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.



Rep. Shimkus (R-IL) pushes Yucca dump at House hearing

On May 15th, U.S. Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) chaired a hearing of the House Economy and the Environment Subcommittee entitled "Update on the Current Status of Nuclear Waste Management Policy."

It should have been titled "Pro-Yucca Dump Pep Rally" instead! Led by Shimkus himself, almost all of the statements from congressional subcommittee members called for the dump targeted at Nevada to be revived, even though the vast majority of the State of Nevada is opposed.

Even the witnesses were strongly biased in favor of the Yucca dump. These included a nuclear power utility CEO, the far from neutral U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff official in charge of the Yucca licensing proceeding, a Public Service Commission official (where "public service" often means serving the public up for dinner to the nuclear power industry), and a spokesman from a long shutdown atomic reactor currently engaged in a prolonged decommissioning process. In short, all of these spokespeople had an overriding agenda to get the radioactive waste the nuclear power utilities profited from generating in the first place onto the roads, rails, and waterways, preferably bound for Yucca Mountain, NV.

The lone Yucca dump opponent, Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Attorney Geoff Fettus, very ably articulated the position of a thousand environmental and public interest groups across the country which have helped block the dump for decades. In fact, on behalf of such groups as NIRS, Public Citizen, Citizens Action Coalition of IN, and NV Nuclear Waste Task Force, Fettus successfully argued the case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, from 2002-2004. That environmental court victory resulted in EPA's being ordered back to the drawing board on its Yucca regulations. In 2008, under the court's order, EPA admitted that 10,000 years of regulation at Yucca was far from enough. Rather, the high-level radioactive wastes would remain hazardous for a million years.

But the rigged nature of this hearing was best exemplified by an exchange between Rep. Shimkus and NRDC's Fettus. Shimkus asked the witnesses, yes or no, should the Yucca dump licensing proceeding be restarted. All the witnesses said yes, except for Fettus. But as Fettus calmly attempted to explain the reasons why, Shimkus simply shouted him down, attempting to put words in his mouth.

A video recording of the entire hearing is posted at the Subcommittee's website, as is the transcript, witness prepared statements, etc.


"Obama Administration threatens veto on nuclear funding bill"

As reported by Jaclyn Brandt in FierceEnergy, President Obama has threated to veto the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill (HR 2028), unless changes are made -- such as to better promote renewables.

The very pro-nuclear bill also includes $175 million for the U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission to revive the Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dump licensing proceeding. The process was halted when the Obama administration effectively cancelled the project in 2009-2010, de-funding the dump, and even moving to withdraw the application to construct and operate the repository.

As reported by the article:

The president's statement also said the funding for the Yucca Mountain project is a "rejection of the practical solutions proposed in the President's nuclear waste strategy."

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who has successfully led the opposition to the Yucca dump since the "Screw Nevada bill" of 1987, can be expected to yet again block any additional funding from being wasted on the Yucca dump.


U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, stalwart opponent of Yucca dump, announces he won't seek re-election

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid of NevadaU.S. Senator Harry Reid (Democrat from Nevada) has announced he won't seek re-election, and will retire 22 months from now. Reid, who has long served as either the U.S. Senate Majority or Minority Leader (depending on the number of Democrats serving in the chamber), has devoted his entire Senate career to successful opposition to the high-level radioactive waste dump targeted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

In 1987, when the "Screw Nevada" bill was enacted into law, Reid was a rookie U.S. Senator. In "Screw Nevada," other targeted, more populous and politically powerful states -- such as Texas and Washington, as well as Northeastern states -- ganged up on Nevada, singling out Yucca Mountain as the sole location in the country to be further studied as a potential irradiated nuclear fuel and HLRW dump. This, despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) already knew by then, via preliminary scientific studies, that the site was unsuitable.

But the nuclear lobbyists picked the wrong rookie Senator to mess with. For nearly three decades, Reid has led a bipartisan Nevada consensus that has blocked the dump at every turn. In 2000, he secured 34 Senate votes, enough to sustain President Clinton's veto of a congressional attempt to rush open the dump, despite incomplete scientific studies. In 2002, he secured 39 Senate votes against Yucca, the most ever. Coming off the Senate floor after that vote, Reid -- a former boxer -- spoke with environmental allies, saying "It's like at the bar. Sometimes, you've just got to take it out back."

Even during the pro-dump George W. Bush administration, Reid was able to put the brakes on multi-billion dollar annual Yucca dump budgets. Working closely with President Barack Obama, Reid convinced the new administration in 2009 to completely defund the project, and even move to withdraw DOE's construction and operating license application. This has resulted in the effective cancelation of the Yucca dump, and dismantlement of its personnel and physical infrastructure, in the past several years.

Even with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress pushing hard to revive the Yucca dump, Reid has continued his adamant opposition. Opponents to countless "Mobile Chernobyl" trucks, trains, and barges of HLRW traveling through most states, and to a radioactive waste dump guaranteed to leak massively if ever opened, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Democratic Leader, U.S. Senator Harry Reid.


Margene Bullcreek, leader of Skull Valley Goshute resistance to radioactive waste dump targeted at her community, has passed on

Margene Bullcreek. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.It is with heavy hearts that we share the sad news that Margene Bullcreek passed on, on Sunday, March 1st, 2015. An In Memoriam has been issued by her colleague Ian Zabarte of the Native Community Action Council (NCAC), where Margene Bullcreek has long served as President.

As emphasized in a NIRS victory tribute, published in Sept., 2006, when the U.S. Department of the Interior effectively blocked the Private Fuel Storage, LLC high-level radioactive waste parking lot dump targeted at her community in Utah:

"The greatest commendations, of course, go to Margene Bullcreek and her organization Ohngo Gaudadeh Devia Awareness (OGDA)...". More.


NRC Commissioners to reveal votes on Nuke Waste Con Game Thursday, Feb. 25

Portrait of the current NRC Commission. Pictured from left to right: Commissioner Jeff Baran, Commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki, Chairman Stephan (sic) Burns and Commissioner William C. Ostendorff. (Please note, Chairman Burns' first named is correctly spelled Stephen. His first name is misspelled in the text, below this portrait, posted on NRC's homepage.)The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Electronic Information Exchange (EIE) Hearing Docket this morning served to following notice to intervening parties against old reactor license extensions, as well as proposed new reactor combined construction and operating license applications:


Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant, Units 3 and 4, Docket Nos. 52-014-COL & 52-015-COL
Callaway Plant, Unit 1, Docket No. 50-483-LR
Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, Units 3 and 4, Docket Nos. 52-034-COL & 52-035-COL
Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Unit 1, Docket No. 50-346-LR
Diablo Canyon Power Plant, Units 1 and 2, Docket Nos. 50-275-LR & 50-323-LR
Fermi Nuclear Power Plant, Unit 3, Docket No. 52-033-COL
Fermi Nuclear Power Plant, Unit 2, Docket No. 50-341-LR

Indian Point Nuclear Generating Units 2 and 3, Docket Nos. 50-247-LR & 50-286-LR
Levy County Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2, Docket Nos. 52-029-COL & 52-030-COL
North Anna Power Station, Unit 3, Docket No. 52-017-COL
Seabrook Station, Unit 1, Docket No. 50-443-LR
Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, Units 1 and 2, Docket Nos. 50-327-LR & 50-328-LR
South Texas Project, Units 3 and 4, Docket Nos. 52-012-COL & 52-013-COL
South Texas Project, Units 1 and 2, Docket Nos. 50-498-LR & 50-499-LR
Turkey Point, Units 6 and 7, Docket Nos. 52-040-COL & 52-041-COL
Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, Unit 2, Docket No. 50-391-OL
William States Lee III Nuclear Station, Units 1 and 2, Docket Nos. 52-018-COL & 52-019-COL

The Commission has scheduled a tentative Affirmation Session for Thursday, February 26, 2015, 12:55 p.m. EST, that addresses the Petitions to Suspend Reactor Licensing Decisions and Reactor License Renewal Decisions Pending Issuance of "Waste Confidence" Safety Findings, filed on Multiple Dockets.

Note: This session will be publicly webcast.  Please use the link below to view the session. ".

The NRC Commissioners' votes are relevant to the proposed (now canceled since 2009) Yucca Mountain dump in Nevada. NRC's "nuke waste con game" had assumed (from 1984 to 2012, when it was declared bankrupt by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in New York v. NRC) that a repository was a sure thing. For almost that entire length of time, Yucca Mountain, Nevada was the targeted repository (it was singled out, beginning in 1987, under the "Screw Nevada bill.")

At first, the NRC assumed a repository would open between 2007 to 2010. It later changed its prediction to 2025. Finally, by 2010, it had decided against a date certain for the opening of the Yucca dump (perhaps because the Obama administration had defunded it completely, and even moved to withdraw the construction and operating license application in 2009), although it still expressed vague confidence that a repository would be available "when needed."

The June 2012 New York v. NRC court ruling pulled the rug out from under NRC's very optimistic assumptions on the availability of a repository "when needed." The court ordered NRC to rewrite the Nuclear Waste Confidence rule, and to carry out an Environmental Impact Statement, and address the environmental and other impacts in the event that a repository never becomes available. Although NRC went through the motions of obeying the court order, from 2012 to 2014, it did a very shallow job -- a legally insufficient one, actually. NRC's flagrant flouting of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Administrative Procedures Act (APA), and the 2012 court order in New York v. NRC means this issue will very likely go back to federal court, if and when NRC moves to grant old reactor license extensions, or proposed new reactor construction and operating license, which it appears poised to do, by scheduling Thursday's Affirmation Session.

As indicated by the bolded text above, Beyond Nuclear is directly, officially intervening against the 20-year license extensions proposed at Davis-Besse, OH (a Three Mile Island twin design), Fermi 2, MI (a Fukushima Daiichi twin design), and Seabrook, NH. In addition, Beyond Nuclear is an official intervenor against the proposed new reactor at Fermi 3, MI.

Thus, the NRC Commissioners will rule, on Feb. 26th, on a coalition of environmental intervenors' Petition to Suspend Licensing and Re-licensing of Reactors. That Petition was filed on Sept. 29, 2014, by some three dozen organizations, engaged in the 27 pending, individual reactor NRC licensing proceedings listed above.

As explained by Diane Curran and Mindy Goldstein, the attorneys representing the environmental coalition, "the Petition accompanied [the groups'] contentions challenging the NRC's failure to make Atomic Energy Act-required Waste Confidence safety findings in those cases." (Attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo serves as the environmental coalition legal counsel in the Davis-Besse and Fermi 2 & 3 proceedings listed above.)

The Petition, as well as the contentions in the individual proceedings, would form the basis for an appeal to the federal courts regarding NRC's 2014 Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel rule and environmental impact statement.

Although NRC Commissioners Kristine L. Svinicki and William C. Ostendorff voted in favor of the finalization of the Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel rule and environmental impact statement last year, the other two NRC Commissioners -- Chairman Stephen G. Burns, and Commissioner Jeff Baran -- were not yet serving in 2014. (The fifth seat on the NRC Commission currently remains unfilled.) See the photo, above left.