— Nigerians, contact the Navajo Nation about uranium mining safety claims — $$millions spent for cleanup and no end in sight

From Albuquerque Journal

Feds reach settlement with Navajos over uranium mine cleanup

By Susan Montoya Bryan / Associated Press
Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The federal government has reached another settlement with the Navajo Nation that will clear the way for cleanup work to continue at abandoned uranium mines across the largest American Indian reservation in the U.S.

The target includes 46 sites that have been identified as priorities due to radiation levels, their proximity to people and the threat of contamination spreading. Cleanup is supposed to be done at 16 abandoned mines while evaluations are planned for another 30 sites and studies will be done at two more to see if water supplies have been compromised.

The agreement announced by the U.S. Justice Department settles the tribe’s claims over the costs of engineering evaluations and cleanups at the mines.

The federal government has already spent $100 million to address abandoned mines on Navajo lands and a separate settlement reached with DOJ last year was worth more than $13 million. However, estimates for the future costs for cleanup at priority sites stretch into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could not immediately pinpoint the worth of the latest settlement.

Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden, who is with the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said the latest settlement marks the second phase of ensuring cleanup of mines that pose the most significant public health risks.

“Addressing the legacy of uranium mining on Navajo lands reflects the commitment of the Justice Department and the Obama administration to fairly and honorably resolve the historic grievances of American Indian tribes and build a healthier future for their people,” Cruden said in a statement.

Navajo leaders have been pushing for cleanup for decades, specifically for the removal of contaminated soils and other materials rather than burying and capping the waste on tribal land. Since 2005, they’ve had a ban on uranium mining.

Over four decades, some 4 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from mines on Navajo lands with the federal government being the sole purchaser from the 1940s through the 1960s, when commercial sales began. The mining operations stretched from western New Mexico into Arizona and southern Utah.

Decades of uranium mining have left behind a legacy of contamination that includes one of the nation’s worst disasters involving radioactive waste: a spill in the Church Rock area that sent more than 1,100 tons of mining waste and millions of gallons of toxic water into an arroyo and downstream to the Rio Puerco. The result was a Superfund declaration.

Advocates have called for more studies on the health effects of continued exposure to the contamination resulting from the mining sites, and some have criticized the slow pace of cleanup and the lack of adequate funding for the work that needs to be done.

In a report submitted to New Mexico lawmakers last year, a team of consultants estimated it would take EPA more than a century to fund the removal of contamination at just 21 of the highest priority sites.

In a letter sent last month to President Barack Obama and EPA leadership, Navajo President Russell Begaye said the abandoned uranium mines project continues to struggle with outreach, coordination and trust issues.

EPA officials say in the last decade, the agency has remediated nearly four dozen homes, conducted field studies at all 523 mines on Navajo lands and provided safe drinking water to more than 3,000 families. Stabilization and cleanup work also has been done at nine abandoned mines.

Feds reach settlement with Navajos over uranium mine cleanup

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— EPA plans to vastly raise drinking water radioactivity limits; register for July 13 telebriefing “Dangerous Drinking Water”

From Nuclear Information and Resource Service

July 1, 2016

Dear Friends,

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has quietly proposed to raise the allowable levels of radioactivity in drinking water a nuclear incident to hundreds of times their current limits. If this guidance goes through, EPA’s action will allow people to drink water with concentrations of radioactivity at vastly higher levels.

Look no further than the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan to understand concern that the EPA will not act to protect public health in an emergency. In this case, the EPA is attempting to ensure that it would not have to act decisively to protect public health!

But there is still time to act.

Call in to the July 13 telebriefing to find out more.
http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5502/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=81984

You are invited to join us on WEDNESDAY JULY 13 for a national telebriefing: Dangerous Drinking Water, with presentations by leading experts and activists:
•Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
•Daniel Hirsch, Director, Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy, University of California Santa Cruz
•Emily Wurth, Water Program Director, Food and Water Watch

•Moderated by NIRS Executive Director, Tim Judson

The open and free event will be on the phone, starting at 8 pm eastern, 7 pm central, 6 pm mountain and 5 pm pacific. We will reserve the second half of the program for questions and discussion.

Register to attend the July 13 telebriefing.
http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5502/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=81984

The program will focus on EPA Guidance that massively increases the permitted levels of radioactivity in drinking water for years after any nuclear incident that requires consideration of “protective action,” ranging from a spill, leak or transport accident to a dirty bomb or nuclear meltdown—a nuclear accident of any kind, big or small. Allowable concentrations of radioactive elements allowed to come out of your tap would rise hundreds or even thousands of times above the current Maximum Concentration Levels allowed under the Safe Drinking Water Act regulations. Click here to review EPA’s proposal.
https://www.epa.gov/radiation/protective-action-guides-pags

Nuclear Energy is Dirty in many dimensions, but first, and foremost because of its dangerous ionizing radiation. The EPA guidance, allowing us to drink highly radioactive water is a clever effort to bypass existing limits, which the law prevents from being weakened. It is yet another way to shift liability and cleanup costs to the public from industry and government in case of a “nuclear event.” For instance, for most radionuclides the Safe Drinking Water levels are based on no more than 4 millirems a year exposure from drinking water; the proposed water PAGs would allow 500 millirems a year with no notice, and no action to limit exposure to adults. This difference protects the government and industry from any liability from massively increased health consequences.

Although EPA for the first time ever admits that those under 15 years of age are at greater risk than adults the draft PAG only pays lip-service to considering a lower level which is still enormously higher than current water limits. This is in addition to rest of EPA PAGs, which allow even more exposure from air and food.

Call in to learn more about this federal guidance and how to help stop it.
http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5502/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=81984

Thanks for all you do,

Mary Olson, Southeast Office Director

Stay Informed:

NIRS on the web: http://www.nirs.org

http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5502/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1367594

Knock, knock, is anyone home at the EPA?

The Bridgeton/West Lake Superfund site is a radioactive disaster adjoining St. Louis, Missouri.

From Center for Health, Environment & Justice

February 15, 2016

EPA has gone dark. McCarthy is awaiting the end of her term and no one is protecting the American citizens or our environment.

It is outrageous that Administrator Gina McCarthy refuses to acknowledge the citizens living near the Bridgeton/West Lake Superfund site. What is wrong with her? Just Moms STL wrote a letter requesting a meeting in May of 2015 and never even received an acknowledgement that they asked for a meeting. They traveled to Washington, DC anyway in hopes of seeing McCarthy after their federal delegation of senators and congress representatives sent a letter to encourage McCarthy to meet with them. The community received nothing from the office of the Administrator. Not a call, a letter or even an e-mail saying she had a prior commitment or was on travel.

A second letter was sent this past fall to say the community leaders are planning to travel to Washington, D.C. in February and would she please meet with them to discuss the Superfund site which has been mismanaged by her regional staff. Again there was silence. I personally called every day but one in the month of January and February leading up to the date that local people were traveling to D.C. On many occasions when I called, all I received was a voice mail message that asked me to leave a message and someone would get back to me. I left message after message and no one, not a single person from the agency returned my call.

On a few occasions I actually talked to a woman who answered the phone. She was courteous and respectful and always promised to deliver the message to scheduling department. “Someone will call you back soon.” But no one ever called. The citizens living around the site began a telephone campaign to McCarthy’s office. It was only a week until they travel to D.C. and no one provided an answer if McCarthy would meet or not. The community sold cupcakes, brownies, t-shirts, and worked hard to raise the funds to visit D.C. and meet with the Administrator to explain what was going on from their perspective.

With a slim chance of meeting with McCarthy, now two years since their first request for a meeting was made, they climbed on a plane and came to D.C. While there they met with their congressional delegation, allies in the field but never had a meeting with McCarthy. Also they were never denied a meeting; it was deafeningly silent. My goodness if the answer is “NO” then say so. To say nothing is irresponsible, inexcusable and further victimizing the victims.

I stood outside of McCarthy’s office at 9 a.m. the last day of the groups visit. From the sidewalk I called her office and explained that local leaders are downstairs and waiting for a response from McCarthy before they need to leave for the airport. The public relations office sent down a two young people to receive the letter the community had for McCarthy, outlining their concerns. They apologized that McCarthy wasn’t available to meet. She couldn’t have told the citizens before they left St. Louis that she couldn’t meet? It is not a big request to ask for a simple yes or no of availability.

My take away . . . fire McCarthy. My tax dollars should not be spent on someone who works in government and ignores the citizens of the United States. All she had to do on both occasions is say I’m sorry I’ve got a previous engagement. Common courtesy should be a requirement of federal employment.

http://chej.org/2016/02/knock-knock-is-anyone-home-at-epa/

– Obama approved raising permissible levels of nuclear radiation in drinking water. Civilian cancer deaths expected to skyrocket

PEER — Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility — is an exceptional organization. It protects whistleblowers and facilitates the release of government agency documents related to the public welfare and safety. They are heroes, operate on a shoestring budget, and are well worth financially supporting.

This information is from 2013 but very timely. Most people don’t know about this decision.

Global Research, September 19, 2014
Peer.org 14 April 2013
Rollback in Nuclear Radiation Cleanup

by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

The White House has given final approval for dramatically raising permissible radioactive levels in drinking water and soil following “radiological incidents,” such as nuclear power-plant accidents and dirty bombs. The final version, slated for Federal Register publication as soon as today, is a win for the nuclear industry which seeks what its proponents call a “new normal” for radiation exposure among the U.S population, according Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, the radiation guides (called Protective Action Guides or PAGs) allow cleanup many times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted. These guides govern evacuations, shelter-in-place orders, food restrictions and other actions following a wide range of “radiological emergencies.” The Obama administration blocked a version of these PAGs from going into effect during its first days in office. The version given approval late last Friday is substantially similar to those proposed under Bush but duck some of the most controversial aspects:

In soil, the PAGs allow long-term public exposure to radiation in amounts as high as 2,000 millirems. This would, in effect, increase a longstanding 1 in 10,000 person cancer rate to a rate of 1 in 23 persons exposed over a 30-year period;

  • In water, the PAGs punt on an exact new standard and EPA “continues to seek input on this.” But the thrust of the PAGs is to give on-site authorities much greater “flexibility” in setting aside established limits; and
  • Resolves an internal fight inside EPA between nuclear versus public health specialists in favor of the former. The PAGs are the product of Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator for air and radiation whose nomination to serve as EPA Administrator is taken up this week by the Senate.
  • Despite the years-long internal fight, this is the first public official display of these guides. This takes place as Japan grapples with these same issues in the two years following its Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“This is a public health policy only Dr. Strangelove could embrace. If this typifies the environmental leadership we can expect from Ms. McCarthy, then EPA is in for a long, dirty slog,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the EPA package lacks a cogent rationale, is largely impenetrable and hinges on a series of euphemistic “weasel words.”

“No compelling justification is offered for increasing the cancer deaths of Americans innocently exposed to corporate miscalculations several hundred-fold.”

Reportedly, the PAGs had been approved last fall but their publication was held until after the presidential election. The rationale for timing their release right before McCarthy’s confirmation hearing is unclear.

Since the PAGs guide agency decision-making and do not formally set standards or repeal statutory requirements, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and Superfund, they will go into full effect following a short public comment period. Nonetheless, the PAGs will likely determine what actions take place on the ground in the days, weeks, months and, in some cases, years following a radiological emergency.

Copyright Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) 2014

EPA radiation readings in US states

This is the EPA page with links to each state’s official EPA data.
http://www2.epa.gov/radnet/near-real-time-and-laboratory-data-state

Be aware that readings are only for gamma radiation, not for beta or alpha.

Also, EPA readings can be significantly less than independent readings; EPA even says: “EPA posts monitoring results after checking to ensure they meet quality standards”. How much do they fudge the data?

There are sometimes flat lines or gaps in data. Members of the public who monitor radiation say that these gaps often occur when radiation readings are rising. Taking rad monitors offline means the public has no way of knowing how high these spikes are.

 

 

U.S. utility regulators recommend nuclear power as clean and asks EPA to incentivize nuclear reactor construction

Today the professional association of public utility regulators in the U.S. — the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) – approved several resolutions during their annual conference in San Francisco.
http://www.naruc.org/Resolutions/14%201119%20NARUC%20Board%20Substantive%20Resolutions%20Packet.pdf

One of these resolutions is about nuclear power. This resolution advances the interests of the nuclear power industry.

Astonishingly, it states

“In the absence of a public safety or environmental concern, the premature shutdown of these valuable assets may cause economic, social, reliability and environmental harm to families and businesses”.

The public utility commissioners ignored all the safety issues and problems from these plants. That is shocking. Was the accelerating Fukushima disaster even mentioned in their deliberations? What about the harm from not shutting down these plants and from the new ones they plan to build?

This resolution, directed to the Environmental Protection Agency, now represents the official position of the utility regulatory commissions in the United States.

For more information on this conference, here is the conference schedule of workshops and presenters
http://www.narucmeetings.org/MeetingPrograms/2014AnnualProgram.pdf
and the list of attendees
http://annual.narucmeetings.org/registrants.cfm?orderby=3

Though these are state officials supposedly working for the public, the conference is almost exclusively a conference of the commissions and the industry.

For an article on this conference –
http://smartmeterharm.org/2014/11/16/u-s-public-utility-regulators-in-san-francisco-nov-15-19-for-annual-conference-with-industry/

Note: “Baseload power” is an energy industry term for energy that is dependable and constant “all-the-time-on” power. Currently, that comes from coal, natural gas, nuclear, oil. To flip on a light switch and have the light always turn on requires baseload power. Wind and solar power are not baseload, because they are variable and undependable.

EL-1 Resolution Recognizing the Importance of Nuclear Power in Meeting Greenhouse Gas Goals

WHEREAS, Reliable, clean and affordable electricity is vital to local, State, and national economic growth, jobs, and the overall interests of citizens; and

WHEREAS, As demonstrated during the Polar Vortex of 2014, maintaining reliability and fuel diversity; while ensuring compliance with proposed carbon reduction rules, are common challenges for our States and we jointly recognize the need to maintain the existing, baseload nuclear generation fleet; and

WHEREAS, Nuclear power plants provide approximately 20% of the nation’s total electricity generation, and can provide carbon-free electricity for decades into the future; and

WHEREAS, On June 2, 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued proposed regulations for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan, in which EPA identified the avoidance of the retirement of existing nuclear capacity as one of the “best system of emission reduction” (BSER) methods;[i]1and

WHEREAS, EPA states in its proposed regulations that policies “that…discourage premature retirement of nuclear capacity could be useful elements of GHG reduction strategies and are consistent with current industry behavior;” [ii] and

WHEREAS, Nuclear energy has played a substantial role in the achievement of existing GHG State or regional emission reduction goals to date, and continued operation of nuclear power plants is vital to States’ ability to economically meet new federal regulations, and provides an essential tool to manage risks associated with potential GHG emissions reduction requirements; and

WHEREAS, In the absence of a public safety or environmental concern, the premature shutdown of these valuable assets may cause economic, social, reliability and environmental harm to families and businesses; and

WHEREAS, The United States Department of Energy, grid operators, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) commissioners have cautioned that the premature shutdown of nuclear power plants could jeopardize both the nation’s electric reliability and the ability to timely address climate change; and

WHEREAS, The EPA’s proposed GHG regulations for existing power plants would lower a State’s allowed GHG emissions rate by counting approximately 6 percent of its nuclear capacity as being “at risk” and including this zero-carbon energy in the goal-setting formula, leading to lower (more stringent) emission rate targets for States that have nuclear power plants; and

WHEREAS, The EPA’s proposed rule treats new nuclear power plants under construction as though they are already operating, and uses their output in the rate-setting formula, which drives down the States’ emission rate goals, and

WHEREAS, State commission actions to approve the uprating of existing nuclear power plants or the siting of new nuclear power plants have and will play a substantial role in GHG emissions reduction goals; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, convened at its 126th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, urges the EPA, to the extent it regulates carbon from existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, to adopt final GHG rules and regulations that: 1) will encourage States to preserve, life-extend, and expand existing nuclear generation; and 2) remove the generic approximately 6 percent at-risk nuclear and nuclear under construction from the calculation of State-specific emissions targets; and be it further

RESOLVED, That, to the extent the EPA regulates carbon from existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, that States may include in compliance plans and thus receive emissions credit related to all output of new nuclear capacity (including uprates of existing plants) that begins operating after the issuance date of the proposed rule.

________________________________

Sponsored by the Committee on Electricity

Recommended by the NARUC Board of Directors November 18, 2014

Adopted by the NARUC Committee of the Whole November 19, 2014

 

[i] ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, 40 CFR Part 60, [EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602; RIN 2060-AR33, Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, June 2, 2014, at p. 114.

 

[ii] Id., at p. 151-152