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Eventual reuse of Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor not a realistic possibility

Vermont Yankee: Expert says faster reuse unrealistic amid national waste dilemma, Brattelboro Reformer, May 5, 2017  By Lissa Weinmann,   BRATTLEBORO — Hopes for an expedited decommissioning and eventual reuse of the shuttered Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor are unrealistic and potentially misplaced, according to a radioactive waste policy expert and activists who will visit Brattleboro for a community discussion on “Nuclear Waste: The Road from Vermont Yankee to Texas” on Saturday, May 6, from 4:30 to 6 pm at the community room at the Brattleboro Food Co-op.

The presentation comes as federal and state authorities consider the sale of the plant to NorthStar Industries Inc., which has touted a faster decommissioning at a lower price than Entergy had planned.

Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog for Maryland-based Beyond Nuclear, who has studied nuclear waste issues in the U.S. and globally for 25 years and is to be featured at the event, said he expects decommissioning will be hampered by deeper levels of radioactive contamination and reuse delayed by the continued presence of high level nuclear waste in dry cask storage on the Yankee site for many decades to come.

Kamps’ warning of a long wait amid hot controversy was underscored by testimony at an April 26 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the draft Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, which would break with current law to allow private companies like Waste Control Specialists, a Texas-based partner in the proposed Yankee sale, to build consolidated interim storage facilities to accept waste from the power plant site before a permanent deep geologic repository that could best contain lethal material for hundreds of thousands of years is available. ……

The Trump Administration’s congressional budget request in March 2017 includes “$120 million to restart licensing activities for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and initiate a robust interim storage program.” The nuclear industry in 2014 stopped paying a fee on nuclear energy generation to build a central repository; That $46 billion Nuclear Waste Fund falls far short of the “trillions” the DOE anticipates will be required to fund the facility.

WCS applied to the NRC in April 2016 for a license to construct and operate a centralized interim storage site adjacent to its lower-level radioactive dump (where thousands of tons of concrete and other waste from the Vernon site will be transported) in Andrews, Texas, stipulating that the DOE must bear sole and full liability for the waste even though, under current law, liability and title remain with the generators until the waste is taken away to an operating repository.

But the effort to quickly clean up the Vernon site was dealt a significant blow when Rod Baltzer, Waste Control Specialists president and chief executive officer, wrote a letter asking the NRC to “temporarily suspend” its review of the company’s application for a high-level waste dump. Baltzer cited a “magnitude of financial burdens.” The cost of the NRC review now is estimated at $7.5 million, “which is significantly higher than we originally anticipated,” he wrote.

“The bottom line for this push to interim storage is that nuclear companies want to reduce their liability for this highly problematic waste product as quickly as possible,” said Kamps. “Republican leaders in Congress and the nuclear companies who contribute to them want to weaken the law to allow privately owned de facto permanent parking lot dumps in Texas and New Mexico where liability for any problems is transferred to the U.S. taxpayer.”……..
UCS has yet to see an analysis demonstrating that the benefits of interim storage clearly outweigh the additional costs and risks associated with siting and licensing new storage facilities and the extra transportation that would be required,” Dr. Edwin Lyman, Senior Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists — a group that is not against nuclear power — testified to Congress, adding that interim sites raise the potential of terrorists getting bomb-making material.
“Transporting waste is the weakest link of a nonsensical interim plan that has nothing to do with finding a permanent repository,” Kamps said. “It plays musical chairs with deadly waste on US highways and rail lines, exposing millions of people to addition risk for no good reason.”

Advocates of interim storage say radioactive materials are transported all the time without incident, but Kamps said incidents do occur and that NorthStar partner Areva had acknowledged `numerous violations of surface contamination many hundreds of times above the allowable limits’ when transporting waste in France.

“CAN advocates for hardened on site storage to protect reactor communities until there is a scientifically sound and environmentally just solution for this toxic waste,” Katz said. “The communities targeted for nuclear waste are routinely rural, low income people of color and Native Americans. It is terrible to put people in the position of having to choose between short term economic survival and long term health and safety. Reactor and targeted communities need to work together to advocate for solutions that do the least harm.”……

Kamps says there is a reason that Entergy estimated $1.2 billion cleanup and NorthStar is estimating it will take less than half of that. “I have no doubt that the site is massively contaminated. We don’t know how long the underground pipes Entergy lied about having were leaking radioactive particles into the ground.”

Katz agreed. “NorthStar will find a much larger problem as all nuclear decommissionings have, but on a fixed contract, it will devise every trick in the book to limit cleanup,” so the public must remain vigilant, Katz said. “With Yankee Rowe and Connecticut Yankee, we had to bring documents to the state to show them that Yankee was putting the test wells exactly where the contamination wasn’t.”…….http://www.reformer.com/stories/vermont-yankee-expert-says-faster-reuse-unrealistic-amid-national-waste-dilemma,506578

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May 10, 2017 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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