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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
Sep122015

NRC Yucca Mountain Directorate: Meeting materials, extension of public comment period, and additional public teleconference

The following message was emailed out from the NRC Yucca Mountain Directorate on Sept. 12th:

"Greetings,

Thank you to all who participated in the public meeting in Rockville, Maryland on September 3.  We have made the materials from that meeting available on our website at http://www.nrc.gov/waste/hlw-disposal/key-documents.html#er.  On that page, under the heading “Comment Meetings,” you can find the NRC staff’s presentation slides, the transcript, a summary of the meeting, and other materials. 

As we announced in our September 3 meeting, we are granting a month’s extension of the comment period on the NRC staff’s draft supplement.  The comment period now closes on November 20, 2015

We have also added another teleconference to receive comments on the supplement.  This call will take place on November 12, 2015, from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  The number for this teleconference is 888-790-2936, and the passcode is 1715992.  Please note that the same number and passcode should be used for the October 15 teleconference.  Information about the teleconferences and our public meetings next week in Nevada is available both on our web page for this project (http://www.nrc.gov/waste/hlw-disposal/key-documents.html#er) and on the NRC’s public meetings web page, at http://meetings.nrc.gov/pmns/mtg.

Please respond to this email if you would like to pre-register or to speak at the upcoming meetings or teleconferences.

If you have any questions about the information in this email, please contact Christine Pineda at (301) 415-6789 or email us at YMEIS_supplement@nrc.gov

Thank you,

The staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Yucca Mountain Directorate"

Friday
Sep042015

Report back from the Sept. 3 NRC Yucca Mountain public comment meeting

Environmental opponents more than held their own at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) attempt to revive the cancelled Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump on Sept. 3. The public comment meeting on NRC's Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) took place at NRC's HQ in Rockville, MD, was Webcast, and had a call-in option.

Representatives from the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and SERV (Support and Education from Radiation Victims) were present in person at NRC HQ.

But representatives from numerous groups across the country took part by phone, including: Environmentalists Inc. in SC; NIRS S.E. in NC; Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes in MI; GRAMMIES  (Grandmothers, Mothers, and More for Energy Safety) in NJ; San Onofre Safety in CA; Sierra Club, Virginia Chapter, Nuclear-Free Committee; Safe and Green Campaign in VT; Nukewatch in WI; Stand Up Save Lives in IL; Eureka County, NV's Yucca staffer; the State of Vermont's State Nuclear Engineer; as well as watchdogs and concerned citizens in Philadelphia, Greenbelt MD, and southern CA.

Beyond Nuclear's radioactive waste watchdog, Kevin Kamps, submitted public comments at the microphone. They touched "talking points" hammered out by the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, as well as "Sample Comments" Beyond Nuclear hammered out in a web post posted below. Please see Beyond Nuclear's Yucca Mountain website section for more information, and help spread the word about the need for public comments needing to be submitted to NRC by Nov. 20th. Together, we can stop the Yucca dump once and for all!

Thursday
Aug272015

NRC Yucca Mountain Directorate: Follow-up to the August 26 Public Teleconference

The following was emailed out by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Yucca Mountain Directorate on August 27th:

Greetings,

Thank you to all who participated in yesterday’s teleconference concerning the process for submitting comments on the NRC staff’s draft supplement.  We heard a number of requests or concerns and are working to address them as resources allow. 

Documents related to the supplement, as well as other recent documents concerning the proposed repository licensing process are available at http://www.nrc.gov/waste/hlw-disposal/key-documents.html#er (or, from the NRC’s main web page, go to the Radioactive Waste tab and select High-Level Waste Disposal in the drop-down list, and then go to Key Documents).  As we mentioned during yesterday’s call, we’ll be posting the handouts that we’ll provide at the meetings, and we’ll post links to other documents that are available in ADAMS. 

Information about all of the NRC’s public meetings can be found on the public meetings web page -- from the NRC’s main web page, go to Public Meetings and Involvement and select the Public Meeting Schedule item in the drop-down list.  The direct link for this page is http://meetings.nrc.gov/pmns/mtg.  This link is for the NRC’s newly-implemented public meetings announcement system, and we sincerely regret the confusion you experienced because this link was not included in the Federal Register notice. 

Here’s a link to the NRC staff’s draft “Supplement to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada,” NUREG-2184: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr2184/

Below is information about our upcoming public meetings (also see http://meetings.nrc.gov/pmns/mtg).  Please respond to this email if you would like to pre-register for the meetings or to speak in person (at the September 3, September 15, or September 17 meetings) or to speak on the phone (at the September 3 or October 15 meetings).

---Meeting and teleconference, September 3, 2015:  NRC Headquarters, One White Flint North, First Floor Commission Hearing Room, 11555 Rockville Pike, Maryland 20852, from 3:00 p.m. Eastern (local) Time until 5:00 p.m.  This meeting will be webcast and a telephone line will be available for those who want to give comments over the phone.  The link for the NRC’s webcasts page is http://video.nrc.gov/#upcomingwebcasts, and the link for this specific webcast will be posted on September 3.  The number to dial for this call is (888) 790-2936 and the passcode is 9708500.

---Meeting, September 15, 2015:  Embassy Suites Convention Center, 3600 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nevada 89169, from 7:00 p.m. Pacific (local) Time until 9:00 p.m.  The NRC staff will also host an open house from 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time until 7:00 p.m.

---Meeting, September 17, 2015:  Amargosa Community Center, 821 E. Amargosa Farm Road, Amargosa Valley, Nevada 89020, from 7:00 p.m. Pacific (local) Time until 9:00 p.m.  The NRC staff will host an open house from 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time until 7:00 p.m.

---Teleconference, October 15, 2015:  Public meeting via conference call, from 2:00 p.m. Eastern (local) Time until 4:00 p.m.  The number to dial for this call will be provided soon.

If you have any questions about the information in this email, please contact Christine Pineda at (301) 415-6789 or email us at YMEIS_supplement@nrc.gov

Thank you,

The staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Yucca Mountain Directorate

Wednesday
Aug262015

How/where/when to submit comments on NRC's Supplemental EIS on proposed Yucca dump

NRC published notification of its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) in the Federal Register on Aug. 21. The DSEIS is posted on NRC's website.

Public comments are currently due by Nov. 20 (the deadline had originally been one month earlier, by Oct. 20, but under pressure from the State of Nevada and several environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, the NRC, at the Sept. 3rd meeting, announced a one-month extension. However, Beyond Nuclear is still demanding the additional 30-day extension, till Dec. 20. We will keep you posted whether or not we persuade NRC to grant it.).

Per the Fed Reg Notice, comments can be submitted:

via the Federal Rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2015-0051;

or, by mailing comments to Cindy Bladey, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN-12-H08, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

Public comments can also be submitted orally at the following-in person NRC meetings:

  • September 3, 2015: NRC Headquarters, One White Flint North, First Floor Commission Hearing Room, 11555 Rockville Pike, Maryland 20852. This meeting will start at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time and continue until 5:00 p.m. (Call-in option available: Conference Call Bridge Number: (888) 790-2936; Passcode: 9708500. This meeting will also be Web-streamed via the NRC's public Web site. On the meeting date, interested persons should go to the NRC's Live Meeting Webcast page to participate: http://video.nrc.gov/.)
  • September 15, 2015: Embassy Suites Convention Center, 3600 Paradise Rd., Las Vegas, Nevada 89169. This meeting will start at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time and continue until 9:00 p.m.
  • September 17, 2015: Amargosa Community Center, 821 E. Amargosa Farm Road, Amargosa Valley, Nevada 89020. This meeting will start at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time and continue until 9:00 p.m.
  • October 15, 2015: Public meeting via conference call, from 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time until 4:00 p.m. (As of Sept. 9, 2015, NRC still had not provided a Conference Call Bridge Number nor a Passcode for this call-in only meeting).
  • [At the Sept. 3rd meeting, NRC announced another call-in opportunity, to take place in November, likely mid-November, shortly before the Nov. 20th deadline for comments. They have not yet decided the date, nor set the call-in numbers, although they did say, they would try to make them the same as the Oct. 15th call-in meeting.]

NRC has stated: "Persons interested in attending or presenting oral comments at any of the public meetings are encouraged to pre-register. Persons may pre-register to attend or present oral comments by calling 301-415-6789 or by emailing YMEIS_Supplement@nrc.gov no later than 3 days prior to the meeting. To provide oral comments, members of the public may also register in person at each meeting."

To obtain further information about this public comment period, the Fed Reg Notice lists as NRC point of contact: Christine Pineda, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001; telephone: 301-415-6789; email: YMEIS_Supplement@nrc.gov. (However, to be clear, Ms. Pineda's contact info., such as her email address, is not listed as a way to submit comments.)

Regarding WHAT comments to make, Beyond Nuclear will publish sample talking points ASAP, after having the chance to analyze the draft SEIS. You can use those to write your own. But here is a starter, below. Always specifiy the report number NUREG–2184, as well as the Docket ID NRC-2015-0051, in the subject line of your comments, so they can be routed to the correct docket.

 

SAMPLE COMMENTS [see additional sample "Talking Points," update below]

NRC's DSEIS has absurdly concluded that radioactive releases from the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump would be SMALL -- that is, essentially minimal, and harmless -- over the course of a million years into the future.

Actually, if irradiated nuclear fuel is ever buried at Yucca, it would leak massively, into the groundwater, creating a "nuclear sacrifice zone" over a broad region downstream.

This would include hazardous, even deadly, radioactive contamination of the groundwater, currently used for drinking and irrigation water in Nevada's agricultural Amargosa Valley; the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Death Valley National Park, as well as the Timbisha Shoshone Indian community inhabiting Death Valley, would also be in harm's way.

The potential for disproportionate impacts on minority or low-income populations is especially high, considering the current lifestyle of the Timbisha Shoshone Indian community, as well as the traditional lifestyle of the Western Shoshone Indian Nation.

The potential for cumulative impacts associated with other past, present, or reasonably foreseeable future actions is very high. After all, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Department of Energy, and military conducted atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the vicinity of Yucca Mountain from 1951 to 1963. They continued to conduct underground full-scale nuclear weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site (NTS) from 1963 to 1992, many of which leaked radioactivity to the atmosphere and environment, as well as contaminated regional groundwater. Even after 1992, nuclear weapons testing has continued at the NTS, in the form of sub-critical experiments involing plutonium.

Another cumulative impact involves the large-scale transport to, and dumping of so-called "low" level radioactive wastes at, the NTS.

We join with the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, several environmental groups, and others in urging NRC to extend the public comment deadline by at least an additional 60 days. We also urge that additional in-person public meetings be scheduled in California (where Yucca's radioactively contaminated groundwater would ultimately surface in springs), as well as elsewhere across the country (given that Yucca's opening would launch the unprecedented, large-scale shipment of risky high-level radioactive waste by truck, train, and barge, through most states. And we urge that all in-person public meetings also include the call-in option, already being provided at other locations, on other dates.


And lastly, WHY to comment? A thousand environmental groups, representing every state in the Union, have joined with the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, as well as the State of Nevada and its U.S. congressional delegation, ever since the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987, to stop the dangerous Yucca Mountain dump. Now is no time to let up the resistance.

Thursday
Aug132015

"Another defective document has come out" promoting radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain, NV

Political cartoon by Jim Day of the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2010, the year the Obama administration effectively revoked the "Screw Nevada" bill of 1987, which -- through raw politics, not science -- singled out Yucca Mountain as the only site in the country to be further studied for high-level radioactive waste disposal (be sure to count the toes!)As reported by Steve Tetrault in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has published NUREG-2184, Supplement to the U.S. Department of Energy's Environmental Impact Statement for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada.

As reported in the article:

"Based on conservative assumptions…the NRC staff expects the estimated radiation dose would contribute only a negligible increase in the risk of cancer or severe hereditary effects in the potentially exposed population" living southwest of Yucca Mountain and into Death Valley, the report said.

The study concluded the maximum dose of potential contamination in Amargosa Valley would be 1.3 millirems, which it said was "a small fraction" of normal background radiation of 300 millirems a year, and "much less" than NRC standards.

Nevada officials, maintaining their decades-long opposition to the proposed dump, disagreed: 

"It's an exciting day. Another defective document has come out," said Robert Halstead, director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. Halstead argued the study is flawed in part because it is based on information and assumptions about the site he said were outdated.

"This report is simply a waste of energy and resources," said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who will retire in Jan. 2017, has stuck by his previous diagnosis on the Yucca dump, that “It’s closed, it’s gone,” NBC News 3 Las Vegas reports.

But when Reid "once again pronounced the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project dead," in a sit down with the conservative Las Vegas Review Journal editorial board, they couldn't help but editorialize back, "(Yeah, walking dead.)" (see image, above left)

NRC plans to hold an inexplicably short public comment period on the report, to end on October 20th. After all, the Obama administration has cancelled the project, and NRC is all but out of funding to proceed with licensing, so why is the public comment period being rushed?

As reported by Environmental Protection, the public comment period begins when NRC publishes the hearing schedule in the Federal Register on Aug. 21st. EP also reports a call-in public comment opportunity will be provided in early October.

NRC -- on very short notice! -- has announced a public conference call to learn more: "We also want to remind you about our public conference call on Wed., August 26, 2015, from 2-3pm Eastern.  During that call, we will describe how to submit comments and we’ll take questions on this topic.  The number to dial for this call is (888) 790-2936 and the passcode is 9708500."

Only three public hearings for comment will be held: Thurs., Sept. 3rd from 3-5pm at NRC HQ in Rockville, MD (including an option for calling in: The number to dial for this call is again (888) 790-2936 and the passcode is 9708500  ); Tues., Sept. 15th at Embassy Suites in Las Vegas, NV from 6-9pm (6-7 open house, 7-9 formal comment meeting); and Thurs., Sept. 17th, from 6-9pm (6-7 open house, 7-9 formal comment meeting), at the Amargosa Valley Community Center in Nye County, NV. (See August 23rd update below for exact addresses and other details for the Nevada hearings.)

[And, as also reported in the Aug. 23rd update below: "On Oct. 15, the commission staff will conduct a final public meeting on a conference call from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Further information will be posted to the its meetings website, it said." (As of August 25, 2015, NRC still had not provided a Conference Call Bridge Number nor a Passcode for this call-in only meeting).]

The Associated Press has also reported on this story. 

But Nevada is not alone in its resistance to the proposed dumpsite. Over the decades, more than a thousand national, state, and local environmental groups have actively opposed the proposal (750 are documented here).

Several groups, including Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and Public Citizen, sued the U.S. EPA in 2002, and, with NRDC Senior Attorney Geoff Fettus arguing the environmental coalition's case, won the lawsuit in 2004. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the land, ordered EPA to rewrite its Yucca dump regulations to account for the period of peak radioactivity releases, rather than cut off regulations at an arbitrarily short time period post waste burial. EPA came back with revised regulations in 2008, recognizing a million years of hazard associated with high-level radioactive waste.

Unfortunately, however, EPA's final Yucca regulations have introduced yet another "double standard standard," as Dr. Arjun Makhijani of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research has coined them. A much more strict radiation dose limit for "Reasonably Maximally Exposed Individuals," or "dose receptors" (that is, people living downstream from the leaking dump), will apply for the first 10,000 years post waste burial. But from 10,000 years to one million years in the future, a much weaker standard will apply, even though leakage will grow worse over time. Countless public comments have protested this double standard, which would put future generations at unacceptable, and unjust (from an inter-generational equity perspective), risk.

Photo by Gabriela Bulisova of a Western Shoshone Indian Nation sweat lodge at Yucca Mountain, NV, which is visible in the background.In addition, the Western Shoshone Indian Nation has long resisted the proposed Yucca Mountain dump. Yucca Mountain is sacred to the Western Shoshone (see photo), and other Indian Nations, and is located on land belonging to the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, as recognized by the U.S. government in the 1863 "Peace and Friendship" Treaty of Ruby Valley.

Ian Zabarte, a Board Member at the Native Community Action Council, and Foreign Minister of the Western Shoshoe Indian Nation, has long watchdogged the Yucca Mountain dump proposal. 

Yucca's groundwater, which would be massively contaminated with hazardous radioactivity if irradiated nuclear fuel is ever buried there, surfaces at springs in Death Valley, CA. The Timbisha Shoshone Indian Band lives there, and depends on such water sources for its traditional lifestyle. 

Farmers in Amargosa Valley, NV, just downstream from Yucca Mountain, also draw groundwater from wells for drinking water and irrigation water. The Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge would also be put in harm's way, from radioactivity leaks from a dump at Yucca.

NRC wrote DOE about the development, and cc'd a large number of parties to the long suspended Yucca Mountain dump licensing proceeding, and other interested parties, including Beyond Nuclear.