The previous NoNukesCA article was cross-posted on CounterPunch as
Donna Gilmore, founder of SanOnofreSafety.org responded with the following comments which we post as a Guest Blog:
- Any “consolidated” interim storage bill may trigger a mass movement of all the spent nuclear fuel in the country to the Southwest (Nevada, Texas and New Mexico are the current targets).
- This could be 10,000 or more Chernobyl cans, mostly high burnup fuel.
- The Shimkus bill could accelerate the procurement of inferior thin-wall canisters, with cost and liability transferred from the utilities to the DOE (taxpayers).
- The Shimkus bill would allow existing civilian nuclear power waste sites to become defacto long-term interim storage facilities, (referred to as Monitored Retrieval Storage Facilities in this bill, in spite of not being required to be monitored or retrievable fuel storage). It allows title to be transferred to the DOE, if the State agrees. “MRS Agreements” would allow the DOE to contract with private entities to build and manage facilities as they see fit and with whatever budget appropriations Congress is willing to approve.
- States and local elected officials may agree to be an MRS Facility for the promised financial annual benefits of millions of dollars, with the false promise that the waste will be safely stored.
- MRS Facilities will be totally controlled by the DOE with no other federal, congressional, state or public oversite, input or transparency.
- poorly designed containers that cannot be adequately monitored or maintained to PREVENT leaks, and with no adequate contingency plans for failure.
- Inadequate funding from Congress
- No state or public oversite or authority
- Inadequate technical staff and project management
- Reliance on vendors for technical expertise, who put profits before safety or are incompetent, or both.
- Short-term planning for a long-term problem.
- Lax regulation and oversite by the DOE and NRC.
- DOE buying vaporware. Vaporware is promises of future solutions that don’t exist. When did it become legal for government to procure something that doesn’t exist?
- Politics and money override safer technical solutions
- DOE and NRC minimum requirements do not meet the object of managing nuclear waste to PREVENT LEAKS.
- Thick wall casks are 10″ to 19 3/4″ thick. It’s important to state this correctly, because the industry tells elected officials “we are not aware of any casks 20″ thick.” They are technically correct by 1/4 th of an inch.
- Canisters contain about as much lethal radioactive Cesium-137 as was released from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The industry response is to say “it is not a Chernobyl reactor in a can”. They are technically correct. But they have not denied that each can contains about as much Cesium-137 as was released from Chernobyl. Calling these Chernobyl cans drives the nuke industry nuts and is easy for the public to comprehend, so we should repeat this as much as possible. The last thing the nuke industry wants to do is argue about how much Cesium-137 and other radionuclides are in one can.
- Stop procurement and fuel loading of all thin-wall canisters.
- Mandate the NRC and DOE meet current NWPA requirements for monitored retrievable fuel storage and transport. (Instead of deleting these requirements as the Shimkus and Issa bills do).
- Mandate they require best available technology internationally.
- Mandate aging management be built into the design of the containers (just as you would expect in a car).
- Mandate NRC and DOE only approve and use containers that are transportable, can be inspected (inside and out), repaired, maintained and monitored to prevent leaks, and have a plan in place to deal with leaks, and an on-site plan to replace containers. Use containers designed for long term storage (e.g., no short-term cracking risks), and have defense in depth. Current thin-wall canister systems meet NONE of these requirements.
- Containers should be stored in reinforced buildings for additional environmental and security protection and should have remote monitoring systems that warn to prevent leaks and to alert after leaks.
- An on-line radiation monitoring system with public access, so we know which way to run.
- Allow states to set higher standards than the federal government, instead of taking away more states’ rights.
Help Prevent Fukushima FreewaysLet’s work to block House passage of H.R. 3053 the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendment Act of 2017, known as the Shimkus Bill – a very dangerous piece of proposed legislation.
Visit SanOnofreSafety.org and check out the following:
• Reasons elected officials should oppose H.R. 3053 NWPA amendment
• HR 3053 Community Opposition Letter, June 27,2017
• H.R. 3053 as of June 26, 2017
• House Energy and Commerce Committee Members
• House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings
Beyond Nuclear advises:
Now that the bill is moving to the U.S. House floor, likely in the near future, everyone should contact their own U.S. Rep., and urge opposition to this very dangerous bill. See Beyond Nuclear’s press statement about H.R. 3053, for ideas on points to communicate to your U.S. Rep. You can look up your U.S. Rep.’s full contact info. at this website, by typing in your ZIP code in the upper right, clicking GO, and following the internet links.
What Would Hippocrates and Jesus Do?
The Ethics and Politics of Nuclear Waste are being Tested in Southern California
By James Heddle, EON
Chronic Nuclear ConstipationFor more than 70 years – basically for my entire 77-year lifetime – nuclear waste has been building up at nuclear weapons and energy production and waste storage facilities across the US and around the world.
The most basic tenet of the nuclear religious cult’s belief system over that entire time has been a cheery
“Don’t worry. Be happy. Methods and places for isolating these manmade materials, toxic to all life forms, will soon be found to isolate them from the environment and all future generations for longer than human civilization has yet existed. Or, better yet, we will find a way to transform them into benign and productive forms to benefit our own and all future generations.”
Despite decades of research by the best minds of the species and billions of dollars of public and private wealth invested, that has not happened. Nor does it seem likely to any time soon, despite continuing assurances from the pro-nuclear True Believers.
Meanwhile the total global inventory of this deadly stuff continues to grow. Now, although a new nuclear weapons race seems to be in motion thanks to US initiative, there are signs that the international nuclear energy industry is tanking.
Six US nukes have closed in the last five years, with more scheduled. The International Energy Agency expects almost 200 reactor closures between 2014 and 2040. Plants now under construction are all behind schedule and way over budget. Existing orders are being canceled.
In the US, as more and more energy reactors are being shut down and are entering the decommissioning process, the overriding question is becoming unavoidable at reactor communities across the country: What do we do with all these decades of tons of accumulated radwaste now being stored on-site? Each canister contains a Chernobyl’s-worth of cesium; each cooling pool, hundreds more.
Utilities are suing the Federal Government for not keeping its promise to take responsibility of the radwaste in a centralized geological repository. Local communities are agitating to ‘just get it outa here.’ But to where? And, given the decrepitude of existing highway and railway transportation infrastructures, how would you move all those thousands of tons of potential bomb material through numerous on-route communities despite local public resistance on safety grounds, not to mention the risks of terrorist attacks?
Click here to find out how much nuclear waste is in your state.
Perhaps nowhere is this conundrum more starkly illustrated or contested than in Southern California’s archetypally ‘conservative’ Orange County, home of the recently shutdown San Onofre nuclear generating station.
The San Onofre Syndrome
Known by the happy-sounding acronym SONGS, the plant’s two nuclear reactors, operated by Southern California Edison, were shutdown in 2013 after its 4 newly installed steam generators (2 per reactor) failed and leaked radioactive steam due to design flaws made by Edison and their manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The design flaws, known to exist by both corporations, was concealed in reports and missed by lax regulatory oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Local activist groups like San Clemente Green, SanOnofreSafety.org and Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE) and others allied with the national organization Friends of the Earth (FoE) in a successful campaign for shutdown, only to discover Edison’s crazy plans to bury its tons of accumulated radioactive waste in extremely thin, unmonitorable and unrepairible canisters, inches above the water table, just yards above the rising ocean surf in an earthquake and tsunami zone – just like Fukushima.
Now the idyllic region of high-end retirement communities and tourist havens is locked in a microcosmic debate whose outcome may well set a precedent for the country’s radwaste policies.
“Do No Harm” & “Do Unto Others…”
The regional activist community is currently polarized between those who advocate “just get it outa here to somewhere else by any means necessary,” and those who are trying to deal with the technical, ethical and political dimensions of arriving at a ‘least worst’ compromise that takes both the safety of the 8.5 million surrounding population AND the national policy implications into consideration.
Dan Hirsch is a longtime nuclear safety advocate, a Professor at UC Santa Cruz and President of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a non-profit nuclear policy organization focusing on issues of nuclear safety, waste disposal, proliferation, and disarmament.
In a recent discussion, Hirsch suggested two guiding principles for reactor community members to consider in their deliberations: the “Father of Modern Medicine” Hippocrates’ dictum, “First, do no harm,” and the so-called Golden Rule common to the world’s religions, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
In this case, that means not acting so as to set precedents based on local self-interest that make things worse locally or nationally, and not dumping waste on other communities with less political or economic clout and risking millions all along the transport routes on the way to them.
Hirsch, who, with others around the state and the country, has spent his life in often successful fights for improved nuclear safeguards against seemingly hopeless odds, fears that those decades of dedicated work could now be undone if the ‘just get it outa here’ faction of so-called ‘environmentalists’ are tricked into being willing allies of the nuclear industry in its long-term quest to wash its hands of nuclear liabilities and hand them over to the American public.
Centralized Interim Storage (CIS)The immediate context that makes these issues of currently vital significance, is the fact that presently moving through Congress at warp speed is the so-called the Shimkus bill – the H.R. 3053 Nuclear Waste Policy Amendment Act of 2017.
According to close analysis by SoCal activists Donna Gilmore and Judy Jones, the Shimkus Bill “will make us less safe and not solve the nuclear waste problems, yet preempts existing state and local water and air rights and other rights [and] removes safety requirements needed to prevent radioactive leaks.” It also removes all oversight.
The Bill’s main sponsor, Republican Congressman John Shimkus, is Chair of the Subcommittee on the Environment of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Shimkus comes from Illinois, stronghold of nuclear energy giant Exelon, and home to 11 nuclear reactors.
Despite a 50-group environmental coalition in opposition, H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, as amended, passed the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee by a vote of 49 to 4. All Republican members, and all but four Democrats (Schakowsky of IL, Ben Lujan of NM, Loebsack of IA, and Engel of NY) who were present, voted in favor of reviving the cancelled Yucca Mountain, NV high-level radioactive waste dump, and legalizing private de facto permanent parking lot dumps, targeted at TX and NM. If enacted, the legislation could pave the way for unprecedented numbers of irradiated nuclear fuel truck and train, as well as barge, shipments to begin moving in just a few years, through most states, many major cities, and most U.S. congressional districts, risking Mobile Chernobyls, Floating Fukushimas, and Dirty Bombs on Wheels.
The Shimkus Bill is an attempt to move forward the concept of Centralized Interim Storage (CIS), a kind of stop-gap strategy to stop the hemorrhaging of Federal funds to utilities suing for non-compliance with its legal obligation under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to take possession of radwaste from energy and weapons production. It also provides a way for nuclear operators to continue producing more of this lethal waste.
In the absence of a national central radioactive waste repository, CIS means taking radwaste from current on-site storage at nuclear plants and moving it to ‘temporary’ above ground storage facilities, with locations in poor, rural minority communities in Nevada, Texas and New Mexico the most currently favored.
Not only does this plan necessitate moving shipments of tons of deadly radwaste on America’s crumbling rails, roads and bridges for years to come – vulnerable to accident and terrorist attack – but it also means the waste will have to be moved again, when and IF, a central repository is ever agreed upon. Given the history of Yucca Mountain, that seems very unlikely indeed. A sincere effort needs to be made in the search for permanent repositories.
The Nulear Waste Policy Act originally called for the identification of three sites in the Eastern US and three sites in the West. Political maneuvering led to a ‘Screw Nevada’ strategy because it had the fewest Congressional votes, and the million dollar development of the state’s Yucca Mountain site. Originally thought to be dry and impermeable to the migration of radioactive elements, the discovery that trace elements from explosions at the nearby Nevada Nuclear Test Site had penetrated deep into the Yucca Mountain facility in a relatively few years debunked that contention. The project was terminated by the Obama Admistration and is now essentially an abandoned relic of bad politics, wishful thinking, and failed scientific hypotheses.
The current attempt in the Shimkus Bill at resuscitating the failed Yucca Mountain dump is a desperate fool’s errand that reveals the utter moral and ethical bankruptcy of US Nuclear Waste policy.
The San Onofre Solution – Looking for the ‘Least Worst’That’s why the current attempt by the groups in the San Onofre reactor community to agree on a ‘least worse’ way of dealing with the plant’s tons of accumulated waste represents what may be a pivotal microcosm in this vital national and international issue.
None of the options being considered are totally satisfactory by any standard:
• Bury it just above the water table, in the sand, on the beach, in flimsy cans, in an earthquake and tsunami zone, vulnerable to terrorist attack, yards from the rising sea;
• Ship it to poor communities in Nevada, Texas or New Mexico;
• Send it to Arizona’s Palo Verde reactor site;
• Take it to California’s Mojave desert (already the site of a successful ten year fight to block a proposed nuclear dump);
• Move it farther from the ocean, across I-5 to higher ground, out of tsunami range on the Camp Pendleton Marine base land the reactor operator is already leasing.
Applying Hirsch’s criteria, which option is likely to do the least harm to the least people and bioregions?
Keeping it anywhere on Camp Pendleton still poses a risk to the millions in the regional population between San Diego and LA. But moving it anywhere else would endanger millions more there and along all the shipping routes; and, in the case of the Texas and New Mexico sites, the millions more who are dependent on the vast Ogallala Aquifer, supplying drinking and agricultural water in eight key breadbasket states.
PackagingUnderlying and complicating all these considerations is the choice of containers for storage of the highly radioactive nuclear fuel assemblies.
Extensive documented research by San Onofre Safety founder Donna Gilmore shows that the Edison’s container choices – currently being implemented – are not only unsuited to San Onofre’s corrosive salt air marine environment, but make monitoring for leaks and repackaging leaking containers impossible. That, in turn, disqualifies them for transport under current Nuclear Regulatory Agency regulations, even if a target location could be found. And, as Donna puts it “Would you buy a car that couldn’t be checked for leaks or be repaired?”
Studies to determine whether the cladding holding the intensely irradiated fuel would hold or fail during the vibrations of transport haven’t been completed yet.
Meanwhile Southern California Edison is executing their plan to bury the lethal waste on the San Clemente beach with no opposition from public agencies.
The state agencies (Coastal Commission, Energy Commission and Public Utilities Commission) are all appointed by Governor Brown, and have all been informed that these storage canisters have fatal flaws. Yet, they continue approving storage of more canisters by the beach, and giving Edison millions of dollars to buy more of them. Research data show that existing canisters may leak and potentially explode in a few short years, but these agencies don’t see this as their problem. Governor Brown has yet to speak on these issues.
The SanOnofreSafety.org site offers handouts for elected officials and others
• Urgent nuclear waste canister problems
• Coastal Commission should revoke nuclear waste storage permit
• Comments to DOE consent based siting: Plan risks major radioactive leaks
• Dry Cask Inventory by State as of June 30, 2013
Another element in the mix is the California Coastal Commission’s approval of the Edison storage plan, an approval currently being contested in the suit brought by the legal team of Mike Aguirre and Mia Sieverson on behalf of their client Ray Lutz, and his Citizens’ Oversight organization. The suit has led to closed-door negotiations with Edison, the outcome of which have yet to be announced.
Any ultimate agreement which would meet Dan Hirsch’s criteria of ‘first, do no harm and then, don’t do to other communities what you would not want to have done to yours,’ would have to embody the highest current standard for radwaste management: Hardened, monitorable, retrievable on-site storage.
Those standards should be the minimum foundation of any responsible nuclear waste policy which admits the existential risks that the tragic choices of Atomic Age technocrats have imposed on us and all future generations.
A first step in that direction should be the defeat of the deadly and anti-democratic Shimkus Bill.
A second would be to demand Edison contain the waste in the most robust, monitorable, retrievable container casks available. Most industrialized countries use casks 12-20 inches thick. Edison’s are only 5/8ths of an inch thick.
James Heddle is a filmmaker and writer who co-directs EON – the Ecological Options Network with Mary Beth Brangan. Their forthcoming documentary SHUTDOWN: The California-Fukushima Connection Pt. ! – The Case of San Onofre is now in post-production. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Problem Facing Over 100 Nuclear Power Plants
The grassroots campaign continues in California for responsible management of tons of radioactive waste now sitting on a crumbling bluff above the beach at the shut down San Onofre nuclear plant – in an earthquake and tsunami zone between two major population centers. As America’s fleet of aging nuclear reactors face inevitable shutdowns in the coming months and years, decommissioning and nuclear waste management are on pace to become big business for private corporations. But with no plan for where to put the accumulated tons of radwaste, can for-profit companies and captive regulatory agencies be trusted to deal with it responsibly? The battle over what to do with San Onofre’s waste could set a pattern for the nation. Here’s some coverage of recent developments and the serious issues they raise.
Citizens Question Crazy Plan
3.6 million pounds of highly lethal, radioactive waste, stored in corrosion-prone thin metal canisters, on an eroding bluff, by a crumpling sea wall, at a beach, only inches above the water table, 100 feet from the rising sea, in an earthquake and tsunami zone just like Fukushima – What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, say informed local residents near the recently shutdown San Onofre nuclear power plant between Los Angeles and San Diego. They want it out of there. But to where, how soon and how? How long must it be cooled until it’s able to be moved? What kind of containers can it safely be held in until then? What kind of cask would truly be monitorable and retrievable? How to move it with the least risk? Where to move it as the least worst option, given the immense risk of transporting it? Who will agree to take it?
Karen Hadden, Director of S.E.E.D. Coalition of Texas, traveled to California to explain that the residents of Texas and New Mexico do not want the radioactive waste sent to them to store. Currently Texas and New Mexico are being targeted as Centralized Interim Storage sites for the entire nation’s reactor waste.
The plant operator, Southern California Edison, (SCE) has convened what it calls a Citizen Engagement Panel or CEP to publicly discuss the issues, but with no decision-making power, though they’ve recently called themselves an “advisory” panel.
Local citizens are only allowed 3 minutes at meetings to speak at the CEP, and have strong doubts about the Panel process and the competence and sincerity of many of.the Panel members. That’s why San Clemente Greens are advocating organizing an independent panel of experts to give counsel on what the best solutions for the deadly waste would be.
The group CitizensOversight.org organized this press conference just before the May 11, 2017 CEP meeting. CitizensOversight is one of the lead plaintiffs challenging the California Coastal Commission’s permit to SCE that allows the lethal long lived waste to be buried on the beach. The private law firm of Aguirre & Severson brought the case before the court. See Citizen Oversight Director, Ray Lutz, speaking about this on Democracy Now! below.
Aguirre & Severson are currently in negotiations with Southern California Edison regarding the waste storage plan. Aguirre and Severson are also in negotiations with Edison regarding the distribution of the massive costs for the closure of the badly mismanaged nuclear station. Edison, though its errors caused the plant’s premature shutdown, wants the ratepayers to shoulder the majority of the associated costs. Aguirre and Severson initiated that lawsuit representing ratepayer’s interests as well.
Public Opposes ‘Crazy’ San Onofre Radwaste Plan
It’s a problem that will be faced by over 100 other reactor communities across the country as aging US nukes are increasingly shut down.
Why No Tribal Voices on San Onofre Waste?
When SONGS Community Engagement Panel Secretary Dan Stetson asked about Native American involvement in the process of dealing with San Onofre’s 3 tons of nuclear waste, Edison’s Tom Palmisano assured the Panel that tribal governments had been consulted as part of normal procedure. Apparently he was misinformed.
Tribal spokeswoman Angela Mooney-D’Arcy, Acjachemen tribe member and Executive Director of the Sacred Places Institute. denied that regional tribal governments had been consulted, and she had documents to prove it.
Indian Country Today
Nuclear storage plan at San Onofre beach leaves out tribal voices
A controversial plan to temporarily store more than three million pounds of spent nuclear fuel 100 feet from one of Southern California’s most popular beaches, San Onofre, is meeting with fierce resistance from local communities, including tribal members. The problem for the Native population is that while the formal decision-making process systematically involved a wide variety of stakeholders including local and state governments, community groups, environmentalists, academics, military, and business, education, and labor leaders, tribal governments were excluded. Read more
CommonDreams.org / Science
Nuclear industry pressured regulatory commission into low-balling consequences of meltdown, especially in case of reactor fire, new article says
“The NRC has been pressured by the nuclear industry, directly and through Congress, to low-ball the potential consequences of a fire because of concerns that increased costs could result in shutting down more nuclear power plants,” von Hippel said. “Unfortunately, if there is no public outcry about this dangerous situation, the NRC will continue to bend to the industry’s wishes.” Read more
San Diego Tribune – May 23, 2017
Ray Lutz of CitizensOversight.org interviewed on
Democracy Now – May 17, 2017
Activists Sue to Block Plans to Bury 3.6 Million Pounds of Nuclear Waste Near California Beach
CEP Video Archive
Here’s the link to the Southern California Edison/CEP’s entire video of May 11 San Onofre Community Engagement Panel meeting on the radioactive waste issue entitled “NRC Decommissioning Oversight & Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) Development Projects” https://www.songscommunity.com/cep-events/051117_event.asp
PublicWatchDogs.orghas just published a new blockbuster document:
KUSI TV News Coverage of the WatchDogs’ Report
Dependable Information Sources on This IssueFor updates on radioactive waste management issues, please visit Donna Gilmore’s excellent website:
In my opinion, the collapse of the nuclear industry brings more warning than celebration but I dance with every closure of a nuclear waste generator. Ultimately capping the curie count on this manufactured catastrophe is the first and most responsible action that can be taken. So the bankruptcy of a manufacturer like Westinghouse Electric has a particular sweet spot in my heart given I have participated in this campaign since 1975 beginning as an organizer, non-violence trainer and affinity group member of the Clamshell Alliance for the occupations and blockades at the construction site of Westinghouse reactors at Seabrook, NH. This morning’s Washington Post has the industry still trying to put the best face on the announcement with a rumor that a industry consortium is being put together to buy WEC off of Toshiba. We will see how much bluster or fact there is to that. I witnessed Westinghouse bankrupt four New England utilities who were initially sold two 1150 MWe pressurized water reactors for $450 million per unit that turned into a sunk cost of $900 million to cancel Unit 2 and the final cost to turn on Unit 1 at over $6 billion. New Hampshire still has some of the most expensive electricity in the country. My biggest concern is that as the profit motive plummets on this industry, operationally it is becoming that much more dangerous. The US nuclear industry is now cutting its operational costs by 30% for an aging fleet. The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Capture) is similarly downsizing its oversight and papering over operational safety vulnerabilities. The four Westinghouse units now under construction in GA and SC are going through the same identical failure to meet cost and time to completion but the juggernaut is still stumbling forward. The so-called “renaissance” of these gigantic reactors is a demonstrated relapse to the same inherent financial failures. But the industry plans to remake itself with small modular reactors that can be incrementally added onto a common control room. The collapse of the industry is moving faster than responsible and fully funded decommissioning. No surprise that cleaning up is not as much fun or profitable as making a mess. This is where they plan to grossly short change the future. There is a staggering and still unaccounted for cost of nuclear waste management that these nuclear waste generators now seek to be unaccountable for. Westinghouse is responsible for the design, manufacture and supply of half of the world’s nuclear waste generators. There are now hundreds of thousands of tons of orphaned highly-radioactive “spent” fuel worldwide requiring biological shielding over the next geological span of time and sequestering the ingredients of atomic bombs into the distant future. We still have our work cut out for us. No Nukes, No Dumps, No Bombs, Paul