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Archive for the ‘Radioactive Waste’ 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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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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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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Between legislative sessions, the Texas Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House of Representatives appoint Interim Committees to study important issues that help guide the Texas Legislature’s decisions in the future. These interim committees hold hearings and take public testimony. Their findings will affect actions taken during the next regular session.  Public Citizen will be closely following several interim charges during the coming year.  After each charge, we have included a brief explanation about why we consider these important charges about which you should be concerned.  The interim charges include, but are not limited to:

House Committee on Environmental Regulation Interim Charges
# 1.  Study the environmental permitting processes at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), specifically the contested case hearing process at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) and the timelines associated with the process. Study the economic impact that the state’s permitting processes have on Texas manufacturing sectors and how neighboring states’ and the federal permitting processes and timelines compare to those in Texas.
(Why are contested case hearings important for Texas citizens?  This is the only opportunity that neighbors of proposed facilities have to contest an air or water quality permit before a license is approved.  Once approved, any contentions must go through the Texas court system, which can cost a citizen or group of citizens thousands of dollars to litigate and the likelihood of getting a license revoked is extremely minimal.  You will note that the only concerns voice about this process has to do with economic impact and the impact on industry – NOT on how it would impact you and your family if you ended up with a facility next door that had to be permitted because it impacts on air and water quality.) 
# 2.  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
(Can you say Yucca Mountain?  Yucca Mountain, a ridge of volcanic rock about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, has been the leading candidate site for a high-level radioactive repository since the 1980s, but Nevada has fought the project bitterly in court and in Congress. The spent fuel that emerges from nuclear power plants has been accumulating for decades in steel-lined pools or giant steel-and-concrete casks near the reactors.  A final decision to abandon the repository would leave the nation with no solution to a problem it has struggled with for half a century, but some in Texas seem determined to take on the task of making west Texas the new home for this nuclear waste.  While you may not be concerned about all that radioactivity sitting on land near Big Spring, TX, halfway between Midland and Sweetwater, you may want to consider the impact of all that waste being transported across the state on our highways, possibly through your neighborhood.  We will be following this charge and will post when we know about hearings.)

Consider this story that broke as I was writing this post. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), an underground 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, was evacuated this morning when an underground salt truck used to haul mining debris caught fire.  Two WIPP rescue teams were activated and an unconfirmed number of WIPP employees were transported to a hospital for potential smoke inhalation. Operations at WIPP have been suspended until further notice.  According to WIPP, none of the nuclear waste was disrupted during the incident, but emergency crews were still battling the fire at this writing.

House Committee on State Affairs Interim Charge

# 3. Study the different financial assurance options used by state agencies to ensure compliance with environmental clean-up or remediation costs. Determine whether the methods utilized by state agencies are appropriate to ensure sufficient funds will be available when called upon.
(An example of how this can affect you – Currently, mines associated with a coal-fired plant can disposed of toxic coal ash waste from the burning of that coal in the depleted mines – click here to read more about coal ash waste .  Federal law requires those facility to post a bond for cleanup and remediation of the land where coal ash waste is disposed of.  In Texas, we allow a financially solvent company to pledge existing assets against future reclamation claims related to mine operations and seem to have no recourse to require changes if the company no longer meets financial health benchmarks. This is a practice that leaves Texas tax payers at risk of having to bail failing companies out from this obligation if those companies are unable to meet it.)

Click here to see all the Texas House Interim Charges.  We will keep you updated as hearings for these charges are announced.  Your input can have significant impact on what our legislature does regarding these issues.

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UPDATE:  Last night’s film screening and panel discussion was well attended with between 200 and 250 filling the auditorium.  Technical difficulties meant the last 10 minutes of the film, “Pandora’s Promise”, could not be seen, but the panel discussion was balanced, informative and lively yet respectful (more than can be said of SXSW Eco’s panel and screening of this same film).  Our thanks to the Texas Advanced Computing Center and the UT Energy Institute for providing this opportunity to discuss issues around nuclear power.

Pandora’s Promise” film screening / panel discussion tonight, but before coming you might want to read this peer reviewed response to the myths and propaganda in Pandora’s Promise produced by Beyond Nuclear –

Reception: 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Screening / panel discussion and Q&A: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

The Energy Institute will host a screening of “Pandora’s Promise,” a controversial new film that is a high-dollar pro-nuclear propaganda piece. The Breakthrough Institute has been promoting the film, and Ted Norhaus and Michael Shellenberger are involved – authors of Death of Environmentalism.

The screening, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the AT&T Center on the UT Austin campus Tuesday evening, February 4, 2014.  The event is part of the Austin Forum, a monthly speaker series organized by UT Austin’s Texas Advanced Computing Center.

The screening will be preceded by a networking reception and followed by a Q&A session and panel discussion moderated by Energy Institute Assistant Director Dr. Fred Beach. Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair Dr. Dale Klein, an associate director at the Energy Institute, and Karen Hadden, executive director of the SEED Coalition, will participate in the discussion and answer questions from the audience.

Lessons should be learned following the disaster in Fukushima.  This multiple reactor meltdown in a technologically advanced nation continues to poison our planet.

Austin still has 16% of South Texas Project (STP) 1 & 2 Nuclear Reactors, which are currently being considered for relicensing, which would give them another 20 years past their retirement dates of 2027 and 2028!  These existing units were shut down for 8.5 months over the last several years, costing Austin $27 million in replacement power costs. (We get 200 MW from each reactor.) Repair costs of about $98 million will mostly be covered by insurance.

The latest?  On January 18, 2014 there was a fire in the control room of STP Reactor 1, causing an emergency to be declared.

There are increased risks as reactors age due to metal fatigue and pipes being worn down. When you consider the risks and expense of disposing of radioactive waste, the lack of a solution for high level waste (fuel rods) and the immense amount of water nuclear reactors use – it’s hard to see how anyone can still support this outdated and dangerous technology.

We encourage you to attend and add your voice to those who are concerned about the push to increase nuclear power in the United States.

And keep in mind the film’s name hardly evokes a tale with a happy ending.  In the Hesiodic myth of Pandora, who is also known as “she who sends up gifts”, Pandora is not a bearer of bountiful gifts.  Rather, Pandora opened a jar, known today as “Pandora’s box”, releasing all the evils of humanity—leaving only Hope inside once she had closed it again.

 

 

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Texas Capitol - north viewWith the regular session behind us and energy and environmental issues not likely to find a place in the special session, it’s a good time to look at what we accomplished.

Our wins came in two forms – bills that passed that will actually improve policy in Texas and bills that didn’t pass that would have taken policy in the wrong direction.

We made progress by helping to get bills passed that:

  • Expand funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) by about 40%;
  • Create a program within TERP to replace old diesel tractor trailer trucks used in and around ports and rail yards (these are some of the most polluting vehicles on the road);
  • Establish new incentives within TERP for purchasing plug-in electric cars; and
  • Assign authority to the Railroad Commission (RRC) to regulate small oil and gas lines (these lines, known as gathering lines, are prone to leaks); and
  • Allows commercial and industrial building owners to obtain low-cost, long-term private sector financing for water conservation and energy-efficiency improvements, including on-site renewable energy, such as solar.

We successfully helped to stop or improve bad legislation that would have:

  • Eliminated hearings on permits for new pollution sources (the contested case hearing process is crucial to limiting pollution increases);
  • Eliminated additional inspections for facilities with repeated pollution violations;
  • Weakened protections against utilities that violate market rules and safety guidelines;
  • Eliminated property tax breaks for wind farms, while continuing the policy for other industries;
  • Granted home owners associations (HOAs) authority to unreasonably restrict homeowners ability to install solar panels on their roofs; and
  • Permitted Austin City Council to turn control of Austin Energy over to an unelected board without a vote by the citizens of Austin.

We did lose ground on the issue of radioactive waste disposal.  Despite our considerable efforts, a bill passed that will allow more highly radioactive waste to be disposed of in the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) facility in west Texas.  Campaign contributions certainly played an important roll in getting the bill passed.

We were also disappointed by Governor Perry’s veto of the Ethics Commission sunset bill, which included several improvements, including a requirement that railroad commissioners resign before running for another office, as they are prone to do.  Read Carol’s post about this bill and the issue.

With the legislation over and Perry’s veto pen out of ink, we now shift our attention to organizing and advocating for a transition from polluting energy sources that send money out of our state to clean energy sources that can grow our economy.

We’re working to:

  • Promote solar energy at electric cooperatives and municipal electric utilities;
  • Speed up the retirement of old, inefficient, polluting coal-fired power plants in east Texas;
  • Protect our climate and our port communities throughout the Gulf states from health hazards from new and expanded coal export facilities;
  • Fight permitting of the Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines in Texas;
  • Ensure full implementation of improvements made to TERP; and
  • Develop an environmental platform for the 2014 election cycle.

Our power comes from people like you getting involved – even in small ways, like writing an email or making a call.  If you want to help us work for a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable future, email me at [email protected]  And one of the best things you can do is to get your friends involved too.

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