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Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain, the Nevada-based, scientifically flawed and politically unjust proposed high-level radioactive waste repository has now been canceled. However, pro-nuclear forces in Congress have not abandoned Yucca and funding is still allocated to the project.

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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.

As reported by Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post, the Basin and Range National Monument is the fulfillment of a long-held dream by U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Reid, who hails from Searchlight, NV, loves Nevada's desert. He has also devoted his long and successful political career in the U.S. Senate to blocking the Yucca dump, as one of his highest priorities.

This is not the first wilderness area to block a Mobile Chernobyl route and radioactive waste dump. In 2006, Sen. Reid worked with Republican colleagues from Nevada and Utah to create the Cedar Mountains federal wilderness area in Skull Valley, Utah. The designation effectively blocked the environmentally racist Private Fuel Storage, LLC high-level radioactive waste de facto permanent parking lot dump, targeted by a consortium of nuclear power utilities at the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation west of Salt Lake City. The federal wilderness area was the first designated in Utah in a generation, brought about by the unlikely cooperation of traditional Native Americans, wilderness groups, and Utah's Mormon Republican political establishment.

Wednesday
May272015

"Nuclear Waste Hard To Handle For GOP Candidates"

Forget about a hot potato -- how about a radioactive hot potato?!

As reported by Jason Plautz in National Journal, "Two early voting states are on opposite ends of the Yucca Mountain divide." South Carolina -- the third presidential primary after Iowa's caucus and New Hampshire's primary -- stores a large amount of irradiated nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at its many commercial atomic reactors, as well as at the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons complex. The powers that be in South Carolina have long been in favor of dumping its radioactive wastes on Nevada --at the long-targeted Yucca Mountain site -- even though the Silver State already suffered the ravages of four decades of full-scale nuclear weapons testing (both atmospheric, and underground, which also often leaked into the biosphere; sub-critical nuclear weapons tests still take place in Nevada), and has not one single atomic reactor within its borders.

But the Nevada caucus comes just days after the South Carolina primary in the presidential campaign. Republican presidential candidates are now trying to walk that tightrope, dangling above a mountain of radioactive waste 73 years high.

As Hannah Northey at E&E Daily has reported, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) is keeping tabs on which Republican presidential candidates support the Yucca dump, and which oppose it. Members of the latter category are much more likely to receive his support, Sen. Heller had indicated.

Wednesday
May202015

House Republicans still pushing for Yucca Mountain dump

As reported by Hannah Northey of E&E Daily, U.S. House Economy and the Environment Subcommittee Chair Shimkus (R-IL) is demanding a revival of (or, more appropriately, a relapse into) the Yucca Mountain dump as part of overall radioactive waste legislation.

The article quotes Rep. Shimkus, who is displeased that his Senate Republican counterparts have not yet included Yucca's revival in their own bill:

"It's about time the senators had to either address the issues of their states, whether that's defense waste or spent nuclear fuel, and be part of the debate," Shimkus said. "We're not moving interim storage without any assurance that Yucca is moving forward. That's pretty clear." (emphasis added)

However, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has made it clear that a pro-Yucca dump amendment would be introduced to the Senate bill, once it reaches the floor for debate. U.S. Sen. Reid (D-NV), the Senate Democratic Leader, can be expected to fight that amendment. Reid has successfully protected Nevada against the proposed Yucca dump for nearly 30 years, ever since the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987, when he was a rookie Senator.

Tuesday
May192015

"Yucca Mountain left out of Senate funding bill" -- but for how much longer?!

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.

Friday
May152015

Rep. Shimkus (R-IL) pushes Yucca dump at House hearing

On May 15th, U.S. Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) chaired a hearing of the House Economy and the Environment Subcommittee entitled "Update on the Current Status of Nuclear Waste Management Policy."

It should have been titled "Pro-Yucca Dump Pep Rally" instead! Led by Shimkus himself, almost all of the statements from congressional subcommittee members called for the dump targeted at Nevada to be revived, even though the vast majority of the State of Nevada is opposed.

Even the witnesses were strongly biased in favor of the Yucca dump. These included a nuclear power utility CEO, the far from neutral U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff official in charge of the Yucca licensing proceeding, a Public Service Commission official (where "public service" often means serving the public up for dinner to the nuclear power industry), and a spokesman from a long shutdown atomic reactor currently engaged in a prolonged decommissioning process. In short, all of these spokespeople had an overriding agenda to get the radioactive waste the nuclear power utilities profited from generating in the first place onto the roads, rails, and waterways, preferably bound for Yucca Mountain, NV.

The lone Yucca dump opponent, Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Attorney Geoff Fettus, very ably articulated the position of a thousand environmental and public interest groups across the country which have helped block the dump for decades. In fact, on behalf of such groups as NIRS, Public Citizen, Citizens Action Coalition of IN, and NV Nuclear Waste Task Force, Fettus successfully argued the case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, from 2002-2004. That environmental court victory resulted in EPA's being ordered back to the drawing board on its Yucca regulations. In 2008, under the court's order, EPA admitted that 10,000 years of regulation at Yucca was far from enough. Rather, the high-level radioactive wastes would remain hazardous for a million years.

But the rigged nature of this hearing was best exemplified by an exchange between Rep. Shimkus and NRDC's Fettus. Shimkus asked the witnesses, yes or no, should the Yucca dump licensing proceeding be restarted. All the witnesses said yes, except for Fettus. But as Fettus calmly attempted to explain the reasons why, Shimkus simply shouted him down, attempting to put words in his mouth.

A video recording of the entire hearing is posted at the Subcommittee's website, as is the transcript, witness prepared statements, etc.