– Buffet and Gates plan Wyoming nuclear reactor with claims of ‘clean’; Gov. Gordon ignores waste and emissions

The candidate reactor sites are the Wyodak plant near Gillette in coal-rich northeastern Wyoming, the Naughton plant near Kemmerer in southwestern Wyoming, the Jim Bridger plant outside Rock Springs in southwestern Wyoming and the Dave Johnston plant near Glenrock in uranium-rich east-central Wyoming.

…Wyoming is the top uranium-mining state, and the reactor would use uranium from “in situ” mines that extract the heavy metal from networks of water wells on the high plains, officials said.

…Proposals to store nuclear waste in Wyoming have failed to pass the state Legislature in recent decades. While some waste would need to be stored on site, the plant isn’t going to be a way to “solve the nation’s waste problems,” Gordon said.

From the Associated Press,

From RT
6 June, 2021

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have chosen a top U.S. coal-producing state as the location for a new kind of nuclear reactor, using Natrium as its power source.

The natrium power plant, with an anticipated cost of $1 billion, will repurpose a coal plant for its operations in Wyoming, with the exact location to be announced by the end of 2021. The partners hope this will help the U.S. on its way to a carbon-zero future. 

The development consists of a 345-megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with molten salt-based energy storage that could boost the system’s power output to 500MW during peak power demand. This would provide enough energy to power as many as 400,000 homes.

he project will be overseen by TerraPower and Pacificorp, founded by Gates and Buffett respectively. TerraPower has been key in exploring the potential of Natrium power as the US energy department awarded the company $80 million in funding last year to demonstrate the potential power of this chemical.

We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” Gates stated of the project.  

President and CEO of TerraPower, Chris Levesque, adds “We need this kind of clean energy on the grid in the 2030s.”

Some experts are critiquing the plans, warning that advanced reactors may present a higher risk than their conventional counterparts. Reactor fuel needs to be enriched at a higher rate than conventional fuel, making the supply chain a potential target for groups trying to build a crude nuclear weapon.

However, advanced nuclear reactors have simpler designs than typical reactors, making them easier to build, more fuel-efficient, cheaper, and safer. 

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon believes “This is our fastest and clearest course to becoming carbon negative,” stating, “Nuclear power is clearly a part of my all-of-the-above strategy for energy.”

The project is expected to provide on-demand, no-carbon energy, as well as providing hundreds of short and long-term jobs in construction and plant operations. This will give a much-needed boost to Wyoming’s job sector following two decades of coal plant closures. 

While two out of every three nuclear power reactors globally are scheduled for retirement in the near future, the U.S. is still investing heavily in nuclear power. For example, the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia is expected to commence commercial operation in November 2021, at an estimated cost of $28 billion. It seems that despite a movement away from nuclear power in recent years we cannot overlook its potential as a global energy leader. 

Following a decade of decline after major disasters such as Fukushima in 2011, which obliterated Japan’s nuclear power program, two countries, Belarus and the United Arab Emirates have recently commissioned new nuclear power plants. In addition, Japan is aiming to reintroduce nuclear capacities, with at least 5 safety-upgraded reactors expected to be recommissioned by 2025. 

The Middle East and South Asia are expected to boost their nuclear power production by the end of the decade, with Turkey, Egypt, Bangladesh, China, and India all investing in nuclear reactors. This has sent uranium stocks up since late 2020, with two leading US-listed uranium miners, Uranium Energy Corp. and Cameco Corporation, both experiencing a steady climb.

Despite the recent decline in nuclear power, plans to invest in the recommissioning of existing reactors and develop new ones suggest that nuclear energy is not yet dead. Further, if Gates and Buffett are successful in developing their Natrium advanced reactor is could lead the way for future projects.

rt.com/business/525808-buffett-gates-nuclear-plant-natrium/

apnews.com/article/bill-gates-wyoming-technology-environment-and-nature-government-and-politics-c647adc5f4a447eaef1c4ec28464e153

— RFK, Jr. and Surfer Kelly Slater Talk Plastic in the Ocean, Fukushima + More

From the Defender
13 May 2021

Kelly Slater believes when humans become disconnected from nature, it’s a lot easier to disrespect the planet we all call home.

Slater, an 11-time world surf champion, knows all too well what it looks like when humans disrespect nature. He told Children’s Health Defense Chairman Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., on the “RFK Jr The Defender Podcast,” that because of all the pollution in the world’s oceans, surfers are the “canaries in the coal mine.”

Slater said:

“I don’t even know where to start with ocean pollution. There’s so many scary pollutants out in the world, in the air, in the water. People dump their oil, and it’s nothing to spill your gas if you have a leak in a boat. Once you’re a mile or five miles or 20 miles offshore, you can dump a limited number of anything you want into the ocean because, ‘hey, it’s just going to float down to the bottom.’ How much respect do we have for ourselves when we treat our earth that way? It’s the only earth we have.”

Slater described the time he went to Bali and couldn’t surf because there was so much garbage in the ocean. The seasons had changed from dry to wet, and when it started raining, the rivers washed all the garbage that had piled up over time into the sea.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Slater. “We actually had to slow the boat down to an idle speed just to go through some of the garbage that was lodged out together in the middle of the channel 10 miles from land.”

The radioactive waste flowing into the ocean from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster also worries Slater. He said:

“The scientists have no idea what they’re going to do about Fukushima. That thing’s 10 years old now. The millions of gallons of water that are flowing full of radioactive waste in the ocean, every single day, it’s mind-boggling. No one even has any idea how much is going into the ocean. And they don’t know the effects of that.”

Listen to the full interview to hear Slater and Kennedy discuss surfing, the failures of recycling and Slater’s sustainable clothing line, “Outerknown.”

Listen here: 

https://childrenshealthdefense.org/defender/rfk-jr-the-defender-podcast-surfer-kelly-slater-ocean-plastic-fukushima/

— ‘We all live downstream”; marine conservation biologist warns of the danger of Japan dumping Fukushima wastewater into the ocean

Posted by The Hill

by Rick Steiner Opinion Contributor
(THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL)

April 17, 2021

The Biden administration must urge Japan to abandon this unnecessary and dangerous plan.

The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was caused by the 9.1 magnitude Tohoku earthquake and a 14-meter-high tsunami. The tsunami flooded and disabled emergency generators needed to pump cooling water into the nuclear reactor cores, causing three reactor core meltdowns and hydrogen explosions. Radionuclides flowed eastward across the Pacific and were eventually found in waters off California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia  and Alaska. We all live downstream. 

The storage tanks now hold seawater that has been used to continue cooling the reactor cores, and this water is contaminated with such radionuclides as Cesium-137, Carbon-14, tritium (including the more dangerous “Organically Bound Tritium”), Strontium-90, Cobalt-60, Iodine-129, Plutonium-239 — and over 50 other radionuclides. Some of this has reportedly been removed, but some has not (e.g. radioactive tritium and C-14).  

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that owns Fukushima, and is now responsible for the cleanup (that is likely to last the remainder of this century), didn’t admit until recently that the wastewater contains significant amounts of radioactive Carbon-14. As C-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years, and is known to bio-accumulate in marine ecosystems and cause cellular and genetic impairment. This is a very serious concern.

Fukushima C-14 will be added to the already elevated radioactive C-14 load in the oceans from nuclear weapons tests — or  “bomb carbon” — last century. It’s now found in organisms even in the deepest part of the ocean, the Marianas Trench. It is easy to imagine the impact this new, intentional Fukushima release could have, rightly or not, on the public image of clean marine seafood and tourism along the Pacific coast.

TEPCO claims the water has been sufficiently treated and is OK to release, but the treatment system they are using is reported to be substandard and not up to the job. Communities across the Pacific deserve an independent scientific assessment of TEPCO’s claims, by an Independent Scientific and Technical Commission. Remember, TEPCO and the Japanese government approved locating the nuclear power plant’s emergency generators in a tsunami flood zone. Their assurances now that there is no risk in releasing this radioactive water are neither credible nor scientifically defensible.

China and South Korea have registered objections to the release plan with Japan, but other downstream nations — the U.S., Russia and Canada — have stayed quietIt isn’t often that China expresses more concern for the environment than the U.S., but this is one such time.

And even if the ecological and public health risk from the planned release is indeed low, as claimed (this is highly doubtful), the risk is entirely unnecessary and avoidable. 

Beyond marine discharge, several other disposal options have been considered, including evaporating the water, or injecting it into deep geologic formations.

But by far the best solution is for TEPCO to build more storage tanks and continue holding all contaminated water for another 15 years or so, during which time the radioactive tritium level will decay by half, and simultaneously treat it with best available technology (such as ion exchange systems and modular “detritiation” systems in the U.S.) to remove all radionuclides possible. Japan and TEPCO considered this long-term storage option, but opted instead for the cheapest choice — simply dumping the wastewater into the Pacific. 

The era of intentionally dumping toxic waste in our one global ocean is, or should be, over.

Fukushima was, and continues to be, a nuclear nightmare, and all nations should join together in a collaborative effort to resolve this mess. This effort will take hundreds of billions of dollars, over many decades, and the U.S. and other G20 nations must step up and help both financially and technically.

Unless and until this wastewater is independently certified as effectively free of radionuclides and safe, not one drop should be released into the beautiful deep blue Pacific.

Finally, Fukushima should be the last nail in the coffin for the notion that nuclear fission power could be a realistic solution to our climate crisis.

Rick Steiner is a marine conservation biologist in Anchorage and former professor of marine conservation with the University of Alaska from 1980-2010. He now consults for the U.N., governments and NGOs on marine environmental issues. He is author of “Oasis Earth: Planet in Peril.”

https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/548726-the-danger-of-japan-dumping-fukushima-wastewater-into-the-ocean#:~:text=The%20Japanese%20government%20just%20announced,and%20the%20U.S.%20West%20Coast.

Posted under Fair Use Rules.

— Japan may decide to allow radioactive wastewater dumping at 12 April 2021 meeting

From Russia Today

12 April, 2021

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said “the international community is watching Japan” and called on Tokyo to “fulfil [its] international responsibilities” as the government there mulls discharging nuclear wastewater into the sea.

Speaking on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant has already caused large amount of radioactive material to leak, which has had a profound impact on the marine environment, food safety, and human health. 

Responding to a question from a journalist, who cited reports that the Japanese government would hold a meeting on Tuesday to sign off on plans to dump more than one million tons of nuclear wastewater into the ocean, Zhao demanded that they “fulfil their international responsibilities” and listen to the condemnation from other nations.

“This matter is of great importance, and Japan should be responsible for the international public interest, which is also responsible for the interests of its own people,” he stated.

Zhao said that China has expressed its serious concerns to Japan through diplomatic channels, with the aim of “safeguarding international public interest and the health and safety of the Chinese people.”

Last week, Beijing called on Tokyo to put off a decision on dumping radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean until it has fully consulted its neighbors, after reports emerged that Japan was on the brink of electing to discharge the waste into the sea. 

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was quoted as calling the move “unavoidable” after the nuclear wastewater built up over the last decade…

https://www.rt.com/news/520769-china-japan-nuclear-waste-ocean/

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/04/07/national/treated-water-fukushima/
Suga says time ripe to decide fate of treated Fukushima No. 1 water

See also

https://www.rt.com/news/520769-china-japan-nuclear-waste-ocean/
Beijing calls on Tokyo to be ‘responsible’ & consult neighbors as Japan’s PM says dumping Fukushima water into ocean ‘unavoidable’
9 April 2020

https://www.rt.com/news/504383-greenpeace-japan-radioactive-water-fukushima/
Greenpeace condemns Japanese plans to release Fukushima reactor water into the sea, claims it could damage human DNA
23 October 2020

https://www.rt.com/news/503715-radioactive-fukushima-water-dropping/
Japan expected to dump over 1 MILLION TONS of radioactive Fukushima water into Pacific, fishermen fear ‘catastrophic impact’
16 October 2020

— Nuclear industry, DOE, and Pentagon promote nukes for space

From Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space

Our opposition grows: Dangers of launching nukes into space

February 15, 2021
by Bruce K. Gagnon

The US began launching space probes with nuclear power in the early 1960’s.  One of these military satellites powered with a nuclear reactor fell back to Earth in April of 1964. 

It was called SNAP 9-A and was launched aboard a Department of Defense weather satellite that failed to reach orbit. The nuclear reactor, as designed, released radioactive debris in our upper atmosphere during reentry and then burned up. Remnants struck the Indian Ocean. A total of 2.1 pounds of plutonium-238 vaporized in the atmosphere and spread worldwide.

Over the years there have been a host of space nuclear accidents by the US and former Soviet Union/Russia.  See more here

Dr. John Goffman studied the SNAP 9-A accident and concluded that the dispersed deadly plutonium-238 was a leading cause of the increase in cancers around the world today. During our 1997 Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice and Global Network campaign to stop the launch of the Cassini space probe, with 72 pounds of plutonium-238 onboard, Goffman was a huge help to us doing frequent media interviews where he warned of the dangers of global contamination if there was to be a launch accident.

(Goffman’s earliest research was in nuclear physics and chemistry, in close connection to the Manhattan Project. He co-discovered several radioisotopes, notably uranium-233; he was the third person ever to work with plutonium. Later in life, Gofman took on a role as an advocate warning of dangers involved with nuclear power.) 

The nuclear industry currently views space as a new (and wide open) market for their toxic product that has run its dirty course on Mother Earth.

During our campaigns in 1989, 1990, and 1997 to stop NASA’s Galileo, Ulysses and Cassini plutonium launches, we learned that the nuclear industry positioned their agents inside NASA committees that made the decisions on what kinds of power sources would be placed on those deep space missions.  Similarly, it now appears that the nuclear industry has also infiltrated the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that has been studying missions to Mars.  The recommendation, not any surprise, is that nuclear reactors are the best way to power a Mars mission.

But nukes are not the best for us Earthlings because the Department of Energy (DoE) has a bad track record of human and environmental contamination as they fabricate space nuclear devices. An accident at launch could have catastrophic consequences.

In 1996, just prior to the launch of Cassini, it was reported that while fabricating the plutonium generators for the Cassini space probe, 244 cases of worker contamination occurred at DoE’s Los Alamos lab in New Mexico. So it is not just a launch pad explosion that we worry about. 

We fought the DoE and NASA on those previous nuclear launches and are entering the struggle again.  

The nuclear industry has its sights set on nuclear-powered mining colonies on an assortment of planetary bodies – all necessitating legions of nuclear devices being produced at DoE and then launched on rockets that blow up from time to time. They are also now promoting a nuclear rocket to Mars – with reactors for engines. The Pentagon has long claimed that they need nuclear reactors to power space-based weapons.

We urge the public to help us pressure Congress, NASA and DoE to ‘say no’ to nukes in space. We’ve got to protect life here on this planet. The best way you can help is to share this information with others so that we can build an international base of awareness and action around this issue.

We are in the middle of a pandemic and people have lost jobs, homes, health care and even food on their table.

Trips to Mars (without nuclear devices) can wait.

http://space4peace.blogspot.com/2021/02/our-opposition-remains-dangers-of.html

— NIRS: Tell Congress to reject American Nuclear Infrastructure Act — S. 4897

From Nuclear Information and Resource Service:

Last week, a U.S. Senate committee approved one of the worst pro-nuclear bills to ever come out of that body: the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020 — S. 4897.

What makes this bill so terrible? Among other things, it would spur additional uranium mining in this country, give away billions of dollars to the nuclear industry, and incentivize nuclear energy at the expense of renewables.

Whether or not you already took action on this bill, your members of Congress still need to know you oppose it. Tell your members of Congress to OPPOSE the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act today.

This bill is a hodgepodge of measures that will make everything that’s bad about nuclear energy even worse. Among other things, the bill would:

  • Expand uranium mining through the creation of a domestic uranium reserve. It does nothing to require federal agencies to mitigate the well-established environmental harms of uranium mining and milling practices, nor to require prompt and thorough reclamation and cleanup of mines and other nuclear facilities.
  • Create a 10-year subsidy for about half of the nuclear reactors in the country. Such a subsidy would crowd out investment in renewable energy, which unlike nuclear power is a real solution to climate change.
  • Introduce other harmful nuclear technologies, including reprocessing and more highly enriched uranium. Both increase nuclear weapons proliferation risks.
  • Do nothing to regulate the nuclear industry for climate change, earthquakes, or similar risks.

The American Nuclear Infrastructure Act does virtually nothing to curb the dangers of nuclear power. It worsens the environmental justice issues related to nuclear and extends a lifeline to this obsolete and dying industry at the expense of renewables, which are the real answer to the climate crisis.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has already approved this bill, so we have to act fast.

The bill hasn’t been introduced in the House yet, but we’re asking you to also email your representative just in case the bill moves there. Tell your members of Congress to OPPOSE the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act today.

Thanks for all you do!

The NIRS Team

Diane D’Arrigo
Luis Hestres
Denise Jakobsberg
Tim Judson

Nuclear Information and Resource Service
6930 Carroll Avenue Suite 340 | Takoma Park, Maryland 20912
3012706477 | nirs@nirs.org | nirs.org

— Shutdown — a new film on community action against a California nuclear power plant

From the Ecological Options Network

HELP COMPLETE THE FILM

A timely and urgent story with global implications

Filmed over eight years, SHUTDOWN (90 min.) documents how a Southern California community empowered itself to force the closure of a leaky nuclear power plant only to face an even more daunting challenge – what to do with the tons of high-level nuclear waste the plant generated – a major safety concern for all of America as dozens of aging nuclear reactors are decomissioned.

Alarmed by the 2011 Fukushima disaster, an urban planner with young children, an environmentalist couple, a university professor, and a retired systems analyst team up to convince the communities surrounding San Onofre to demand that Southern California Edison (SCE) put safety first at its nuclear reactors. Whistleblowers anonymously provide them information about serious safety violations at the plant. 

The communities battle the giant utility and ultimately win the fight to close the ocean front nuclear power plant, located in a densely populated earthquake and tsunami zone between San Diego and Los Angeles. But they soon discover the lethal threat isn’t over. Just yards from the rising sea, over 3 million pounds of high level nuclear waste created on the site is being dumped into thin, damaged canisters, each containing roughly a Chernobyl’s worth of radioactivity.

After the shutdown, another brave whistleblower comes forward and confirms continued horrendous mismanagement of the waste. He reveals that a 54-ton container of intensely irradiated fuel was almost dropped 18 feet onto cement below, which many believe could have caused a major radioactive disaster in the area, home to 8.5 million people.

SHUTDOWN chronicles the persistent efforts of these five people to grapple with a reckless utility inattentive to the severe perils of the lethal waste it must manage, a Federal regulatory agency (NRC) that is in the pocket of the nuclear industry, state agencies that permitted the radioactive dump to be on the beach, shady waste contractors looking for profit, and a government push to move all nuclear waste to another site across the country and dump it on low income communities of color.

HELP COMPLETE THE FILM

Documenting this critical, but little-known struggle, SHUTDOWN will inform and inspire others faced with aging reactors in their communities, and challenge those now advocating a whole new generation of nuclear power plants.

We’re in the editing studio now, however to complete the film and screen it widely, WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT.  As with other successful mass movements, permanent historical changes only happen when large numbers of people like you realize their involvement is essential to the cause.

To donate, go to https://www.shutdownfilm.com/donate

https://www.shutdownfilm.com/

— NASA scam declares SSFL exempt from cleanup

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – PEER

For Immediate Release:  Thursday, October 1, 2020
Contact:  Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028; Kirsten Stade kstade@peer.org

Nuclear Cleanup Scam on Supremely Contaminated Site

Historic Designation for Santa Susana Lab Excuses Remediation Obligations

Washington, DC — One of the nation’s most highly contaminated sites may escape cleanup by its designation as a cultural district for Native American artifacts, according to formal comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  This attempted maneuver seeks to expand a small loophole in a legally binding cleanup agreement to exempt the entire nearly 3,000-acre highly contaminated site, which includes a partial nuclear reactor core meltdown, from long overdue remediation.

Santa Susana Field Laboratory is a former nuclear reactor and rocket testing facility, home to a partial nuclear meltdown and numerous other radioactive accidents and toxic chemical releases.  It is located in Simi Valley, Ventura County, California, 30 miles northwest of downtown LA.

After a prolonged, tortured history, the site is now under a legally binding cleanup agreement requiring restoration of the site to its condition before it was polluted. There is a very narrow exemption for “Native American artifacts that are formally recognized as Cultural Resources.”

NASA, one of the site’s owners, has nominated the entire Santa Susana site as a Cultural District and declaring all 2,850 acres of soil, much of it extremely contaminated, exempt from cleanup as a purported “Native American artifact.”  This proposal adding the entire Santa Susana site to the National Register of Historic Places is now before the National Park Service.

“This scam by NASA has nothing to do with preserving cultural heritage but everything to do with weaseling out of expensive cleanup responsibilities,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the cleanup was supposed to have been completed by the end of 2017, but has yet to begin. “There no good reason why this designation couldn’t wait until after the cleanup was completed.”

The PEER comments also point out that the NASA nomination –

  • Falsely claims designation will keep “the area in a state similar to when [tribal] ancestors used and occupied the area.”
  • Omits that there are already protections for identified cave paintings and grinding stones but this plan would artificially increase by a factor of more than 200 the protected area’s size to precisely match the boundaries of the entire 2,850-acre Santa Susana site; and
  • Glosses over the formal opposition of Ventura County, a fact which, by law, should preclude designation.

“Failure to clean Santa Susana leaves surrounding communities at risk of toxic migration,” added Ruch, pointing out wildfires and other natural events can spread contaminants far offsite.  “Nuclear and chemical waste are not cultural artifacts we want preserved.”

###


Read the PEER comments

View the opaque Federal Register Notice

https://www.peer.org/nuclear-cleanup-scam-on-supremely-contaminated-site/

— NRC deregulation of nuclear waste moves toward dumping in landfills

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – PEER

For Immediate Release:  Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Contact:  Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028; Kirsten Stade kstade@peer.org

Deregulation of Rad Waste Disposal Plows Ahead

Decommissioned Reactors OK-ed for Landfills in Big Gift to Nuclear Industry

Washington, DC —The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is finalizing a year-long drive to functionally deregulate disposal of massive amounts of radioactive waste. NRC’s  plan would allow commercial nuclear reactors to dump virtually all their radioactive waste, except spent fuel, in local garbage landfills, which are designed for household trash not rad-waste,  according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Today marks the end of public comments for an NRC “interpretative rulemaking” that would, in effect, abrogate longstanding requirements that virtually all such waste must be disposed of in licensed radioactive waste sites meeting detailed safety standards and subject to NRC inspection and enforcement.  Instead, NRC would grant generic exemptions for unlicensed waste handlers.

NRC declares its “intent” that these newly exempt disposal sites would be limited to “very low-level radioactive wastes” – a term undefined by statute – which NRC considers to be “below 25 millirem per year.”  Yet, NRC’s definition would allow public exposure to the equivalent to more than 900 chest X-rays over a lifetime, create a cancer risk twenty times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable risk range, thousands of times the risk goal for Superfund sites, or enough radiation to cause every 500th person exposed to get cancer.

“Once an exempt entity accepts radioactive waste, it enters a regulatory black hole, with no one  accountable for it,” stated PEER Pacific Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that NRC’s plan eliminates the need for radiation monitoring, health physics personnel, design standards, and NRC inspections – all now required of licensed operators.  “Unlicensed radioactive waste dumps could operate in ways that endanger communities free from any NRC oversight.”

NRC’s cryptic justification merely indicates that the plan “would provide an efficient means by which the NRC may issue specific exemptions for disposal” but ignores impacts that would –

  • Transform many municipal dumps into radioactive repositories, with no safeguards for workers, nearby residents, or adjoining water tables;
  • Allow unlicensed radioactive waste dumps to expose the public to 2.5 times higher levels of radiation than the NRC now allows for licensed low-level radioactive waste sites, thus creating a strong incentive to send all the radioactive waste to unlicensed dumps; and
  • Eliminate the public’s ability to find out radioactive waste is being dumped near them.

At present, the U.S. has 104 commercial nuclear power plants, many of which are beginning, or will soon start, the decommissioning process.  Removing the need for licensed sites to handle the staggering amounts of debris from old reactors would be a major cost savings for that industry.

“NRC’s deregulation will make it nearly impossible to trace recycled radioactive waste flowing through the stream of American commerce,” added Ruch, noting that it may also create a market for the U.S. to import radioactive waste for cheaper disposal. “This plan would plunge the U.S. into the wild, wild West of radioactive waste disposal, on a par with a Third World nation.”

###

Read the PEER comments

View the NRC proposal 

https://www.peer.org/deregulation-rad-waste-disposal-plows-ahead/

— COVID-19 pandemic increases nuclear reactor disaster risk; NRC loosens rules, requires long shifts

Posted on BuzzFeed

Terrified Atomic Workers Warn That the COVID-19 Pandemic May Threaten Nuclear Reactor Disaster

April 9, 2020

By Harvey Wasserman

The COVID Pandemic has thrown America’s atomic reactor industry into lethal chaos, making a major disaster even more likely.  Reports from “terrified” workers at a Pennsylvania reactor indicate vital precautions needed to protect them may not even be possible.

Nationwide, with falling demand and soaring prices for nuke-generated electricity, the Pandemic casts a dark shadow over reactor operations and whether frightened neighbors will allow them to be refueled and repaired.

America’s 96 remaining atomic reactors are run by a coveted pool of skilled technicians who manage the control rooms, conduct repairs, load/unload nuclear fuel.

Because few young students have been entering the field, the corps of about 100,000 licensed technicians has been—-like the reactors themselves—-rapidly aging while declining in numbers.  Work has stopped at the last two US reactors under construction (at Vogtle, Georgia) due to the Pandemic’s impact, which includes a shrinking supply of healthy workers.

Every reactor control room requires five operators at all times.  But the physical space is limited there and in plant hot spots that need frequent, often demanding repairs.  Social distancing is virtually impossible.  Long shifts in confined spaces undermine operator safety and performance.

Of critical importance:  every 18-24 months each reactor must shut for refueling and repairs.  Itinerant crews of 1000 to 1500 technicians travel to 58 sites in 29 states, usually staying 30-60 days.  They often board with local families, or in RVs, hotels, or Air B&Bs. 

Some 54 reactors have been scheduled for refuel/repairs in 2020. But there is no official, organized program to test the workers for the Coronavirus as they move around the country.

As the Pandemic thins the workforce, older operators are being called out of retirement.  The Trump-run Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently certified  16-hour work days, 86-hour work weeks and up to 14 consecutive days with 12-hour shifts.

Long-time nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen warns of fatigued operators falling asleep on the job.  He recalls at least one exhausted worker falling into the highly radioactive pool surrounding the high-level fuel rods.  Operator fatigue also helped cause the 1979 melt-down that destroyed Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island Unit Two.

The industry is now using the Coronavirus Pandemic to rush through a wide range of deregulation demandsAmong them is a move to allow radioactive waste to be dumped into municipal landfills. 

The NRC may also certify skipping vital repairs, escalating the likelihood of major breakdowns and melt-downs.  Nearly all US reactors were designed and built in the pre-digital age, more than 30 years ago.  Most are in advanced decay.  Atomic expert David Lochbaum, formerly with the NRC, warns that failure risks from longer work hours and deferred repairs could be extremely significant, and could vary from reactor to reactor depending on their age and condition.

The industry has also been required to maintain credible public health response plans should those reactors blow.  But Pandemic-stricken US hospitals now have zero spare capacity, multiplying the possible human fallout from an increasingly likely disaster.

Industry-wide the Pandemic has brought working conditions to the brink of collapse.  At Pennsylvania’s Limerick Generating Station, workers say they are “terrified” that the plant has become a “breeding ground…a complete cesspool” for the Coronavirus.  “I’m in a constant state of paranoia,” one technician told Carl Hessler, Jr., of MontcoCourtNews.

Others say social distancing is non-existent, with “no less than 100 people in the training room” and “people literally sitting on top of each other…sitting at every computer elbow to elbow.”  Shift change rooms, Hessler was told, can be    “standing room only.”  At least two Limerick workers are confirmed to have carried the virus.  COVID rates in the county are soaring.

Nuclear engineer Gundersen warns that limited control room floorspace and cramped conditions for maintenance can make social distancing impossible.  “Some component repairs can involve five workers working right next to each other,” he says.

Because reactor-driven electricity is not vital amidst this pandemic downturn, the demand for atomic workers to “stay home” is certain to escalate.  “I am concerned with Exelon & Limerick Nuclear Generating Station’s handling of the scheduled refueling—which has required bringing in workers from across the country during this pandemic,” says US Rep. Madeleine Dean in a statement likely to be repeated at reactor sites around the US.

“The potential increase of COVID-19 cases from 1,400 new workers not observing social distancing is staggering,” says epidemiologist Joseph Mangano of the Radiation and Health Project.  “The Limerick plant should be shut until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.”

Indian Point Unit One, north of New York City, will shut permanently on April 28.  Iowa’s Duane Arnold will close in December.

But Ground Zero may be Pacific Gas & Electric’s two 35-year-old reactors at Diablo Canyon.  PG&E is bankrupt for the second time in two decades, and recently pleaded guilty to 85 felonies from the fires its faulty wires sent raging through northern California, killing 84 people.  In 2010 a faulty PG&E gas line exploded in San Bruno, killing eight people.

Surrounded by earthquake faults, Diablo’s construction prompted more than 10,000 civil disobedience arrests, the most at any US reactor.  PG&E now admits its two Diablo nukes will lose more than $1.2 billion this year, more than $3.44 million/day.

Amidst its bitterly contested bankruptcy, PG&E may be taken over by the state.  But more than a thousand workers are slated in early October to refuel and repair Unit One, which the NRC says is dangerously embrittled.

Whether local residents concerned about both a nuclear accident and the spread of the Coronavirus will let them into the county remains to be seen.  So is whether they’ll be still operating by then.

With the future of the nuclear industry at stake—-along with the possibility of more reactor mishaps—-the whole world will be watching.

Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia!  Our Green-Powered Earth is at www.solartopia.org, along with The People’s Spiral of US History.  His California Solartopia Show is broadcast at KPFK/Pacifica 90.7fm Los Angeles; his Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at prn.fm.  For a full one-hour expert podcast discussion of the impact of the Cornoavirus on nuke power, click here.

https://buzzflash.com/articles/terfied-atomic-workers-warn-that-the-covid-19-pandemic-may-threaten-nuclear-reactor-disaster

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