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UK’s Radioactive Waste and Deep Geological Disposal

 NuClear News  No.107 May 2018  The deadline for responding to the Government’s two consultations on a Geological Disposal facility (GDF) has now passed. According to the GDF Watch website there was a lot of discussion around three particular areas: the role of Local Authorities; earlier funding for community engagement; and readiness of RWM to engage with communities. (1

) BEIS produced two FAQ briefings in response to a number of common and recurring questions raised at their regional consultation workshops.

MPs from both major parties have attacked the government’s latest incentive to entice communities into volunteering to host Britain’s first deep underground store for nuclear waste as “completely inadequate”. Ministers have offered up to £1m per community for areas that constructively engage in offering to take part in the scheme, and a further sum of up to £2.5m where deep borehole investigations take place.

Critics say the inducements offered by the government are “simply not good enough”, and point to the example of France, which has a similar amount of nuclear waste. It offers around €30m (£26.5m) a year as local support for districts neighbouring the site at Bure, in north-east France, and has also offered €60m in community projects. “The government’s offer in its consultation is simply not good enough. These communities are being asked to perform an important public service and should be properly recompensed,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary.

 Geoff Betsworth, chairman of the Cumbria Trust points out that a 10% dent in tourism in Cumbria “would cost £270m a year. The offer of £1m in community benefits, rising to £2.5m when boreholes begin, is absurdly low.”

 The plan was also criticised by the Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, who said the UK should stop making nuclear waste and stop building new reactors. “We are still pouring untold billions of taxpayer money into propping up an industry that the free market would have killed off years ago,” he said. “In return, we will be compounding the catastrophe of a nuclear waste build-up, which we are no closer to solving than we were when the industry was born.” (2)

Burial under National Parks? Ministers have also been attacked for refusing to rule out burying nuclear waste under national parks. The government’s response to a question in the House of Lords was branded “absolutely shocking” by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas. Labour peer Lord Judd asked ministers to promise national parks, protected areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty will be excluded from the search. But energy minister Lord Henley said he was “not excluding” those areas yet while a National Policy Statement is finalised. He insisted: “Development for a Geological Disposal Facility should only be consented in nationally designated areas in exceptional circumstances and where it would be in the public interest to do so. “Even if such development were consented, the developer would be required to take a number of measures to protect and where possible improve the environment.” (3)

Burial under the seabed In response to another written question, Lord Henley said a GDF could also be placed under the sea: “The design could allow the underground facilities to extend offshore if accessed from onshore surface sites.” (4)

The former chair of the Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Partnership, Tim Knowles, mentions that the idea of looking for a site under the sea off the coast of Cumbria has been discussed. Cumbria Trust says “while we have had expert advice that West Cumbria does not contain an adequate onshore site, we accept that it is possible that a good site may be found further offshore.” (5)

The Trust says: “It is quite possible that an onshore GDF is simply politically undeliverable anywhere in the UK, so the expansion of the offshore search area is to be welcomed. An offshore GDF would need significant surface facilities on land, occupying around one square kilometre. The obvious location for these would be on the Sellafield site, but only if the offshore geology proves suitable, and if the local population agrees. The tunnel to the offshore GDF should begin at Sellafield to avoid the need to package radioactive waste for transportation outside a nuclear site.

This would also minimise any blight on local businesses, properties and tourism – the waste would remain on the Sellafield site until it was ready to enter the GDF via the tunnel.” (6)

Folkestone & Hythe District Council (FHDC) has asked the Government for more information on its Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). It is apparently considering volunteering Romney Marsh as a site for nuclear waste. This isn’t the first time nuclear waste has been up for debate on the marsh, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) asked councils to come forward as potential sites four years ago, but after some deliberation Shepway council scrapped the plans. Then, councillors voted 21 to 13 against formally expressing interest in the project. The issue had split residents, with 63% of people rejecting it in a survey. (7)

Fears have also been raised Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. A sedimentary basin known as the Widmerpool Gulf – which extends across the three East Midland Counties could be a potential site A response to a Government package of incentives designed to get communities to agree to ‘host’ a storage complex has been discussed by Leicestershire County Council, according to the Leicester Mercury. Any facility would look to bury waste at least 200 metres below ground somewhere in a geological area which stretches from the eastern fringes of Derby across the countryside to the south of Nottingham and on to the west of Melton Mowbray in north Leicestershire. Leicestershire County Council has said there are no specific proposals for a GDF in Leicestershire at this stage but it has asked for further information on the issue from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. A Leicestershire County Council report said: “Building and operating a GDF is a multi-billion pound, intergenerational, national infrastructure project, which is likely to bring substantial benefits to its host community, with skilled jobs for hundreds of people over many decades.”(8)  http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NuClearNewsNo107.pdf

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May 19, 2018 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

South Australia’s Aboriginal people fight against nuclear waste dumping – again and again

EXTRACT from:  A journey to the heart of the anti-nuclear resistance in Australia: Radioactive Exposure Tour 2018, NUCLEAR  MONITOR  Author: Ray Acheson ‒  NM859.4719, May 2018 “……The federal government of Australia wants to build a facility to store and dispose of radioactive waste in South Australia, either at Wallerberdina Station near Hawker or on farming land in Kimba.

Wallerberdina Station is located in the Flinders Ranges, the largest mountain range in South Australia, 540 million years old. Approaching from the north on our drive down from Lake Eyre can only be described as breathtaking. The red dirt, the brown and green bush, and the ever-changing purples, blues, and reds of the mountains themselves are some of the most complex and stunning scenes one can likely see in the world.

Most people might find it shocking that the federal government would want to put a nuclear waste dump smack in the middle of this landscape. But after visiting other sites on the Rad Tour, it was only yet another disappointment ‒ and another point of resistance.

What is known is that the Wallerberdina site is of great cultural, historical, and spiritual significance to the Adnyamathanha people.  It borders the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area, which is a crucial location for biodiversity in the Flinders Ranges. Its unique ecosystem provides a refuge for many native species of flora and fauna, contains many archaeological sites as well as the first registered  Aboriginal Songline of its type in Australia, and is home to Pungka Pudanha, a natural spring and sacred woman’s site.

In case that isn’t enough, the area is a known floodplain. Our travels around the proposed site contained ample evidence of previous floods that sent massive trees rushing down the plain, smashing into each other and into various bridges and other built objects. The last big flood occurred in 2006.

The Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners were not consulted before their land was nominated for consideration by the government for the waste dump. “Through this area are registered cultural heritage sites and places of huge importance to our family, our history and our future,” wrote Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners in a 2015 statement.  “We don’t want a nuclear waste dump here on our country and worry that if the waste comes here it will harm our environment and muda (our lore, our creation, our everything).”

We met Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners Vivianne and Regina McKenzie, and Tony Clark, at the proposed site. They invited us into the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area to view the floodplains and swim in the beautiful Pungka Pudanha. We’d just been camping at Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges National Park only a few kilometres away. It is impossible to understand the government’s rationale for wanting to build a toxic waste dump on this land so cherished by its Traditional Owners, local communities, and tourists alike.

The McKenzies have been working tirelessly to prevent the proposed dump from being established, as have other local activists. Fortunately, they have some serious recent successes to inspire them. In 2015, the federal government announced a plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste from around the world to South Australia as a commercial enterprise. But Traditional Owners began protesting immediately, arguing that the so-called consultations were not accessible and that misinformation was rife.  In 2016, a Citizen’s Jury, established by then Premier Jay Weatherill and made up of 350 people, deliberated over evidence and information. In November that year, two-thirds of the Jury rejected “under any circumstances” the plan to import or store high-level waste.24 They cited lack of Aboriginal consent, unsubstantiated economic assumptions and projections, and lack of confidence in the governmental proposal’s validity.

Other battles against proposed nuclear waste dumps have been fought and won in South Australia. From 1998 to 2004, the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern South Australia, successfully campaigned against a proposed national nuclear waste dump near Woomera. In an open letter in 2004, the Kungkas wrote: “People said that you can’t win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up.”

Connected communities

The attempts by the Australian government and the nuclear industry to impose a waste dump in the Flinders Ranges, just like their attempts to impose waste dumps and uranium mines elsewhere in the country, or their refusal to compensate victims and survivors of nuclear testing, are all mired with racism. They are rooted in a fundamental dismissal and devaluation of the lives and experiences of indigenous Australians, and of proximity to cities but more importantly, to power.The industry and government’s motivations for imposing nuclear violence on these people and this land are militarism and capitalism.

Profit over people. Weapons over wellbeing. Their capacity for compassion and duty of care has been constrained by chronic short-termism ‒ a total failure to protect future generations. The poison they pull out of the earth, process, sell, allow others to make bombs with, and bury back in the earth, wounds us all now and into the future.

But nuclear weapons are now prohibited under international law. New actors are challenging the possession of nuclear weapons in new ways, and nucleararmed states are facing a challenge like never before.

The nuclear energy industry ‒ and thus the demand for uranium ‒ is declining. Power plants are being shuttered; corporations are facing financial troubles. Dirty and dangerous, the nuclear industry is dying.

This is in no small part due to the relentless resistance against it. This resistance was fierce throughout all of the country we visited, from Woomera up to Lake Eyre, from Roxby Downs to the Flinders Ranges. We listened to stories of those living on this land, we heard their histories, witnessed their actions, and supported their plans…..

https://antinuclear.net/2018/05/12/a-journey-to-the-heart-of-the-anti-nuclear-resistance-in-australia-radioactive-exposure-tour-2018/#more-60401

May 18, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, wastes | Leave a comment

The struggle to vitrify radioactive waste

2 gallons of radioactive nuclear waste done. 56M gallons to go, BY ANNETTE CARY acary@tricityherald.com  

May 18, 2018 Posted by | technology, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Alaska’s only nuclear power station to be dismantled

Nuclear power plant at Fort Greely to be decommissioned Daily News- Miner , By Sam Friedman sfriedman@newsminer.com, May 15, 2018 

      FAIRBANKS — An Army Corp of Engineers team is planning the formal decommissioning of the only nuclear power plant ever built in Alaska, Fort Greely’s SM-1A plant.

The SM-1A plant provided steam and electricity to the Army post near Delta Junction off and on between 1962 and 1972. It was one of eight experimental projects to test the use of small nuclear power plants at remote installations.

It’s expected to take about 10 years to plan, contract out and complete the SM-1A cleanup, according to a Baltimore-based team from the Army Corps of Engineers that came to Fort Greely for meetings last month……….

When SM-1A shut down in 1972, the Army chose to place the facility into a safe storage status instead of formally decommissioning it. The highly enriched uranium fuel and waste were shipped out of Alaska and radioactive components of the reactor were encased in cement.

The Army chose this temporary method of mothballing the facility out of hope that within a relatively short amount of time significant quantities of radioactive waste would decay to a safer nonradioactive state, according to an Army Corps of Engineers website about the SM-1A at bit.ly/2G7TjVH.

Later studies showed that the volume of radioactive waste wasn’t decreasing as expected and that a more hands-on approach was needed to clean up the plant. The increasing costs of nuclear waste disposal also motivated the Army to begin cleaning up the site.

There’s no estimate yet for the cost of decomissioning SM-1A, but such a project for a similar power plant has a budget of $66.4 million.

A timeline for the project indicates a request for proposals will be sent out by 2021, with a contract awarded in 2022. The actual cleanup work is expected to take about five years. http://www.newsminer.com/news/local_news/nuclear-power-plant-at-fort-greely-to-be-decommissioned/article_d9ba87c4-580f-11e8-a3cb-6bea95b1bfd3.html

May 16, 2018 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

Trump administration scraps MOX project to generate power from plutonium

Trump administration axes project to generate power from plutonium, Timothy Gardner, WASHINGTON (Reuters) 13 May 18 – The Trump administration plans to kill a project it says would have cost tens of billions of dollars to convert plutonium from Cold War-era nuclear bombs and burn it to generate electricity, according to a document it sent to Congress last week.

The Department of Energy submitted a document on May 10 to Senate and House of Representative committees saying that the Mixed Oxide (MOX) project at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina would cost about $48 billion more than $7.6 billion already spent on it. The United States has never built a MOX plant.

Instead of completing MOX, the administration, like the Obama administration before it, wants to blend the 34 tonnes of deadly plutonium – enough to make about 8,000 nuclear weapons – with an inert substance and bury it underground in a New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Burying the plutonium would cost about $19.9 billion, according to the document, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

“We are currently processing plutonium in South Carolina for shipment (to WIPP) … and intend to continue to do so,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in a letter sent to committee leaders.

Legislation passed in February allows the Energy Department to advance burying the plutonium if it showed that the cost would be less than half of completing MOX……..

Edwin Lyman, a physicist at science advisory group the Union of Concerned Scientists concerned about plutonium getting into the wrong hands, said Perry had made a sensible decision. “MOX was a slow-motion train wreck, and throwing good money after bad simply wasn’t an option.”

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Lisa Shumaker  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-plutonium-mox/trump-administration-axes-project-to-generate-power-from-plutonium-idUSKCN1IE0LH

May 14, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, politics, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Latest UK bribe for storing nuclear waste is “completely inadequate”.

Campaigners slam £1m incentive to store nuclear waste https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/12/incentive-compensation-nuclear-waste-boreholes-communities

Compensation offered to encourage local communities to allow test boreholes is described as ‘completely inadequate’ 

MPs from both major parties have attacked the government’s latest incentive to entice communities into volunteering to host Britain’s first deep underground store for nuclear waste as “completely inadequate”.

Ministers have offered up to £1m per community for areas that constructively engage in offering to take part in the scheme, and a further sum of up to £2.5m where deep borehole investigations take place.

The aim is to find a permanent underground geological disposal facility (GDF) that could store for thousands of years the waste from Britain’s nuclear energy and bomb-making programmes. The scheme could involve building stores under the seabed to house highly radioactive material. It is predicted that the UK is likely to have produced 4.9m tonnes of nuclear waste by 2125.

But critics say the inducements offered by the government – part of the consultations it launched this year – to ensure local cooperation are “simply not good enough”, and point to the example of France, which has a similar amount of nuclear waste. It offers around €30m (£26.5m) a year as local support for districts neighbouring the site at Bure, in north-east France, and has also offered €60m in community projects.

“The government’s offer in its consultation is simply not good enough. These communities are being asked to perform an important public service and should be properly recompensed,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary.

 In 2012 the government’s attempt to encourage local areas to host nuclear waste facilities ended in failure when councils in Cumbria and Kent rejected proposals for underground stores to be built within their boundaries. These were the only communities to show significant interest at the time and remain the main candidates for sites now that the government has relaunched its nuclear store programme.

However, local campaigners fear that a waste site could affect tourism, on which Cumbria is heavily reliant. “For the sake of a few hundred jobs and a few million pounds, we risk thousands of jobs in the tourism sector, which contributes £2.7bn a year to Cumbria’s economy,” said Geoff Betsworth, chairman of the Cumbria Trust. “Even a 10% dent in tourism would cost £270m a year. The offer of £1m in community benefits, rising to £2.5m when boreholes begin, is absurdly low.”

The government is seeking to dispose of the UK’s nuclear waste underground because current storage facilities are both ineffective and expensive to maintain. A GDF would involve sealing the waste in rock for as long as it remains a hazard.

The plan was also criticised by the Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, who said the UK should stop making nuclear waste and stop building new reactors.

“We are still pouring untold billions of taxpayer money into propping up an industry that the free market would have killed off years ago,” he said. “In return, we will be compounding the catastrophe of a nuclear waste build-up, which we are no closer to solving than we were when the industry was born.”

Nina Schrank, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, added: “The lack of seriousness with which the UK government treats nuclear legacy issues makes it predictable that their quest for a suitable site has been so unsuccessful that they are looking again at the Irish Sea, which Sellafield turned into one of the most radioactively contaminated seas in the world.”

A government spokesperson said: “The GDF will be a multibillion-pound project that can provide substantial benefits to host communities. This includes skilled employment for hundreds of people for decades to come, spin-off benefits such as infrastructure investment, as well as positive impacts on local service industries that support the facility and its workforce.”

May 14, 2018 Posted by | politics, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Danger of moving nuclear waste to new site in New Mexico – Holtec the only winner.

Dallas, Midland and San Antonio city councils have already made resolutions prohibiting railcars from coming through their towns and exposing the citizens of their towns to this deadly radioactive waste.

The site can be seen from the air and is a beautiful target for terrorists during transit and after arrival at the site.

Nukes are no good for this area  http://www.oaoa.com/editorial/letters_to_editor/article_d3427d86-5637-11e8-aca7-6712110b6bed.html, May 13, 2018   Karen Howard-Winters Odessa Online, 

I believe our livelihood is in great danger of becoming destroyed by a company named Holtec International. They have applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 40-year license for an interim High-Level Radioactive Nuclear Waste Facility to be built between Carlsbad and Hobbs, New Mexico.

This is not the facility in Andrews. Although, now that Holtec has applied for their license, Waste Management Specialists (WCS) had placed their license request for the High-Level Radioactive Nuclear Waste on hold due to issues regarding the pending sale of their facility to Orano. However, now that the sale is complete and things have settled down, and they are watching what is going on with Holtec. Then, we fear, Orano is going to revise and reapply for a license requesting for the same as Holtec – high-level radioactive nuclear waste to be disposed of in the Andrews site, claiming it to be interim as well.

Why are we concerned and people in Midland and Odessa should be, too?

1. This is the first time anything of this gravity has ever been attempted in this country!

a. Radioactive waste has been moved around, but nothing remotely on this level of danger, nothing on this scope of magnitude and nothing on this level or for this interim duration.

b. Our deep concern is that no permanent site has even been discussed yet!!

c. By the time a “permanent” repository is found (which will probably be never) the canisters/casks will be too fragile to be moved due to deterioration from sun exposure/weathering or just time in general and the site will become a de facto permanent disposal site and another Super Fund site that New Mexico will have to try to maintain forever.

2. The Holtec site is on top of our Permian Basin oil reserves sitting directly on top of the Delaware Basin and our Olgalla Aquifer and don’t let any tell you they’re not as the old maps tell you they are.

3. This deadly waste is responsible for cancers, genetic birth defects and deaths as witnessed in the Tulrosa Basin Downwinders Claims after the atomic bomb experiments at the Los Alamos experimental site prior to the dropping of the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended WWII. The town of Trinity was never advised of these trials and the fallout affected the towns’ people with all kinds of different cancers that no one had ever had before.

4. This radioactive waste (even though they tell you it is in solid form and is more easily handled), is to be sent here by rail coming through Odessa. If that train wrecks on Faudree and Hwy 80 would have contained nuclear waste, it would have taken out the Odessa Country Club Golf Course and some of the richest real estate in Odessa as the land will become unusable for 25,000 years or more.

5. What’s going to happen if an accident leaves the land unable to be used for drilling for oil? The Fasken Oil Company came to Roswell to testify in front of the NRC to say that this is a bad idea and vowed to do everything they can to round up all the people in the Permian Basin Oil Industry to fight this licensing.

6. One of the Midland commissioners flew in to Roswell and brought not only Fasken Oil, but a rancher from one of the big area ranches who have been in Midland County for over 102 years who has vowed to fight this with fellow ranchers.

7. One railcar contains the same amount of plutonium as was dropped on Nagasaki.

8. The land on which they have proposed to build this site is geologically unstable and there is a study out by Southern Methodist University (SMU) that, like Winkler County, has a danger of the random occurrence sinkholes at anytime, anywhere. http://blog.smu.edu/research/2018/03/20/radar-images-show-large-swath-of-texas-oil-patch-is-heaving-and-sinking-at-alarming-rates/

9. Holtec wants to bring 100,000 metric tons of this high-level radioactive nuclear waste through Odessa over 20 years after they are licensed. Dallas, Midland and San Antonio city councils have already made resolutions prohibiting railcars from coming through their towns and exposing the citizens of their towns to this deadly radioactive waste. Every time a railcar passes by an area, it releases radiation. Cumulative effects could result in birth defects to a fetus as a pregnant woman is exposed to this waste by sitting on a railcar platform waiting to go to work every day as these railcars pass by.

10. The site can be seen from the air and is a beautiful target for terrorists during transit and after arrival at the site. All it would take is a suicide plane to hit this site and it would be worse than Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Holtec is talking about bringing 100,000 metric tons of spent plutonium to the site for a total of 10,000 partially buried canisters of spent fuel rods.

11. If radiation sullies our water or our oil, we might as well, just throw in the towel and move out as our property will have no value at all.

If we lose our oil or water, we lose our city.

If you do not consent to NRC licensing Holtec for this project, please voice your dissent!

The NRC Scoping Period for this Project ends May 29! You may request, no, demand that they extend the Scoping Period to more cities so more people may voice their opinions. The people along the train routes, Midland, Odessa, Albuquerque, El Paso, Dallas, etc. You may demand they extend the Scoping Period time for an additional three to six months.

This is too important for only two months of scoping and only three public hearings in only three towns!

Moving High-Level Nuclear radioactive waste across the nation to a temporary site when no permanent site has been found is unnecessary and irresponsible. The only winner in this is a private company named Holtec. The people of Eddy and Lea Counties who want this project and are being paid a pittance are not winners as they will be stuck with a Super Fund site forever.

If you would like to voice your opinion, you have until May 29 to write to the NRC at:

May Ma Office of Administration , Mail Stop: TWNF-7-A60M , U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 2055-0001

May 14, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | 2 Comments

USA National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) plan for unnecessary production of plutonium pits

What’s Not in NNSA’s Plutonium Pit Production Decision,  Santa Fe, NM –May 10, 2018 Contact Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM, 505.989.7342, c. 505.470.3154, jay@nukewatch.org Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch NM, 505.989.7342, scott@nukewatch.org 

Today the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced: To achieve DoD’s [the Defense Department] 80 pits per year requirement by 2030, NNSA’s recommended alternative repurposes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. This two-prong approach – with at least 50 pits per year produced at Savannah River and at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos – is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking.
 First, in Nuclear Watch’s view, this decision is in large part a political decision, designed to keep the congressional delegations of both New Mexico and South Carolina happy. New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are adamantly against relocating plutonium pit production to South Carolina. On the other hand, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham was keeping the boondoggle Mixed Oxide (MOX) program on life support, and this pit production decision may help to mollify him. This could also perhaps help assuage the State of South Carolina, which is suing the Department of Energy for failing to remove plutonium from the Savannah River Site as promised.
But as important is what is NOT in NNSA’s plutonium pit production decision:
: • There is no explanation why the Department of Defense requires at least 80 pits per year, and no justification to the American taxpayer why the enormous expense of expanded production is necessary.
 • NNSA avoided pointing out that expanded plutonium pit production is NOT needed to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. In fact, no production of plutonium pits for the existing stockpile has been scheduled since 2011, and none is scheduled for the future.
• NNSA did not mention that in 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century. Plutonium pits in the existing stockpile now average around 40 years old. The independent expert study did not find any end date for reliable pit lifetimes, indicating that plutonium pits could last far beyond just a century.
NNSA did not mention that up to 15,000 “excess” pits are already stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX, with up to another 5,000 in “strategic reserve.” The agency did not explain why new production is needed given that immense inventory of already existing plutonium pits.
• Related, NNSA did not explain how to dispose of all of that plutonium, given that the MOX program is an abysmal failure. Nor is it made clear where future plutonium wastes from expanded pit production will go since operations at the troubled Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are already constrained from a ruptured radioactive waste barrel, and its capacity is already overcommitted to existing radioactive wastes.
 • NNSA did not make clear that expanded plutonium pit production is for a series of speculative future “Interoperable Warheads.” The first IW is meant to replace nuclear warheads for both the Air Force’s land-based and the Navy’s sub-launched ballistic missiles. The Obama Administration delayed “IW-1” because the Navy does not support it. However, the Trump Administration is restarting it, with annual funding ballooning to $448 million by 2023, and “IW-2” starting in that same year. Altogether the three planned Interoperable Warheads will cost at least $40 billion, despite the fact that the Navy doesn’t support them. 1
 • NNSA’s expanded plutonium pit production decision did not mention that exact replicas of existing pits will NOT be produced. The agency has selected the W87 pit for the Interoperable Warhead, but its FY 2019 budget request repeatedly states that the pits will actually be “W87- like.” This could have serious potential consequences because any major modifications to plutonium pits cannot be full-scale tested, or alternatively could prompt the U.S. to return to nuclear weapons testing, which would have severe international proliferation consequences.
 • The State of South Carolina is already suing the Department of Energy for its failure to begin removing the many tons of plutonium at the Savannah River Site (SRS). NNSA’s pit production decision will not solve that problem, even as it will likely bring more plutonium to SRS. 
• The independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board has expressed strong concerns about the safety of plutonium operations at both the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) LANL and SRS, particularly regarding potential nuclear criticality incidents. 2 NNSA did not address those safety concerns in its plutonium pit production decision.
• Politicians in both New Mexico and South Carolina trumpet how many jobs expanded plutonium pit production will create. Yet NNSA’s expanded plutonium pit production decision does not have any solid data on jobs produced. One indicator that job creation will be limited is that the environmental impact statement for a canceled $6 billion plutonium facility at LANL stated that it would not produce a single new Lab job because it would merely relocate existing jobs. Concerning SRS, it is doubtful that pit production could fully replace the jobs lost as the MOX program dies a slow death. In any event, there certainly won’t be any data on the greater job creation that cleanup and renewable energy programs would create. Funding for those programs is being cut or held flat, in part to help pay for nuclear weapons programs.
• Finally, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that major federal proposals be subject to public review and comment before a formal decision is made. NNSA’s decision does not mention its NEPA obligations at all. In 1996 plutonium pit production was capped at 20 pits per year in a nation-wide Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). NNSA failed to raise that production limit in any subsequent NEPA process, despite repeated attempts. Arguably a decision to produce 80 pits or more per year requires a new or supplemental nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement to raise the production limit, which the new dual-site decision would strongly augment. This then should be followed by whatever site-specific NEPA documents might be necessary.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “NNSA has already tried four times to expand plutonium pit production, only to be defeated by citizen opposition and its own cost overruns and incompetence. But we realize that this fifth attempt is the most serious. However, we remain confident it too will fall apart, because of its enormous financial and environmental costs and the fact that expanded plutonium pit production is simply not needed for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. We think the American public will reject new-design nuclear weapons, which is what this expanded pit production decision is really all about.

” # # #

 1 See 2012 Navy memo demonstrating its lack of support for the Interoperable Warhead athttps://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88. 2 For example, see Safety concerns plague key sites proposed for nuclear bomb production, Patrick Malone, Center for Public Integrity, May 2, 2108,https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/05/02/safety-concerns-nuclear-bomb-manufacturesites/572697002/

May 12, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Los Alamos National Laboratory will share production of plutonium pits with the Savannah River Site in South Carolina

NNSA announces decision on pit production, L A Monitor, May 11, 2018,  Los Alamos National Laboratory will share production of plutonium pits with the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, the Nuclear Weapons Council and National Nuclear Security Administration announced Thursday.

LANL will maintain production of 30 plutonium pits per year, while the Savannah River Site will produce 50 pits per year.

“To achieve DoD’s 80 pits per year requirement by 2030, NNSA’s recommended alternative repurposes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico,” according to Thursday’s release.

……. Plutonium pits are the size of a softball and are used as trigger mechanisms for nuclear weapons…..

The NNSA was given a mandate by Congress to manufacture 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 as part of a nuclear weapons modernization plan. The NNSA has been studying which site would best be able to accommodate the manufacture of plutonium pits. ……
Nuclear Watch New Mexico criticized the decision as purely political.

“First, in Nuclear Watch’s view, this decision is in large part a political decision, designed to keep the congressional delegations of both New Mexico and South Carolina happy,” said Nuclear Watch Executive Director Jay Coghlan. “New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are adamantly against relocating plutonium pit production to South Carolina. On the other hand, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham was keeping the boondoggle Mixed Oxide (MOX) program on life support, and this pit production decision may help to mollify him.

Coghlan said he believes the split plan will ultimately fail.

“NNSA has already tried four times to expand plutonium pit production, only to be defeated by citizen opposition and its own cost overruns and incompetence,” Coghlan said. “But we realize that this fifth attempt is the most serious.

“However, we remain confident it too will fall apart, because of its enormous financial and environmental costs and the fact that expanded plutonium pit production is simply not needed for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. We think the American public will reject new-design nuclear weapons, which is what this expanded pit production decision is really all about.”

Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group, took a more pragmatic view. ……

“Pit production isn’t needed for decades, even for a large arsenal, but Congress has demanded it, so the bulk of the work will leave LANL. The R and D (research and development) work will stay behind. This transition is many years down the road. Pit production will always be difficult, expensive and dangerous wherever it’s done.”

A fact sheet about the decision can be found here.  http://www.lamonitor.com/content/nnsa-announces-decision-pit-production

May 12, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

U.S. House votes 340 to 72 to “Screw Nevada,” again — and perhaps New Mexico and Texas, too, while they’re at it!

     http://www.beyondnuclear.org/         
One of the six toes, on one of the feet, of the Yucca Dump Mutant Zombie (see image, right  on original), twitched yesterday. By a lopsided vote of 340 to 72, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of “Screw Nevada 2.0,” a reprise of the 1987 “Screw Nevada” bill, that singled out Yucca Mountain for the country’s highly radioactive waste dump-site in the first place
This was the biggest vote on nuclear waste in the U.S. House in 16 years, and seeks to overturn the Obama administration’s wise 2010 cancellation of the unsuitable Yucca Mountain Project. In addition to approving H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018, the House, “in its wisdom” (or lack thereof!), similarly voted down an amendment offered by Dina Titus (Democrat-NV), that would have required consent-based siting for a dump like Yucca, per the 2012 recommendations by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.
Thank you to everyone who contacted their U.S. Rep. urging opposition to H.R. 3053. Please check this link for more info., including to see how your U.S. Rep. voted on the Titus amendment, and the overall bill. Then please thank or “spank” (express your disappointment to) your U.S. Rep., accordingly, and point out:
the high-risk “Mobile Chernobyl” impacts of shipping 110,000 metric tons (an increase from the current legal limit of 70,000) of highly radioactive waste, by truck, train, and/or barge, through 44 states, dozens of major cities, and 330 of 435 U.S. congressional districts, if H.R. 3053 becomes law.  In addition to expediting the opening of the Yucca dump, by gutting due process and environmental and safety regulations, H.R. 3053 would authorize centralized interim storage facilities (CISFs, or de facto permanent, surface storage, “parking lot dumps”), as targeted at Holtec/ELEA, NM and WCS, TX. Re: Holtec/ELEA
 please continue submitting environmental scoping public comments to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the May 29th deadline — see how, and for more info., at this link. And please also contact both your U.S. Senators, urging them to oppose bad, dangerous nuke waste dumps targeted at NM, NV, and/or TX, and the inevitable Mobile Chernobyls they would launch: call your U.S. Senators via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and fill out and submit Food & Water Watch’s webform! To learn more about the Yucca dump scheme, CISF proposals, and nuclear waste transport risks, please see the corresponding Beyond Nuclear website sub-sections.

May 12, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Zion community keen to get rid of its stranded nuclear wastes

Zion’s effort to shed lakefront nuclear waste backed by U.S. House vote, Chicago Tribune,    Frank Abderholden  Contact Reporter, News-Sun , 10 May 18 

A bill on nuclear waste policy that would restart the Yucca Mountain depository in Nevada was approved by the the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday, including an amendment introduced by U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider that also calls for a task force to be created to help communities like Zion that have stranded nuclear waste.

The 10th District Democrat said the amendment requires the secretary of energy to assemble a stranded nuclear waste task force that would identify existing resources and funding opportunities throughout the federal government to assist communities in the decommissioning process.

“For too long, communities like Zion have been saddled with housing our nation’s stranded nuclear waste while the federal government has failed to meet its legal obligation to find a permanent repository,” Schneider said in a statement following Thursday morning’s vote on Capitol Hill.

His amendment calls for the Department of Energy to complete the study in 180 days and report back to Congress with its findings.

“The project will be physically completed with (deactivation and decommissioning) in 2018,” Walker said last year. Although the federal government designated decades ago that the waste would go to Yucca Mountain in Nevada for permanent storage, the facility has not yet opened, and Zion is stuck with the waste until a solution can be found.

“I am very pleased this amendment passed the House, appreciate the bipartisan support from my colleagues and urge the Senate to take up this matter urgently,” Schneider said.

H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018, was described by Schneider as “an important step forward,” but he added that more needs to be done for communities forced to store nuclear waste.

“I will continue to work with Mayor Al Hill, the city of Zion and my colleagues in Congress to get communities shouldering this burden the federal help they are owed,” Schneider said.

He added that the spent fuel stored in dry casks along the lakefront — an amount estimated last year at 1,025 metric tons — presents both “an extreme environmental hazard, and a severe burden on the quality of life of the residents of Zion — deterring economic investment, depressing home values and driving up property taxes to fill the local revenue void.”

……… “We just want them to get (the waste) out of here,” Hill said. “We are pleased with any program that will give us an opportunity to get the spent fuel rods out of our community.”

Adding that “we are pushing a large stone up a steep hill,” Hill said he believes “the federal government has not lived up to its contract with the utilities” on having a place to put the spent fuel rods.

“We lived up to our end of the contract,” he said.

While the power plant operated, ratepayers paid into a trust fund set up for the plant’s decommissioning. The $820 million fund was turned over to EnergySolutions when it took over the work in Zion following the plant’s 1998 deactivation. At the end of the project, any remaining funds are designed to be turned back over to Exelon.

According to the Associated Press, the House voted 340-72 Thursday morning to revive the mothballed nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain despite opposition from home-state lawmakers…… http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-county-news-sun/news/ct-lns-zion-nuclear-waste-yucca-mountain-st-0511-story.html

 

May 12, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

USA nuclear waste storage bill goes to the Senate

House hands off nuclear waste storage bill to Senate, https://www.utilitydive.com/news/house-hands-off-nuclear-waste-storage-bill-to-senate/523291/,  Iulia Gheorghiu, 11 May 18 

Dive Brief:

  • The House of Representatives on Thursday passed 340-72 H.R. 3053, sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., which seeks to restart the process to build a permanent repository for commercial nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev.
  • The bill would also allow the Department of Energy (DOE) to consolidate and store nuclear waste temporarily, as the agency is currently unable to consider interim storage before the development of a permanent repository.
  • The legislation has been strongly opposed by the Nevada delegation — Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., once referred to the policy to permanently store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain as the “Screw Nevada bill.” Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., called H.R. 3053 “dead on arrival in the Senate” in a statement last June.

Dive Insight:

Opposition in the House came mainly from states that would be most impacted by the transportation of nuclear waste to the permanent storage site, led by Nevada representatives. Earlier this month, Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., called the bill “Screw Nevada 2.0” when speaking on the House floor.

On Tuesday, the Rules Committee arranged for only one of the amendments from Nevada’s representatives to be considered on the floor, from Titus. Her substitute amendment, which was rejected 80-332, sought to establish a consent-based siting process to determine a permanent repository. Consent-based siting would have placed an almost-insurmountable barrier to selecting Yucca Mountain as a permanent storage site.

The House bill had bipartisan backing and supported the buildout of interim nuclear storage, a policy that the Obama administration had also supported. Legislative efforts to reach a conclusion on permanent storage at Yucca Mountain have been stalled time and time again. But the bill has also gained momentum as more nuclear reactors near retirement and commercial nuclear waste accumulates.

The biggest challenge for the bill will be Sen. Heller’s block, confirmed Matthew Wald, senior communications adviser for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group. Heller is currently blocking consideration of two Nuclear Regulatory Commission nominees who support Yucca Mountain as a permanent waste repository, according to Roll Call.

As it stands, the DOE is on the hook for a solution to permanent nuclear waste storage. The agency was supposed to begin collecting spent nuclear fuel rods in 1998 and remains responsible for storing them. Nuclear companies had been paying the agency through the Nuclear Waste Fund for the development of a permanent storage site, but the legislative stalls regarding Yucca Mountain have immobilized the DOE.

As a result, the agency is an easy legal target for the nuclear waste storing duties it has failed to perform under contract. Taxpayers pay about $800 million in damages to nuclear companies every year the government does not act, according to an estimate of legal judgments done by NEI.

When looking for the smartest, easiest, most productive solutions, there are better answers than what DOE is currently doing with nuclear waste: “babysitting this stuff in more than 100 different locations,” as NEI’s Wald put it.

A preferable alternative, according to NEI, would be centralizing interim storage for the spent nuclear fuel, much of which is housed on-site at retired nuclear plants. Interest exists among corporate groups to reprocess the spent nuclear fuel or store it temporarily.

The NRC issued a license in 2006 to Private Fuel Storage, LLC, a nuclear power utility consortium, to build temporary above-ground storage for spent nuclear fuel rods in Utah. The consortium needed approval from additional agencies and the operation never took off, although the NRC license is valid until 2026. Utah regulations ultimately made it very difficult to get fuel to the interim storage site, Wald told Utility Dive.

NRC has received other similar licensing requests, including a 2017 proposal for temporary storage in New Mexico from Holtec International.

Holtec sees the passage of H.R. 3050 as a good step towards interim and long-term solutions for nuclear waste storage.

“We believe this is a critical step for the future of nuclear power, including for innovative new reactors such as our SMR-160,” Joy Russell, Holtec’s vice president of corporate business development, wrote Utility Dive in an email.

May 12, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

U.S. Congress approves bill to revive Nevada nuclear waste dump plan

House approves bill to revive Nevada nuclear waste dump    WP,  May 10   WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday approved an election-year bill to revive the mothballed nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain despite opposition from home-state lawmakers.

Supporters say the bill would help solve a nuclear-waste storage problem that has festered for more than three decades. More than 80,000 metric tons of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants sit idle in 121 communities across 39 states.

The bill would direct the Energy Department to continue a licensing process for Yucca Mountain while also moving forward with a separate plan for a temporary storage site in New Mexico or Texas.

The House approved the bill, 340-72, sending the measure to the Senate, where Nevada’s two senators have vowed to block it.

“The House can vote all they want to revive #YuccaMountain, but let’s be clear – any bill that would turn Nevadans’ backyards into a nuclear waste dump is dead on arrival,” Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto tweeted. “Yucca will never be anything more than a hole in the ground.”

……. “The House can vote all they want to revive #YuccaMountain, but let’s be clear – any bill that would turn Nevadans’ backyards into a nuclear waste dump is dead on arrival,” Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto tweeted. “Yucca will never be anything more than a hole in the ground.”

……..While the fight over Yucca resumes, lawmakers say they hope to make progress on a plan to temporarily house tons of spent fuel that have been piling up at nuclear reactors around the country. Private companies have proposed state-of-the-art, underground facilities in remote areas of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico to store nuclear waste for up to 40 years.

The nuclear industry has said temporary storage must be addressed since the licensing process for Yucca Mountain would take years under a best-case scenario. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/house-takes-up-bill-to-revive-nevada-nuclear-waste-dump/2018/05/10/87ec7cac-540b-11e8-a6d4-ca1d035642ce_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.68

 

May 11, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Sacramento keen to get rid of its more than two hundred tons of nuclear waste

 bipartisan negotiations  produced “a separate path to interim storage, decoupling it from a permanent repository.”

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) SMUD estimates that it spends roughly $5 million each year to essentially “babysit” the waste, which requires tight security and a small crew to oversee its proper storage.

Tons of nuclear waste sitting near Sacramento finally might move http://www.sacbee.com/latest-news/article210858009.html   BY EMILY CADEI ecadei@mcclatchydc.com WASHINGTON 10 May 18, 

More than two hundred tons of nuclear waste have been sitting a half-hour drive from downtown Sacramento for decades, as policymakers in Washington haggle over where to send the material.

A breakthrough in Congress Thursday improves the chances that the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) will finally be able remove the spent uranium fuel stored at the decommissioned Rancho Seco nuclear power plant since 1989.

It would ultimately mean lower costs for local ratepayers.

The House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, which represents a bipartisan compromise on nuclear waste disposal. The legislation restarts work on the controversial nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as Republicans favor. But it also authorized the temporary storage of nuclear waste at other sites. Democrats have supported interim storage provisions, but until now, House Republicans refused to consider that option, independent of resolving Yucca Mountain’s status.

“When this bill was first presented in committee, the licensing of an interim storage facility was linked to a final decision on Yucca Mountain,” noted Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento, who was one of the key players in the negotiations that led to the bill’s passage. That “meant that our nation’s nuclear waste could continue to be stranded at decommissioned plants in California and across the country.”

Speaking on the House floor before the vote, Matsui hailed the bipartisan negotiations that produced “a separate path to interim storage, decoupling it from a permanent repository.”

It’s unclear where the waste would go. Two private companies have already applied to take the uranium spent fuel from SMUD and other nuclear facilities, creating a much more immediate storage option than Yucca Mountain, which has yet to be constructed and faces intense local opposition.

SMUD is eager to rid itself of the 228.8 metric tons of uranium spent fuel and 13.6 metric tons of metal from the reactors, dubbed Greater Than Class C waste, stored in casks on the site in Herald, Calif., just east of Galt.

The waste has resided there for nearly 30 years now, ever since Sacramento voters elected to shut down the plant in June 1989. That vote came after a 1986 cooling accident at the plant that came close to triggering a reactor meltdown. And it made Sacramento the first community to shutter a nuclear plant by public vote anywhere in the world.

SMUD estimates that it spends roughly $5 million each year to essentially “babysit” the waste, which requires tight security and a small crew to oversee its proper storage. On Thursday, SMUD CEO and General Manager Arlen Orchard called the uranium’s removal one of SMUD’s “top legislative priorities.”

“Not only will this legislation save our customers money,” Orchard said, “it will also allow us to restore the site to a beneficial use, such as expanding our nearby solar array or pursuing other renewable energy projects.”

First, however, the bill has to pass the Senate, which will be difficult. Nevada’s senators oppose any move to advance Yucca Mountain and Republican leaders aren’t inclined to hold a vote on legislation that could hurt their Nevada colleague, Dean Heller, who faces a tough Democratic challenge in 2018.

But the strong bipartisan vote in the House sends an important signal to Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is attempting to push forward on interim storage removal on its own. The House’s ability to reach an elusive policy agreement on nuclear waste could prompt the Senate to move forward after the election.

 

May 11, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Call from Michigan to stop nuclear waste dumping near Great Lakes

No nuclear waste near Great Lakes, Detroit NewDebbie Dingell and Fred Upton  May 9, 2018  

May 11, 2018 Posted by | Canada, USA, wastes | Leave a comment