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Archive for the ‘Nuclear’ Category

 

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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Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced on Wednesday, February 19th, that his agency approved a multibillion dollar taxpayer-backed loan guarantee for the first nuclear reactors to be built in the U.S. in more than 30 years.  We view this as a costly act of desperation for a failing project.

An $8.3 billion loan guarantee was conditionally approved four years ago for two new reactors at Southern Company’s Vogtle plant in Waynesboro, Ga.  Since then, negotiations around the terms of the loan guarantee have been extended five times. Secretary Moniz’s announcement – that the government has finalized terms with two of three companies – accounts for just $6.5 billion of the loan. With approval for $1.8 billion of the loan still pending, the agency is clearly attempting to give momentum to the stalled project.

The construction of the two new reactors at the Vogtle plant are 21 months behind schedule and $1.6 billion over budget.  The original two units at Vogtle resulted in 1000% cost overruns from the original $1 billion dollar estimate as well as decades-long set-backs and construction delays.  This not only calls into question the decision to underwrite this risky project with taxpayer dollars, but proves that the same issues that plagued reactor construction more than three decades ago have not been resolved.

Nuclear energy continues to be beset with safety issues and produces toxic wastes that we still don’t have a solution for – hardly a technology the government should be promoting and propping up with taxpayer funds.

We berate wall street for their high-risk investments, yet the Department of Energy seems to have little to no risk aversion for these types of loan guarantees.  This is a bad deal for the American people who have been put on the hook for a project that is both embroiled in delays and cost overruns and to a company that has publicly stated that it does not need federal loans to complete the project.

This is a classic case of throwing good money after bad.

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Less than two weeks ago, we reported on a fire at the New Mexico Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in our blog about a Texas interim charge to “study the rules, laws, and regulations pertaining to the disposal of high-level radioactive waste in Texas and determine the potential economic impact of permitting a facility in Texas. Make specific recommendations on the state and federal actions necessary to permit a high-level radioactive waste disposal or interim storage facility in Texas“. 

WIPP is an underground low-level radioactive waste disposal site that began operations in 1999 and is the nation’s first repository for the permanent disposal of defense-generated transuranic radioactive waste left from research and production of nuclear weapons.  On February 5th, WIPP entered emergency status, after a vehicle used to transport salt in the north area of the underground (not an area where radioactive waste was stored) caught fire. Several employees were taken to the hospital with smoke inhalation and WIPP’s underground operations have been suspended since the incident.

This weekend, airborne radiation was detected around 11:30 p.m. on Friday near Panel 7, Room 7, in the south salt mine., according to officials with the Department of Energy. No injuries were reported and no personnel were underground when the facility’s continuous air monitors, or CAMs, detected radiation downstream of where nuclear waste is disposed.  The Department of Energy has told the public that:

  • this incident is the first time in WIPP’s 15-year history that the facility has had a CAM alarm detect this level of radiation underground,
  • they have not detected any above normal radiation levels above ground, and
  • that the radiation leak is not related to last week’s fire.

I hardly feel reassured that there have been two, not insignificant (related or not) incidents at a 15-year-old facility that was designed to contain the waste for 10,000 years.  And I am truly concerned that Texas thinks it can manage a high-level radioactive waste site in West Texas that will need to be designed to contain waste for 100’s of thousands of years.

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