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.



NRC "Nuke Waste Con Game" draft GEIS published online, public comments to be accepted from Sept. 13 to Nov. 27

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Nuclear Waste Confidence draft GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement) has been published online. Critics dub it a "Nuke Waste Con Game." The draft GEIS is nearly 600 pages long.

Once the draft GEIS has been officially published in the Federal Register next Friday, September 13th, a 75-day clock starts ticking. NRC will only accept public comments on the draft GEIS until November 27th.

Public comments will be accepted by NRC through various means: electronically, via fax or snail mail, or by way of oral testimony presented at a dozen public comment meetings to be held around the country from October 1st to mid-November.

Beyond Nuclear will provide the ways you can submit public comments to NRC beginning on September 13th. We will also provide sample comments, as well as talking points, to help you prepare your own written comments and/or oral testimony for the public meeting nearest you.


Court "orders the doing of a useless act": federal appeals panel orders NRC to resume Yucca dump licensing despite next to no funds

Jim Day, Las Vegas Review Journal, 2010 (be sure to court the toes!)

The Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump zombie's sixth toe twitched today.

By a 2-1 split decision, a three judge panel of the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit approved a writ of mandamus sought by the States of Washington and South Carolina, et al., ordering the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to resume the licensing proceeding for the proposed Yucca Mountain national dumpsite for high-level radioactive waste (HLRW). NRC had suspended the proceeding for lack of congressionally appropriated funding in 2011.

Two of the appeals judges felt the $11.1 million remaining in NRC's Yucca licensing coffers is a substantial amount of funding with which to resume the proceedings.

But Chief Judge Garland disagreed, pointing out that in its last fully funded year of the proceedings, NRC budgeted nearly $100 million. Since, NRC has largely dismantled its digital and physical infrastructures for evening conducting the proceedings, as has the former license applicant, the U.S. Department of Energy, which has moved to withdraw the license application, and has let go its Yucca program staff.

He also pointed out that Yucca's ultimate price tag would require Congress to approve not just over $100 million per year in licensing support, but, if the application is ultimately approved, many tens of billions of dollars to carry out construction and operation (DOE's last estimate for the total cost of Yucca, should it proceed, made several years ago, was nearly $100 billion).

Chief Judge Garland then dissented to the ruling, arguing that what little money NRC has remaining should be used to preserve the existing records from this largest licensing proceeding in the agency's history, writing:

"In short, given the limited funds that remain available, issuing a writ of mandamus amounts to little more than ordering the Commission to spend part of those funds unpacking its boxes, and the remainder packing them up again."

Extensive media coverage of the court decision, and reactions to it, are posted at the State of Nevada's Agency for Nuclear Projects "What's News" website.


"Ski Yucca Mountain in a Hazmat suit"

Joseph Woolfolk’s painting on glassThat's the title for the announcement of an art exhibition in the Las Vegas Weekly. The exhibit will feature Joseph Woolfolk’s paintings on glass.

The article concludes: '“Ski Yucca,” featuring a skier hitting the slopes wearing a gas mask and orange Hazmat suit, probably best sums up the clever and well-executed Poster Power.'

But this is not the first time that the high-level radioactive waste dump targeted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada has brushed up against cutting edge art work, or vice versa.

Joshua Abbey's Desert Space Foundation held a "Universal Warning Sign: Yucca Mountain" competition a decade ago. The idea was to come up with the best way to warn future generations "forevermore" about what was buried below.

Speaking of "Don't Dig Here," that is the title of a song about the Yucca dump performed by David Crosby and Graham Nash.

And the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) not having done it homework was starkly revealed, when its proposed railway for delivering 70,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste to Yucca scored a direct bull's eye on one of the single largest works of art ever conceived, Michael Heizer's "City" landscape sculpture in a remote Nevada desert valley. DOE hadn't realized Heizer's art was "in the way," till the artist protested the plan! The good news is, the Obama administration's wise cancellation of the Yucca dump will spare Heizer's "City," as well as countless other cities in most states along DOE's targeted Yucca dump transport corridors by truck, train, and barge.


House Republican leaders demand Yucca dump be included in irradiated nuclear fuel centralized interim storage bill

Yucca Mountain, as framed by a Western Shoshone Indian ceremonial sweat lodge. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.As reported by Nuclear Power International/Power Engineering, as well as the Wall Street Journal, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), Chairman of the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, holds that the formerly proposed dumpsite targeted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada must be included in any irradiated nuclear fuel centralized interim storage legislation.

Shimkus, as well as U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), have long been outspoken champions pushing for the Yucca dump, as well as many other nuclear power industry "wish list" lobbying priorities. Upton, for example, sponsored "Mobile Chernobyl" bills each and every session from 1995 to 2000, which would have established centralized interim storage at Yucca, long before countless scientific studies were completed, or permanent disposal authorized at the site. Yucca is located on Western Shoshone Indian land (see photo, left), as acknowledged by the U.S. federal government when it signed the "peace and friendship" Treaty of Ruby Valley in 1863.

On Jan. 11th, in response to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu's "Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste," Reps. Upton and Shimkus issued a joint statement calling for the resumption of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Yucca dump licensing proceeding.

However, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), as the senior member of the united, bipartisan Nevada congressional delegation, has devoted his political career to successfully stopping the Yucca dump. President Barack Obama agrees, and DOE Secretary Chu has zeroed out the funding for the Yucca Mountain Project for several years running now. Secretary Chu has also moved to withdraw DOE's application from NRC's moribund licensing proceeding.

Any away-from-reactor scheme -- whether the Yucca dump or so-called centralized interim storage parking lot dumps targeted at such locations as Savannah River Site, SC, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, NM, or Dresden nuclear power plant, IL -- would launch unprecedented numbers of risky irradiated nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste trucks, trains, and barges onto the roads, rails, and waterways.


Two dozen groups rebut NEI, supplement comments to NRC on Nuke Waste Con Game

Environmental coalition attorney Diane CurranAn environmental coalition comprised of two dozen organizations, including Beyond Nuclear, today submitted supplemental public comments to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regarding the agency's court-vacated Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision and Rule. The supplemental comments constituted a rebuttal to comments submitted by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the nuclear power industry's lobbying arm in Washington, D.C.

The coalition held a press conference today, featuring four speakers: Arjun Makhijani, President of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, one of the coalition's expert witnesses; Diane Curran of the Washington, D.C. law firm Harmon, Curran, Spielberg + Eisenberg, LLP, a lead attorney for the coalition (see photo, left); John Runkle, an attorney with NC WARN (North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network), another coalition member; and Phillip Museegas, an attorney with Riverkeeper, and another expert witness for the coalition, of which Riverkeeper is also a member.

The U.S. federal court of appeals for the D.C. circuit ruled on June 8th that NRC "merely hoped" for a repository someday, and ordered the agency to undertake an environmental impact statement study on the long-term consequences of no repository ever opening, that is the long-term risks of on-site irradiated nuclear fuel storage in pools and dry casks.

Dr. Makhijani also rebutted NEI's claim that the Feb. 2002 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed (now cancelled) Yucca Mountain, Nevada dumpsite could serve as a quick and ready stand-in for NRC's EIS consideration of the environmental impacts of a "no repository" scenario. Dr. Makhijani has documented that DOE significantly underestimated the environmental impacts of abandoning high-level radioactive wastes forever at reactor sites, and urged NRC to undertake a serious study of the consequences of the court-ordered consideration of a repository never opening in the U.S.

The coalition issued a press release; the full audio recording of the press conference is posted on-line.

The coalition's January 2nd public comments, including expert witness testimonies, are posted on-line. So are the coalition's supplemental comments submitted today, put together in rebuttal to NEI's Jan. 2nd comments.