The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Nuclear storage plan at San Onofre beach leaves out tribal voices

Beachfront Nuclear Wasteland in Southern California? Nuclear storage plan at San Onofre beach leaves out tribal voices, Indian Country Today  Dina Gilio-Whitaker • May 15, 2017

A controversial plan to temporarily store more than three million pounds of spent nuclear fuel 100 feet from one of Southern California’s most popular beaches, San Onofre, is meeting with fierce resistance from local communities, including tribal members. The problem for the Native population is that while the formal decision-making process systematically involved a wide variety of stakeholders including local and state governments, community groups, environmentalists, academics, military, and business, education, and labor leaders, tribal governments were excluded.

The Backstory

Halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, and with eight million people living within a 50-mile radius, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) looms above what is otherwise a pristine stretch of coastline. It is surrounded by San Onofre State Park, one of the state’s busiest parks, which sits within the Camp Pendleton Marine Base. San Onofre is the traditional territory of the Acjachemen people, who know the area as Panhe. Prior to colonization, San Onofre was also territory shared by the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians (Luiseño). Both are state-recognized tribes. All these factors mean there are many different people with strong opinions about nuclear waste storage near their communities.

The aging “nuke plant,” as local residents call it, is owned primarily by Southern California Edison, and was permanently shut down in 2013 after a discovery that it was leaking radioactive gas. It is scheduled for full decommissioning; at issue is how and where to store the accumulated radioactive waste in the short term before a long-term plan can be worked out.

“To the best of our knowledge, our tribal government was never contacted by Edison,” Rebecca Robles, Acjachemen tribal member and co-director of the United Coalition to Protect Panhe, told ICMN. Other local tribal leaders declined to comment……

Spent fuel rods currently stored in cooling pools in SONGS’ two reactors need to be removed to dry storage, which according to studies is safer. SONGS planned to move more than 100 steel casks encased in concrete containers and bury them onsite just 100 feet from the high-tide mark in an area already plagued by erosion. In addition, ocean levels at that site are rising faster than expected, according to a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Google Earth images highlight the reason that residents are so alarmed by the location of the storage, as the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

With increased awareness of the issue has come increased public criticism. Critics believe burying the waste so close to the beach in an earthquake-prone region is a recipe for disaster, in light of the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe, according to the Orange County Register.

They also believe that the 5/8-inch steel casks that SONGS plans to use are far too flimsy, according to a report by the citizen group San Onofre Safety.

Because SONGS is in the coastal zone it is subject to California Coastal Commission rules, and was granted a permit by the commission to temporarily store the waste for 20 years. In November 2015 the community watchdog group Citizen’s Oversight filed a lawsuit against the Coastal Commission, demanding that the permit be revoked and another site found, Reuters reported. Citizen’s Oversight and the state are now negotiating a settlement, Fox 5 News reported on April 7.

Decisions Made Without Tribal Input……. State law AB 52 requires consultation with tribal governments before it issues permits for development-related projects, prompting questions about why local Native nations weren’t consulted in this case……

It remains to be seen if or how the lawsuit negotiations will affect the location of the waste storage site. No matter what happens, however, this is only the beginning stage of the interim storage at SONGS and there will be a need for the Community Engagement Panel for years to come to monitor the issue. That means there is still plenty of reason for a tribal appointment.

May 22, 2017 Posted by | indigenous issues, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

The Hanford nuclear waste incident indicates America’s massive nuclear weapons waste problem

Serious questions raised about how Hanford site stores radioactive nuclear waste by Charlie Smith on May 13th, 2017 A Stanford University nuclear-security researcher wonders why officials left radioactive waste in a tunnel at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Rod Ewing also told the Spokane Spokesman-Review it was “surprising” that mounds of dirt and pressure-treated timber were used to address the problem.

“How can waste be left in a tunnel? Whose idea was that?” Ewing said in an interview with the newspaper. “I’ve been to Hanford many, many times for conferences and things like that, and I don’t recall anyone saying that there was waste in tunnels underground. I can’t imagine why that would be the case.”

On May 9, part of a railcar tunnel collapsed near the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant. U.S. Department of Energy officials have claimed there was no release of radioactive materials.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is 400 kilometres southeast of Vancouver, B.C.

On a site the size of the City of Seattle, it has 56 million gallons of untreated nuclear waste left over from the U.S. nuclear-weapons program.

The video below explains the scope of the problem and why it should be of concern.

The Waste That Remains From Arming Nuclear Weapons

“The current unfolding crisis at Hanford, the bursting barrel at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant  (WIPP) in New Mexico in 2014, and the exploding radioactive waste dump in Beatty, Nevada in 2015, show that radioactive waste management is out of control,” Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog at Beyond Nuclear, said in a news release earlier this week.

Beyond Nuclear notes that the Hanford site was part of the Manhattan Project and was a “major supplier of military plutonium”.

“It houses 177 storage tanks containing liquid radioactive sludges, some of which have been leaking radioactive effluent that could eventually threaten the Columbia River,” the group states on its website. “Cleanup at the site did not begin until 1989.”

According to Beyond Nuclear, the Hanford tunnel collapse may have been caused by vibrations from nearby road works.

The Centre for Public Integrity pointed out on its website that a 2015 report noted that this tunnel “had been seriously weakened and that a ‘partial or complete failure’ could expose individuals even 380 feet away to dancerous levels of radiation”.

“No action was taken by the department in response, and earlier this month—the precise date remains uncertain because conditions at the site were not closely monitored—a portion of the roof collapsed at the tunnel, creating a 20-foot square hole,” wrote Peter Cary and Patrick Malone. “Afterwards, the managers of the Hanford site were forced on May 9 to order 3,000 workers to shelter indoors. But instead of shoring up the beams inside the tunnel in question, they poured in 54 new truckloads of dirt.”

The U.S. government is spending US$2 billion per year on a clean-up operation that’s not expected to be finished for another 75 years.

May 15, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Hanford’s unending nuclear woes

Hanford continues to have truckload of woes ever a place were cursed, it’s the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The last thing cleanup managers needed was a new project.

But the lifespan of rail car tunnels designed to temporarily store radioactive material is much shorter than the half-life of the waste itself, as witnessed by the 20-by-20-foot hole that was spotted above one of the caverns on Tuesday morning.

The two tunnels were built more than 50 years ago as a stopgap measure. Today, there is still no permanent solution as the cleanup drags on, with administration after administration claiming their commitment to safety as it pushes back deadlines.

The feds have spend $19 billion at Hanford, and the deadline for completion is 2060, or 115 years after the first plutonium for a nuclear explosion was produced. It’s a national embarrassment, with serious consequences for this region.

Workers are plugging the hole of the partially collapsed tunnel with a sand and soil mix. Fifty-four truckloads were dumped as of Wednesday night. No airborne radioactivity has been detected. The tunnel, constructed of wood and concrete, has stored eight rail cars filled with contaminated material since the 1960s, the Tri-City Herald reported. The other tunnel is larger, containing 28 rail cars filled with waste.

The fact that radioactive material is still being stored in such a way says everything about the failure of the federal government to come up with a permanent solution. A 2015 U.S. Department of Energy report said the tunnels were susceptible to earthquakes or deterioration, and the nearby Yakama Nation was warned, the Associated Press reported. The tribe says nothing was done.

Earlier reports also warned the tunnels would deteriorate due to time and radiation.

The state of Washington has filed a legal order outlining its expectations, including a plan for the safe storage of materials in those tunnels.

The tunnels aren’t even the worst of it. A total of 177 tanks with 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge are buried beneath Hanford and close to the Columbia River. At least 67 tanks have leaks. If the Columbia River were to be contaminated, it would be catastrophic for the entire Northwest.

The long-term plan has been to convert the waste into glass logs by a process known as vitrification. The logs would be put into permanent storage deep beneath Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But the planned $17 billion vitrification plant has been plagued by design and safety concerns. Politics has stymied the Yucca repository. Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who served as Senate majority leader, blocked it.

In yet another twist, a recent Government Accountability Office report advises abandoning vitrification and encasing the waste in a cement-like mixture. It’s always something.

President Donald Trump’s initial budget increased U.S. Energy Department spending on cleanups, from $6.1 billion to $6.5 billion. New Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has much to learn about Hanford, and he will be counted on to follow up on the tunnel breach.

But it takes a truckload of faith to believe the curse will be lifted.

May 13, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Close to Norway – Russia’s secret nuclear weapons build-up, and waste dumps

The satellite images, however, only reveal what is visible on the surface. Most of the actual warheads are underground.  

What now takes place in regard to submarine-launched ballistic missiles’ facilities hasn’t been seen at the naval bases on Kola since the large-scale infrastructure construction to support the Typhoon submarines at the Nerpichya base in Zapadnaya Lista happened in the 1980s.

Norway pays for nuclear safety While nuclear weapons are stored inside the mountain on the east side of the Litsa fjord, huge amounts of nuclear waste are stored just two kilometers away, across the fjord in the infamous Andreeva Bay. Thousands of cubic meters of solid radioactive waste and nearly 22,000 spent nuclear fuel elements from submarine reactors are stored here. Neighbouring Norway, along with other donor countries, have spent hundres of millions kroner (tens of millions euros), on nuclear safety projects aimed at upgrading the infrastructure in Andreeva Bay.

Satellite images show expansion of nuclear weapons sites on Kola, Barents Observer [excellent pictures]  By Thomas Nilsen, May 08, 2017 
The reverse gear seems to hang up for continuing disarmament of nuclear weapons in the Arctic. Barents Observer has made a comprehensive review of satellite images from naval base-level storage facilities that confirms heavy construction works.

The New START Treaty says USA and Russia must limit the numbers of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 by February 5, 2018. Over the last two years, Russia has increased the number of deployed warheads and is now 215 over the max limit to be reached.

There are extensive construction work at two of the Northern Fleet’s facilities for storage of warheads and ballistic missiles for submarines (SLBM) on the coast of to the Barents Sea. The Barents Observer has studied satellite images of the Kola Peninsula open available via Google Earth, combined with open-source data on numbers of nuclear warheads in Russia. The results are frightening.

Expansion of the two base-level storages in Okolnaya Bay near Severomorsk and Yagelnaya Bay in Gadzhiyevo are clearly visible. At both locations, new reinforced bunkers, auxiliary buildings and infrastructure partly finished and partly still under construction can be seen.

The satellite images, however, only reveal what is visible on the surface. Most of the actual warheads are underground.

What now takes place in regard to submarine-launched ballistic missiles’ facilities hasn’t been seen at the naval bases on Kola since the large-scale infrastructure construction to support the Typhoon submarines at the Nerpichya base in Zapadnaya Lista happened in the 1980s.

There are four storages for nuclear weapons on Kola. From satellite images, these storages are not too difficult to find. All are surrounded by double or triple layer barrier of barbed wire fences with extraordinary security at the single entry-exit checkpoints. Also inside the outer fences, the different sections of the facilities are separated with similar security fence barriers. Comparing satellite images with photos posted on internet by naval officers or their family members makes it possible to get a pretty good impression of the current situation.

Several of the storage locations are visible on photos, although mainly in distance, available by searching Yandex, Russia’s own search engine.  Also, Wikimapia, an online editable map where people can mark and describe places, has been a good source to information when writing this article.

Zaozersk is the nuclear weapons storage nearest to Norway in a distance of 65 kilometers to the border in Grense Jakobselv. The Norwegian town of Kirkenes is 94 kilometers away. Distance to Finland is 120 kilometers. All four storage sites on Kola are within a radius of 190 kilometers from Norway and 180 kilometers from the Finnish border………..

Today, Kristian Åtland estimates that around 60 percent of Russia’s more than 700 sea-based strategic nuclear warheads are concentrated on the Kola Peninsula, whereas the remaining 40 percent is based with the Pacific Fleet at Kamchatka.

«The numerical increase in Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal, including the part of it that is based on submarines operating from the Kola Peninsula, is neither dramatic nor unexpected. The increase is to be understood in the context of Russia’s long-standing and still on-going defense modernization. The modernization of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces has been a key priority in the State Armaments Program for the period up to 2020 (“GPV-2020”), which was launched in 2010. In addition, the general deterioration of Russia’s relationship with the West, particularly since 2014, seems to have led to a renewed focus on the issue of nuclear deterrence, in Russia as well as in the United States,» Åtland elaborates.

Gorbachev called for nuclear-free zone

2017 marks the 30-years anniversary since Michael Gorbachev’s famous Murmansk-speech on October 1st 1987 where he called for a nuclear-free zone in Northern Europe. Since then, the numbers of nuclear warheads based on the Kola Peninsula saw a continuing decrease until 2015, five years after Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START Treaty in Prague. In July 2015, Russia reportedly had less deployed strategic nuclear warheads than the United States, 1,582 versus 1,597, the Bureau of Arms Control with the U.S. Departement of State reported.

215 over New START Treaty limit

Latest exchange and verification numbers from the same bureau dated April 1, 2017 shows that Russia now has 1,765 versus the United State’s 1,411. In other words; Russia has 215 warheads more than the maximum set to be achieved nine months ahead. The questions is whether Moscow is likely to dismantle over 200 warheads in less than a year.

Katarzyna Zysk, Associate Professor with the Norwegian Defense University College, says to the Barents Observer that Russia has a vested interest in maintaining the New START agreement. «Russia has a vested interest in maintaining the New START given that it keeps the development of the US strategic nuclear capabilities under control, provides Russia transparency measures and valued insight into to the US nuclear forces, thus increasing predictability,» she says, but underscore that the numbers must down.

«In order to meet the New START Treaty limits when it enters into effect in February 2018, Russia will have to decrease the numbers. However, Russia has been moving toward meeting the obligations as the number of Russia’s deployed strategic warheads has been decreasing compared with 2016. The US is now below the treaty limit and is in fact increasing the number of strategic deployed warheads,» Zysk explains.

Åtland agrees and underscores that today’s numbers do not constitute a treaty violation.

«The fact that Russia is now above the maximum warhead limits of the new START Treaty, which entered into force in 2011, does not in itself constitute a treaty violation. The treaty does not mandate any particular schedule for reductions other than that the agreed-upon limits must be met by February 2018, which is in nine months from now. Reductions in the number of deployed warheads are fairly easy to achieve once the political will is there, either by phasing out old delivery platforms or by removing deployed warheads to central storage. Thus, the identified “peak” may be temporary,» Åtland says. He hopes both the United States and Russia will work towards an extension of the Treaty.

«Hopefully, Russia will stand by its commitments under the current START Treaty regime. In any event, it is important that Russia and the U.S. continue to exchange data about the status of their nuclear arsenals and that they provide for mutual inspections and other transparency measures outlined in the START Treaty and other documents. The parties should also work towards an extension or replacement of the Treaty when it expires in February 2021.»…………..

Norway pays for nuclear safety

While nuclear weapons are stored inside the mountain on the east side of the Litsa fjord, huge amounts of nuclear waste are stored just two kilometers away, across the fjord in the infamous Andreeva Bay. Thousands of cubic meters of solid radioactive waste and nearly 22,000 spent nuclear fuel elements from submarine reactors are stored here. Neighbouring Norway, along with other donor countries, have spent hundres of millions kroner (tens of millions euros), on nuclear safety projects aimed at upgrading the infrastructure in Andreeva Bay.

On June 27, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende, travels to Andreeva Bay to mark the first shipping of spent nuclear fuel out of the area, a job that is likely to continue for more than five years. Meanwhile, Russia continues to spend huge amounts of money on new nuclear weapons in the border areas. ………..

Bolshoye Ramozero – the most secret

The most secret of all secret nuclear weapons storages on the Kola Peninsula is located some 20 kilometers to the northeast of the mining town Olenegorsk, on a side road towards Lovozero. The location, diffcult to find referances to on the internet, has several names; Katalya is one, Bolshoye Ramozero is another (the nearby lake). Like other secret towns in the Soviet Union, also this one had a post-code name; Olenegorsk-2. The nickname is Tsar City, allegedly because of the priviliges the inhabitants had. The town is also simply known as Military Unit 62834 or Object 956.

While it is easy to find selfies and blogposts from most Russian military garrisons and bases, few can be found from this town. Not too strange; the town is under full supervison of the 12th Chief Directorate of the Ministry of Defense. This directorate is responsible for all of Russia’s nuclear weapons, including storages, technical maintenance and transportation.

The 12th Chief Directorate is probably the most secretive organization in the Russian Armed Forces, even more than the foreign military intelligence agency GRU and the strategic missile forces, according to Wikipedia.

Bolshoye Ramozero serves a national-level nuclear weapons facility, one of 12 such storages across Russia, according to a recent report written by Pavel Podvig and Javier Serrat. The report, focusing on non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, is published by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

It is believed that all non-strategic nuclear warheads possible aimed for naval, air force and army weapons for the Kola area, and maybe even more, are stored at the central national level storage in Bolshaya Ramozero. According to the UNIDIR report, the 12th Chief Directorate is responsible for providing the nuclear warheads to the different military units “when deemed necessary.” If a threatening situation occurs, warheads can be transported by trucks from this site to the different military units on the Kola Peninsula which holds weapons systems that could be armed with tactical nuclear weapons, like naval cruise missiles or torpedoes, or cruise missiles carried by aircrafts.

The nearest airbase to the central storage on Kola is Olenogorsk where Tu-22 bombers are stationed.

Inside the underground storage bunkers in Bolshaya Ramozero are only the warheads stored.

Satellite images show that there are two storage areas just north of the town. The first area has three internal sites, of which only two seems to be actively used. The second area is located another kilometer further north.

May 13, 2017 Posted by | politics international, Reference, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The unsafe storage of America’s nuclear weapons waste

Nuclear Waste From the Cold War Is Being Stored in Unsafe Conditions. Time to Fix the Problem is Running Out, TIME, Nicholas K. Geranios and Manuel Valdes / AP, May 11, 2017 (RICHLAND, Wash.) — The collapse of a tunnel containing radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear weapons complex underscored what critics have long been saying: The toxic remnants of the Cold War are being stored in haphazard and unsafe conditions, and time is running out to deal with the problem.

“Unfortunately, the crisis at Hanford is far from an isolated incident,” said Kevin Kamps of the anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear.

 For instance, at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which opened in the 1950s and produced plutonium and tritium, the government is laboring to clean up groundwater contamination along with 40 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste stored in tanks that are decades past their projected lifespan. The job is likely to take decades.

In addition to the tunnel collapse discovered Tuesday, dozens of underground storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state — some dating to World War II — are leaking highly radioactive materials.

The problem is that the U.S. government rushed to build nuclear weapons during the Cold War with little thought given to how to permanently dispose of the resulting waste.

Safely removing it now is proving enormously expensive, slow-going, extraordinarily dangerous and so complex that much of the technology required simply does not exist. The cleanup has also been plagued with political and technical setbacks.

For example, the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository, in New Mexico, closed to new shipments in 2014 after an improperly packed drum of waste ruptured. The site just recently reopened.

The U.S. Department of Energy spends about $6 billion a year on managing waste left from the production of nuclear weapons. “The temporary solutions DOE has used for decades to contain radioactive waste at Hanford have limited lifespans,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and frequent Hanford critic. “The longer it takes to clean up Hanford, the higher the risk will be to workers, the public and the environment.”

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry acknowledged the problem with nuclear waste, saying the nation can no longer delay fixing the problem because lives are at stake.

During a tour Wednesday of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Perry said the federal government has failed to remove the waste in a timely manner and he pledged to make progress.

A recently approved bipartisan federal budget deal for this fiscal year includes $2.3 billion for the ongoing Hanford cleanup, which matches the amount that Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, worked to include last year. President Donald Trump is expected to release his 2018 proposal later this month.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the state plans to issue an order making sure the federal government determines the cause of the tunnel collapse. The order will also require the Energy Department to assess if there’s an immediate risk of failures in any other tunnels and take actions to safely store waste in the tunnels until a decision is made about how to permanently handle the material.

Thousands of workers at Hanford were told to stay home as efforts began to plug the 400-square-foot (37-square-meter) sinkhole in the earth over the unoccupied storage tunnel…….

May 12, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Background to the collapse of the Hanford nuclear waste rail tunnel

Nuclear Waste From the Cold War Is Being Stored in Unsafe Conditions. Time to Fix the Problem is Running Out, TIME, Nicholas K. Geranios and Manuel Valdes / AP, May 11, 2017 (RICHLAND, Wash.) “………Officials said they detected no release of radiation and no one was injured in the collapse, though thousands of workers were forced to take shelter for several hours as a precaution. The cause of the collapse was not immediately known.

A gravel road was built to the collapse site, and workers wearing protective suits and breathing masks planned to fill the hole with 50 truckloads of dirt, the Energy Department said.

The rail tunnel was built in 1956 out of timber, concrete and steel, topped by 8 feet of dirt. It was 360 feet long (110 meters). Radioactive materials were brought into the tunnel by railcars. The tunnel was sealed in 1965 with eight loaded flatbed cars inside.

Gerry Pollet, a Washington state legislator and longtime Hanford critic, said the collapse of a waste storage tunnel at Hanford had been feared for years.

“This disaster was predicted and shows the federal Energy Department’s utter recklessness in seeking decades of delay for Hanford cleanup,” he said.

He noted the Energy Department last year received permission to delay removing waste from the tunnels until 2042. The waste was supposed to be gone by 2024, Pollet said.

The radiation levels of the waste in the tunnel that collapsed would be lethal within an hour, Pollet said.

Hanford, a 500-square-mile expanse in remote interior Washington about 200 miles from Seattle, was created during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb.

Hanford made most of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, during the war. It now contains the nation’s greatest volume of radioactive waste left over from the production of weapons plutonium.

The cleanup there has cost $19 billion to date and is not expected to be finished until 2060, at an additional cost of $100 billion.

The most dangerous waste at Hanford is 56 million gallons stored in 177 underground tanks, some of which have leaked.

Plans to embed the toxic stew in glass logs for burial have floundered. Construction of a $17 billion glassification factory has stopped because of design and safety issues.

The plan is to bury the glass logs at a nuclear waste dump carved inside Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, a project that has been on the drawing board for three decades but has run into resistance from Nevada politicians, including former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

President Donald Trump has proposed $120 million to restart the licensing process for the dump.

Associated Press writers Susan Montoya Bryan in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this story.

May 12, 2017 Posted by | safety, wastes | Leave a comment

Another radioactive waste accident, this time at Hanford, shows nuclear dump sites are not under control

Beyond Nuclear, TAKOMA PARK, MD, May 9, 2017 — A tunnel at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington State collapsed today on top of railcars stored there that contain “mixed” radioactive waste, an accident that local watchdog group, Hanford Challenge, describes as a “crisis.”

The tunnel is located next to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, also known as PUREX, and contains substances classified as “dangerous waste.” The collapse prompted an initial evacuation of workers in the area that then spread to a “take cover” order for the entire site.

The already embattled Hanford site was originally part of the Manhattan Project, and a major supplier of military plutonium. It houses 177 storage tanks containing liquid radioactive sludges, some of which have been leaking radioactive effluent that could eventually threaten the Columbia River. Cleanup at the site did not begin until 1989. The Hanford tunnel collapse may have been caused by soil subsidence due to vibrations from nearby road works.

“The current unfolding crisis at Hanford, the bursting barrel at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico in 2014, and the exploding radioactive waste dump in Beatty, Nevada in 2015, show that radioactive waste management is out of control,” said Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Watchdog at Beyond Nuclear

”That’s why the Yucca Mountain dump in Nevada, the Canadian dump targeted at the Great Lakes shore, and the parking lot dumps in Texas and New Mexico must be blocked, to prevent future disasters,” Kamps added.

WIPP, a radioactive waste repository mainly for military waste and situated near Carlsbad, NM, suffered an accident on February 14, 2014. The explosion there released radioactivity that exposed workers who were stationed above ground at the time and forced an almost three-year shutdown of the site. The disaster cost $2 billion and counting. As at Hanford, a relatively minor event — the use of the wrong kitty litter for cleanup — was blamed for the WIPP accident, prompting serious questions about competence and safeguards at such critically dangerous sites.

A leak in a massive nuclear waste storage tank at Hanford in April 2016 was described as “catastrophic” by a former tank farm worker there, even as the U.S. Department of Energy tried to downplay the problem.

Most commercial radioactive waste is currently stored at reactor sites around the country. However, military radioactive waste has continued to pose an on-going storage nightmare. Beyond Nuclear advocates for commercial reactor waste to be stored on-site but in facilities known as Hardened On-Site Storage, or HOSS, and not in the risky pools and inadequate waste casks, as is the current practice. -30- Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future.

Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear. Beyond Nuclear: 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 400, Takoma Park, MD 20912.

May 10, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment

German energy groups turn to lucrative business of decommissioning nuclear power stations

Dismantling nuclear: German power firms sell new skills, 9 May 17, By Christoph Steitz | FRANKFURT\  Energy groups E.ON and EnBW are tearing down their nuclear plants at massive cost following Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power by 2022, but they are seeking to turn a burden into business by exporting their newfound dismantling skills.

Germany is the only country in the world to dump the technology as a direct consequence of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011, a decision that came as a major blow to the two energy firms which owned most of Germany’s 17 operational nuclear stations.

E.ON and EnBW have already shut down five plants between them and must close another five by 2022. Not only are they losing a major profit driver – a station could earn 1 million euros ($1.1 million) a day – but are also facing combined decommissioning costs of around 17 billion euros.

This tough new reality has nonetheless forced them to rapidly acquire expertise in the lengthy and complex process of dismantling nuclear plants – presenting an unlikely but potentially lucrative business opportunity in a world where dozens of reactors are set to be closed over the next 25 years.

They say their skills are attracting the interest of international customers. Continue reading

May 10, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, Germany | Leave a comment

Texas Nuclear Waste Bill is amended in a big win for environmentalists

Big Win for Enviros in Texas as Nuclear Waste Bill Is Amended

AUSTIN, Texas — Today marked a win for environmentalists and opponents of nuclear waste storage in Texas. Under pressure from his peers in the legislature, Texas Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) removed key provisions from his bill (CSHB 2662) proposing to expand storage capacity at the low-level radioactive waste site in Andrews County, Texas.

Public Citizen mobilized its members in Texas to oppose the bill.

“This was the latest attempt by Waste Control Specialists to expand its low-level radioactive waste site,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “The company is in dire financial straits already, and digging another pit won’t change that. It would have created an expensive radioactive mess that the people of Texas would have been left to clean up.”

“The pared-back bill is a great victory for the health and safety of Texans,” said Karen Hadden, director of the SEED Coalition. The bill, which the House of Representatives approved, only commissions a study of storage capacity at the site.

The Senate companion bill, SB 1137, is pending in committee and contains the original language to expand nuclear waste storage capacity at the Andrews County site. But in floor comments, Landgraf, pledged to stick with his House version of the bill during future negotiations with the Senate.

“They can study this all they want,” added Shelley. “They’re going to find that it’s a bad idea.”

May 10, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

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.”…….,506578

May 10, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Concern that Plymouth’s representatives will have little say in decommissioning process of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.

Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel strategizes with selectmen, Wicked Local, Plymouth – The state’s Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel will hold its first meeting in Plymouth on May 24, but there is already concern that that Plymouth’s representatives on the panel will have little say in the decommissioning process of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.

Based on the numbers alone, Plymouth’s interests should be well represented on the panel……..

Their basic mission, Grassie said, was to meet four times a year, advise the governor, general court and the public on the issues, “serve as a conduit of communications and encourage public involvement” and receive and issue reports.

Meanwhile, Grassie said, Entergy would hold its own meetings, including with the NRC, and making decisions including, as happened with the recently closed Entergy-owned Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, selling the decommissioning function to a separate entity altogether……..

The basic priorities that town officials and panelists will take are, however, becoming clear.

Because of safety concerns the town does not want spent fuel to be left in the pool inside the reactor building. Fortunately Entergy likely doesn’t want that either because, when the spent fuel is out of the pool they can dramatically reduce on-site staff and, therefore, reduce their management costs as well.

The town does not want spent fuel stored forever on site permanently. Unfortunately there is neither a temporary or permanent national spent fuel storage facility available at this time.

In the event that spent fuel in dry cask storage remains on site for the foreseeable future the town wants to be fairly compensated.

The town does not want to see the decommissioning fund used to pay for other costs associated with the continued presence of radioactive materials at the site. That has been happening at Vermont Yankee, where the decommissioning fund has been used to pay the tax payments charged by the host community……

The town wants the rights to the so-called “1,500 acres,” the largely pristine buffer around the plant that stretches from the waterfront around the plant, to the top of the Pine Hill.

The town wants a lot but the question on the minds of the panel members right now is simple: How can they influence the process effectively toward those goals?……..

May 10, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

Nevada lawmakers approve budgets to fight plan to dump radioactive trash at Yucca Mountain

Budgets approved to fight Yucca Mountain, By Sean Whaley Las Vegas Review-Journal,May 7, 2017 CARSON CITY — The budgets for the state agencies charged with fighting the Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste dump were approved Saturday by the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees.

The budget for the Agency for Nuclear Projects totals $3.8 million for the next two years, with most of the money going to fight against restarting Yucca Mountain. Of that total, $1.3 million will be spent fighting the expected restart of licensing proceedings.

The attorney general’s office budgets also were approved by the panels, including $3.4 million over two years to fight the project.

 The committees approved the funding without comment. The funding will now become part of the budget bills lawmakers will approve later this month as part of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $8.2 billion, 2017-19 general fund budget.

Sandoval, state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and most state lawmakers strongly oppose any restart of the Yucca Mountain licensing hearings. A resolution stating the Legislature’s opposition will get a committee hearing Monday.

But some Nevada elected officials, including Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen, argue the licensing proceedings should be allowed to go forward to determine decisively whether Yucca Mountain is a suitable site for the dump. Attorneys for Nevada have raised scores of issues challenging the site’s suitability.

Despite past claims that the project has been long dead, President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint, issued in March, included $120 million in new funds to the Energy Department and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart Yucca Mountain licensing activities.

The omnibus funding bill Congress approved this past week did not include any Yucca Mountain funding. But the funding could be included in the federal fiscal year 2018 budget, which begins Oct. 1.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing on Yucca on April 26 and is expected to draft legislation for licensing proceedings to commence.

The Agency for Nuclear Projects indicated that the first step in the process is expected to be the reconstituting of the Yucca Mountain Construction Authorization Boards, followed by a case management conference. The restart proceedings could take up to a year, with hearings on challenges to the licensing application lasting three or more years.

Nevada officials estimate that a licensing hearing would require more than 400 days, taking an estimated four to five years at a cost to the Energy Department $1.66 billion.

Yucca Mountain is in Nye County, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Contact Sean Whaley at or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

May 10, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Failure of legal attempt to halt shutdown of Indian Point Nuclear Station

Indian Point lawsuit dead before arrival, Rye City Review, May 5, 2017  by James Pero A lawsuit seeking to halt the shutdown of a long controversial nuclear power plant located at Indian Point in Buchanan is dead on arrival after staunch opposition from Westchester County’s Democratic lawmakers.

Last week, the Board of Legislators’ Democratic caucus voted to kill the lawsuit, proposed by County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, earlier this month, before it was even sent to committee, and well short of a vote by the full Legislature, which is required by law.

“Instead of engaging in a wasteful lawsuit where both sides are funded with taxpayer money, the best approach is to work with all of the affected communities on how to mitigate the economic, social, and environmental impacts of Indian Point closing,” said Democratic Majority Leader Catherine Borgia, of Ossining……..

County Democrats say they plan to host community meetings with affected residents and stakeholders in Indian Point as a part of their own initiative.

To lessen the economic impact on workers at the plant, Cuomo has floated a potential transition into the renewable energy sector for workers laid off by the plant’s closure.

Details of what the decommissioning process will look like will continue to be hashed out by a recently formed task force, which consists of both state and local lawmakers as well as various officials from Cuomo’s administration.

May 10, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

How to Warn the Future About Toxic Waste?

Radioactive Cats and Nuclear Priests: How to Warn the Future About Toxic Waste, Motherboad, DANIEL OBERHAUS, May 7 2017 

Nuclear waste can remain toxic for tens of thousands of years. How do you warn the future that they’re standing on nuclear waste when there’s no one around to translate?

This is a series around POWER, a Motherboard 360/VR documentary about nuclear energy. Follow along here.

In 1999, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside of Carlsbad, New Mexico accepted its first deposit of mid-level nuclear waste. A massive network of tunnels extending nearly a quarter of a mile into the Earth, WIPP is tasked with safely storing the United States’ growing stockpile of nuclear waste for the next million years.

Due to the timescales involved when handling nuclear waste, designing deep geological repositories like WIPP is one of the most challenging engineering problems ever faced by our species. But, as it turns out, the main problem has less to do with engineering, and more to do with linguistics: namely, how to design a warning message about the repository that will be intelligible to future generations of humans who might happen across it hundreds of thousands of years from now.

The solution isn’t as simple as it seems. Humans have only been writing for about 5,500 years, and many ancient languages have forever been lost to history. The idea of using a language to write out a warning message that would last 200 times longer than the most ancient languages seems improbable at best. Even conventional warning symbols like the skull and crossbones are far from universal.

As for building giant, foreboding monuments to scare people away? One need only look to the great pyramids to see how well that worked at keeping people out. Another idea was simply to bury the waste and forget about it, which raises a significant ethical issue: Do we have an obligation to warn future generations about our nuclear waste?

In 1981, the US Department of Energy convened an eclectic panel of experts to design a warning message that would last millennia. Known as the Human Interference Task Force, the group was led by the renowned semiotician Thomas Sebeok.

The group’s message was being designed for Yucca Mountain, a controversial high-level waste repository in Nevada that is still not open for business, largely due to the extremely complex nature of designing a million-year nuclear vault.

Following the initial call for ideas, a poll was conducted by the German Journal of Semiotics between 1982 and 1983 that asked for proposals addressing the question of how to communicate the dangers of a nuclear waste repository to people 10,000 years in the future. The most compelling was Sebeok’s plan for a nuclear priesthood, which would pass on information to future generations through myths and rituals. It was based on the idea of the Catholic Church, which has managed to transmit its messages for nearly 2,000 years.

Less formal styles of oral tradition, such as Icelandic family sagas, have also been shown to retain a high degree of accuracy after 1,000 years.

Other ideas were slightly more outlandish. Stanislaw Lem, a Polish sci-fi writer, suggested periodically putting satellites into orbit that would transmit information about the sites to Earth for hundreds of years at a time. A similar proposal was put forth by Philipp Sonntag, who advocated for “an artificial moon in the sky” as the safest place to store information about the repository. Another of his ideas was to encode information about the site into the DNA of plants, which would then be planted around the repository opening.

 In a similar vein, the Italian semiotician proposed breeding “radiation cats” that would change color when they came near radioactive sites. The thinking was that, based on the long history of human-feline cohabitation, there was a good chance that this would continue into the future and our feline friends could warn us of the danger.

After two years of deliberation, the Human Interference Task Force issued a large technical report for the Department of Energy containing their final recommendations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither ray cats nor radioactive flowers made the cut. Instead, the task force proposed creating a large monument over the site, consisting of several stone monoliths inscribed with information in all human languages, as well as a subterranean vault with more detailed information, and a number of earthen walls making access to the site intentionally difficult.

Furthermore, the group recommended dispersing detailed information about the site to libraries around the globe, to prevent some sort of cataclysmic, Library of Alexandria-type of information loss should a disaster strike one of the sites………

May 8, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, wastes | Leave a comment

Problems of cleaning up the shut down Vermont Nuclear Power Plant

MAY. 3, 2017, BY MIKE FAHER   VERNON – Tearing down Vermont Yankee could produce more than 2.1 million cubic feet of crushed concrete.

And new documents show that more than half of that concrete – 1.1 million cubic feet – might be buried on site as part of a “rubblization” plan developed by NorthStar Group Services, the company that wants to buy the shut-down Vernon nuclear plant.

Both NorthStar and current plant owner Entergy pledge that only clean concrete will be used as fill. And administrators are touting the plan’s benefits, saying it will save millions of dollars and keep thousands of trucks off local roads.

Vermont Yankee has “large quantities of uncontaminated concrete acceptable for reuse as fill that would provide economic benefits, with no health or safety risk due to residual radioactivity, and avoid unnecessary traffic, transportation and disposal offsite,” Steven Scheurich, an Entergy vice president, wrote in documents filed with the state Public Service Board.

But the proposal could prove to be a sticking point for state officials and activists. Ray Shadis, a technical adviser with the watchdog group New England Coalition, argues that NorthStar is planning, “in essence, a capped landfill.”

“It’s a very important issue for us,” Shadis said. “It’s a major issue.”

Entergy is seeking approval from the Vermont Public Service Board and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to sell Vermont Yankee to NorthStar, a New York-based decommissioning company.

NorthStar says it can clean up most of the site – with the exception of a spent fuel storage facility – by 2030 and possibly as early as 2026. That’s decades sooner than Entergy had been planning.

But some observers are wondering about NorthStar’s ability to follow through on its promises. That skepticism – or, at the very least, curiosity – is apparent in the 10 entities that have been granted permission to intervene in the Public Service Board’s deliberations.

In late April, NorthStar and Entergy filed hundreds of pages of responses to discovery questions posed by some of those intervenors. The documents cover a variety of issues, but restoration and future use of the Vermont Yankee site are prominent topics……..

May 8, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment