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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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Wednesday
Aug252010

Yucca dump licensing proceeding limps one step forward

Or should we say backward? The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has published the first of five volumes of its "Safety Evaluation Report" (SER) on the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) application for a construction and operating license for the high-level radioactive waste dump targeted at Western Shoshone Indian lands at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Although NRC staff has given DOE's work a "passing grade," it should be borne in mind that NRC staff was busted by its own Inspector General in Sept. 2007 for plagiarizing nuclear utility "safety analyses," cutting and pasting them into NRC staff "safety evaluations" as part of rubberstamping 20 year license extensions at old reactors. This latest NRC Yucca licensing action comes despite DOE Secretary Steven Chu moving last March to withdraw its license application "with prejudice" (that is, forevermore, with no option to re-submit it), following President Barack Obama's clearcut and wise policy decision, that Yucca Mountain is no longer an option for radioactive waste disposal. But, incredibly, an NRC "Atomic Safety (sic) Licensing Board" (ASLB) then rejected DOE's motion to withdraw in late June, sending the matter to the five member Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself for review, where it now sits, awaiting a ruling. Regardless of the fact that DOE's budget for the Yucca Mountain dump project is a big fat ZERO for Fiscal Year 2011, thanks to the efforts of President Obama, Energy Secretary Chu, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), it is almost certain that whichever side loses at the NRC, it will appeal to the federal courts. The nuclear power industry's strategy is to draw out the Yucca dump's "last throes" long enough, in hopes that Sen. Reid loses his re-election in November, 2010, and President Obama his re-election in November, 2012. Then the nuclear power industry, its many friends in Congress, and presumably its new ally in the White House could move to "revive" the zombie that is the Yucca dump.  A timeline of the Yucca Mountain issue is posted at the Las Vegas Review Journal's website (see the left hand side bar).

Saturday
Jul242010

Attempt to restore funding for Yucca dump rebuffed by Senate Appropriators

Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) effort to appropriate $200 million to the Yucca Mountain, Nevada repository for high-level radioactive waste, despite President Obama, Energy Secretary Chu, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s opposition to the dumpsite was voted against by every other Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as one Republican.

Her amendment failed by a 16 to 13 vote against on the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday.

Recently, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing board rejected the Dept. of Energy's motion to withdraw its license application for the Yucca dump. The NRC Commissioners will soon review the licensing board's ruling, and vote to uphold or overturn it. Whichever side loses that Commission review will almost certainly appeal the decision to the federal courts.

The Obama administration requested that the Yucca Mountain Project's budget be zeroed out for Fiscal Year 2011, a request that will be carried out, if today's Senate Appropriations Committee FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill is enacted as is.

The Obama administration established a "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future" to determine a Plan B, now that Yucca has been cancelled. Unfortunately, however -- as the ironic name implies -- many on the Commission, including co-chair Brent Scowcroft, seem more focused on expanding atomic energy than on solving the radioactive waste crisis

Wednesday
Jun302010

NRC licensing board ruling keeps Yucca "illusion of a solution" alive, for now

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has ruled that the U.S. Department of Energy cannot withdraw its application for a construction and operating license at the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada national repository for high-level radioactive waste. The board ruled "Unless Congress directs otherwise, D.O.E. may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process." The ruling contradicts President Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu's policy decision that Yucca Mountain is no longer an option for radioactive waste disposal. In February, Chu moved to withdraw the license application from the NRC proceeding, and also zeroed out DOE's budget request for the Yucca Mountain Project for Fiscal Year 2011. The five NRC Commissioners may now review the licensing board's ruling, and either uphold or reverse it. Please phone the White House comment line at (202) 456-1111, email it via its webform (http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact), or send a handwritten letter via fax (202-456-2461) or post (The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500). Thank President Obama for cancelling the Yucca Mountain dumpsite. Urge him to stand strong and make sure the dump is dead. For more information on the geologic unsuitability of Yucca Mountain, as well as the environmental injustice of targeting sacred Western Shoshone Indian treaty land in Nevada for radioactive waste dumping, see Beyond Nuclear's Yucca website section, as well as NIRS's Yucca website section. A vast "repository" of information about the Yucca Mountain dump, and the struggle to stop it, can also be found at the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's website. Incredibly, despite them having missed the deadline by several years to apply to become parties in the Yucca licensing proceeding, the ASLB ruling has also allowed several pro-dump parties, such as the States of Washington and South Carolina, to now join the proceeding as intervening parties opposing DOE's license application withdrawal.

Monday
Mar222010

ANA awards Yucca watchdogs certificates of honor

On March 16 during its "DC Days" award ceremony, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (of which Beyond Nuclear is a member group) presented certificates of honor to Steve Frishman and Judy Treichel for their more than quarter century of grassroots leadership against the now-cancelled Yucca Mountain dumpsite in Nevada. Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, had the privilege of introducing Judy and Steve. Judy, founder and executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, was honored "For her steadfast leadership in Nevada and across the country working with community organizations to raise transportation and other concerns as part of an effective campaign to stop the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Project." Judy's acceptance speech was marked by her characteristic sense of humor. Steve Frishman, who long served at the State of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects, was honored "For his expertise in exposing technical and legal problems that demonstrated the inadequacies of the proposed site as part of an effective campaign to stop the Yucca Mountain Project." In his acceptance speech, Steve celebrated "the value of persistence in a just cause, and the value of friends who shared theirs with us."

Tuesday
Feb022010

Obama administration makes major moves to end Yucca Mountain dumpsite proposal!

Fulfilling a campaign pledge, President Barack Obama has zeroed out the Yucca Mountain Project's funding in Fiscal Year 2011. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has moved to end the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission construction and operating license application proceeding within the next month. Many observers regard these actions as a clear signal that the Yucca Mountain dumpsite proposal, after over 20 years, has now been cancelled. Extensive media coverage can be found at the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's "What News" page. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as a rookie Democrat from Nevada, suffered the humiliation of the "Screw Nevada Bill" in 1987 that singled out Yucca Mountain for the country's high-level radioactive waste dump based on raw political expedience, not sound science. Ever since, he has devoted his career to stopping the dump. He seems to have succeeded. Reid has called for the Yucca site to be considered for other uses. But the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, to whom Yucca belongs according to the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley signed by the U.S. government, must be consulted and agree with any such decisions, an environmental justice never granted them in regards to Yucca Mountain dumpsite decision making (the frame for a Western Shoshone sweat lodge at the foot of the western face of Yucca Mountain, photographed by Gabriela Bulisova in Jan. 2004, shows that the site has still recently been used for sacred ceremonies). Beyond Nuclear would like to take this opportunity to thank the over 1,000 grassroots and national environmental groups whose work over the past 20+ years has made this environmental and environmental justice victory possible. Special thanks and congratulations go to the grassroots Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, as well as such Western Shoshone Indian bodies as the National Council, Defense Project, Shundahai Network, and bands such as the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe in Death Valley, without whose tireless, and often thankless, efforts for over two decades, this fight would have been lost long ago. Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, issued a press statement.