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“The Columbian” jeers the U.S. Department of Energy, over nuclear wastes

In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: storing nuclear waste, The Columbian, 

Jeers: To the U.S. Department of Energy. The Western Governors’ Association is right to decry federal plans regarding the storage of radioactive nuclear waste. Among the complaints: Governors were not consulted before a plan to ship contaminated items to Carlsbad, N.M., was unveiled.

For decades, the federal government has shirked its duty for cleaning up contaminated sites such as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Federal officials need to better engage with the states that have unwittingly become experts in dealing with contaminated waste.

October 14, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

EPA Announces $125 million settlement for cleanup of the Nuclear Metals Superfund Site in Concord, Massachusetts

EPA Announces $125 million settlement for cleanup of the Nuclear Metals Superfund Site in Concord, Massachusetts   USA EPA, 

10/10/2019    CONCORD, Mass. (October 10, 2019) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the filing of a consent decree with the four parties responsible for contamination at the Nuclear Metals Superfund site in Concord. Under the agreement, the United States, on behalf of the U.S. Army and U.S. Department of Energy, along with Textron Inc. and Whittaker Corporation, will address the cleanup of the site at an estimated cost of approximately $125 million……..

The site, also known as the Starmet Corporation site, includes the 46-acre parcel located at 2229 Main Street in Concord and the surrounding areas where groundwater contamination has migrated. Several prior owners/operators used the site for research and specialized metals manufacturing and were licensed to possess low-level radioactive substances.

From 1958 to 1985, wastes contaminated with depleted uranium, copper, and nitric acid were disposed into an unlined holding basin at the site. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which likely contained 1,4-dioxane as a stabilizer, were used as solvents and degreasers for the cleaning of machines and machined parts/products and discharged through floor drains to an on-site cooling water pond that resulted in contamination of an on-site supply well.

The facility was listed as a Superfund site in 2001, and EPA placed a temporary cover over the holding basin in 2002 to address one of the most immediate risks at the site. Approximately 185,000 square feet of building space was demolished between 2011 and 2017 at a cost of $54 million under a previous agreement with the EPA.

The long-term cleanup plan for the site was selected by EPA in 2015 and generally includes the following components, which will be completed under the proposed agreement:

  • Excavation and off-site disposal of about 82,500 cubic yards of contaminated soils, sediment and debris.
  • Stabilization of depleted uranium contaminated soils in the holding basin.
  • Extraction and treatment of groundwater for VOCs and 1,4-dioxane.
  • Treatment of depleted uranium and natural uranium in groundwater.
  • Long-term monitoring and land use controls.

A portion of the groundwater cleanup was started in 2016 because a plume contaminated with 1,4-dioxane was migrating away from the property under the Assabet River towards the town of Acton’s water supply. The remainder of the groundwater cleanup will be done under the agreement.

The Consent Decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Oct. 9, 2019, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree will be available on the U.S. Department of Justice’s website at

Site cleanup work can begin upon approval of the consent decree by the court.

For more information on EPA’s cleanup of the Nuclear Metals site visit…….

October 14, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

U.S. Congress ponders reckless decision to increase production of plutonium bomb cores or “pits.”

Expanding nuclear weapon production is reckless

BY MARYLIA KELLEY AND JOSEPH RODGERS,  10/08/19Behind closed doors, Congress is in the process of making a decision that will have a profound impact on nuclear risk levels and global security. Hanging in the balance is a decision to recklessly increase production of plutonium bomb cores or “pits.” The NDAA conference committee must not make that mistake.

Pits are the triggers for thermonuclear weapons. Currently, the United States does not manufacture plutonium pits on an industrial scale. In its fiscal 2020 budget request the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) seeks authorization to produce at least 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 at two facilities separated by some 1,500 miles. The Senate NDAA fully funds the request. The House instead authorizes 30 pits per year, all at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in NM. Los Alamos is presently authorized to produce 20 pits annually.

Plutonium pit production at such a large scale represents a major departure from our post-Cold War nuclear weapons policy. Since the Rocky Flats Plant in CO closed in 1989 following a raid by the FBI environmental crimes unit, the United States has produced pits at an annual rate of 11 or fewer. Further, there have been no orders for newly manufactured pits in nearly a decade.

Instead, the government has been utilizing some of the approximately 20,000 plutonium pits in storage at the Pantex Plant in Texas to conduct its ongoing warhead maintenance and refurbishment programs. These pits have very long lifetimes. JASON, a DOD organized group of independent scientific experts, estimated that plutonium pits will last 100 years or more.

Clearly, the Senate NDAA is not meant to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead, future production is intended to enable modified pit designs for new-design warheads, contrary to longstanding U.S. arms control objectives. Given the current moratorium on explosive testing of nuclear weapons, those pits cannot be full-scale tested or, alternatively, could prompt the United States to return to nuclear testing. This would have international proliferation consequences beyond anything we’ve seen since the most dangerous days of the Cold War.

As if to confirm that this is the ultimate plan, NNSA’s Lawrence Livermore National Lab has already begun to create a warhead, called the W87-1, that goes beyond previously-tested limits. The design that Livermore is pursuing contains a novel plutonium pit, unlike any pits in the stockpile or in storage at Pantex.  The W87-1 is slated go on top of a new-design intercontinental ballistic missile, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. It too is controversial due to unknowns regarding its pending cost, schedule, and significant integration challenges to accommodate the new warhead.

Further, the 80 pit per year capability will not be reachable in the time frame NNSA posits, and its facilities may not be able to operate properly at that production rate. A Pentagon-funded report by the Institute for Defense Analyses in 2019 concluded that 80 pits per year is not achievable “on the schedules or budgets currently forecasted” by the NNSA. This problem is compounded by the fact that the Savannah River Site in SC, NNSA’s proposed location to produce 50 of the 80 pits annually, has been plagued with decades of cost overruns and mismanagement. Additionally, Los Alamos’s pit production capability has been crippled by safety lapses, even at the lower rate.

Placing a novel warhead design in the active nuclear weapons stockpile with a substantially untested pit is irresponsible. Rapidly increasing production at sites with spotty records compounds that error with added safety hazards. Increasing plutonium pit production to a rate of 80 or more annually is both reckless and unnecessary.

The Conference Committee can follow the Senate approach that heedlessly increases our country’s risk levels. Alternatively, it can follow a more rational approach to nuclear security by supporting the House NDAA that restricts select funding for nuclear weapons production and deployment — including for expanded plutonium pit production.

Marylia Kelley is the executive director of the Livermore, CA-based Tri-Valley CAREs. For 36 years she has monitored the programs, capabilities and budgets of U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including at Livermore Lab. She has provided testimony on nuclear weapons design and production before the House Armed Services Committee of the U.S. Congress and the California State Legislature. In 2002, she was inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame.

October 12, 2019 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Wisacasset community to learn more about status of its nuclear waste problem

Maine Yankee to issue update on Wiscasset nuclear waste, October 11, 2019
Kathleen O’Brien WISCASSET — The Maine Yankee Community Advisory Panel on Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage will meet Tuesday to update Wiscasset residents on the status of the 64 containers of nuclear waste stored at the former Maine Yankee power plant site.The federal government was contractually obligated to remove the radioactive waste by 1998 after the plant was decommissioned in 1996. The advisory panel advocates for the removal of the spent nuclear fuel to a safe location outside New England.

Eric Howes, Maine Yankee director of public and government affairs, will also give an update on the Sensible, Timely Relief for America’s Nuclear Districts Economic Development (STRANDED) Act, which was introduced by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, in July. The act is aimed at providing financial relief to communities like Wiscasset stuck with storing nuclear waste.

Should the STRANDED Act pass, Wiscasset would be eligible to receive $15 per kilogram of nuclear waste currently being housed at the site, which is the rate for impact assistance established under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

There are about 542 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel stored at Maine Yankee, meaning Wiscasset would collect over $8 million from the government. According to Maine Yankee, it costs roughly $10 million per year to maintain the 64 canisters of radioactive waste.

The spent nuclear fuel is housed in 64 dry storage casks, which stand on 16 3-foot-thick concrete pads. Each concrete cask is comprised of a 2.5-inch thick steel liner surrounded by 28 inches of reinforced concrete.

The meeting will be held at the Wiscasset Community Center on Tuesday, Oct. 15 from 4 – 6 p.m.

October 12, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Ex-generals aim to shift conservative resiliency dialogue away from coal, nuclear subsidies The project aims to educate stakeholders on the possibilities of competitive contracts to promote resilience. “There’s an element within the country that says we can’t reveal” engineering improvements for the critical substations and nodes “for causes classified…and so there’s no competition in the pricing of those repairs,” Handy told reporters on Thursday.
“What we’re suggesting, from a national security standpoint is … companies know how to compete in a classified area or a confidential area, and not just about the grid, about anything,” Hagee said. “These competitive forces can in fact be brought to bear even when you have information that is sensitive.”
  by  Iulia Gheorghiu  Oct. 11, 2019  

Dive Brief:

  • Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) launched a project this month to direct conservative discussions on energy and national security toward market-based approaches, leveraging the knowledge and experience of three former U.S. generals.
  • The Grid Security Project will focus on federal-level policy, as well as Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania, where state subsidy efforts are underway to aid power plants that SAFE has deemed unnecessary for reliability or security, based on a technical analysis from grid operator PJM Interconnection.
  • On Thursday, General Michael Hagee and General John Handy, two leaders of the Grid Security Project, met with energy and defense committees on Capitol Hill to discuss infrastructure legislation, the defense authorization bill and transportation electrification.

Dive Insight:

The new group aims to shift “the narrative in the conservative community away from subsidizing coal and nuclear plants toward one that emphasizes real grid security and resilience,” following proposals from several states and the Trump administration to subsidize power plants with baseload capacity, according to SAFE’s statement.

The Grid Security Project’s fuel-neutral message would target Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania, with education efforts extending to legislators, public utility commissioners and other thought leaders.

n Ohio, coal and nuclear subsidy legislation could go into effect in mid-October. The Grid Security Project is publishing information and working to oppose the subsidies because, according to SAFE, state legislators and First Energy Solutions have contradicted PJM’s assessment by maintaining certain coal and nuclear plants were important to reliability and national security.

On a national level, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is pursuing a docket on resilience, and the Grid Security Project wants to help steer discussions toward market-based approaches.

“We want a reliable, resilient and affordable grid,” Hagee said. “The best way to get to that… [is] with our ingenuity and our competitiveness.”

The project aims to educate stakeholders on the possibilities of competitive contracts to promote resilience. “There’s an element within the country that says we can’t reveal” engineering improvements for the critical substations and nodes “for causes classified…and so there’s no competition in the pricing of those repairs,” Handy told reporters on Thursday.

“What we’re suggesting, from a national security standpoint is … companies know how to compete in a classified area or a confidential area, and not just about the grid, about anything,” Hagee said. “These competitive forces can in fact be brought to bear even when you have information that is sensitive.”

October 12, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, climate change, USA | Leave a comment

The nuclear industry looks to Trump to bail them out

US nuclear, uranium mining industries hope for Trump bailout By Ellen Knickmeyer, Felicia Fonseca and Mead Gruver | AP, October 9 19

WASHINGTON — A plea from uranium mining companies and nuclear power plant operators for tax breaks and other federal financial boosts is going before President Donald Trump, as his administration studies reviving the U.S. uranium industry in the name of national security.

Trump is scheduled to receive recommendations Thursday from a task force of national security, military and other federal officials about ways to revive U.S. uranium mining, which has lagged against global competition amid low uranium ore prices.

Uranium is a vital component for the country’s nuclear arsenal, submarines and nuclear power plants. U.S. uranium users get about 10% of their supply from domestic sources, the federal Energy Information Administration has said. Most of the rest comes from Canada and Australia, followed by Russia and former Soviet republics.

U.S. uranium mining interests have pushed Trump to require uranium users to get 25% of what they use from domestic suppliers, saying the global market is vulnerable to geopolitical turmoil. Trump rejected the quota idea this past summer and gave the task force 90 days to come up with other ideas.

An Aug. 18 letter from the Nuclear Energy Institute industry group laid out the sector’s requests, including a recommendation for the Defense Department to procure more domestic uranium for military needs and for subsidies for electric utilities or uranium producers for the production of up to 3 million pounds (1.4 million kilograms) of partially processed uranium yearly.

Nuclear power plants, which have been suffering in the U.S. marketplace against cheaper natural gas and renewables, also are seeking assistance. Plant operators and utilities had opposed the production quota sought by mining interests.

“There are reactors out there that are financially in difficulty,” Matthew Wald, a Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman, said this week. “We would like to see a thriving domestic uranium industry … We don’t want something that will raise the costs of domestic reactors.”

If the Trump administration ever imposes sanctions against Russia, that could limit the U.S. uranium users can get from that country, said Curtis Moore, a spokesman for Colorado-based Energy Fuels Inc., a uranium mining company.

“Do we really want to put our energy security and national security in the hands of our adversaries? That’s just not smart policy,” Moore said.

But conservation groups and other opponents said the U.S. has enough uranium stockpiled to supply decades’ worth of defense needs. They argue the availability of high-quality imported uranium from close allies, including Canada, means more taxpayer support for the industry is unnecessary.

U.S. uranium producers want “the federal government to prop up their industry through enormous subsidies and self-serving quotas,” plus easing of environmental protections and the opening of more public land for mining, said Randi Spivak, public lands program director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“It’s not a national security issue,” she said.

The nuclear power industry is “trying to leverage the ‘America First’ moment to get more government financial support for the operating fleet,” said Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert with the Union for Concerned Scientists advocacy group.

Other industry requests to a working group made up of representatives from the Pentagon and agencies including the Commerce and Energy departments include vastly expanding a U.S. uranium reserve that could be tapped in times of supply disruption.

The American Assured Fuel Supply Reserve established in 2011 currently has six so-called “reloads” of low enriched uranium. A nuclear plant needs reloading with processed fuel at least every two years. The U.S. over the next seven to 10 years should expand the reserve to 30 reloads, or 25 million tons of partially processed uranium ore, the industries say.

Some uranium mining companies also have said Trump should reconsider his July decision not to limit imports by reserving 25% of U.S. uranium use for domestic producers.

The administration already has done plenty to ease environmental and other regulations and at this point, only tariffs and quotas would “move the needle” to help the industry, said Travis Deti, director of the Wyoming Mining Association, which represents the state’s mining companies.

Most uranium in the U.S., including all of it from Wyoming, is mined by pumping a solution of water and chemicals into uranium-bearing deposits underground. The water is then pumped to the surface and ore is extracted.

One of the richest known reserves of uranium ore spans parts of northwestern New Mexico. Previous booms in what was once known as the uranium capital of the world occurred during the 1950s and again in the 1970s. Environmentalists have been fighting to prevent future mining in the region and in Arizona around the Grand Canyon.

Amber Reimondo of the Flagstaff, Arizona-based Grand Canyon Trust says she fears moves to boost domestic uranium mining could end protections put in place during the administration of President Barack Obama for uranium-bearing lands outside Grand Canyon National Park.

Uranium mining in the Southwest during the atomic age left a legacy of death and disease, Reimondo said. Hundreds of uranium mines that dot the Navajo Nation, for example, have not been cleaned up. The tribe, whose reservation extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, banned uranium mining and transport on its lands in 2005.

“When people talk about past uranium mining, they talk about it as if the problem is in the past, as if people aren’t still living with the consequences of uranium contamination and that uranium contamination can be segregated in some bubble when it just inherently lasts for longer than any of us can fathom,” she said. “We shouldn’t be meddling in that.”

Fonseca reported from Flagstaff, Arizona and Gruver reported Cheyenne, Wyoming. Associated Press writer Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico contributed to this report.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

USA Congress needs a new approach to the intractable problem of nuclear wastes

nuclear and climate change. While many argue that we have to do everything in our power to bolster nuclear energy in order to effectively fight the climate crisis, bluntly, nuclear energy is not a realistic solution

The price tag for new nuclear is too high and the timeline for expansion too long—Plant Vogtle and VC Summer show us that. And while nuclear reactors may not directly emit greenhouse gases, that doesn’t mean that it’s a clean energy source. There are significant traditional environmental impacts from nuclear energy, primarily regarding radiation risks and impacts to water quality. Then there’s the effects climate change will have on the functioning and safety of nuclear plants themselves. The more we look at the issue, the more we see that sea level rise and heat waves risk the safety and dependability of nuclear plants. 

It’s Time to Bury These Nuclear Waste Talking Points

October 09, 2019 Caroline Reiser

This year we’re seeing yet another attempt from Congress to address the fifty-year problem of what to do with the 80,000 tons of nuclear waste sitting across the country, with approximately 2,000 more tons produced every year by the 96 operating U.S. nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, the multiple nuclear waste bills that sprung up in both the House and Senate (including H.R.2699 which just cleared an Energy and Commerce subcommittee) simply offer the same worn out ideas.

So when NRDC was invited to testify—first by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, then by the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, and finally by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources—we decided to present a new way forward.

NRDC has an answer to one difficult fact everyone at the hearings seemed to agree on—that all the important actors in the process have utterly lost trust in one another. As NRDC senior attorney Geoffrey Fettus explained: “Our government is at its strongest when each players’ role is respected. State consent and public acceptance of potential repository sites will never be willingly granted, unless and until power on how, when, and where the waste will be disposed of is shared, rather than decided by federal fiat.”

Trust—especially in a dangerous undertaking like deep geologic storage of nuclear waste—can only flourish when there is an equal balance of power. And consent to host a permanent nuclear waste repository will only be granted when states can trust the deal they are making. Right now, however, there is no equal balance of power and therefore states don’t trust that they can consent to hosting any nuclear waste without being forced to open their doors to the country’s entire waste burden.

Strong environmental laws founded on federalism have a proven track record on precisely this point. But because there has been a presumption of federal exclusivity over it, nuclear waste is exempt from environmental laws and therefore also exempt from the state and EPA regulatory oversight that comes with them. We think this needs to change. Giving states the regulatory authority over nuclear waste that they currently lack will build trust and allow states to consent on realistic scientific and political terms.

We presented this idea before all three Congressional Committees with growing interest from members. (See NRDC’s testimony herehere, and here). And yet Congress is still reluctant to move away from common talking points which have only led to the repeated failures of the past. So let’s take a minute to debunk some of those repetitive points.

First incorrect talking point: Yucca Mountain. Let’s be clear about how we got stuck on Yucca Mountain and why proceeding pretending that it is a ready or wanted solution is naive.  Yucca Mountain was not picked as the permanent nuclear waste repository because it is the best scientifically and technically sound site. Originally, the law set out an adaptive, phased, and science-based process to narrow down potential repository sites. But in 1987, faced with the high cost of comprehensively comparing multiple potential sites, Congress abandoned all pretext of equity and scientific-basis, and instead simply picked the most politically expedient choice at the time, Yucca Mountain.

But Yucca Mountain did not remain the expedient, or for that matter the rational, choice. The science simply doesn’t line up—of particular note are the serious groundwater concerns with the site. And Nevada has been able to stand together for decades to say with one voice: “No!” If the Yucca Mountain process does ever get moving again, Nevada and its supporters are on-deck with the science to prove it’s a bad choice.

Nevada isn’t unique in rejecting any hint of a proposal to host nuclear waste. Utah, Tennessee, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Texas have all rejected nuclear waste storage just as firmly. This is why we need a new system that allows for real consent backed with state authority.

Second incorrect talking point: waste is holding the industry back. At the hearing before the House Energy and Climate Change Subcommittee, the expert witness from the Nuclear Energy Institute stated that the failure to address nuclear waste is “the albatross on the neck of the nuclear industry.” While this reference to Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a nice use of imagery to describe waste as the industry’s self-inflicted burden and curse, it’s a façade for the larger truth.

Since at least 1957, there has been consensus that nuclear waste must end up in a geologic repository. But no repository has been developed and licensed to address the 80,000 tons of nuclear waste from nuclear power plants that has been piling up in 35 states. And yet over the same timeframe more than 100 domestic commercial reactors were built. Even today two new reactors are being built at Plant Vogtle in Georgia with little discussion on how much it will add to the country’s nuclear waste burden.

So what is the real albatross on the nuclear industry’s neck? The gigantic up-front costs of building nuclear reactors and a lack of economic competitiveness in modern energy markets.

Existing nuclear plants exist thanks to decades of direct subsidies and legal protections provided by the federal government. These reactors are now at risk of early closure because they are no longer economical, have potential safety issues, and simply cannot compete in a marketplace dominated by low-priced natural gas and renewable energy.

The failed VC Summer plant in South Carolina and the on-going Vogtle construction in Georgia are stark examples of how the astronomical up-front costs of new reactors limit expansion of the nuclear industry. $9 billion went into the VC Summer project before the plug was pulled and Vogtle is now estimated to cost approximately $28 billion—twice its originally projected cost. (This isn’t just a US problem either).

It’s not nuclear waste that’s burdening nuclear growth, it’s simple economics.

Third incorrect talking point: reprocessing. While the process of using nuclear waste to create more fuel for energy production seems like a magic wand to wave away the nuclear waste problem, it ignores the reality of reprocessing. Reprocessing doesn’t just create more fuel for energy; it also separates plutonium, dramatically increasing the threat of nuclear proliferation. Further, reprocessing doesn’t consume all the nuclear waste—it has its own radioactive toxic waste streams like the Cold War legacy of reprocessing to create nuclear weapons left in Washington, South Carolina, and Idaho.

And even if you could ignore these bad by-products, reprocessing is simply not economic. Plants that use reprocessed fuel are even more expensive than the traditional nuclear plants that already struggle with upfront costs. So, while on the surface reprocessing may seem like the answer to our 80,000-ton problem, the truth is that reprocessing should never be on the table.

Final incorrect talking point: nuclear and climate change. While many argue that we have to do everything in our power to bolster nuclear energy in order to effectively fight the climate crisis, bluntly, nuclear energy is not a realistic solution.

The price tag for new nuclear is too high and the timeline for expansion too long—Plant Vogtle and VC Summer show us that. And while nuclear reactors may not directly emit greenhouse gases, that doesn’t mean that it’s a clean energy source. There are significant traditional environmental impacts from nuclear energy, primarily regarding radiation risks and impacts to water quality. Then there’s the effects climate change will have on the functioning and safety of nuclear plants themselves. The more we look at the issue, the more we see that sea level rise and heat waves risk the safety and dependability of nuclear plants.

This is why NRDC has laid out a clean energy pathway to cost-effectively reach a low-carbon future while allowing the role of nuclear energy to continue its decline.

Rather than continue to blunder blindly down a legislative path that only leads us through the same unrealistic circles of conversation laid out above, it is time for Congress to take a step back and forge a new path by regulating nuclear waste under standard environmental laws. This is a way to get states to say “yes,” and in a way that can work in our democracy.

That’s not to say that this change will be like waving a wand and suddenly all the waste is gone. But it’s a new direction with real potential because it relies on well-established laws. It is time to regulate nuclear waste the same way as every other pollutant, with the federal government and states sharing authority under our foundational environmental statutes. Now we just need someone brave enough to lead the way.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

USA – North Korea talks broke down, but USA calls them “good discussions”

North Korea’s chief negotiator says discussions with the United States on Pyongyang’s nuclear program have broken down, but Washington says the two sides had “good discussions” that it intends to build on in two weeks. ABC News 6 Oct 17

Key points:

  • North Korea said the talks broke down because negotiations had not met their expectations
  • The US State Department said North Korea’s comments did “not reflect the content or the spirit” of the “good discussions” that took place
  • It was the first time US and North Korea had conducted working-level negotiations since a February summit

The North Korean negotiator, Kim Miyong-Gil, said the talks in Stockholm had “not fulfilled our expectations and broke down”.

“I am very displeased about it,” he said.

Speaking outside the North Korean embassy, he read a statement in Korean that a translator next to him read in English.

Mr Kim said negotiations broke down “entirely because the US has not discarded its old stance and attitude”.

Saturday’s talks were the first between the US and North Korea since the February breakdown of the second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Vietnam.

North Korea has since resumed missile tests, including an underwater-launched missile that fell inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone on Wednesday…….

October 6, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Hanford nuclear waste cleanup unlikely ever to be complete, and with a poor safety culture

Worst U.S. Nuclear Waste Dump Inches Closer to Cleanup, Engineering News Record (ENR) October 3, 2019, Tim Newcomb and Debra K. Rubin   The relics of the nation’s World War II and Cold War past spread across 580 sq miles of desert plateau in southeastern Washington state in the form of decaying buildings and massive waste storage tanks that sustained plutonium production from 1943 to 1987.For more than three decades at the massive Hanford site near Richland, Wash., the U.S. Energy Dept. has tasked employees and multiple contractors to assess and clean up the daunting environmental legacy of making America’s nuclear weapons. Billions of dollars have been spent, but billions more are needed.

Now, a core piece of the cleanup program nears a milestone after 17 years and $17 billion of construction: startup of the first phase of a new production complex to transform much of Hanford’s 56 million gallons of long-stored radioactive waste from weapons-making into inert glass for safe disposal and future decay.

Nearly 3,000 on-site employees are attached to Hanford’s Tank Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, dubbed Vit Plant, including 1,500 trades workers. But as it pushes to meet court-imposed mandates, the project and its innovative technology still face big technical and funding uncertainties and stakeholder skepticism.

The project was conceived nearly two decades ago to pump the radioactive waste from 177 aging underground storage tanks, about 60 of which have leaked to the subsurface and likely into groundwater.

Using vitrification technology, the pumped waste will be heated to 2,100° F and blended with glass-forming materials. The molten mixture then will be poured into stainless steel canisters to cool and solidify, protecting humans and the environment from radioactivity as it dissipates over hundreds to thousands of years……..

the project—based on a design in a 1997 environmental impact statement—has been plagued by technical challenges and delays, and its cost now is about four times its original projection.

Project and government managers and regulators sparred regularly over scope changes, and progress and cost impacts that affected Bechtel performance incentives, most recently for 2018, says an April report in Tri-Cities-Herald, the regional newspaper that has followed the Vit Plant closely since its start. The newspaper notes improvements this year.

Even so, the current project price tag remains a moving target more than a decade from full completion, Years and billions of dollars beyond the original scope, DOE has tamped down expectations as safety and quality assurance issues emerged in the high-level waste (HLW) treatment process, some raised by whistleblowers, including one whose alarms resulted in his firing by site subcontractor URS, now part of AECOM, and a subsequent $4-million wrongful termination judgement.

Originally intending to treat all waste in a single stream, DOE in 2013 moved to create what is now called the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) process, which will allow treatment of what the agency says is 90% of tank waste, which is considered “low-activity”, through a designated vitrification plant as engineers work out technical and design issues for high-level waste treatment.

Last month, Brian Vance, who heads DOE operations at Hanford, told the Washington state Dept. of Ecology in a “notice of serious risk” that his agency “cannot project with certainty” when the high-level waste or pretreatment plants will be completed…….

a congressionally mandated National Academies of Science draft report issued in mid-September raises concerns about the plant’s ability to treat the large amount of site low-level waste in time to meet the deadlines, based on existing design……..

Future Doubts

Tom Carpenter, executive director of leading site watchdog group Hanford Challenge, says no part of the Vit Plant should operate short of a complete and independent inspection that validates and verifies nuclear treatment quality.

“DOE seems to be doing everything in its power to simply walk away from its legal and moral obligations to deal with Hanford’s extraordinary radioactive waste inventories,” he contends, related to the proposed waste reclassification.

“I seriously doubt the HLW facility will ever operate for numerous reasons, and DOE will simply find that the waste is low-level, not high-level, dump concrete on the whole mess and call it good.”

While Carpenter supports vitrifying tank waste, he has concerns with what he calls consistent design flaws, a lack of quality control and a “poor nuclear safety culture”  at the site.

Carpenter cites whistleblower lawsuits and reassignment of employees who raised safety concerns.

For DOE and Bechtel, the focus remains on the 90% of waste they say they can successfully treat via the DFLAW process.

“There have been quality issues in the past that slowed things, but those have been addressed,” McCain says. “Having legacy issues behind us was a big burden off the project.”

David Reeploeg, vice president of federal programs for local economic development group TRIDEC, is encouraged with progress made in recent years, but says funding remains the “single biggest challenge.”

Not only does the project need hundreds of millions of dollars every year to meet milestones and agreements, he says it will be “critically important for DOE and its regulators to identify ways to reduce the long-term cost and schedule for Hanford cleanup,” something that the Vit Plant’s history has already shown won’t be an easy task.

October 5, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment

A new process supplies medical isotope 99Mo: no need for a nuclear reactor

Nuclear fusion process could create US supply of Mo-99, by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | October 04, 2019  A new nuclear fusion process may shore up supply of the rapidly-decaying, cancer-detecting radioisotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) without the need for reactor facilities.

Nuclear technology company Phoenix and SHINE Medical Technologies, a medical isotope production company, this week announced that in July it surpassed a record for a nuclear fusion reaction in a steady-state system.

The reaction at SHINE’s medical isotope production facility produced 46 trillion neutrons per second, surpassing the previous record set at a California facility by nearly 25 percent.

The technology will drive SHINE’s production of Mo-99, which decays into the diagnostic imaging agent technetium 99m (Tc-99m), and other radioisotopes, with production scheduled to start in 2021 at a facility in Wisconsin.Currently, only a handful of government-owned nuclear research reactors produce Mo-99, which has a 66-hour half-life, and none of them are in the U.S., which uses half the global supply.

The companies say the eight Phoenix systems will help address limited accessibility to nuclear reactors for producing medical isotopes, used for cardiac stress testing and cancer detection, and meet a third of the global demand.

The companies expect to produce 20 million doses per year once the plant is up and running. SHINE has already sent Mo-99 samples produced by this method to GE Healthcare to be tested and verified.

Mo-99 is created by accelerating a particle beam into a target and generating a nuclear fusion reaction. The company developed a proprietary nuclear fusion process that uses a gaseous target instead of solid one, said Evan Sengbusch, president of Phoenix.

“The ion beam isn’t wasting energy with a solid matrix,” Sengbusch told HCB News. “It is cheaper than a nuclear reactor and doesn’t produce nuclear waste.”

October 5, 2019 Posted by | health, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste awareness tour begins

Nuclear waste awareness tour begins,586462 October 3, 2019

By Susan Smallheer, Brattleboro Reformer

BRATTLEBORO — Leona Morgan isn’t in Vermont this week for leaf peeping, but for environmental justice.

The Navajo woman from Albuquerque, N.M., is an indigenous community organizer and she wants the people of Vermont and New England what getting rid of the nuclear waste from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant means to her community.

Morgan, along with a group of anti-nuclear activists are touring New England this week to draw attention to what they concede is an oft-forgotten or ignored problem — where does the nuclear waste go?

Pulling a giant wooden mock cask that was built to resemble a cask used to transport — not store — high level radioactive waste, the activists are hoping the large dumbbell-looking prop will prompt discussion of the unsolved issue.

“It’s our job to wake them up,” Deb Katz, the executive director of the Citizens Awareness Network, said of residents.

Morgan said the nuclear industry — whether it is the existing 14,000-acre Waste Control Specialties (WCS) facility in west Texas, or its proposed expansion or a proposed Holtec nuclear storage facility just over the border in New Mexico — was overwhelming the communities in that region.

She said putting nuclear waste in that area, which she said is geologically unstable from a huge amount of oil and gas drilling, is dangerous and racist. The area is already home to the U.S. Department of Energy’s waste isolation pilot plant, which houses government-generated nuclear waste, including low-level plutonium. All those projects, Morgan said, are within 50 miles.

It is a largely Hispanic and Navajo area, she said, and the companies and politicians who are behind the nuclear project are “old, white men.”

“We are specifically targeted,” Morgan said.

The six-day tour has been organized by Citizens Awareness Network, a regional anti-nuclear organization based in Shelburne Falls, Mass. Katz and others made a brief stopover in Brattleboro on Wednesday with its large mock canister, as the group was making its way from the Vermont Law School to Greenfield, Mass., for a rally and concert.

“It is vital that citizens understand the issues and what’s at stake,” said Katz. “Until the criteria of sound science and environmental justice are the drivers behind any disposition, high-level nuclear waste must remain onsite,” she said.

All three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation have supported consolidated interim storage facilities, Katz said. Their support, she said, is based on the desire to get the high-level radioactive waste out of Vermont.

But she said that inherently unfair and short-sighted.

The stalled construction of a national depository at Yucca Mountain outside Las Vegas is still stalled, despite statements by President Donald Trump that he supports it. The project had been suspended during the Obama administration.

“This is an old bad idea,” said Diane D’Arrigo, the radioactive waste project director for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Washington, D.C.

Vermont Yankee emptied its spent fuel pool and completed the transfer of its thousands of spent fuel rods — the most dangerous of the radioactive waste — last year into a storage facility on the grounds of Vermont Yankee in Vernon. The fuel is now in large concrete and steel canisters called dry cask storage and will remain there until the federal Department of Energy builds a nuclear waste facility to store it for the thousands of years it remains dangerous. Yucca Mountain was once targeted as that facility.

But the anti-nuclear activists said a new push for interim waste storage facilities in west Texas and eastern New Mexico would be dangerous and that the nuclear fuel “should only be moved once.”

Moving the waste comes with many complications and potential dangers, Katz said, not to mention that thousands of shipments would come from dozens of nuclear power plants that have either shut down or will be shutting down.

The “Environmental Justice and Nuclear Waste Tour” started in Burlington on Tuesday, and made appearances in Montpelier, South Royalton, Brattleboro and Greenfield, Mass., on Wednesday. On Thursday, there is a legislative briefing at the Massachusetts State House, and afterwards a series of meetings in Massachusetts communities near the now-closed Pilgrim nuclear station. Then on Sunday, it’s back to western Massachusetts for an event and concert in Florence, Mass.

Contact Susan Smallheer at or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.

October 5, 2019 Posted by | indigenous issues, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

USA’s stranded plutonium nuclear wastes

Post & Courier 30th Sept 2019  Dogged by faulty assumptions and lacking political will, the federal
government squandered billions of dollars and an opportunity to dispose of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear material by chasing a massive construction project in South Carolina that was doomed from the start.
Instead, the U.S. Department of Energy stranded a huge stockpile of plutonium — the lethal metal at the core of nuclear weapons — at a federal installation on the state’s wooded western edge, with plans to
leave it there for decades.

October 4, 2019 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear power’s future is threatened by a mix of solar, wind and batteries

A mix of solar, wind and batteries threatens the future of nuclear power, Stars and Stripes By WILL WADE | Bloomberg  September 28, 2019

The natural gas boom is killing America’s nuclear industry. Wind and solar may finish the job…….

Battery prices have plunged 85% from 2010 through 2018, and huge storage plants are planned in California and Arizona. Meanwhile, science is advancing on new technology — including chemical alternatives to lithium-ion systems — with the potential to supply power for 100 hours straight, sun or no sun.

“All signs point to the acceleration of renewable energy that can out-compete nuclear and fossil fuels,” said Jodie Van Horn, director of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, a group seeking a grid powered solely by renewables.

The drive for grids that are 100% emissions-free is being pushed by a growing number of U.S. states citing increasingly aggressive time frames. In July, New York mandated that 70% of the state’s power come from renewables by 2030, and 100% by 2040. Seven other states, including California, have similar mandates, and Virginia’s governor this month announced an executive order calling for 100% clean energy there by 2050. ….

By 2050, BNEF expects renewables to account for 48% of the U.S. power system, paired with multiple types of supplemental, peaking plants that can supply electricity when needed……  Meanwhile, over the same period, nuclear will wane, as high costs force most reactors to just shut down.

The U.S. isn’t the only place where the nuclear industry is struggling. Some nations that rely heavily on the technology, including France and Sweden, are reducing nuclear’s load as old reactors retire, and diversifying into cheaper solar and wind power. ……

The first modular nuclear reactors in the U.S. aren’t set to go into service until 2026, and the salt technologies are still largely in the research stage. At the same time, installed capacity of nuclear in the U.S. is forecast to fall to 6 gigawatts by 2050, down from 101 gigawatts now, according to BloombergNEF.  …….

September 30, 2019 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

A rude concrete sign indicates a deadly truth about nuclear radiation and cancer


September 24, 2019 Posted by | health, OCEANIA, USA, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Exasperation in South Korea as US-North Korea nuclear talks are failing

US-North Korea nuclear talks are sputtering. South Korea is furious.  “The US position has been really harmful,” said a senior adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.  Vox, By Alex  Sep 23, 2019,  SEOUL — The Trump administration likes to say that all is going well with its effort to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons. As long as Pyongyang doesn’t test long-range missiles or the bomb, negotiations remain mostly on track, President Donald Trump consistently claims.

But one country is clearly bristling at America’s management of the North Korea problem: South Korea.

That became immediately clear during my trip to Seoul this week, just days before South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to meet with Trump at the United Nations. After chats with multiple government officials and experts, the sense in the capital is that the US proceeded with its own North Korea agenda without much thought for its staunch ally’s positions.

“We’re not at the negotiating table,” a top South Korean official told me on the condition of anonymity. “That bothers me.”

That’s not only making it harder for Washington to strike a nuclear deal with Pyongyang, these people say, but could also potentially doom Moon’s top project: improving inter-Korean ties………

September 24, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, South Korea, USA | Leave a comment