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Concern over longterm safety of Holtec’s plan for Oyster Creek’s nuclear wastes

Oyster Creek shutdown in NJ could leave high taxes, giant casks of dangerous radioactive waste  


Amanda Oglesby, Asbury Park Press, June 19, 2019   Three miles of pine forest separate Paul Berkowicz’s ranch-style home from a cluster of towering canisters on a concrete pad containing one of mankind’s most dangerous substances.

For decades, the 68-year-old retired educator has lived and worked near the Oyster Creek Generating Station, the nation’s oldest operating commercial nuclear power plant until it stopped energy production in September.

Since the plant’s opening a half-century ago, residents of Lacey Township relished the high-paying jobs and the low taxes the plant helped provide.

With decommissioning, nuclear jobs will dry up. Property taxes are expected to spike. And, for the foreseeable future, the town’s 30,000 residents will be left with the plant’s dangerous legacy — the stored canisters, or casks, containing radioactive waste.

It’s not what Berkowicz expected when he purchased his home here in the 1970s. He believed the plant’s radioactive waste, which can sicken and kill, would be removed from Lacey. In reality, towns across the United States, Lacey included, will likely be stuck with the waste for decades to come.

“I’m not anti-power plant or anti-nuclear power,” said Berkowicz as he sat as his dining room table. “I’m anti- having hundreds of places where you’re storing this thing that will be poisonous for 1,000 years.

“Nobody would have agreed to have a power plant anywhere, in any community, if they were going to have the next generations live with the waste,” he added.

A national problem

Across the nation, residents of communities where nuclear plants are closing face similar concerns. At least 15 nuclear power plants are scheduled to close, or are being taken apart, across the United States.

The company looking to dismantle Oyster Creek, Holtec International, is also applying to purchase and decommission Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the Palisades Power Plant in Covert, Michigan.

As the nuclear industry shrinks, its spent radioactive fuel — waste totaling more than 80,000 metric tons, or enough to fill a football field about 20 meters deep — will be left behind in towns like Lacey.

Just how big is nuclear power?
The United States currently has 98 commercial nuclear reactors operating at 60 plants in 30 states.
Those 98 reactors feed approximately 20% of the nation’s electricity consumption.

How the material will be stored and for how long are questions vexing plant neighbors, public officials and environmentalists in communities even hundreds of miles from the closing plants.

High stakes are attached to the answers.

More than 138,000 people live within 10 miles of Oyster Creek.  Lacey Township is a middle class, suburban community in central New Jersey, about 35 miles north of Atlantic City.

Situated in an environmentally sensitive region, the plant lies along the eastern edge of the Pinelands National Reserve, a 1.1 million-acre expanse of unique pine forest that spreads across 22 percent of New Jersey.

Oyster Creek also sits on the western shores of Barnegat Bay, a 660-square-mile body of brackish water that is one of the region’s top tourist attractions, behind its miles of sandy ocean beaches.

Underneath Oyster Creek runs another integral natural asset, the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer. This 3,000-square-mile, 17 trillion-gallon aquifer provides drinking water and agricultural irrigation for most of south New Jersey.

These sensitive environmental jewels have not deterred Holtec, based in Camden, New Jersey, from seeking to buy the power plant from owner Exelon Generation. Holtec has applied to dismantle the facility — and to do so decades sooner than first envisioned by Exelon .

Holtec’s work — and profits — would be funded by the plant’s $1 billion trust fund, a decades-old pot of money reserved for the tedious process of decommissioning.

Some environmentalists warn the company will be challenged to both quickly and efficiently demolish Oyster Creek, while at once protecting the environment and the health and safety of workers and the public.

“Decommissioning… has been pretty limited to date,” said Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear, a group that advocates abandoning nuclear power in favor of other power sources. “It’s not like we have experience in this.”

From decades to years

Holtec proposes taking down Oyster Creek, and other plants it’s preparing to purchase, in a mere eight years, thanks to new technology and streamlined processes.

Exelon first proposed a 60-year decommissioning.

Gunter worries that a push for quick profits could eclipse caution and safety concerns.

“With an accelerated number of plants that are being decommissioned, we could possibly see broader risks,” he said.

Key to Holtec’s speedier plan is an expedited process for removing spent nuclear fuel from the plant and putting the material into storage casks.

The Holtec design allows hot fuel to be loaded into the casks in under 3 years of storage in cooling pools, instead of the minimum 5 years.

But are they safe?

Holtec says its casks are designed to last 300 years, although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission only licenses casks for 40 years, with the expectation companies will apply for renewals periodically.

The casks “are very safe. They do require that people continue to monitor,” said Robert S. Bean, associate director of the Center for Radiological and Nuclear Security at Purdue University.  “These facilities will not be allowed to put the stuff in casks and walk away.”

Edwin Lyman, acting director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nuclear safety watchdog, isn’t as confident the casks will hold up.

“As materials and facilities age, unexpected things crop up,” said Lyman. He added that Holtec’s claims that its casks are designed to last 300 years are “totally unproven.”

Yet, Lyman said cask storage is the safest place for spent fuel.

Are the casks safe?

Casks are a technology Holtec has worked to perfect since it began manufacturing them in 1992. They are designed not only to contain radiation, but to withstand disasters like missile strikes and explosions, said Joy Russell, senior vice president of business development for Holtec.

Not everyone is sold on the technology.

Putting nuclear fuel into casks before it has properly cooled is “dangerously premature,” said Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar of nuclear, environmental and energy policies at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank based in Washington.

“It’s called faith-based safety,” said Alvarez, who previously served as a staff expert to the U.S. Senate on the United States’ nuclear weapons program. “It’s basically taking a gamble on the basis of no technical support.”

James Conca, an environmental scientist and expert in nuclear waste disposal, said missteps involving nuclear energy garner outsize attention.

“It’s kind of frustrating,” he said. “Nuclear has the worst rep, and there’s reasons for that, but it’s actually quite safe.”

Casks are hardly new to communities built up around nuclear plants.

Across the United States, more than 90,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel is awaiting disposal, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Of that, more than 80,000 metric tons are from the nation’s fleet of commercial reactors.

In New Jersey, more than 3,117 metric tons of nuclear fuel have been left from more than 60 years of energy generation, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. New York has more than 4,314 metric tons. Pennsylvania, home of the notorious Three Mile Island nuclear plant, has more than 7,000 metric tons.

With no permanent repository established, casks are the only long-term solution for storage.

Radiation, asbestos among concerns

Forty-five miles north of Midtown Manhattan, on the north side of Indian Point nuclear plant, 45 stone-gray casks hold the leftovers of decades of nuclear power generation, on a cliff overlooking the Hudson River.

The canisters, standing 11 feet wide by 22 feet high, serve an integral function in the afterlife of a nuclear plant, entombing dangerous radioactive elements like Cesium-137, Strontium-90 and Plutonium-239, fuel bi-products created inside the reactor vessel.

Inside the cask
Casks hold dangerous radioactive elements like Cesium-137, Strontium-90 and Plutonium-239, fuel bi-products created inside reactors, which remain dangerous for generations.

Here’s what they do to people.


Cesium 137
Can burn skin, cause radiation sickness and damage tissue. In high doses, it can cause cancer.
Is absorbed like calcium within the body and can lead to bone cancer, bone marrow cancer, and cancer in the tissues near bones.
Plutonium 239 and 240
Both remain dangerously radioactive for thousands of years. If inhaled, plutonium particles can scar the lungs, damage bones, liver and spleen and cause cancer. Source: CDC and EPA reports

Nuclear safety experts say these thick concrete and steel vessels are safer than holding spent fuel within the reactor core or cooling pool, where the risk of accident or fire is a slim, but real, possibility.

Cesium-137 can burn skin, damage tissue and cause radiation sickness for generations. Strontium-90 is absorbed by human bones and can cause cancer. Plutonium-239 can scar lungs, damage bones and organs and cause cancer. It remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.

The fuel gives off heat for years after it is removed from the reactor core.

The casks at Oyster Creek were nearly 20-degrees hotter than the air around them when measured in 2002, according to a monitoring report filed with the NRC.

Some radiation does escape the thick walls of the casks — about 1.5 millirems per hour of gamma radiation or less, and about 1 millirem per hour of neutron radiation, according to the report.

These are small doses. For comparison, a chest X-ray emits about 10 millirems and a full body CT scan about 1,000 millirems, according to the NRC. The average person receives a radiation dose of about 620 millirem a year, half of which is from cosmic rays and the Earth’s natural radiation.

“From a cask, the risk is not that great, compared to the things we worry about, (like) the reactor core itself,” said Bean.

But nobody sees storage casks as a lasting solution to the nation’s nuclear waste dilemma.

The federal government had originally promised to dispose of the material in a repository to be built at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The plan fell apart due to geological concerns and political pressure.

Instead, fuel has been accumulating at plants across the nation.

Berkowicz, the Lacy resident, wants to see action.

“All of these states (with nuclear waste) should get together,” he said. “What are you going to do with this virtually eternal poison?.. You’ve got to do something with it.”

Lacey Mayor Timothy McDonald wants more help from Washington in charting the long-range future of Oyster Creek, such a staple of this community that an atom is incorporated into the municipal seal.

And radioactive waste is not what most worries McDonald.

“I’m more concerned with the tearing down of the buildings,” he said. Filled with decades worth of radioactive materials, Oyster Creek is also contaminated with asbestos, according to decommissioning documents.

Without the proper precautions — special containment systems, worker gear and sawing equipment, for example — the worry is dangerous dust and debris could sicken workers or contaminate the environment.

Some say faster is preferred

Yet McDonald and municipal officials support the plant being razed sooner rather than later.

A speedier decommissioning would give town officials hope for the eventual re-purposing of the sprawling property.

“The faster we can get this thing down, and get to redoing the property down there, the better off Lacey Township is, but we have to do it safely,” he said.

If the sale of Oyster Creek to Holtec goes through, Holtec spokeswoman Caitlin Marmion said the company would take every precaution to protect workers, public health and the environment.

“Stringent environmental standards will continue throughout the decommissioning process,” she said in an email.

“All radiation is completely removed from materials prior to any open-air demolition. Managing fugitive dust and debris during deconstruction is a key part of the planning and mandatory for the protection of workers, the community and the environment,” Marmion said.

Berkowicz isn’t convinced that residents near the plant have nothing to fear. He worries less about decommissioning than what will be left behind after the plant is gone: Holtec says 63 towering casks of radioactive spent fuel will remain.

 “It’s a deadly poison,” Berkowicz said.


June 20, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Trump weakens radioactive waste regulations

Trump weakens radioactive waste regulations

by Staff Report • June 19, 2019  The Trump administration announced a change in the interpretation of current regulations that would allow some of that radioactive waste to be disposed of under less stringent conditions.

Trump administation officials want to reclassify ‘high-level radioactive waste’ without a oversight to make it cheaper to get rid of spent fuel at several nuclear weapons facilities.DOE is asserting the power to unilaterally reclassify high-level radioactive waste from Cold War-era reprocessing of spent fuel for nuclear weapons.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published a notice on June 5, saying that it now interprets the statutory term “high-level radioactive waste” as set forth in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 in a way so that some substances may be reclassified and may be disposed of in accordance with weaker radiological standards.

DOE currently needs to submit re-classification determinations to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for review.

The agency proposed the new interpretation in October 2018, and has received a total of 5,555 comments from members of the public, environmental groups, Native American tribes, government officials, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The agency also published a notice stating that it will be drafting a plan to dispose up to 10,000 gallons of stabilized recycle wastewater from the Savannah River Defense Waste Processing Facility at a commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal facility located outside South Carolina.

It was not clear where that radioactive waste would go, but officials indicated that is would head to a facility located in Texas or Utah.

DOE currently holds approximately 90 million gallons of such radioactive waste in underground storage tanks at three facilities (Hanford Site in Washington State; Savannah River Site in South Carolina; and the Idaho National Laboratory) and is in the process of cleaning up those sites.

Those efforts have been plagued by ballooning costs and significant delays driven in large part by the stringent controls for high-level radioactive waste and Trump officials believe the weaker standards will save money.

Critics are alarmed that radioactive waste is a threat to health and environmental, but the Republican administration appears unconcerned about matters of public safety.

The move drew condemnation from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who called it “reckless and dangerous” in a joint statement.

Critics argue the policy will allow federal regulators to abandon cleanup obligations at the state’s Hanford Site, which currently cost an estimated $2.5 billion a year.

The federal government reprocessed spent nuclear fuel from the 1940s through the Cold War to develop bombs.

Most of that development happened in Washington State — which was one of multiple facilities involved in the process of building the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan — and the South Carolina site.

The Idaho National Laboratory was tapped for nuclear research and development and is reported to have 9 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste on site.

The new policy has also proven controversial among.

“The Trump administration is moving to fundamentally alter more than 50 years of national consensus on how the most toxic and radioactive waste in the world is managed and ultimately disposed of,” said Geoff Fettus, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “No matter what they call it, this waste needs a permanent, well-protected disposal option to guard it for generations to come.”

High-level radioactive waste requires disposal in a deep geological repository, such as Yucca Mountain. The nation’s sole operational deep geological repository, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico closed in 2014 after a radiation leak. It has since reopened.

June 20, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii wants the U.S, government to provide unclassified report on Runit nuclear waste dome

June 17, 2019 Posted by | environment, OCEANIA, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

G20: Japan proposes framework for nuclear waste,

G20: Japan proposes framework for nuclear waste,   Japan has used the G20 meeting to propose setting up an international framework for cooperative research into how to dispose of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.

The Group of 20 energy and environment ministers are in the town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, for the second and final day of their meeting.

Japan’s industry minister, Hiroshige Seko, chaired a session on energy in the morning. He brought up the idea of the international framework.

He said it is important to share experience and knowhow to accelerate efforts to solve a common issue for countries that use nuclear energy.

Many countries have found it difficult to draw up concrete plans for final waste disposal. Only Sweden and Finland have decided on disposal sites.

Many nations, including Japan, have not even begun studying potential sites.

The proposal calls for countries to share what they are doing regarding the selection of disposal sites and to promote cooperation and the exchange of human resources.

The first meeting on the framework is planned for October in France.

Ministers are expected to issue a joint statement on Sunday after the conclusion of the G20 meeting.

June 17, 2019 Posted by | Japan, wastes | Leave a comment

VCK Chief Thol. Thirumavalavan opposes Nuclear fuel storage facility in Kudankulam plant

June 17, 2019 Posted by | India, wastes | Leave a comment

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak restates opposition to Yucca Mountain restart plan

June 17, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Lithuanian Energy Institute scientists seriously working on nuclear decommissioning system

David Lowry’s Blog 13th June 2019 Last week I attended the European Commission-sponsored Euradwaste
conference in Pitesti, Romania, where a presentation on decommissioning
Ignalina was made by scientists (Prof. Poskas & Dr Narkunas) from the
nuclear engineering laboratory of the Lithuanian Energy Institute in
Kaunas, the nation’s second city after capital Vilnius.

Their work has been on assessing and modelling the distribution of radioactive carbon-14,
in the very high stack of graphite blocks around the reactor core prior to
dismantling. This suggests that even though Ms Rekasiute feels the
Lithuanian government “mainly pretends” the adjoining company city of
Visaginas “isn’t there”, the government in Vilnius is seriously
trying to find safe ways to dismantle the plant using the trained local

The experience gained will certainly prove useful to the UK,
which has several reactors either already closed, or close to closure, such
as the troubled Hunterson reactors near Glasgow, where hundreds of cracks
have been discovered in the graphite core.

June 17, 2019 Posted by | decommission reactor, EUROPE | Leave a comment

The continuing and ever-increasing costs of America’s nuclear wastes

Americans Are Paying More Than Ever to Store Deadly Nuclear Waste as Plants Shut Down, By June 14, 2019, The Maine Yankee nuclear power plant hasn’t produced a single watt of energy in more than two decades, but it cost U.S. taxpayers about $35 million this year.Almost 40 years after Congress decided the U.S., and not private companies, would be responsible for storing radioactive waste, the cost of that effort has grown to $7.5 billion, and it’s about to get even pricier.

With no place of its own to keep the waste, the government now says it expects to pay $35.5 billion to private companies as more and more nuclear plants close down, unable to compete with cheaper natural gas and renewables. Storing spent fuel at an operating plant with staff and technology on hand can cost $300,000 a year. The price tag for a closed facility: More than $8 million, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The U.S. Energy Department “has been clinging to unrealistic expectations,” said Rodney McCulllum, senior director for decommissioning and used fuel at the institute, an industry trade group. “The industry was never supposed to have this problem.”

Higher and Higher

DOE’s estimates of its nuclear-waste storage liabilities increase every year

The issue has been long-discussed. Initially, the plan was to store the radioactive waste deep underground at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, starting in 1998. But the project faced strong opposition from environmental groups, state residents and Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who served as the U.S. Senate majority leader.

After years of legal challenges, President Barack Obama cut funding for the project in 2009. Since then, there have been few realistic alternatives. Lawmakers in Washington held a hearing Thursday to evaluate bills aimed at how best to handle the waste.

In the meantime, the U.S. has no permanent place of its own to store radioactive material that will remain deadly for several thousand years.

About 80,000 metric tons of nuclear waste have been stored at 72 private locations across the U.S., or enough to cover a football field to a depth of 20 meters (66 feet), according to the Government Accountability Office. While most are at operating plants, incorporated into the plant’s daily activities, 17 are at closed facilities, with seven at sites — including Maine — where the plant itself has been demolished.

In those cases, only the storage casks remain, and keeping them monitored and protected as they get older can be an expensive operation.

After a legal battle with the U.S., the Maine Yankee plant and two sister facilities in Connecticut and Massachusetts — responsible for 123 casks of nuclear waste — were awarded $103 million from a U.S. Treasury Department fund in February, covering their expenses from 2013 through 2016.

“We only remain in business because the federal government has not met its obligation to remove the fuel,” said Eric Howes, director of public and government affairs at Maine Yankee. “Our only purpose is to store the fuel.”

Meanwhile, the growing number of shuttered plants, along with the aging of existing facilities, means these costs are about to surge. Once a storage site hits the 20-year mark it has to be relicensed. Older ones require more thorough inspections and additional paperwork, including submitting a so-called aging management plan.

About 30 of these licenses have been renewed, and that figure will more than double by the end of next year, according to the NEI. Some sites have more than one license.

“As we shut down more plants, the costs of used-fuel storage is going to go up,” McCulllum said by telephone.

A Shrinking Fleet

U.S. nuclear reactors are losing ground

Most of the waste involves spent fuel rods, and some sites include casks with radioactive components from reactors that have been torn down. Even though the government is legally responsible for storage expenses, it doesn’t make it easy for companies to recover the costs. The Yankee companies have had to file four lawsuits over the years, and the Energy Department sometimes pushes back.

In the most recent case, the agency challenged about $1 million in legal fees and administrative costs that it successfully argued weren’t related to fuel-storage expenses.

“They’ve contested every step of the way,” Howes, the Yankee spokesman, said.

June 15, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Oyster Creek Nuclear Station’s nuclear waste, and opposition to the Holtec plan

June 15, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

The clean-up of the Chernobyl nuclear wreck- the costs and international effort

June 15, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Ukraine, wastes | Leave a comment

U.S. Department of Energy moves to redefine ‘high-level’ nuclear waste. More waste coming to WIPP?

June 15, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Dispute over Ottawa River nuclear waste dump: more transparency needed

Fight over Ottawa River nuclear waste dump getting political, but Liberals downriver standing behind the project—or staying quiet, The HillTimes, By PETER MAZEREEUW, BEATRICE PAEZ      Aplan to bury low-level nuclear waste at a site near the Ottawa River is raising opposition from municipalities and environmentalists. The company behind the project, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, says it’s safe. The Near Surface Disposal Facility proposal is in year three of an environmental assessment handled by a regulator the Liberal government is on the verge of stripping of that responsibility.

A proposed dump for low-level nuclear waste near the Ottawa River has stirred up opposition from community groups, environmentalists, and municipalities worried the waste could leach into the river that flows past about 50 federal ridings, including Ottawa Centre, the home of Parliament Hill and Canada’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna.

Members of Parliament from riverside ridings closest to the site of the proposed dump at thesprawling nuclear laboratories at Chalk River, Ont., are largely staying out of the fray. That includes Ms. McKenna, who has the final say over an environmental assessment for the project that is being conducted through a Harper-era assessment process, which she and an independent review panel have discredited………

Several Liberal MPs from ridings just downstream of the site declined to comment on or be interviewed about the proposed project, as did Natural Resource Minister Amarjeet Sohi (Edmonton Mill Woods, Alta.), , while two others organized or held information sessions on the subject for their constituents.

Ms. McKenna told The Hill Times during a press conference that she “heard” concerns from her constituents about the project, but didn’t say whether she shared them. Her office did not respond to numerous interview requests on the subject.

The Ottawa Riverkeeper environmental group and the NDP candidate in Ottawa Centre, Emilie Taman, are among those who say they will raise the issue during the upcoming election campaign. Municipal politicians in Montreal and Gatineau have already expressed their opposition. CNL staff, meanwhile, are trying to spread the word about the safety and safeguards planned to keep the proposed dump, which is located less than one kilometre from the Ottawa River, from harming the environment, or people around and downstream from Chalk River.

No ‘public trust’ in assessment system

The Near Surface Disposal Facility to hold the low-level nuclear waste is being proposed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). It is part of a complicated arrangement of private and public organizations created under the previous Conservative federal government, which privatized the operation of the Chalk River nuclear facilities that had been run by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), a Crown corporation, in 2013.

Under the new model, the part of AECL that ran the labs was shrunk down to a shell of its former self, with most of its employees transferred to CNL. The government pays CNL to run the Chalk River facilities, and AECL—and by extension, the federal government—keeps both the assets and liabilities tied to the site.

CNL is owned by a consortium of companies that mounted a bid for the right to run Chalk River. It includes Quebec’s SNC-Lavalin and U.S. engineering firms Fluor and Jacobs, which call themselves the Canadian National Energy Alliance.

The Near Surface Disposal Facility, commonly abbreviated as NSDF, is three years into an environmental impact assessment overseen by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, a regulator for the nuclear industry.

It started the assessment in 2016, months after Ms. McKenna was given a mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) that tasked her with reviewing the process immediately “to regain public trust and help get resources to market.”

Ms. McKenna struck an expert review panel that same year, which spent seven months surveying environmental groups, project proponents, academics, government officials, and other stakeholders about the environmental assessment process established by the previous Conservative government in 2012. Some said that CNSC should continue to be responsible for conducting assessments, given the technical expertise of its staff, but others said it was too close to industry, creating an “erosion of public trust” in the process and its outcomes. The panel recommended that CNSC be stripped of its role conducting assessments on nuclear projects.

Ms. McKenna tabled a bill in Parliament, C-69, which did just that. An omnibus bill that has been subject to criticism by Conservative politicians, industry, and some environmentalists, C-69 would put the power over assessments into the hands of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which it would rename to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. CNSC officials would still play a role, occupying some of the seats on review panels struck to guide assessments of nuclear projects. The Senate sent Bill C-69 back to the House last week with nearly 200 amendments, including those that would put more power over reviews back into the hands of CNSC officials.

In the meantime, however, the NSDF nuclear dump proposal is being evaluated under the old assessment system. Isabelle Roy, a spokesperson for CNSC, said in an email statement that the projects currently being examined “would not be subject to Bill C-69 if it passes,” and that the decision will ultimately be made by its independent commission. Ms. Roy said CNSC is awaiting CNL’s response to public comments regarding concerns about the project. ………

More transparency needed on what CNL considers low-level waste, experts say

In the face of public concerns that one per cent of the waste in the engineered mound would be intermediate-level waste, Ms. Vickerd said, CNL has since tweaked its proposal, limiting it to low-level waste.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a near-surface disposal facility doesn’t have the capacity to safely contain and isolate intermediate-level waste, which, by its definition, has long-lived radionuclides. Such waste, it says, has to be buried underground, by up to a few hundred metres.

Michael Stephens is a former AECL employee whose career in the nuclear industry spanned 25 years, including 16 years at the Chalk River labs, where he helped oversee the decommissioning of nuclear waste. He is one among several retired AECL employees who have decried the project as environmentally unsound.

Mr. Stephens said his main contention with NSDF is the criteria CNL is using to determine what the mound can hold. “What bothered me from the outset was originally the proposal [called] for intermediate-level waste [to be dumped],” he said. “That, by definition, is a non-starter.”

Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, a non-profit organization that aims to educate the public on nuclear-energy issues, said the lab seems to be trying to push the limits of what it can reasonably get away with. “If you put forward an outrageous, totally unacceptable proposal, you can trim it and see how far you can go,” Mr. Edwards said. “CNL [was urged by the Harper government] to act quickly, to find a timely remediation to reduce Canada’s nuclear liability, in a … cost-effective manner. That’s code for relatively quickly, cheaply.”

Mr. Edwards has worked as a nuclear consultant; in 2017, he was hired by the federal auditor general’s office to consult for its performance audit of CNSC.

He said scrapping the idea of adding intermediate-level waste only goes “a little way” to addressing the larger issue. “What we’re talking about is a mound of literally hundreds of radioactive materials. All have different chemistries, and have different pathways to the environment, to the food chain,” he said………

Another concern for him is the plan to transport and dump the waste of other decommissioned plants, including from Whiteshell Laboratories in Pinawa, Man. “How do they know what’s in those containers? As far as we know, if they get the go-ahead to drive those containers right into where the mound will be, they’ll simply put them there, bury them … without having properly identified what’s in there,” he said.

Mr. Stephens echoed Mr. Edwards’ concerns about what, he said, could conceivably wind up in the dump. CNL, he argued, hasn’t been transparent about whether, for example, it would dump packaged solid waste, which could have varying degrees of toxicity, or building rubble that’s just been slightly contaminated…………

June 11, 2019 Posted by | Canada, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

NO to high-level nuclear waste- governor of New Mexico

New Mexico governor says no to high-level nuclear waste, June 8, 2019, ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) New Mexico’s governor said Friday she’s opposed to plans by a New Jersey-based company to build a multibillion-dollar facility in her state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the U.S.

In a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the interim storage of high-level radioactive waste poses significant and unacceptable risks to residents, the environment and the region’s economy.

She cited the ongoing oil boom in the Permian Basin, which spans parts of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas, as well as million-dollar agricultural interests that help drive the state’s economy.

Any disruption of agricultural or oil and gas activities as a result of a perceived or actual incident would be catastrophic, she said, adding that such a project could discourage future investment in the area.

“Establishing an interim storage facility in this region would be economic malpractice,” she wrote…………

Lujan Grisham’s stance marks a shift from the previous administration, which had indicated its support for such a project.

During her last year in Congress, Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, opposed changes to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and the possible development of a temporary storage facility in New Mexico. She was concerned that loopholes could be created and result in the waste being permanently stranded in New Mexico.

The Permian Basin Petroleum Association, the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association all have sent letters of concern to the governor.

Several environmental groups also have protested the idea of an interim storage site for spent nuclear fuel. The groups raised their concerns during a hearing before federal regulators earlier this year.

Opponents question the project’s legality, the safety of transporting high-level waste from sites scattered across the country and the potential for contamination if something were to go wrong.

The governor’s letter came as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission considers whether to issue a 40-year license for the facility proposed by Holtec. ……..

Municipalities elsewhere in New Mexico and Texas have passed resolutions expressing concerns about an interim storage proposal in the region.

Reams of documents have already been submitted to the regulatory commission, and the overall permitting process is expected to be lengthy.

A Texas-based company also has applied for a license to expand its existing hazardous waste facility in Andrews County, Texas, to include an area where spent fuel could be temporarily stored.

June 10, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

USA in a real mess over nuclear wastes: stalemate in storage options

June 10, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Holtec” nuclear waste canisters – a pot of gold for the company – a load of trouble for the future?

Halting Holtec – A Challenge for Nuclear Safety Advocates, CounterPunch,    7 June 19, The loading of 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel has been indefinitely halted at the San Onofre independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI), operated by Southern California Edison and designed by Holtec International.

Last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fined Southern California Edison an unprecedented $116,000 for failing to report the near drop of an 54 ton canister of radioactive waste, and is delaying giving the go-ahead to further loading operations until serious questions raised by the incident have been resolved.

Critics have long been pointing out that locating a dump for tons of waste, lethal for millions of years, in a densely populated area, adjacent to I-5 and the LA-to-San Diego rail corridor, just above a popular surfing beach, in an earthquake and tsunami zone, inches above the water table, and yards from the rising sea doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense from a public safety standpoint.

The near drop incident last August, revealed by a whistleblower, has drawn further attention to the many defects in the Holtec-designed and manufactured facility.  It has been discovered that the stainless steel canisters, only five-eights inches thick, are being damaged as they are lowered into the site’s concrete silos.  Experts have warned that the scratching or gouging that is occurring makes the thin-walled canisters even more susceptible to corrosion-induced cracking in the salty sea air, risking release of their deadly contents into the environment and even of hydrogen explosions.

Furthermore, critics point out, these thin-walled canisters are welded shut and cannot be inspected, maintained, monitored or repaired.

Systems analyst Donna Gilmore is the founder of, and a leading critic of the Holtec system.  She explains her concerns this way in a recent email:

The root cause of the canister wall damage is the lack of a precision downloading system for the canisters.  Holtec’s NRC license requires no contact between the canister and the interior of the holes. The NRC admits Holtec is out of compliance with their license, but refuses to cite Holtec for this violation.

NRC staff said the scraping of the stainless steel thin canister walls against a protruding carbon steel canister guide ring also deposits carbon on the canisters, creating galvanic corrosion. The above ground Holtec system has long vertical carbon steel canister guide channels, creating similar problems.

Once canisters are scraped or corroded they start cracking. The NRC said once a crack starts it can grow through the wall in 16 years. In hotter canisters, crack growth rate can double for every 10 degree increase in temperature.

Each canister holds roughly the radioactivity of a Chernobyl nuclear disaster, so this is a critical issue people need to know about.

Unless these thin-wall canisters (only 1/2″ to 5/8″ thick) are replaced with thick-wall bolted lid metal casks – the standard in most of the world except the U.S. – none of us are safe. Thick-wall casks are 10″ to 19.75″ thick. Thick-wall casks survived the 2011 Fukushima 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

U.S. companies choose thin canisters due to short-term cost savings. These thin-wall pressure vessels can explode, yet have no pressure monitoring or pressure relief valves. The NRC gives many exemptions to ASME N3 Nuclear Pressure Vessel standards (a scandal in and of itself).

The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board December 2017 report to Congress raises concerns of hydrogen gas explosions in these canisters. The residual water in the canisters becomes radiated and results in buildup of hydrogen gas.

The gouged canister walls reduces the maximum pressure rating of these thin canisters, creating the perfect storm for a disaster.  Ironically, Holtec calls their system “HI-STORM”.

How many “Chernobyl disaster can” explosions can we afford? There are almost 3000 thin-wall canisters in the U.S.  Yet the NRC has no current plan in place to prevent or stop major radioactive releases or explosions.

Many are advocating that the San Onofre storage facility be moved to higher ground in thicker casks housed in more securely hardened structures.  Others are advocating for the waste to be shipped across country to New Mexico to a facility being proposed there by Holtec and a local group of entrepreneurs calling itself the Eddy-Lea Alliance.

Holtec International, a family-owned company, based in Camden, New Jersey, with mixed reviews from employees.  True to its name, the company has international ambitions for building small nuclear reactors (SMRs) and become dominant in the burgeoning global market of radioactive waste management.  It is working hard to convince the NRC and members of the public that concerns about its San Onofre ISFSI are over-blown and unfounded.

Holtec canisters are reportedly installed at three-dozen other reactor sites around the country, including Humboldt Bay in California.  Holtec is in the running, too, for a waste storage facility at the state’s Diablo Canyon nuclear site, scheduled for shutdown in 2025.

Holtec is also offering to buy four other US phased out nuclear power stations, – Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Pilgrim in Maine, Palisades in Michigan and Indian Point in New York.  As of this writing three of those proposed deals have yet to be approved, but on April 18, 2019, Holtec announced that it has closed the deal with Entergy to acquire the leaking and controversial Indian Point energy center just outside New York City after the last of its three reactors shuts down.

The pot of gold in the radioactive waste business is that, thanks to fees charged to ratepayers over the years, each plant has accumulated hundreds of billions of dollars in a decommissioning trust fund, which would all go to Holtec once the sales have been completed.

With Three Mile Island now scheduled for shutdown by the end of September, will Holtec attempt to buy TMI, as well?…………

June 8, 2019 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment