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Archive for the ‘Nuclear’ Category

A packed room at the Roswell Public Meeting on the Holtec proposal. (Photo by Karen Hadden)

UPDATE 5/11/2018

Since the meeting in Carlsbad, NM, because of  public pressure, the NRC has both scheduled two additional public meetings and extended the public comment period from May 29th to July 30th.

  • The May 21 meeting will be held at the Gallup Downtown Conference Center, 204 W. Coal Ave., in Gallup.

  • The May 22 meeting will be held at the Crown Plaza Hotel, 1901 University Blvd., in Albuquerque.

Both meetings are scheduled to run from 6-9 p.m., with an open house beginning at 5 p.m., for members of the public to meet informally with NRC staff.

You can also submit a comment letter to the NRC from our action page.

 

UPDATE:

  • A second public meeting was held Wednesday night in Hobbs, NM.
  • The third public meeting was held Thusday night in Carlsbad, NM
  • Due to conversations between citizens and the NRC after the Roswell meeting about the issues  submitting comments via the NRC website, the NRC provided this email address as an alternative way for comment submission – [email protected]

At the May 1 meeting in Hobbs, NM, 33 signed up and spoke in opposition to the Holtec proposed site.  Only 13 spoke in favor of which there was a spokesperson from Holtec and one from ELEA.  Others included the usual suspects (a few local state legislators and someone from the Chamber of Commerce as well as Xcel Energy, which owns two nuclear plants – Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant near Monticello, Minnesota, and Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant near Red Wing, Minnesota and currently stores the spent fuel from these nuclear plants on site in independent spent fuel storage installations. (ISFSIs).  Both plants have licenses that run through 2033/34 and 2030, respectively and are probably hoping  to have off site storage available when the plants are decommissioned).  There is one final public meeting in Carlsbad this evening.

At the final May 3rd meeting in Carlsbad, NM, 34 citizens spoke in opposition and turned in 1300 comment letters opposing the siting of the Holtec proposed interim high level radioactive waste dump in New Mexico.  Twenty seven spoke in favor of the proposal.  One of these was pro-Yucca dump, pro-WIPP, and pro-nuke, but skeptical of Holtec.

In addition to the public comments on the proposal itself, at least one individual has pointed out issues with the process.

Specifically, the NRC has not had information in Spanish available before the hearings in this highly Hispanic, Low English Proficiency (LEP) area. This has been the subject of not only a Title VI complaint to EPA, a recent complaint to NMED, numerous comments on various facilities to NMED and to NRC as well as litigation. There is at least a 15 year history outlining the need for information in Spanish in this area. NRC should have been aware of this before even considering licensing a facility in Southeastern New Mexico and certainly before starting the public process for the Holtec application.
Questions were asked about Spanish outreach and public notice done by NRC in the state about these hearings and the licensing process for this facility? Was there any public notice in a language other than English? Without enhanced public notice in Spanish (and possibly in various Native languages as well as oral notice in communities where this is the primary way of communicating), a significant portion of the people of New Mexico have been left out of the public process for this facility.  At this time there has been no detailed response from NRC to these questions.
A large portion of the people of the state will be impacted by the transportation phase of this project.  More than 60% of the people of the state are Hispanic, Native American or African American and 35.7% of the population speaks a language other than English in the home. These New Mexicans should not have been eliminated from the public process for this facility.

Yesterday, April 30th, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hosted an open house in Roswell, New Mexico on a controversial high-level radioactive waste storage project, proposed for a site between Hobbs and Carlsbad.  The open house was followed by a public meeting which included an opportunity for public comment.  There were over 95 in attendance, filling the room to capacity, causing the local fire marshall to close the doors to additional attendance.  Community members from around the state showed up to oppose the storing of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste in southeast New Mexico.

There are many reasons for opposing this dangerous plan and 36 spoke in opposition citing various reasons for their objections that included:

  • Concerns about the health, safety and financial impacts of this controversial high-level radioactive waste storage project on surrounding communities and communities along the transportation routes.
  • Impact of potential contamination on local dairy and pecan farms, tourism and oil and gas industries that employ more than 15,000 people for a project promising just 55 local jobs
  • It’s a train wreck waiting to happen. Over 10,000 overweight rail cars would carry this waste to the site, and the waste would likely go very near the Carlsbad sinkhole
  • The federal government may never find a permanent place for this waste, potentially leaving it here forever in a site designed for temporary storage.
  • This isn’t our waste, and we didn’t get the power from the nuclear reactors that produced it. Those near existing reactors know the risks and don’t want the waste. Why should we take it?

There were only 6 who spoke up in support of the proposal, one was a Holtec spokesperson and the other five were University of New Mexico nuclear engineering students.

Holtec seeks “interim” storage of the nation’s deadly high-level radioactive waste, which they anticipate will be for 120 years.  An unsafe de facto permanent dump site could be created and the waste might never move again if there is no political will or inadequate funding in the future for a permanent waste site. The company plans to transport 10,000 canisters of irradiated reactor fuel rods from around the county and store them near the surface in New Mexico, inviting disaster and creating massive risks. This is more waste than has been created by all U.S. nuclear reactors to date.

“There is everything to lose with this plan to bring the nation’s high-level radioactive waste to New Mexico. The risks to health, safety, security and financial well-being are immense and people need to act now to stop this massive mistake that imperils people in New Mexico as well as along transport routes throughout the country,” said Karen Hadden, director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, who has been working with local opposition groups for months opposing this application and a similar one just across the border in Andrews County, Texas.

There are two other opportunities for New Mexican citizens to comment in a public forum

  • Tuesday, May 1st Hobbs 7-10 pm
    Lea County Event Center, 5101 N. Lovington Highway
  • Thursday, May 3rd Carlsbad 7-10 pm
    Eddy County Fire Service, 1400 Commerce Street

In addition, comments can also be submitted at www.regulations.gov, Docket ID NRC-2018-0052; or by mail, to May Ma, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN–7– A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555– 0001.

Some folks have been having problems submitting their comments through the NRC website, but we have a request in to NRC to get an email address where folks can submit their comments directly.  That update is at the top of this post.

You can visit these websites for more information on High-level radioactive waste:

  1. www.NoNuclearWaste.org
  2. www.nuclearNewMexico.com/nuclearwaste,
  3. www.nirs.org, www.beyondnuclear.org

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UPDATE:  Today (April 10, 2018), Public Citizen with a number of local organizations, kicked off an anti-nuclear waste tour in New Mexico.  Protesting Holtec’s proposed license application to accept and create interim storage for high-level radioactive waste on the border of New Mexico and west Texas, this tour will provide media and local citizen’s with information about the dangers of storage of this type of waste.  Watch Halt Holtec‘s live video of the tour kickoff event in Albuquerque, NM.

Since this story was posted, it was announced that after nearly a year of putting it on ice, Waste Control Specialists aims to revive its application for a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission license to build and operate a facility for consolidated interim storage of used fuel from commercial nuclear power reactors (a sort of purgatory before a final storage facility – Yucca Mountain?) . It is doing so in a joint venture planned with Orano USA.

Establishment of the joint venture and a formal request to restart the NRC review are expected in the second quarter of this year.

The plan remains to build a facility on Waste Control Specialists’ property in Andrews County, Texas, to temporarily hold up to 40,000 metric tons of spent fuel until the Department of Energy finds a permanent home for the radioactive waste.

When the NRC receives the WCS request to resume, a new schedule will be developed for continuing the review, publishing a new notice of hearing on the license application, and re-opening the environmental scoping period for 60 days.

Waste Control Specialists first submitted its application in April 2016, in partnership with NAC International and AREVA. The NRC completed its acceptance review of the application in January 2017, but the company in April of that year asked that the regulator halt the full technical review ahead of WCS’ then-pending merger with EnergySolutions. A federal judge blocked that deal on antitrust grounds, and Waste Control Specialists was acquired in January by private equity firm J.F. Lehman.

Orano USA was previously AREVA Nuclear Materials prior to its parent company’s renaming in January

Retired Public Citizen Texas Director, Tom “Smitty” Smith, continues environmental justice fights.  Here’s an update on proposals to dump high-level radioactive waste on the Texas/ New Mexico border region.

TEXAS – WCS
Here’s the latest involving WCS – Waste Control Specialists – the low-level radioactive waste dump company in Andrews County. They’ve been seeking a high-level radioactive waste storage license in addition to their current low-level waste licence, but have temporarily pulled back the license that was under review by the NRC. They could start up again any time, and could move lightning fast if they do.

Meantime, they’re busy working on bringing decommissioned reactors to Texas for shallow burial. The new owners are part of the Northstar Group, which is deep into decommissioning.

In addition, WCS is trying to get licensed for greater Than Class C Waste… it’s not the fuel rods, but is incredibly hot in terms of radioactivity.

NEW MEXICO – HOLTEC
There’s a huge threat from the Holtec proposal for consolidated interim storage of high-level radioactive waste. They want to put the nation’s nuclear reactor irradiated fuel rods at a site in between Carlsbad and Hobbs, NM, not far across the Texas border, and massive rail shipments would likely go through Houston, San Antonio, Dallas/ Ft. Worth, Midland, El Paso and more.

That would be over 10,000 shipments, in a process that would take over 24 years. The DOE expects at least one train accident.

The Texas WCS site wants 40,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste; the Holtec site is for 100,000 tons. Today, that is all that has been produced by U.S. reactors. The likelihood that this waste would ever be moved to a permanent storage facility is nil, making this part of the country the de facto permanent site for the nation’s radioactive waste.

(more…)

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Oppose H.R. 3053

This dangerous bill could come up on the US House floor at any time and we expect it to move this week.

If passed into law, H.R.3053, Rep. John Shimkus’ Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, would eliminate a major hurdle for companies proposing to store deadly, cancer-causing high-level nuclear reactor waste at consolidated interim storage sites, which are currently proposed for Texas and New Mexico.

The bill could lead to the unprecedented massive movement of thousands of truck, train, and/or barge shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel, through 45 states.  These shipments would pass through the heart of many major cities and pass through 370 of the 435 congressional districts across the country.

Waste Control Specialists (WCS) in Andrews, Texas and Holtec/ Eddy Lea Energy Alliance in Hobbs, New Mexico are seeking licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for such storage. “Interim” could be up to 100 years, so the waste might never leave, creating a de facto permanent dump that would likely leak.

Over 10,000 train shipments of this dangerous waste could occur, and at least one train accident is anticipated. Shipments would take 24 years, moving through major U.S. cities, passing close to schools, neighborhoods and military bases, and creating risks from leaks, accidents or terrorism.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Sign the Credo petition at http://www.credomobilize.com/petitions/prevent-unnecessary-radioactive-risks-across-the-nation

Ask you Congressional Representative to: 

  • Vote NO on H.R. 3053 and ask Colleagues to do the same.
  • Support an amendment requiring the designation of transportation routes before any consolidated interim storage site can be licensed

Who Represents Me?  www.house.gov/representatives/find

Capitol Switchboard, (202) 225-3121

Current co-sponsors of HR 3053 – please ask them to reconsider. 

Texas Representatives: Bill Flores, Pete Olson, Joe Barton, Gene Green, Pete Sessions, John Carter, Ted Poe, Brian Babin, John Ratlcliffe, Roger Williams.

MORE INFO: 

  • Passage of this bill could lead to unprecedented massive transport of nuclear waste. Over 10,000 train shipments of high-level radioactive waste could go to these sites, over 24 years. Spent nuclear fuel from reactors around the country could travel through cities including Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Lubbock, Corpus Christi, Midland, Amarillo and El Paso, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and other cities across the country.
  • Radioactive waste moving through major cites could be targeted by terrorists. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality warned that “consequences due to sabotage or accidents are also higher during transport since the waste may be near population centers.”
  • In analysis for Yucca Mountain, DOE expected at least one train accident if transport of high-level radioactive waste was mainly by train.
  • DOE found that a severe accident involving one radioactive waste cask releasing a small amount of radiation could contaminate a 42-square mile area, with remediation costs up to $9.5 billion to raze and rebuild the most heavily contaminated square mile in an urban area.
  • The waste might never be moved to a permanent repository, creating de-facto permanent dumps and potential unimaginable disasters. 
  • After studying this issue, four Texas counties passed resolutions opposing high-level radioactive waste transport through their communities. House Members should amend H.R. 3053 to require designation of the least risky transportation routes before a consolidated interim storage site can be licensed. 

Fight to protect your community and all communities along potential transportation routes… and also those in the Texas/ New Mexico border region targeted for high-level radioactive waste storage in their backyards. Why should their children’s health and future be put at risk?

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Back in March of this year, the state of Texas sued several federal agencies in the Fifth Circuit over the federal government’s failure to complete the licensing process for a nuclear waste storage repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, saying it violated the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.  They did this in order to facilitate the licensing of a Texas high-level radioactive interim waste storage facility in Andrews, TX at the Waste Control Specialist (WCS) site.
Recently WCS withdrew it’s license application, however Holtec International, a nuclear fuel manufacturing and management company based in Florida, filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to create a temporary storage facility that would consolidate spent fuel rods from across the U.S. at a single site about 15 miles north of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, just over the border from the WCS site in Texas.

The lawsuit, brought by Texas seeks to force an up-or-down vote from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the licensing of the repository at Yucca Mountain stating that a 2012 court-ordered deadline for a final licensing decision has been “wholly ignored” by the federal government. The defendants include the U.S. Department of Energy, the NRC, the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Nevada, which was allowed to intervene in May, told the court in its filing on July 31st that Texas was trying to get the judicial branch to “solve the nation’s decades-old nuclear waste quagmire” by usurping the authority of two executive branch agencies — the DOE and the NRC — and Congress.

In this action, Nevada is represented by the state’s attorney general’s office, Charles J. Fitzpatrick, Martin G. Malsch and John W. Lawrence of Egan Fitzpatrick Malsch & Lawrence PLLC, Antonio Rossmann and Roger B. Moore of Rossmann and Moore LLP and Marta Adams of Adams Natural Resource Consulting Services LLC. 
The state of Texas is represented by Ken Paxton, Jeffrey C. Mateer, Brantley D. Starr, David Austin R. Nimocks, Michael C. Toth, Andrew D. Leonie, David J. Hacker and Joel Stonedale of the Texas attorney general’s office and Robert J. Cynkar of McSweeney Cynkaw & Kachouroff PLLC. The administration is represented by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eric Grant and Department of Justice attorneys David Shilton, Ellen Durkee and David S. Gualtieri. The case is Texas v. U.S. et al., case number 17-60191, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

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A Delaware federal judge on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, blocked the $367 million merger of EnergySolutions Inc. and Waste Control Specialists LLC, (WCS) siding with the U.S. Department of Justice in the government’s bid to enjoin the deal on antitrust grounds.  WCS had withdrawn their application for a high-level radioactive waste storage license back in April pending this merger.  What this means for the west Texas site is not yet known, but we will keep you updated as we know more.

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The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is extending the scoping comment period for its environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS) proposed consolidated interim spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Andrews County, Texas.  The current scoping comment period was to end on March 13, 2017, but in response to public requests, the NRC is extending the scoping period to April 28, 2017.

The NRC will also hold an additional public meeting to receive comments on the scope of the EIS on April 6, 2017, at its headquarters location in Rockville, MD.  This meeting will take place from 7:00pm to 10:00pm Eastern time, and the NRC staff plans to webcast the meeting and provide a moderated telephone line for members of the public who cannot attend in person.

Thank you for your continued interest in this project.  If you have any questions about this notification, please contact James Park at 301-415-6954 or at [email protected].

The staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

 

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MEETING NOTICE

Organization: Waste Control Specialists (WCS), LLC
Date and Time: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 9:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.
Location: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

Two White Flint North, Room T-2 B3
11545 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852

Purpose: For NRC to discuss technical and procedural aspects of the WCS license application for a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility as well as NRC expectations for future submittals.

Participants: NRC/NMSS/SFM                             WCS
Mike Layton                                      Michael Ford,
Anthony Hsia,                                    Renee Murdock, et.al.
John McKirgan, et.al.

Meeting Category: This is a Category 1 Meeting. The public is invited to observe this meeting and will have one or more opportunities to communicate with the NRC after the business portion, but before the meeting is adjourned. The NRC’s Policy Statement, “Enhancing Public Participation on NRC Meetings,” effective May 28, 2002, applies to this meeting. The policy statement may be found on the NRC website, www.nrc.gov, and contains information regarding visitors and security. Members of the public who wish to attend are encouraged to telephone or e-mail the contact listed below to get a list of specific information to be discussed.

The NRC provides reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities where appropriate. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in the meeting, or need the meeting notice or the transcript or other information from the meeting in another format (e.g., braille, large print), please notify the NRC’s meeting contact. Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodations will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Contact: John-Chau Nguyen (301) 415-0262, [email protected]

Attendance at the meeting other than those listed above should be made known by February 28, 2017, by phone or e-mail to the above contact.
Docket No. 72-1050
CAC No. L25175

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ANDREWS, TX — Could your backyard be the new home to a nuclear waste site? Andrews is waiting to be licensed as a temporary holding site for radioactive waste.

Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Public Citizen’s Texas office spoke to the concerns of bringing a high-level radioactive site in west Texas in a meeting Thursday, February 9th.  See the local CBS affiliate’s story.

According to Waste Control Specialist, “it’ll bring in somewhere around 40 or 50 new jobs and normally these are fairly high paying jobs,” Vice President, Tom Jones said, “right now there’s already over 100 places around the county that this stuff is already being stored.”

While one side argues bringing in a radioactive waste plant will help the economy grow a non-profit environmentalist group disagrees — citing safety over salaries.

“Putting high level radioactive waste out in west Texas is a really bad idea,” non-profit group Public Citizen director Tom “Smitty” Smith said.

Both sides are going head-to-head about a proposed nuclear disposal site 30 miles west of Andrews. It’s an idea that lifelong resident of west Texas and mother, Delilah Cantu, is concerned about, “this is my home. This is what I want to protect.”

From health concerns to even being worried about falling properly value, Cantu is working with the Public Citizen non-profit group called public citizen, whose most recent purpose is to stop the licensing of a radioactive waste plant in west Texas.

 “WCS promises this is going to be a temporary sight but that depends on congress ever being responsible enough to ever create a long term repository,” “Smitty” Smith said.

WCS the government will immediately take over the waste project but there’s no telling how many decades the plant will be in west Texas, “I think folks are scared of the unknown. This is material people have been dealing with for the last 50 or 60 years,” Jones said, but that doesn’t ease Cantu’s worries her concerns keep growing like this one, “the remapping of the aquifer in Andrews,” Cantu said.

According to WCS, Andrews is not on top of an aquifer, “we’ve had 640 borings out there. We’ve got over 400 wells dry. We can prove we are. It over a drinking source.”

Other concerns like terroristic threats were posed but WCS said that doesn’t pose a threat.

Public hearing will be next week:

  • Feb. 13 in Hobbs, NM at 7 p.m. at Lea Country Event Center.
  • Feb. 15 in Andrews at 7 p.m. at James Robert Center.

Visit NoNuclearWasteAqui.org for more information.

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Public Citizen Honors Tom “Smitty” Smith

 

Donate Here

After more than three decades of extraordinary work running Public Citizen’s Texas office, “Smitty,” formally known as Thomas Smith, is hanging up his spurs. Smitty is a Texas institution and a national treasure, and on February 1st, we celebrated him right.

Over 200 people attended a retirement dinner for Smitty at the Barr Mansion in Austin, TX on Wednesday evening.  Friends and colleagues from around the state who had work with Smitty on issues over his career that included clean energy, ethics reform, pollution mitigation, nuclear waste disposal, etc came to pay homage to a man who had dedicated his life to fighting for a healthier and more equitable world by making government work for the people and by defending democracy from corporate greed.

Mayor Adler and Council members Leslie Pool and Ann Kitchens

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea and Smitty

Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Theresa Daniel and Smitty

During the evening, Austin Mayor – Steve Adler, Travis County Commissioner – Brigid Shea, and Dallas County Commissioner – Dr. Theresa Daniel presented Smitty with resolutions passed by the City of Austin, Travis County Commissioners Court and Dallas County Commissioners Court all of which acknowledge Smitty’s contributions to their communities and the state of Texas.

 

 

 

Adrian Shelley (front left) and Rob Weissman (front right) at Tom “Smitty” Smith’s retirement event.

Public Citizen’s President, Robert Weissman, thanked Smitty for his service to Public Citizen for the past 31 years and introduced the new director for the Texas office, Adrian Shelley, the current Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.

Smitty’ impending departure fromPublic Citizen will leave a big hole in advocacy for progressive issues here in Texas, but both Smitty and Robert Weissman expressed confidence that Adrian would lead the Texas office forward into a new era of progressive advocacy.  Adrian is a native Texan from the City of Houston. He has served as the Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston since 2013. He first worked with Air Alliance Houston as a legal fellow in 2010, then as a Community Outreach Coordinator in 2012. In that time, Public Citizen has worked closely with Air Alliance Houston through the Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC), a coalition of nonprofits and community groups which advocates policies to improve public health and safety while encouraging economic growth.

So be assured that Adrian and the Texas staff of Public Citizen are committed to carrying on the battle for justice, for democracy, for air clean and  energy and for clean politics. We can and will protect our children and the generations to come. For this, we can still use your help.  You can make a tax deductible donation to the Texas office of Public Citizen to help us continue his vital work on climate, transportation, civil justice, consumer protection, ethics, campaign finance reform and more

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WCS RadioactiveApplication Raises Prospect of “Permanent Parking Lot Dump” of Nuclear Waste In Absence of Permanent Repository and Shifting Nuclear Waste Costs From Industry to Taxpayers.

Opposed to an industry scheme that risks a proposed short-term nuclear waste storage site becoming a permanent site while sticking taxpayers for the bill, four leading national and Texas groups — Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), Public Citizen, and the Texas-based Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition — are calling on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to follow the law and terminate its review of the license application for the controversial plan by Waste Control Specialists (WCS) to construct an interim high-level nuclear waste dump in Andrews County, TX.

high-level-radioactive-waste-routes

Potential Texas highway routes if rail is not used.

WCS seeks a permit to build and operate the supposedly short-term storage facility for up to 40,000 metric tons of highly dangerous nuclear waste in Andrews County, but only if the U.S. government first assumes responsibility for the waste and further agrees to ship it to the Texas site by rail. The license application is for the first 5,000 metric tons but the company’s promotional materials show they are planning on expanding the site to accommodate more than half of the estimated 75,000 metric tons of commercial nuclear waste currently in the U.S.

The groups are concerned that the “interim” storage facility may become the de facto permanent home for the highly toxic waste. Given the long battle over Yucca Mountain, the groups have zero confidence that Congress or federal regulators would have the stomach for fighting to move the nuclear waste a second time from WCS or any other “interim” site. And, with utilities totally off the hook and taxpayers footing the entire bill, those that generated the waste would have no incentive to ensure its safe disposal in a permanent geologic repository.

Available online at http://pubc.it/2eMSaXM, the letter from the four groups to the NRC’s top executive argues that the WCS proposal would require the NRC to break federal law, which bars the U.S. government from assuming responsibility for interim waste storage in the absence of a federal repository for permanent disposal. They contend that, until a long-term geological repository is ready, federal law forces utilities to solve their own interim storage problems, including bearing the economic burden for facility construction and operation, and liability for accidents.

The groups’ letter demands that NRC immediately drop its review of the WCS application, including its plans to embark on an environmental study.

High-level radioactive wastes are irradiated nuclear fuel rods, and short-term exposure at close range, with no shielding, can cause immediate death. Lesser exposure can cause death or cancer for over a million years. It is so dangerous that Congress required that it be buried deep underground in geologically isolated repository for millennia. This danger also prompted federal lawmakers to prohibit putting taxpayers on the hook for “interim” solutions that could become de facto permanent surface storage sites.

According to the groups, there is no safety imperative for moving the waste to a consolidated storage facility. The safety and security of our toxic nuclear waste stockpile, not financial gain for this private entity, should drive NRC waste storage activity.  Rather than reviewing this premature and illegitimate proposal the NRC should focus its efforts on safeguarding the onsite storage of waste at nuclear facilities across the country.

“By requiring a permanent deep geological repository to be operating before centralized interim storage could be opened, Congress wanted to prevent the very real danger of a de facto permanent parking lot dump – a nuclear waste storage site that would be designed for the short-term but be there forever,” said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist, Beyond Nuclear. He added: “WCS is a cynical shell game and taxpayers are sure to lose. Congress was right that liability for the costs of storing commercial irradiated nuclear fuel belongs with the generators and should not be shifted onto the backs of the American public.”

Diane D’Arrigo, radioactive waste project director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), said: “Moving nuclear power waste over roads, rails and waterways to a supposedly temporary site puts us all at risk and creates only an illusion of a solution.”

Karen Hadden, executive director, SEED Coalition, added: “Due to risks of radioactive contamination from leaks or accidents or potential terrorist actions, nuclear waste should only be moved once, and only when a deep underground permanent repository is in place that could safely isolate the dangerous waste for the million years that it will remain hazardous.”

Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Public Citizen Texas office, said: “Texans do not consent to the risky plan to store high-level radioactive waste at private sites on an open pad above ground in Texas. Another company near Hobbs New Mexico – less than 50 miles away — is expected to file an application to open a storage site that would accept the rest of the nation’s high level nuclear waste. These twin ‘storage sites’ likely would create a de facto high level national waste sacrifice zone. This proposal invites disaster because the private owners will be cutting costs at every turn to maximize profits. If there was radioactive contamination our land, air, water, and human health could be harmed for millennia.”

 

ABOUT THE GROUPS

Beyond Nuclear is a national nonprofit organization that aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.

Nuclear Information and Resource Service is the national information and networking center for organizations and individuals concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, radiation and sustainable energy issues.

Public Citizen, Inc., is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization with over 400,000 members and supporters nationwide.  Public Citizen’s mission is to protect openness and democratic accountability in government and the health, safety and financial interests of consumers.  Public Citizen advocates for policies that will lead to safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy.

SEED Coalition is an environmental nonprofit organization with 2,000 members that works in Texas and other states to protect human health and the environment, including land, air, water and wildlife. The organization focuses on clean energy advocacy as a means to reduce pollution. SEED Coalition opposes the storage of radioactive waste from around the U.S. in Texas or New Mexico due to health and safety and environmental concerns. SEED Coalition’s members include neighbors of the proposed WCS facility and associated transportation routes.

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WCS Radioactive

Looks like a safe way to store radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. :j

As it decides what constitutes community consent to a nuclear waste dump, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) should acknowledge its past mistakes, be responsive to public input and disavow attempts by the private sector to site a nuclear waste storage facility in Texas, Public Citizen has told the agency.

Public Citizen submitted its comments (PDF) on Sunday in response to the agency’s invitation for public input on how it should go about establishing sites for high-level nuclear waste facilities.

Over the past six months, the department has been holding public hearings across the country to solicit public input on and move forward consent-based siting, a new approach to siting nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities.

The concept of consent-based siting, part of recommendations made in 2012 by the Obama administration’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, reportedly has enjoyed success in other countries pursuing nuclear waste disposal. It has been touted as a potential antidote to the four decades of failed nuclear waste policy in the U.S. and has been embraced by the Department of Energy (DOE).

But the success of this process and its aim to reset the federal radioactive waste program is already jeopardized. While the DOE is deciding what constitutes consent, an application for a new, high-level radioactive waste dump in Andrews County, Texas, is moving through the process at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at breakneck speed. Waste Control Specialists (WCS), which now operates a low-level radioactive waste dump there, wants to expand. Its plan would involve more than 10,000 shipments of radioactive waste generated across much of the United States over 20 or more years.

“This proposal for ‘interim storage’ in Texas is putting the cart before the horse and is clearly at cross purposes with the DOE’s effort to develop a new approach that is safe, adaptive, staged and aimed at achieving state and community consent for storing our country’s lethal nuclear waste,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “While the Blue Ribbon Commission and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz tout Texas and New Mexico as communities that might want this waste, the DOE has failed to even hold hearings in the targeted West Texas community to ascertain what the citizens think would constitute consent. This blatant omission further erodes public trust in the DOE and could derail its new approach before it even begins. To correct course, the agency should publicly oppose WCS’ proposal as premature.”

The DOE has an opportunity to overhaul an agency culture that has systematically disregarded the public and failed to meet its commitments. But it is already wasting it. Acknowledging its past and present shortcomings – including failing the people of Andrews County – and taking steps to correct its mistakes are the first step to saving consent-based siting from becoming another blot on the DOE’s record.

Click here to view Public Citizen’s recommendations.

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Rad Waste Transportation RoutesA high-level consolidated radioactive waste storage site has been proposed for Andrews County, Texas, by Waste Control Specialists (WCS). The company expects to submit a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and to have licensing and construction completed by the end of 2020.

“This plan is all risk, not only for the states of Texas and New Mexico, but for the whole country and it should be halted immediately,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. “Why is our region being targeted to become the nation’s dumping ground for high-risk high-level radioactive waste? Putting this waste on our highways and railways invites disaster. Radioactive waste moving through highly populated cities across the country could be targeted for sabotage by terrorists.” A state report, the Assessment of Texas’ High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Options, says that “spent nuclear fuel is more vulnerable to sabotage or accidents during transport than in storage because there are fewer security guards and engineered barriers, and that the consequences could be higher since the waste could travel through large cities.“

“Counties along the potential transport routes for high-level radioactive waste should have a voice in whether there is consent for this plan,” said Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Theresa Daniel. “While a single county in West Texas might gain financially from bringing in the nation’s high-level radioactive waste, other counties would have increased risks of accidents and terrorist activity.  Counties need to assess their financial liability and the costs they could incur for expanded emergency preparedness. “

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert echoed Dr. Daniel’s concern. “Shipping this waste though our county is “ all risk and no reward”.   Our county and others along the way would have increased risks of accidents and given the concentration of military facilities in San Antonio we are potentially at higher risk of terrorist activity. Counties along the potential transport routes for high-level radioactive waste should be able to either consent to or deny the plan that would lead to waste being shipped though their communities.“

“Exposure to radioactivity can lead to cancers and genetic damage. Accidents could be deadly,” said SEED Coalition Director Karen Hadden. “An unshielded person exposed up close to high-level radioactive waste would die within a week according to the Department of Energy (DOE). There’s no need to risk health and safety across the country just to store radioactive waste in a different place, especially since no permanent repository has been developed. The least risky path is keeping the radioactive waste where it is.”

“We do not consent to the plan to dump dangerous radioactive waste on us,” said Rose Gardner of Eunice, New Mexico, a town of nearly 3000 people that is 40% Hispanic. It lies five miles west of the WCS site. “Andrews County officials say that we want this waste, but no one has ever asked me if I consent. I would definitely say no, and many others here feel the same way. We never got to vote on this issue. The Department of Energy (DOE) is saying that our community consents to having radioactive waste dumped in our backyard, but this isn’t true. The DOE scheduled eight hearings around the country, but not a single one for New Mexico or Texas, the targeted region. Clearly they don’t want to hear our voices.”

“If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves WCS’ application it could unleash the world’s largest and most dangerous campaign of nuclear transport on our roads, rails and waterways,” said Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director at Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).

We call this plan “Fukushima Freeways,” after the triple nuclear reactor meltdowns that started five years ago in Japan and continue to hemorrhage radioactive water into the oceans, fish and our food webs.”

Transporting radioactive waste for the purpose of consolidated storage isn’t necessary since the waste can remain secured in dry casks at the site where it was generated, or close nearby and most reactor sites are already licensed to do this.

The DOE previously analyzed accident risks for shipping high-level waste to Yucca Mountain and predicted at least one accident for every 10,000 train shipments. With 10,700 shipments, at least one train accident was anticipated.  Consolidated storage would involve thousands of radioactive waste shipments that would occur over 20 or more years across much of the United States. If transport is mainly by truck, 53,000 shipments with 53 accidents were expected.  They found that a radiation release could render 42 square miles uninhabitable and cost 9.5 billion dollars to raze and rebuild a downtown area.

“If this mass movement of radioactive waste begins, there will be accidents and some of those accidents could release enormous amounts of radioactivity,” said D’Arrigo. “This waste is the hottest, longest-lasting, most intensely radioactive, cancer-causing part of the whole nuclear power fuel chain. It is dangerous now and will still be dangerous in thousands to millions of years. The nuclear industry and government want to pretend there is an answer to the radioactive waste problem and move the waste around, at our peril.”

WCS’ application for consolidated “interim” storage is likely to be for 40 years. The site could easily become a de facto permanent disposal site, without the necessary research and rigorous standards needed to keep radioactive waste isolated for thousands of years.

Former State Representative from Fort Worth Lon Burnam is concerned about water contamination. “The WCS site is supposed to be dry, but their own monitoring well data frequently shows that water is present. The site is very close to the Ogallala (High Plains) Aquifer that provides drinking and irrigation water for eight states in the middle of the U.S. What if the nation’s largest aquifer became contaminated by radioactivity?”

Sources:

Note: The maps above show likely routes developed based on routes previously designated for shipments to Yucca Mountain.  Please note that AFCI’s project for Loving County is no longer under consideration, although the company may still be looking for a site in Culberson County.

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Wednesday, CPS Energy of San Antonio announced that they are writing off the nearly $400 million already spent to develop two new proposed South Texas Project nuclear reactor units.

south-texas1.jpg“The NRC can license these reactors, but they won’t get built,” said Karen Hadden of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “Renewable energy is cheaper these days and much safer. Nuclear power creates radioactive waste that remains deadly for hundreds of thousands of years.”

“CPS’ decision shows that proposed nuclear reactors are worthless. There’s no market for their rate raising, high-cost, high-risk power,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen’s Texas office.  “The proposed reactor price tag rose from $5.9 billion to $18.2 billion, even before a license was ever issued.  Delays, construction problems and lawsuits are the norm for nuclear reactors. They cost so much that even with all the federal subsidies, no bank will loan money to build them. CPS did the smart thing and wrote off this worthless investment”

You can read about this fiscal decision on their blog by clicking here. You can read the excerpt regarding the financial write-off from the post below:

In FY 2015-16, we also made the decision to financially write-off our investment in the proposed South Texas Project Units 3 & 4. The decision to write-off the investment should be seen solely as an “accounting decision.” CPS Energy will retain a legal interest in the project, which aligns to our perspective that   nuclear is a significant part of our local and the broader national energy portfolio and will continue to be an important, carbon free and economic fuel type, as well as a good alternative to help counter volatile fuel prices.

We continue to argue that, for a variety of reasons – stated briefly above, nuclear energy should not be considered the future of the nation’s broader energy portfolio. CPS’s financial decision is one such indicator, in spite of the caveat in their statement.

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A Texas-scale nuclear boondoggle

south-texas1.jpgSouth Texas Nuclear Reactors Can’t Compete With Renewables and Risk Financial Meltdown
Consumers Will Bear the Costs of New Reactors

Public Citizen, the SEED Coalition and the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy are opposing a decision by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve construction of two new nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project nuclear plant southwest of Houston. Market conditions, currently dominated by low natural gas prices, make the economics of nuclear power challenging, the groups said.

Reacting to the NRC’s move, even the former CEO of NRG Energy admitted markets have little interest in new nuclear power plants. But the prospect of billions in public subsidies can shelter shareholders from the financial albatross that is nuclear power, while exposing taxpayers to all of the risk.

“At a time when market-fueled wind power in Texas has pushed power prices at times close to nothing, it makes no sense whatsoever to continue to approve permits for another financial disaster-in-waiting,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “The proposed nuclear reactors would produce energy that is too costly to consume. The most recent price tag of over $18 billion is three times the original estimate. The power that the reactors would produce would cost three to four times more than wind, solar or natural gas in today’s market, so it can’t compete.”

“We simply cannot build our energy future around an industry plagued by soaring and uncertain costs, project delays and an unmanageable lethal bi-product,” said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. “The Vogtle nuclear facility in Georgia and the Summer nuclear facility in South Carolina are both three years behind schedule, and each is expected to come in billions over its original budget. These poor performances are indicative not only of the current state of the nuclear industry, but of its past. The costs of building 75 of the existing nuclear power plants in the U.S. exceeded industry quoted estimates by more than 300 percent, and there is nothing to suggest these new reactors will be any different.”

Under current plans, Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation (TANE) will assume exclusive, principal funding authority for the project. But the Atomic Energy Act prohibits the licensing of reactors that are owned, controlled or dominated by a foreign corporation or foreign government. Opponents have contended that because TANE is a wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba America, Inc., a Japanese corporation, the company is ineligible for licensing.

“The reactors will be 93 percent owned by a Japanese company,” said Susan Dancer, president of the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy. “If the proposed reactors ever get licensed and built, orders for operation will come from foreign owners. Federal law prohibits foreign companies from owning nuclear plants because today’s friends may be tomorrow’s enemy. And what if they are focused on cost-cutting and not safety? Japanese investors want us to trust them, but little protection was afforded to the Japanese people following the Fukushima disaster.”

“The NRC is pushing the interests of corporations, not citizens or ratepayers in moving toward licensing two proposed nuclear reactors in Bay City, Texas,” said Karen Hadden, executive director of the SEED Coalition, a group that has led intervention in the licensing process. SEED plans to appeal the NRC’s decision.

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Location of the Waste Control Specialists in Andrews Tx for Radioactive Waste Blog post

At Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste disposal pit in Andrews, Tex., space inside goes for $10,000 a cubic foot in some cases. As aging nuclear reactors retire, their most radioactive steel, concrete and other components must be shipped somewhere for burial. Photo by Michael Stravato, The New York Times

Texas is under radioactive waste assault. There is already an existing “low-level” radioactive waste dump owned by Waste Control Specialists (WCS) in Andrews County. Weapons waste from Fernald, Ohio is already buried in one of the three pits there. The facility is now taking nuclear reactor waste from around the country and is accepting Department of Energy waste, including nuclear weapons waste. And there is an adjacent hazardous waste pit, which can accept some 2000 chemicals, many of the toxic or corrosive. WCS expects to make some $15 billion off the site, although Texans bear the risks of contamination and financial liability.

All of this is at a site for which Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) staff originally recommended denial of the license due to concerns about water contamination. There are 2 water bodies are present at the site, the the most significant of which is the southern tip of the massive Ogallala Aquifer.  Although some maps have been drawn to show that the aquifer doesn’t extend as far as the WCS disposal site, water has been present in up to 40% of the monitoring wells on the site, indicating that a hydrological connection could exists.  The site is supposed to be dry for safety reasons, but that hasn’t stopped the TCEQ from granting permits or WCS from burying radioactive waste there.

Now two new threats have emerged, including storage of very hot transuranic waste – which includes plutonium, neptunium, and americium from the failed national repository known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) site.

Carlsbad Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Carlsbad, NM Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Texas is getting the transuranic waste unexpectedly. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) site in Carlsbad, New Mexico, is a disposal site for transuranic waste that is buried half a mile underground. The site had a fire on February 5th and a major radiation leak 9 days later. At least 21 workers were exposed to radiation. The New Mexico facility has been closed since the accident and the WCS radioactive waste dump in Andrews County, Texas is now taking this same highly radioactive waste and storing it above ground in steel sided buildings, raising concerns about what would happen if there were tornadoes, floods or wildfires.

In addition, now Governor Perry is actively campaigning to bring spent nuclear fuel to Texas for storage. This the hottest, most dangerous of radioactive waste, the kind that was to be sent to the failed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.

It is so dangerous that  shielding is required to protect humans from a lethal dose as a result of exposure to spent nuclear fuel. Even 10 years after this waste is removed from a spent fuel pool, the radiation field at one meter away is 20,000 rem/hour. It only takes a quarter of that amount to incapacitate a person immediately and cause the person’s death within one week.

The spent fuel is currently cooled and then kept in dry casks at the sites where it was generated. Storing the waste at the power plant sites raises the risks for people living in those areas, but transporting the waste to a central location increases risks for those living along transportation routes and those near the disposal site. There is simply no safe way to deal with the amount of radioactive waste we are producing in the long term.

The Texas House Environmental Regulation Committee will soon address an interim charge on how to bring this high-level waste to Texas and how much economic benefit there could be. Discussion of the risks isn’t on the agenda. It seems that the committee may be blinded by potential profit for their campaign donors.

Stay tuned and learn more at www.NukeFreeTexas.org (more…)

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