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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
Feb072018

Shimkus spews "alternative facts" in his push to "Screw Nevada (again)" on the U.S. House floor

U.S. Rep. Shimkus leads a tour of members of congress and their staff into the Yucca Mountain Exploratory Studies Facility tunnel, on April 26 (Chernobyl Day!), 2011. Each time Shimkus take such a tour, intended to boost prospect for reviving the cancelled project, it costs some $15,000 of federal taxpayer money. But than again, if it does open, the price tag would soar, to $100 billion or more.John Shimkus, the Illinois Republican U.S. Representative who authored H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, is using bogus figures in his attempt to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. See his recent write up, here.

Shimkus writes "$30 billion...has been quietly paid out in court-ordered claims...from a separate, off-budget account known as the judgement fund," to pay for damage awards to nuclear utilities due to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) breach of contract lawsuits. Most unwisely, DOE signed contracts with nuclear utilities in the mid-1980s, commiting to begin accepting title and liability for commercial irradiated nuclear fuel beginning in January 1998, and to haul it to a geologic repository for permanent disposal.

Actually, Shimkus's figure is a gross exaggeration. DOE itself has estimated that by 2020, the amount of such damage awards, at taxpayer expense (the Judgment Fund is housed at the U.S. Treasury; it is taxpayer-funded; it is the fund the federal government uses to pay damages when ordered to by the U.S. courts), would be around $12.3 billion. See point #12, on Page 6, of this 2010 backgrounder prepared by Beyond Nuclear, for documentation of this figure.

Each and every year, another $500 million or so, of taxpayer funding from the Judgment Fund, is awarded by the courts in damages, and forked over by DOE (well, DOJ and the U.S. Treasury, to be precise), for breach of contract.

Yet Shimkus claims that already over $30 billion has been doled out from the Judgment Fund, and by 2020 that figure will surmount $40 billion.

Shimkus's figures are off by some $27.7 billion, as compared to DOE's own estimate! He's more than 300% off!

This is not the first time Shimkus has played fast and loose with the truth.

Last year, shockingly, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (Democrat-CA) informed his own constituents in San Luis Obispo, CA -- members of the anti-nuclear group Mothers for Peace (MFP) -- that he supported H.R. 3053. When MFP expressed deep concerns about the Yucca Mountain dump, Carbajal said the bill had nothing to do with Yucca Mountain. That is what he had been told by Shimkus. And Carbajal believed it, hook, line, and sinker.

Actually, the bill is entirely about the proposed Yucca dump. Carbajal has yet to withdraw his support for the bill, however.

On Oct. 1, 2015, Beyond Nuclear testified before Shimkus's subcommittee, at a hearing about the risks of transporting highly radioactive waste, at the invitation of the Democratic minority. Beyond Nuclear and Shimkus butted heads about facts and "alternative facts" (over a year before Trump's election and inauguration, after which Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway concocted the infamously telling phrase "alternative facts"), regarding highly radioactive waste shipping routes through the Chicago area, bound for NV (or so-called "interim storage" in NM and/or TX, for that matter), and how vulnerable those shipments would be to terrorist attack, as by an anti-tank weapon.

Please take action to stop Shimkus's "Screw Nevada (again)"* bill, which would launch Mobile Chernobyls, Floating Fukushimas, Dirty Bombs on Wheels, and Mobile X-ray Machines That Can't Be Turned Off, by the many thousands or tens of thousands through most states over the course of 50 years.

Please act ASAP to help stop this bill!  Both groups and individuals can take action. An environmental coalition of 120+ organizations has sent a letter to the U.S. House, urging opposition to H.R. 3053. The letter will be sent one more time, when the bill moves to the floor for a vote. There is still time to sign your group on if you haven't already. To sign your organization on, please fill out and and submit this Google form, or else directly email Sean Alcorn at NRDC your name, title, organization name, city and state.  Individuals, please contact your own U.S. Rep., and urge them to oppose H.R. 3053. Sierra Club has a webform you can fill out and submit to your U.S. Rep. SEED Coalition of Texas has launched a CREDO petition you can sign. You can also phone your U.S. Rep.'s D.C. office, via the Capitol Switchboard, at (202) 225-3121, by following the instructions. Or you can look up your U.S. Rep.'s direct contact info. here, by entering your zip code, clicking the FIND YOUR REP BY ZIP button, and following the links. To learn more about why H.R. 3053 is a dangerously bad idea, see Beyond Nuclear's Yucca Mountain burial dump, de facto permanent parking lot dump, and radioactive waste transport risk website sections. If you have taken action already, thank you very much. Please consider spreading the word as widely as possible, given the grave risks and high stakes!

Note that Shimkus also plays fast and loose with taxpayer money himself. See the photo and biline above.

Shimkus also has odd timing, or else is entirely tone deaf. In addition to his Chernobyl Day tour of Yucca in 2011, depicted above, he also held his kick off hearing on H.R. 3053 on Chernobyl Day, 2017!

*"The Screw Nevada Bill" is the most commonly used name for the amendments to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act enacted in 1987, that singled out Yucca Mountain as the sole target in the country for a high-level radioactve waste dump. Even Bob Halstead, director of the State Agency for Nuclear Projects, has dubbed H.R. 3053 the "Screw Nevada 2" bill.

Wednesday
Jan312018

Moapa tribal leader who led charge against coal plant, championed first large-scale solar plant on tribal land, dies at 44

As reported by the Las Vegas Sun.

As the article reports:

Anderson became one of the youngest chairmen ever when he took over at age 26. During his second term as chairman he helped change the energy and environmental landscape of the Southwest.

The Moapa Pauite reservation is near Las Vegas, NV.

Yucca Mountain, NV -- targeted for a national high-level radioactive waste dump -- is sacred to not only the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, but also to the Southern Paiute.

Wednesday
Jan242018

State of Nevada updates on resistance to the Yucca dump, and transport impacts on most states

Robert Halstead, the director of the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, spoke in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 24th at a Yucca Mountain educational event hosted by the Mayor of the City of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman. The event took place during the annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Beyond Nuclear attended the event, as did members of other environmental groups opposed to the highly radioactive waste dump long targeted at Yucca Mountain, NV. (More than a thousand environmental groups have opposed the Yucca dump over the past 30+ years, and still do.)

The title of Halstead's presentation was "Yucca Mountain Update and Transportation Impacts."

It should be pointed out that Beyond Nuclear, and many environmental allies, disagree with Halstead's position, stated on the final page of his power point presentation:

What Should Be Done? Implement BRC [Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future] recommendations on consolidated interim storage, with priority for shutdown reactors.

When Mayor Goodman then stated that Texas and New Mexico wanted to host centralized interim storage facilities (CISF) in their states, Karen Hadden of the SEED (Sustainable Energy & Economic Development) Coalition politely begged to differ. Karen -- an ally of Beyond Nuclear's in the fight against the Waste Control Specialists, LLC CISF targeted at Andrews County, TX, as well as the Holtec/Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance CISF targeted at southeastern NM -- stated that TX and NM do not consent to these CISF schemes, a basic criterion required by the BRC's January 2012 Final Report itself.

Halstead also released an analysis of H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017. The analysis is posted online at the website of Dina Titus, Democratic U.S. Representative from Las Vegas, NV.

Although H.R. 3053 would, in enacted, authorize the CISFs targeted at TX and NM (and beyond), its main aim to expedite the opening of the Yucca dump, as well as to significantly increase the amount of highly radioactive waste that could be buried there (from 70,000 metric tons, to 110,000 metric tons).

This dramatic increase in the amount of highly radioactive waste to be buried at Yucca, would likewise increase the number of road, rail, and waterways shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel bound for Nevada along routes in 44 states plus the District of Columbia. As shown on Halstead's slide #5 of 12, the number of train cask shipments would increase from 9,495 to 21,909; the number of truck cask shipments would increase from 2,650 to 5,025.

See the following three reports prepared Dr. Fred Dilger, a consultant to the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, on projected transportation impacts to cities, states, and congressional districts, from coast to coast, if the Yucca dump were to open:

For additional info., see the State of NV Agency for Nuclear Project's website, especially its Nuclear Waste Transportation sub-section.

Wednesday
Jan032018

Early 2018 House Vote Expected on Yucca Mountain Bill 

As reported by Chris Schneidmiller at ExchangeMonitor.

(See what you can do to urge your U.S. Representative to oppose this, at the bottom of this post.)

The article reports that the bill, H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, could reach the U.S. House floor for a vote as early as this month, or next.

The article's main point is accurate -- the bill is mostly about accelerating the opening of the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada burial dump, by significantly cutting short consideration by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of the State of Nevada's 200+ technical contentions in opposition to the highly controversial dump.

The bill's sponsor, Republican John Shimkus of Illinois, backed off -- for the time being -- from trying to wrest water rights from the State of Nevada, after he met with strong opposition from a number of western state U.S. Reps. Water is precious in the region, so state water rights are fiercely defended. However, he indicated that when the time is right, he would pursue that water grab again in the future.

Yucca Mountain is on Western Shoshone Indian land, under the terms of the 1863 "peace and friendship" Treaty of Ruby Valley. Thus, H.R. 3053's attempt to transfer lands to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) -- as well as those attempts that would someday be pursued to wrest water rights -- fly in the face of Western Shoshone treaty rights. Such treaties are the highest law of the land, equal in stature to the U.S. Constitution itself.

H.R. 3053 would also significantly increase the amount of irradiated nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to be buried at the scientifically unsuitable, environmentally racist, non-consent-based, and illegal site. Current law limits the Yucca dump to 70,000 Metric Tons of irradiated nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Shimkus would increase this limit to 110,000 Metric Tons. The increase would accelerate the massive release of hazardous radioactive contamination release into groundwater (as well as air), due to the waste's thermal heat, underground water saturation, and rock chemistry, synergistically combining to form a perfect storm of corrosion.

But the article's claim, that "The legislation would allow for construction – but not operation — of one interim waste storage site before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission completes its adjudication of DOE’s long-dormant license application for Yucca Mountain," needs correction. H.R. 3053 would actually allow for the opening of an unlimited number of centralized interim storage sites, although each side would be limited to 10,000 Metric Tons of irradiated nuclear fuel. (While the bill would authorize such centralized interim storage -- currently illegal -- the NRC, again, would the agency in charge of the licensing proceeding for construction and operation.)

The top two targets for centralized interim storage are Holtec/Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance (ELEA) in southeast New Mexico, near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), and Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS) in Andrews County, Texas, directly on the New Mexico state line, less than five miles from Eunice, New Mexico. The two targeted sites are less than 40 miles apart. Thus, this effort is an attempt to turn the New Mexico/Texas borderlands into a nuclear sacrifice zone. This is an environmental justice violation, given the region's large Hispanic population, as well as its pollution from past and current fossil fuel and nuclear industries (in addition to WIPP, WCS is also a national "low-level" radioactive waste dump, and a major uranium enrichment facility also operates in Eunice).

Holtec/ELEA has applied for a permit from NRC to "temporarily store" up to 120,000 Metric Tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel, 40,000 Metric Tons more than currently exists in the United States.

WCS, for its part, has applied for a permit to "consolidate" storage on an "interim" basis for 40,000 Metric Tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel.

The grand total for the two centralized interim storage facilities, or monitored retrievable storage sites, is 160,000 Metric Tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel, twice what exists in the U.S. presently.

Whether bound for the Yucca burial dump in NV, or the "parking lot" surface storage dumps on the TX/NM borderlands -- at risk of becoming de facto permanent -- highly radioactive, high-hazard, high-risk irradiated nuclear fuel shipments by truck, train, and/or barge, on the roads, rails, and/or waterways, in unprecedented numbers, would begin, and continue for years and decades. These shipments would pass through most states in the Lower 48, including 100+ major cities, through the vast majority of U.S. congressional districts. (See the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's analyses of shipment routes, and numbers of shipments, bound for the Yucca dump; and see Beyond Nuclear's Waste Transportation website section for more info., including potential barge shipment routes.)

WHAT YOU CAN DO!

Please contact your U.S. Representative, and urge opposition to H.R. 3053! You can call your U.S. Rep. via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121, by following the instructions given over the phone.

You can also look up your U.S. Rep.'s direct phone numbers, fax numbers, web forms, and snail mail addresses, at this website: see the upper right, FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE; enter your zip code; and click LOOK UP.

Please spread the word! Urge everyone you know to take action!

WHAT MORE YOU CAN DO!

A letter signed by Beyond Nuclear, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and 117+ additional organizations from across the country, has been delivered to U.S. House of Representatives' offices, urging opposition to H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017.

There is still time to sign your group onto this letter -- another update will be delivered to U.S. House offices before the bill goes to the floor for a vote.

To sign on, there’s a google form here (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSflR0_uHQfQ9Ds4JRklF1VmtdbtxRVcDJzLIoOcn5633Vk2mA/viewform?usp=sf_link) that NRDC would prefer folks use, or else email Sean Alcorn at NRDC <salcorn@nrdc.org> your name, title, organization name, city and state.

Individuals can also take action:

Sierra Club has a webform you can fill out and email to your U.S. Rep.

SEED Coalition of Texas has launched a CREDO petition you can sign.

Wednesday
Jan032018

NIMBY Democrats must be urged to change their position on Yucca dump!

In a question and answer session with KPBS reporters Brooke Ruth and Maureen Cavanaugh, U.S. Representative Scott Peters (Democrat-San Diego) said the following:

Q: The issue of nuclear waste being stored at San Onofre has actually brought local Democrats and Republicans together to support opening a nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. That is in the process of moving through Congress. Do you expect that bill to make it to the president's desk in 2018?

A: I hope so. I should just say that it’s common for the five of us in our delegation to work together. We really do get along and we often endorse against each other in our elections. Darrell Issa has always endorsed another candidate against me but if the voters send us back we will work together on something like H-1B visas or the border or on this particular issue. This was Mr. Issa’s bill, I supported it and I think it makes a lot of sense to move spent nuclear waste away from the ocean. It seems like it’s got pretty good support except in Nevada and I think that we’ll see but I think that it’s got bipartisan support and there’s a good shot we should be able to get it past, at least in the House and we hope in the Senate and then onto the president.

U.S. Rep. Peters is voicing a Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) position that is unacceptable. Yucca Mountain, Nevada is, after all, environmentally unjust, scientifically unsuitable, not consent-based, and against the supreme law of the land.

The proposed Yucca dump is a violation of environmental justice (EJ) because low income and people of color communities (such as the Western Shoshone Indian Nation) have already suffered badly from nuclear weapons testing in Nevada.

The proposed Yucca dump is scientifically unsuitable, because it is an active earthquake and volcanic zone. Also, the perfect storm of underground water saturation, rock chemistry, and the thermal heat of the buried waste would guarantee waste burial corrosion and breach over time, resulting in massive releases of radioactivity to groundwater. Downstream are the agricultural community of Amargosa Valley, Nevada, which draws its drinking water and irrigation water from Yucca's groundwater. Also downstream is the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refugre. Also downstream is the Timbisha Shoshone Indian Band, which draws its water from springs where Yucca's groundwater ultimately surfaces.

The proposed Yucca dump is not consent-based. Both the State of Nevada, and the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, have opposed the dump from the start, decades back, since it was first proposed, and shoved down their throat, against their will, through such acts as the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987.

The proposed Yucca dump violates the "peace and friendship" Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1863. Such treaties are the supreme law of the land, equal in stature to the U.S. Constitution itself.

Beyond Nuclear advocates for Hardened On-Site Storage, as close to the point of generation as possible. In the case of the permanently closed San Onofre nuclear power plant in s. CA, Beyond Nuclear has advocated -- as in a letter to the editor of the L.A. Times -- for the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, immediately adjacent to the atomic reactors, to be considered as an interim, safer alternative for irradiated nuclear fuel storage, instead of the Pacific Ocean beach.