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Waste Transportation

The transportation of radioactive waste already occurs, but will become frequent on our rails, roads and waterways, should irradiated reactor fuel be moved to interim or permanent dump sites.

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Saturday
Jul112015

Art and wilderness "final nail in the coffin" of beleaguered Yucca dump and Mobile Chernobyl rail route

This undated photo provided by Triple Aught Foundation shows part of an artwork by Michael Heizer called “City” near Garden Valley, Nev. Mammoth bones, the prehistoric rock carvings and more than a million acres of wilderness will be protected as part of three new national monuments that President Barack Obama is creating in California, Nevada and Texas and announced Friday, July 10, 2015. Tom Vinetz/Triple Aught Foundation / APAs reported by Cy Ryan in a Las Vegas Sun article entitled "Why new national monument could derails plans for nuke dump at Yucca," President Obama's declaration of a Basin and Range National Monument in the rural heart of Nevada could be the final nail in the coffin of the proposed high-level radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain.

So says Robert Halstead, the director of the State of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects, who has led opposition to the U.S. Department of Energy's 300-mile-long, $3 billion rail line proposal that would be needed to transport irradiated nuclear fuel to the controversial dump-site.

The rail route would now have to pass through a national monument, threatening its wilderness and wildlife, and disrupting perhaps the largest landscape art project in North America. "City," created by Michael Heizer over the past half-century, is as large in size as the National Mall in Washington, D.C. More.

Tuesday
May192015

Senate Appropriations bill would rush Mobile Chernobyls onto the roads, rails, and waterways

As reported by Devin Henry in The Hill, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has not included funding in the Energy and Water Development section of the Senate Appropriations bill to revive the cancelled Yucca Mountain, Nevada radioactive waste dump. However, Alexander -- a long time Yucca dump supporter -- has made clear that the Senate floor debate of the Appropriations bill would be a good place to add Yucca dump funding by amendment.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Democratic Leader of the U.S. Senate, can be expected to fight any such amendment with everything he's got. After all, he's been successfully leading the fight against the Yucca dump since the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987, when he was a rookie Senator.

President Obama has also opposed the Yucca dump as "unworkable" -- de-funding the project, and even moving to withdraw the U.S. Department of Energy's application to construct and operate the high-level radioactive waste dump in Nevada.

The U.S. House has included funding for Yucca's U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing proceeding. A conference committee between House and Senate appropriators would be another juncture for Yucca dump opponents to remain vigilant against funding being added to the bill.

Alexander's Senate Appropriations Bill language also includes funding for centralized, or consolidated, storage of commercial irradiated fuel -- something opponents have dubbed de facto permanent parking lot dumps. Nuclear boosters near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in NM, as well as at Waste Control Specialists in Texas, have expressed interest in becoming consolidated interim storage sites -- for a price.

Alexander's provision, supported by ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein on the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, would launch unprecedented numbers of risky high-level radioactive waste trucks, trains, and barges onto the roads, rails, and waterways. Most states would be impacted.

After an interim period of decades, the wastes could well simply be shipped back in the same direction -- or even to the very same place -- from which they came in the first place. For example, the cancelled Private Fuel Storage, LLC parking lot dump targeted at the Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in Utah proposed storing 40,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel until the Yucca dump could receive the wastes. If waste had been sent there, once Yucca was cancelled, the wastes would have been "returned to sender." 50 containers of irradiated nuclear fuel from Maine Yankee, for example, would have risked 4,000 round trip shipping miles, to accomplish absolutely nothing (other than the combustion of a large amount of global warming gasoline!).

Friday
Mar272015

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, stalwart opponent of Yucca dump, announces he won't seek re-election

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid of NevadaU.S. Senator Harry Reid (Democrat from Nevada) has announced he won't seek re-election, and will retire 22 months from now. Reid, who has long served as either the U.S. Senate Majority or Minority Leader (depending on the number of Democrats serving in the chamber), has devoted his entire Senate career to successful opposition to the high-level radioactive waste dump targeted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

In 1987, when the "Screw Nevada" bill was enacted into law, Reid was a rookie U.S. Senator. In "Screw Nevada," other targeted, more populous and politically powerful states -- such as Texas and Washington, as well as Northeastern states -- ganged up on Nevada, singling out Yucca Mountain as the sole location in the country to be further studied as a potential irradiated nuclear fuel and HLRW dump. This, despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) already knew by then, via preliminary scientific studies, that the site was unsuitable.

But the nuclear lobbyists picked the wrong rookie Senator to mess with. For nearly three decades, Reid has led a bipartisan Nevada consensus that has blocked the dump at every turn. In 2000, he secured 34 Senate votes, enough to sustain President Clinton's veto of a congressional attempt to rush open the dump, despite incomplete scientific studies. In 2002, he secured 39 Senate votes against Yucca, the most ever. Coming off the Senate floor after that vote, Reid -- a former boxer -- spoke with environmental allies, saying "It's like at the bar. Sometimes, you've just got to take it out back."

Even during the pro-dump George W. Bush administration, Reid was able to put the brakes on multi-billion dollar annual Yucca dump budgets. Working closely with President Barack Obama, Reid convinced the new administration in 2009 to completely defund the project, and even move to withdraw DOE's construction and operating license application. This has resulted in the effective cancelation of the Yucca dump, and dismantlement of its personnel and physical infrastructure, in the past several years.

Even with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress pushing hard to revive the Yucca dump, Reid has continued his adamant opposition. Opponents to countless "Mobile Chernobyl" trucks, trains, and barges of HLRW traveling through most states, and to a radioactive waste dump guaranteed to leak massively if ever opened, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Democratic Leader, U.S. Senator Harry Reid.

Tuesday
Mar242015

"They're baaaaaaaaaack!" The return of the Mobile Chernobyl bill on Capitol Hill

An infrared photo showing the thermal heat of a German CASTOR cask filled with irradiated nuclear fuel being transported by rail to Gorleben. The high-level radioactivity, not the thermal heat, is the hazard to human health, safety, and the environment, however.As trumpeted by its "Gang of Four" co-sponsors (Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Democrats Maria Cantwell of Washington State and Dianne Feinstein of California) in a press release, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2015 has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Although the devil is always in the details, and further careful analysis and comparison is required, on the surface it appears that this session's bill is very similar to previous attempts in the Senate to open a "pilot" parking lot dump for commercial high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in less than a decade, followed a few years later by a full-scale parking lot dump. This included Senate Bill (S.B.) 1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013, about which Beyond Nuclear published a comprehensive critique of the scheme's many risks.

As of April 3rd, the current Senate bill, given the bill number S. 854, is not yet available for public review. Only basic information about the proposed legislation is yet available.

Targeted locations for "consolidated" or "centralized interim storage sites" have yet to be specified. However, Waste Control Specialists in Andrews County, Texas -- already threatening the adjacent Ogallala Aquifer with so-called "low" level radioactive waste burials -- has volunteered to become a parking lot dump. Pro-nuclear "booster clubs" at Savannah River Site, South Carolina, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, New Mexico, and elsewhere are also blinded by radioactive dollar signs, and offering their "services."

Other top targets include nuclear power plants, such as Dresden in Illinois, as well as Native American reservations. The latter is an egregious example of environmental racism.

The press release speaks of "priority" transfers of irradiated nuclear fuel. "Stranded" or "orphaned" irradiated fuel, from permanently shutdown and even completely decommissioned nuclear power plants, would be given priority by the bill. "Emergency" transfers are also mentioned, as from on-site storage locations at risk of natural disasters.

Even the "pilot" parking lot dump would launch unprecented numbers of HLRW shipments, by truck, train, and/or barge onto the roads, rails, and/or waterways. The full-scale parking lot dump scheme would involve even greater numbers of potential Mobile Chernobyls, Floating Fukushimas, and dirty bombs on wheels.

However, as was made clear by the Private Fuel Storage fiasco, shipments to parking lot dumps could be "returned to sender," if permanent repository plans fall through. If 50 casks of HLRW had ever been shipped from the Maine Yankee atomic reactor and parked at the Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in Utah, they would have had to be shipped back to their point of origin when the Yucca Mountain, Nevada dump was canceled by the Obama administration. A 4,000-mile round trip, all for naught -- risking radiological disaster every mile of the way, as from severe accidents or even attacks.

As described by a U.S. Department of Energy blog, the Senate bill announcement came on the same day as Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a major reversal of U.S. radioactive waste policy. Decades-old plans to "co-mingle" nuclear weapons HLRWs and commercial irradiated fuel are over. Separate repositories for permanent disposal of "defense" and commercial HLRWs will now be built. In addition, Moniz expressed full DOE support for congressional calls for "centralized interim storage" parking lot dumps.

Moniz spoke at the Bipartisan Policy Center. A case study of the revolving door between government, industry, and academia, or the incenstuous nature of the nuclear establishment, Moniz served on President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) for America's Nuclear Future from 2010-12. (For that matter, the BRC was housed at DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, charged with promoting the atomic industry!) So too did former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane, as well as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. BRC member, U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), serves at the Bipartisan Policy Center, as does the former BRC Designated Federal Officer, Timothy Frazier. (As described in his BPC bio, Frazier worked for 20 years, including in the promotional Office of Nuclear Energy, on all aspects of nuclear power and radioactive waste, and even as a nuclear weapons engineer.) John Kotek, currently DOE principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Nuclear Energy, was staff director of the BRC. (See Kotek's DOE blog, linked above.)

The simultaneous timing of Moniz's announcements, and the Senate bill launch, begs the question: were they coincidental, or coordinated?

Tuesday
Mar032015

Margene Bullcreek, leader of Skull Valley Goshute resistance to radioactive waste dump targeted at her community, has passed on

Margene Bullcreek. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.It is with heavy hearts that we share the sad news that Margene Bullcreek passed on, on Sunday, March 1st, 2015. An In Memoriam has been issued by her colleague Ian Zabarte of the Native Community Action Council (NCAC), where Margene Bullcreek has long served as President.

As emphasized in a NIRS victory tribute, published in Sept., 2006, when the U.S. Department of the Interior effectively blocked the Private Fuel Storage, LLC high-level radioactive waste parking lot dump targeted at her community in Utah:

"The greatest commendations, of course, go to Margene Bullcreek and her organization Ohngo Gaudadeh Devia Awareness (OGDA)...Their victory not only protects their own community and its future generations, but countless millions who live along the routes through dozens of states that were targeted for transporting the atomic wastes to Utah." More.