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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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Friday
Jul312015

DTE doesn't oppose holding Fermi 3 Nuclear Waste Confidence matters in abeyance, pending resolution of NY v. NRC II appeal

On July 31st, Detroit Edison filed a response to Beyond Nuclear et al.'s motion to hold the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor proceeding in abeyance. The nuclear utility agreed with Beyond Nuclear that the Nuclear Waste Confidence aspects of the proceeding should be held in abeyance, pending resolution of New York v. NRC II. However, DTE emphasized its desire that the other matters on appeal -- namely, quality assurance (or lack thereof), and transmission corridor "pre-construction" National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)-compliance (or lack thereof) -- be resolved ASAP.

Detroit Edison proposes building a General Electric-Hitachi ESBWR (so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor") at its Fermi nuclear power plant site in Monroe County, MI, on the Lake Erie shoreline.

Permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste, at a geologic repository, is -- or should be -- an aspect of NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence policy, renamed Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel in 2014. In its June 2012 ruling in New York v. NRC (I), the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered NRC to analyze the impacts of a repository never being opened.

Essentially, NRC has not done so. NRC has merely expressed continued confidence that irradiated nuclear fuel can, and will, be stored safely, securely, and soundly, indefinitely into the future. This "assumed safety" applies not only at on-site storage at reactor sites, but also away from reactors, at centrailzed interim storage sites.

Beyond Nuclear's appeal against Nuclear Waste Confidence at Fermi 3 challenges this "assumption of safety." NEPA requires a "hard look," actual concerted analysis, at environmental impacts of a proposed action, such as NRC approving new reactor licenses, as at Fermi 3, which will inevitably lead to the generation, and storage, of high-level radioactive waste. And the Atomic Energy Act requires NRC establish "reasonable assurance of adequate protection" of public health and safety, which NRC has not done in its Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement) and Rule.

The risk of a repository never opening would exacerbate such on-site and away from reactor (centralized or consolidated interim storage) risks. However, despite the court order, NRC has not analyzed this risk of a repository never opening, nor the exacerbation of storage risks this would cause at, and away from, reactors.

Yucca Mountain, Nevada has -- in the words of Michael Keegan of the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes -- long served as the "illusion of a solution" to the radioactive waste problem. Yucca has been targeted as the country's repository site since the 1987 "Screw Nevada" bill was passed by Congress, and signed by President Reagan, all over Nevada's objections. However, the Yucca dump was cancelled by President Obama shortly after he took office. The Obama Department of Energy moved to withdraw its Yucca license application, and the administration zeroed out its budget requests for the project, defunding it.

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.