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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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Thursday
Jun222017

DOJ Wins Stop To $367M Merger Of Radioactive Waste Firms; NRC suspends licensing proceeding on WCS CISF

A Delaware federal judge on Wednesday blocked the $367 million merger of EnergySolutions Inc. and Waste Control Specialists LLC, siding with the U.S. Department of Justice in the government's bid to enjoin the deal on antitrust grounds. [This story was broken by Law360 Environmental. The remainder of the article is behind a pay wall.]

WCS had hoped EnergySolutions -- its competitor in "low-level" radioactive waste dumping -- could take it over, which would allow for the resumption of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing proceedings on WCS's proposal to construct and operate a centralized interim storage facility (CISF) for 40,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel in Andrews County, TX. This court ruling appears to have dealt a severe blow to those plans.

By coincidence, the NRC Commissioners just affirmed their vote, at around 2pm Eastern on Thursday, June 22nd, to approve the combined request by WCS, NRC staff, and even opposing environmental groups (including Beyond Nuclear), to suspend the CISF licensing proceeding.

Here is a link to the NRC Commissioners' MEMORANDUM AND ORDER, which actually denies most of the environmental coalition's requests made on April 28, 2017, regarding procedures and deadlines to come, should this licensing proceeding resume.

If opened, the CISF at WCS, TX would have launched unprecedented numbers of shipments, mostly by rail (but also by barge and/or heavy haul truck, at certain nuclear power plants), of irradiated nuclear fuel through many states.

Located less than 40 miles from WCS across the TX/NM border, however, the ELEA, NM CISF (Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance) is still proceeding full steam ahead. ELEA, located very near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), if opened, could also launch unprecedented numbers of Mobile Chernobyls, Floating Fukushimas, and Dirty Bombs on Wheels.

Thursday
Jun222017

Mobile Chernobyl House bill moves to full Energy & Commerce Committee! Contact your U.S. Rep.!

Infrared photo of a train shipment of irradiated nuclear fuel in Germany. Although what is shown is thermal heat, gamma radiation would also stream out, like a mobile X-ray machine that can't be turned off, as Loren Olson has put it.The effort by U.S. House Republicans, to ram radioactive waste dumps down the throats of Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, without their consent, is picking up steam! U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) succeeded in rushing the Mobile Chernobyl bill through the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee he chairs last week, and now it moves on for consideration by the full U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee.
 
Urgent action is needed to prevent the launch of Mobile Chernobyl irradiated nuclear fuel transport risks, in unprecedented large numbers, through many states, en route to the Yucca Mountain, NV permanent burial dump, and/or de facto permanent parking lot dumps in TX and/or NM! 

Many states in the Lower 48/Continental U.S. would be impacted by trucks, trains, and/or barges carrying commercial high-level radioactive waste to NM, NV, and/or TX. Emails, phone calls, and/or faxes to U.S. Representatives are urgently needed. Please read on, or skip to the TAKE ACTION section below...


Mobile Chernobyl routes through many states:

See Mobile Chernobyl road and rail routes throughout many states, across the U.S., here. This map was published by the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, in the context of Yucca-bound shipments by truck and train.

However, depending on the particular circumstances, there would be a lot of overlap in routing, whether shipments were headed to NV, or TX/NM (the two centralized interim storage facilities, so-called, are less than 40 miles away from each other, across the TX/NM border). Here is a map published by the Public Citizen Texas Office, showing projected routes for irradiated nuclear fuel shipments into the WCS site in west TX. And here is WCS's own map, from its license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, showing national rail routes that would be used to ship high-level radioactive waste to west TX.

Note that the heart of many major cities would be hard hit, with rail and/or truck routes passing though large population centers (map again provided by State of NV Agency for Nuclear Projects, in context of Yucca-bound shipments).

In addition, there is also the potential for irradiated nuclear fuel barge shipments on surface waters across the country, from the Great Lakes, to rivers, to sea coasts. Check out these backgrounders for maps and shipment numbers (published by the Department of Energy in its Yucca dump Final Environmental Impact Statement in Feb. 2002), as well as for info. on the high risks involved: 
Again, centralized interim storage facilities in TX and/or NM, would simply multiply such risks. In fact, many congressional districts could see the very same high-level radioactive waste casks pass through twice -- once en route to centralized storage, and again as they are moved to permanent disposal!


TAKE ACTION ASAP!

Please email, phone, and/or fax your U.S. Representative ASAP (snail mailed letters take a long time to arrive at the U.S. House, due to security screening, but might arrive in time for the Energy & Commerce Committee vote, if you send it right away). You can reach your U.S. Rep. by phone, via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard, at 202-225-3121; their email/web forms, fax numbers, and snail mail addresses can be looked up at this U.S. House website, by entering your ZIP code in the upper right hand corner. You can contact your U.S. Representative's Washington, D.C. office, and/or their one or more district offices near you.)
 
Please urge your U.S. Representative to oppose H.R.___, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, and to urge all their colleagues on the full U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the full House of Representatives, on both sides of the aisle, to do the same! (Note that the bill is so half-baked, and ill-considered, it still doesn't even have an H.R. bill number yet! And yet, Rep. Shimkus rammed it through mark up, and passed it through the subcommittee, and has now sent it on to the full committee for a vote!)

Thanks for taking action, and please spread the word!
 

 

Additional background info.

As revealed in this Beyond Nuclear press release, subcommittee chairman Shimkus, who is advocating this bill to open the Yucca dump, as well as surface parking lot storage in TX and/or NM, is quite unfamiliar with irradiated nuclear fuel rail routes through the Chicago area, in his home state of IL. He has also inappropriately downplayed the security risks of such shipments, specifically the risk of an attack by terrorists using shoulder-fired, tripod-fired, or vehicle-mounted, anti-tank missiles, such as TOWs, all too available on the international black market. See the full Beyond Nuclear post about the October 1, 2015 Shimkus hearing, at which we were invited (by Ranking Democrat Tonko) to testify, here.

Monday
Jun192017

Crash raises nuclear waste fears

Tuesday
May302017

Beyond Nuclear presents at Heartwood re: courts deferring to agencies, on unprecedented highly radioactive liquid waste shipments

Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, presented at the 2017 Heartwood "Strong Roots!" forest protection council on Sat., May 27th.

Kevin's talk was entitled "Head-On Collision: Chevron Deference Meets Mobile Chernobyl on Steroids." (See the power point presentation; or the PDF version.) He described the efforts by an environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, to stop unprecedented high-risk, highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments from Chalk River Nuclear Lab, Ontario, Canada to Savannah River Site, South Carolina. Terry Lodge of Toledo, Ohio has served as legal council for the coalition since 2013; he was assisted by attorney Diane Curran of Washington, D.C. at oral arguments in Jan. 2017.

However, in Feb., 2017, a federal judge deferred to the U.S. Department of Energy's supposed expertise, greenlighting the truck shipments without an environmental impact statement. The judge cited an obscure, but widely invoked, legal doctrine called "Chevron Deference" (named after a 1984 lawsuit between Chevron and Natural Resources Defense Council) as a key basis for her adverse ruling.

The shipments began in April 2017. Routing is top secret, given the security risks, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But the most direct routes could take the 150 truck shipments, set to continue for four years, near the location of the Heartwood gathering in the mountains of western North Carolina -- as on highways such as I-81 and I-26, as through Asheville. (See map, above left, showing one such potential route; see here for a larger version of this route map). See Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Transportation website section for more information about this particular scheme, as well as similar ones (see entries posted below).

Also presenting (see the power point, "Judicial Deference to Federal Agency Actions: In Theory and Practice") during the session was Perrin W. de Jong, an attorney who has faced adverse rulings based on the "Chevron Doctrine" himself, in lawsuits seeking to protect the tranquility of hiking and horseback riding nature trails through forested areas, against the threat of disturbance by gun shooting ranges.

Carol Polsgrove, a free lance journalist who organized the workshop sessions, compiled a bibliography, with links to documents on the subject matter. (See .docx version; see .pdf version.)

Monday
May152017

Highly Radioactive Liquid from Canada Raises Concerns about Worker Safety at DOE's Savannah River Site

News from Beyond Nuclear * Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes * Northwatch * Nuclear Information and Resource Service * Savannah River Site Watch

For Immediate Release, May 15, 2017

Contact:

Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR), (514) 839 7214; Kevin Kamps, (240) 462-3216, kevin@beyondnuclear.org; Michael Keegan, Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, (734) 770-1441, mkeeganj@comcast.net; Terry Lodge, environmental coalition attorney, tjlodge50@yahoo.com; Brennain Lloyd, Northwatch, northwatch@northwatch.org, office 705 497 0373  cell 705 493 9650.

Highly Radioactive Liquid from Canada Raises Concerns about Worker Safety at the Savannah River Site

Hotspot on Unloading Equipment Reveals Failed Radiation Shielding

Savannah River Site (SRS), South Carolina— According to a U.S. federal agency document just released on Friday May 12, the first of 100-150 truckloads of highly radioactive liquid waste from Canada has been unloaded at the Savannah River Site, and the transfer container has not provided fully adequate radiological shielding to protect workers.

A document published by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB), a U.S. federal agency, has confirmed that the first truck shipment of “Target Residue Material (TRM),” or “liquid Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU),” arrived from Chalk River Nuclear Lab, Ontario, Canada at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) H-Canyon in SRS, the week ending April 21. (The document was not made publicly available until May 12, however).

The DNFSB document went on to report that “Each container of HEU is pulled from the shipping cask into a shielded “pig” that provides radiological shielding for H-Canyon personnel. After loading a pig, radiological protection (RP) identified an unexpected hotspot on the side of the pig indicating that the pig was not providing adequate radiological shielding.”

(As defined at the online glossary of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, “pig” is “A colloquial term describing a container (usually lead or depleted uranium) used to ship or store radioactive materials. The thick walls of this shielding device protect the person handling the container from radiation. Large containers used for spent fuel storage are commonly called casks.”)

The DNFSB document was posted online on May 12 at: https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/11571/Savannah%20River%20Week%20Ending%20April%2021%202017.pdf

The document is also reproduced below, at the end of this press release.

The unprecedented truck shipments of high-risk, highly radioactive liquid waste have stoked controversy and concern since the proposal was first revealed four years ago, leading to a federal lawsuit by an environmental coalition last August, ending with a federal judge’s ruling in favor of DOE in February.  The coalition (which includes Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, SRS Watch, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Lone Tree Council, Sierra Club, and Environmentalists, Inc.), represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, and Washington, D.C. attorney Diane Curran, sought an environmental assessment or impact statement prior to shipments. However, U.S. District Court Judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, ruled DOE could proceed with the shipments even without the stronger environmental reviews. Up to 150 truck shipments are scheduled over the next four years, to transport 6,000 gallons of highly radioactive liquid waste from Chalk River, Ontario to SRS, South Carolina, passing through several states in between.

The most likely border crossing is at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York, and at Thousand Islands Bridge, New York. This has prompted U.S. Representative Brian Higgins (Democrat-Buffalo), and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (Democrat-New York), to express opposition. Higgins’ bill, demanding a Homeland Security review of the shipments, passed the U.S. House last year.

“The unfortunate result of the court’s failure to require an environmental safety review is that, to reduce the substantial hazard of these shipments, every step of this unprecedented and unnecessary project must be carried out flawlessly: loading, transport, unloading, storage and reprocessing. But the very first delivery has exposed a substandard, flawed piece of equipment that could well threaten worker safety. We demanded a genuine scientific assessment of the wisdom of moving this highly radioactive liquid at all, but DOE swore that its containment, transport, and handling systems, structures, and components would provide adequate safety. This incident gives the lie to the court's unsupported ruling that all bases were covered,” said Terry Lodge, one of the attorneys who sought to halt the shipments in court.

“The labels “Target Residue Material (TRM),” or “liquid Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU),” obscure the fact that this liquid waste is highly radioactive,” said Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, and an expert witness in the coalition’s lawsuit. “As I testified in court filings, a very small amount – just a few liquid ounces – of this highly radioactive stew of fission products such as Cesium-137, if spilled, could render an entire large city’s drinking water supply unsafe to drink,” Edwards said.

“Our proposed alternative to these high-risk truck shipments to South Carolina, and the unnecessary reprocessing at H-Canyon and de facto permanent storage of highly radioactive waste at SRS, is simply to down-blend and solidify the liquids in Canada, as had been done for years at Chalk River,” said Brennain Lloyd, project coordinator of Northwatch, an Ontario group that has warned about the risks of such transportation, and raised concerns about cross-border trade and traffic in radioactive wastes.

Down-blending is the process of mixing non-fissile Uranium-238 into concentrated fissile Uranium-235, thereby turning nuclear weapons-usable Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) into non-proliferative Low Enriched Uranium (LEU).

“DOE’s recent approval for Indonesia to do on-site down-blending and solidification of nearly identical liquid HEU, undermines DOE’s assertion that Chalk River must ship to SRS as a nonproliferation safeguard,” said Michael Keegan, coordinator of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, based in Monroe, Michigan. “We’re concerned DOE is simply trying to keep its dirty, dangerous, expensive, and unnecessary reprocessing facilities at H-Canyon on life support,” Keegan added.

“The shipments are not being done for nuclear nonproliferation reasons as DOE claims, but rather represent nuclear dumping by Canada, and profit-making by DOE, given the $60 million payment for the scheme, all of which should stop,” said Tom Clements, SRS Watch director.

Today, SRS Watch, based in Columbia, South Carolina, filed a "FOIA Request for any Documents or Reports Related to Receipt, Off Loading and Handling of Canadian Liquid High-Level Waste at H-Canyon, Especially as it Applies to Radiological Shielding Problems" (see https://tinyurl.com/m2ht8po).

Last month, the Iroquois Caucus and Anishinabek Nation issued a joint declaration, and wrote the Canadian Prime Minister, likewise urging down-blending and solidification of the highly radioactive liquid wastes on-site at Chalk River, as a safer alternative to trucking them through the First Nations’ Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and other territories. The Iroquois Caucus and Anishinabek Nation had first condemned the highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments across their territories in February.

The discovery of an unexpected radioactive “hot spot” in one of the SRS transfer pigs may be the result of a manufacturing defect or flaw. 

It follows other equipment defects, malfunctions, and failures involved in highly radioactive waste storage, handling and transfer activities at Chalk River and SRS. Multiple incidents have happened in the last two years, all directly or indirectly connected with the same type of transport cask, the Nuclear Assurance Corporation-Legal Weight Truck (NAC-LWT) cask, being used in the highly radioactive liquid waste shipments.

In October 2015, the bottom of a “caddy” used to transfer solid irradiated nuclear fuel unexpectedly failed, dropping open and sending the highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods to the bottom of a high-level waste storage pool at Chalk River. The failure of the caddy was caused by poor welds, a manufacturing defect that was also evident on a number of other caddies designed to serve the same purpose. These caddies are manufactured by the same company (NAC) that makes the transport casks, and are part of the equipment that goes with the NAC-LWT cask.

In April 2016, a grapple crane at SRS, used to lift a “basket” of solid, highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel for emplacement in a NAC-LWT cask, suddenly failed, dropping the basket with its radioactive contents. Again, the grapple crane that failed was part of the equipment that accompanies the NAC-LWT cask.

“This latest incident of inadequate radiological protection at SRS must be added to multiple other safety-related incidents that have raised red flags, calling into question the competence of the American and Canadian nuclear agencies and contractor firms involved,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear. “These have included quality assurance violations with the waste shipping containers. The unprecedented liquid nature of these current highly radioactive waste shipments only adds to the risks during handling, transport, transfer, and storage,” Kamps added.

“Communities on both sides of the border and along the routes have raised repeated concerns and opposition to these unnecessary, unprecedented, intensely radioactive nuclear shipments, and are calling for a halt to these and other proposed nuclear waste transports between the U.S. and Canada,” stated Diane D’Arrigo of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), one of the groups that challenged the shipments in court.

--30—

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION

(1) DNFSB memo, posted online May 12, 2017 at https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/11571/Savannah%20River%20Week%20Ending%20April%2021%202017.pdf:

DEFENSE NUCLEAR FACILITIES SAFETY BOARD
April 21, 2017
TO: S. A. Stokes, Technical Director
FROM: M. T. Sautman and Z. C. McCabe, Resident Inspectors
SUBJECT: Savannah River Site Resident Inspector Report for Week Ending April 21, 2017

Target Residue Material (TRM): H-Canyon personnel started processing the first shipment of liquid Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) this week. Each container of HEU is pulled from the shipping cask into a shielded “pig” that provides radiological shielding for H-Canyon personnel. After loading a pig, radiological protection (RP) identified an unexpected hotspot on the side of the pig indicating that the pig was not providing adequate radiological shielding. RP labeled the hotspot before H-Canyon personnel relocated the pig so the hotspot would be facing the wall. H-Canyon personnel did not identify any similar issues on the other pigs and are planning to use the one spare pig for future evolutions. All of the containers have been removed from the cask and H-Canyon personnel have begun transferring the HEU into H-Canyon for processing.

(2) Radioactive Roads: Highly Radioactive Liquid Transport from Chalk River, Ontario, to SRS, South Carolina, March 2017, by Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, March 2017 – with cask photos and analysis of radioactive contents of liquid HLW (see http://www.ccnr.org/TRM_Transport_CRL-SRS.pdf)

(3) See posts regarding these highly radioactive liquid waste truck shipments from Chalk River to SRS, and related subject matter, at: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/waste-transportation/