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's Nuke Waste Confidence EIS will delay reactor licenses for at least two years!

Cover of Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet "A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High"The five Commissioners who direct the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have just ordered NRC Staff to carry out an expedited, two-year long Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process to revise the agency's Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision (NWCD) and Rule. Critics have charged the NWCD is a confidence game, which for decades has prevented environmental opponents of new reactor construction/operation licenses, as well as old reactor license extensions, from raising high-level radioactive waste generation/storage concerns during NRC licensing proceedings, or even in the federal courts. 

But on June 8th, the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with a coalition of state attorneys general (from NY, CT, NJ, and VT) and environmental groups (including BREDL, NRDC, Riverkeeper and SACE) that NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence violated the National Environmental Policy Act. In effect, the court ruling, which NRC decided not to appeal, ordered the agency to carry out a decades-overdue EIS on the risks of extended (for decades, centuries, or forever) high-level radioactive waste storage at reactor sites, if a permanent repository is never opened.

From the 1987 "Screw Nevada Bill" onwards, NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence rested on Yucca Mountain in Nevada, the only site in the U.S. under consideration to become a high-level radioactive waste repository. As Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes has put it, Yucca served for 25 years as an "illusion of a solution" for the high-level radioactive waste problem, allowing unlimited reactor operations, and thus waste generation, despite no real solution for the perhaps unsolvable problem. But in 2009-2010, President Obama and Energy Secretary Chu cancelled the Yucca Mountain dump proposal, dispelling the illusion, showing NRC's confidence to be false.

This means at least a two year delay in any finalization of NRC licensing decisions for new reactors, or license extensions at old reactors, until this EIS process and NWCD revision are completed. However, all other aspects of the NRC licensing proceedings can still be finalized and dispensed with in the meantime, taking NRC rubberstamps of reactor licenses right up to the edge, just shy of finalization. Beyond Nuclear has raised Nuke Waste Con Game contentions in opposition to two proposed new reactors (Fermi 3 in MI, and Grand Gulf 2 in LA), as well as to two old reactor license extensions (Davis-Besse, OH, and Grand Gulf 1, LA). An environmental coalition has raised similar contentions against all three dozen new reactor construction/operation, and old reactor extension, licenses across the U.S.

Disconcertingly, the NRC Commissioners' press release announcing this EIS launch also stated: "The Commission said the staff should draw on the agency’s 'long, rich history' with waste confidence determinations as well as work performed by other agencies, such as environmental assessments, technical studies and reports addressing the impacts of transportation and consolidated storage of spent fuel."

This seems to indicate that the NRC has joined with the likes of President Obama's and Energy Secretary Chu's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future in pushing for "consolidated interim storage" instead of "hardened on-site storage" of high-level radioactive waste. This should come as no surprise, as NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane served on the BRC.

Legislation has already been introduced on Capitol Hill that would launch and fund "consolidated interim storage."U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman will hold a hearing on such legislation on Sept. 12th. Witnesses will include two other members of the BRC -- one of its co-chairmen, General Brent Scrowcroft, and former NRC Chairman Richard Meserve -- as well as Pete Lyons, himself a former NRC Commissioner, and now director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy, mandated to promote nuclear power, and in fact host agency for the BRC. Another witness is the head of Constellation Nuclear, recently acquired by Exelon Nuclear, which would love nothing more than transferring title -- and liability -- for high-level radioactive waste to the American taxpayer, once it begins moving by road, rail, and/or barge, in unprecedented shipment numbers, toward "consolidated interim storage." The final witness is Geoff Fettus, the nuclear attorney at NRDC who helped lead the environmental coalition's victory at the DC Court of Appeals on June 8th. 

Beyond Nuclear has already issued action alerts against the juggernaut revving its engines on Capitol Hill. We have also joined with the likes of Nuclear Energy Information Service, to hold a "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference Dec. 1-3 in Chicago. Kevin Kamps will speak about federal legislative threats on the high-level radioactive waste front, and what you can do about them. The grassroots environmental movement has held off the "Mobile Chernobyl" for 20 years, but this may be the most challenging fight yet in 2013. The Nuke Waste Con EIS also means we have to generate large volumes of public comments, so this conference will be a a launching pad for doing so. Please consider attending, and help spread the word!

For more information on "The Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High," see our pamphlet by that title (the pamphlet's cover is reproduced above, left), as well as the rest of Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste website section.


Beyond Nuclear files contentions against 4 atomic reactors based on court ruling nullifying NRC's Nuke Waste Con Game

Although not named explicitly, NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision assumed the Yucca Mountain dump would open in NV. But the Obama administration wisely canceled it. In this photo by Gabriela Bulisova, a ceremonial Western Shoshone Indian sweat lodge frames their sacred Yucca Mtn.Beyond Nuclear has filed intervention contentions against a total of four atomic reactors (proposed new reactors at Grand Gulf Unit 3, MS and Fermi Unit 3, MI seeking construction and operating licenses, as well as degraded old reactors at Grand Gulf Unit 1, MS and Davis-Besse Unit 1, OH seeking 20 year license extensions) based on a recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruling gutting the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision."

That confidence game has been used against states, environmental groups, and concerned citizens for decades, blocking them from challening the generation of high-level radioactive waste in atomc reactor licensing proceedings, as the NRC has flippantly expressed "confidence" that storage on-site was safe for decades or even centuries, and that a geologic repository for permanently disposing of irradiated nuclear fuel was just over the horizon -- despite mounting evidence to the contrary.



Yucca dump's cancellation, court's nullification of NRC's Nuclear Waste Con Game, blocks to nuclear expansion

In a blog posted at Forbes, climate denier and nuclear power proponet Larry Bell cannot deny the the Obama administration's wise cancellation of the proposed high-level radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, represents a powerful block to nuclear power's expansion in the U.S. Likewise, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals' recent ruling, that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision" assurances of irradiated nuclear fuel safety and security at reactor sites for 120 years was unfounded, powerfully undermines the Nuclear Relapse.


BRC report continues shameful history of targeting Native American communities for radioactive waste dumps

Today's final report by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC) continued the shameful history of the U.S. nuclear establishment, in both government and industry, of targeting Native American communities for radioactive waste dumps. Beyond Nuclear issued a media statement regarding the BRC report today, and an op-ed several days ago. At the very first public meeting of the BRC nearly two years ago, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps pleaded this environmental injustice be stopped. To the contrary, BRC's final report points to the U.S. Department of Energy's "Nuclear Waste Negotiator" as a model to be followed again now to advance "consolidated interim storage sites" and repositories. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, DOE's Nuclear Waste Negotiator contacted every single federally recognized Native American tribe in the United States, then targeted 60 in particular, focusing in the end on Mescalero Apache, New Mexico. It is a testament to the extraordinary efforts of Native American environmental justice activists like Grace Thorp that all those proposals were defeated, and the Nuclear Waste Negotiator's program eliminated. The nuclear power  utilities picked up where the Negotiator left off, next targeting Skull Valley Goshutes, Utah -- a struggle that continues.


Is President Obama's cancellation of the Yucca dump the real reason behind the "witch hunt" targeted at NRC Chairman Jaczko?

U.S. NRC Chairman Gregory JaczkoRyan Grim of Huffington Post, in an in-depth investigative report, documents that U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner (NRC) William Magwood IV and top Nuclear Energy Institute lobbyist Alex Flint have worked together before to "take down" Democratic political appointees in the nuclear energy field. Andrew Cockburn had also previously reported on this story at Counterpunch, quoting Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps:

“[NRC Chairman Jaczko's] not ‘our guy’ by any means, he has voted to re-license plants that should probably be shut down” says Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear.  “But he does care about safety, in ways that the [other NRC Commissioners] do not.”

One of Jaczko's (pictured, left) greatest "transgressions" against the nuclear power industry and its right wing political supporters -- earning their eternal wrath -- seems to be his carrying out of President Obama's policy decision to phase out the Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump. Before becoming an NRC Commissioner, Magwood had advocated for opening the Yucca dump.

Media coverage of this "mutiny" at the highest levels of the NRC began on Friday, December 9th with U.S. Representative Darrell Issa's (Republican-California) public release of a letter from NRC Commissioners Magwood, Svinicki, Ostendorff, and Apostolakis to President Obama that was clearly marked "Not for Public Disclosure," and has continued up to the present, as documented, with links to the articles, at the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Project's What's News page.

The webcast of the 3 hour, 30 minute long hearing on these matters, conducted on Dec. 15, 2011 by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), featuring the five NRC Commissioners as the sole witnesses, is archived online.