim storage site, we will be the center for future nuclear fuel reprocessing.” (emphasis added)

Thus, Mayor Cobb, a top proponet of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel centralized interim storage in southeastern New Mexico, has come right out and admitted the reprocessing is in the plan. 

In fact, the logo for the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance, which would host the CISF, is a recyling symbol surrounding an atom! 

The Statement of Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors includes explicit opposition to reprocessing:

The Obama administration has determined that the Yucca Mountain site, which has been mired in bad science and mismanagement, is not an option for geologic storage of nuclear waste. Unfortunately, reprocessing proponents have used this opportunity to promote reprocessing as the solution for managing our nuclear waste. Contrary to their claims, however, reprocessing is extremely expensive, highly polluting, and a proliferation threat, and will actually complicate the management of irradiated fuel. Nor will reprocessing obviate the need for, or "save space" in, a geologic repository.

The Statement concludes with the following:

Prohibit reprocessing: The reprocessing of irradiated fuel has not solved the nuclear waste problem in any country, and actually exacerbates it by creating numerous additional waste streams that must be managed. In addition to be expensive and polluting, reprocessing also increases nuclear weapons proliferation threats.

The Statement was signed by many hundreds of groups, representing all 50 states, including such anti-reprocessing groups as the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, as well as the Council for a Liveable World. 

See Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet about Nuclear France, to learn more about the ravages of reprocessing in northwest Europe.

And also see Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet highlighting the many dangers of reprocessing, from its astronomical expense to taxpayers, its nuclear weapons proliferation risks, and its inevitable radioactive ruination of the environment and public health, wherever it is done.


Federal judge greenlights unprecedented, high-risk, highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments from Ontario to South Carolina, for reprocessing

Political cartoon by Adam Zyglis, the Buffalo News[Please note: this scheme is at its core a pro-reprocessing effort by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). DOE's last reprocessing capability is at the H-Canyon at the nuclear weapons complex at Savannah River Site, in South Carolina. SRS will be paid $60 million, by Canadian authorities, for this "service."]

Media coverage:

WIBV TV, Buffalo, NY;

Le Téléjournal Ontario (in French);

Citizen-Times of Asheville, NC;

Aiken Standard;

Sierra Club's Green Life;

Augusta Chronicle;

Buffalo News;

WLOS, ABC News Channel 13 in Western North Carolina;

Press release by environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, re: judge's adverse ruling, allowing unprecedented, high-risk, highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments from Chalk River Nuclear Lab, Ontario, Canada to Savannah River Site, South Carolina, U.S.A. (See the judge's 18-page Memorandum Opinion, and 1-page Order of Dismissal, both dated Feb. 2, 2017.) Terry Lodge of Toledo, Ohio and Diane Curran of Washington, D.C. serve as the environmental coalition's legal counsel.

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY): Higgins Announces Approval of Bill Authorizing Risk Assessment of Proposed Nuclear Waste Transport across the Peace Bridge (Feb. 1, 2017).


Washington Congressional Delegation Urges President-Elect Trump to Prioritize Hanford Cleanup, Worker Health, Tri-Cities’ Safety

“This work is essential to protecting the health and safety of the Tri-Cities community, the Columbia River, Washington state and our nation.”

As posted on the website of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Democratic News section. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is the Ranking Member (Minority/Democrat) on the Committee.

The mess that is Hanford -- the worst radioactively contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere -- is due to military reprocessing, to extract plutonium for use in the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.


SRS Watch: Internal DOE Documents Reveal Details of Highly Unusual Canadian Spent Fuel Dropping Incident at Savannah River Site

[Please note that the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Savannah River Site (SRS) and Canada's Chalk River Nuclear Labs are also proposing truck shipment of highly radioactive liquid waste from a medical isotope production reactor in the province of Ontario, to South Carolina, U.S.A. In fact, the highly radioactive liquid waste is bound for reprocessing at the H-Canyon at SRS, just as was the solid irradiated nuclear fuel bundle dropped at SRS's L-area spent fuel facility -- until it was dropped, that is. This begs the question: is DOE ready to safely ship, and SRS ready to safely handle, highly radioactive liquid waste? The likely motivation for the highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments in the first place is to keep H-Canyon reprocessing capability on life support, thanks to the $60 million SRS would be paid, compliments of the Canadian government (unwitting Canadian taxpayers, that is!)]

Savannah River Site (SRS) Watch released the following press release:

Savannah River Site Watch

For Immediate Release

December 14, 2016 

Internal DOE Documents Reveal Details of Highly Unusual Canadian Spent Fuel Dropping Incident at Savannah River Site; Squabbling Amongst SRS Officials over Follow-Up Meetings

SRS Official States Delay in Shipment of Liquid High-Level Waste from Canada has DOE Headquarters “In a Lather”

FOIA Documents & Photos Received by SRS Watch on December 13, 2016 are Linked Here

Columbia, South Carolina – Details about the unexpected dropping of a highly radioactive spent fuel bundle in the L-Reactor storage pool have come to light in documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request by Savannah River Site Watch (SRS Watch).   The incident, which occurred on July 12, 2016, involved a drop of Canadian NRX research reactor spent fuel as it was being moved in the storage pool in the old L-Reactor, where spent nuclear fuel from research and medical isotope reactors is stored. The incident resulted in a “timeout” in spent fuel handling operations. During evaluation of the incident, DOE expressed concern about the situation impacting the shipping schedule of more NRX spent fuel from the Chalk River Labs in Ontario.   An “L-Area Technical Review Board” was convened the review the incident, which appears to have been caused by lifting cables twisting and falling free from lifting slots in the fuel assembly, causing the fuel to release and fall back into a storage basket.  Though the event was unanticipated and could have damaged the fuel, DOE has reported no such damage and no release of radioactive materials. The height of the drop is unclear but appears to be between 8-10 inches and 2 feet.

“As damage to the spent fuel could have had negative impact to workers and operation of the L-Area spent fuel facility, it is imperative that DOE adjust its procedures to make sure such a potentially harmful incident never happens again,” said Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch.  “DOE must now fully inform that public as to what steps it’s taking to improve spent fuel handling procedures in the aftermath of the incident involving dropping of the Canadian spent fuel.”

An “Occurrence Report” dated July 13 called event the “Inadvertent NRX Fuel released from Fuel Tool.” That report summarizes the event:

On July 12, 2016, during the unloading and bundling of National Research Experimental (NRX)-5 fuel from the NRX basket in the unloading station, an NRX fuel assembly was being removed from basket position 4. After the fuel assembly was raised 24 inches for fuel identification per procedure, the assembly became disengaged from the NRX tool and fell back into its original basket position. Fuel handling was stopped and a timeout was called. Limiting Conditions for Operations 3.1.4 was entered to allow Spent Fuel Project (SFP) Engineering and Nuclear and Criticality Safety Engineering to determine status of compliance with the nuclear safety data sheet. SFP Engineering is inspecting the NRX tool in use to help determine the cause of the disengagement.

After the timeout – “Limiting Condition for Operation” (LCO) was called, the “Spent Fuel Project (SFP) Engineering” and “Nuclear and Criticality Safety Engineering” groups were called in to analyze the situation and determine the cause for the fuel to be dropped.  Their final report was not released in the FOIA documents sent to SRS Watch.

The FOIA documents reveal a testy email exchange between DOE officials ensued after the incident as there was argument over who was authorized to attend incident-review meetings and if the incident would impact NRX spent fuel shipments from Canada.  The internal squabble arose as the L-Basin is operated by DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) and the spent fuel “take-back” program in under the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), causing officials to clash over their respective jurisdictions.

Of note, in a July 15 email from the NNSA official, concern was expressed about attention being drawn to the issue of shipment from Canada of NRC and NRU reactor spent fuel and that of liquid high-level nuclear waste, which DOE calls “Target Residue Material” in order to downplay the fact that it is a deadly brew of highly radioactive isotopes:

“My HQ is always very interested in the NRU/NRX and TRM shipment schedule and perceived hiccups.  The TRM delays are what’s really got them in a lather, unfortunately that means the NRU/NRX program is getting a little additional attention.  Once the TRM gets going, I’m hopeful NRU/NRX will fall a bit off the radar (fingers crossed).”



FOIA documents and photos on NRX spent fuel incident, received vial mail on December 13, 2016, are linked here:  

Contact: Tom Clements Director,

Savannah River Site Watch Columbia, South Carolina

tel. 803-834-3084

cell 803-240-7268