California: 1st Nation tribes not included in San Onofre nuclear waste consultation (VIDEO)

From the Ecological Options Network

Why No Tribal Voices on San Onofre Waste?

Published on May 28, 2017

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.

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— Canada: They want to bury nuclear waste next to the Ottawa River

For more information:

https://physiciansfortheenvironment.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/chalk-river-un-projet-tres-inquietant-a-project-of-great-concern/

——————————————

To: Hon. Catherine McKenna, MP
 <Catherine.McKenna(at)parl.gc.ca>
Date: Wed, May 17, 2017 at 8:31 AM
Subject: Near Surface Disposal Project – your urgent attention required

Dear Ms. McKenna,

We are writing to express our growing concerns about the proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) at Chalk River, Ontario. We request your urgent attention and efforts along with those of your cabinet colleagues to put a stop to the NSDF Project.

It has become very clear that the landfill type technology proposed for this project is entirely inappropriate and flouts the International Atomic Energy Agency safety standard (IAEA safety standard SSR-5 Disposal of Radioactive Waste, Section 1.14) on how to manage radioactive wastes. This international standard states that landfills can only be used for “Very Low Level” radioactive wastes, such that the wastes decay to a harmless state before the liners and covers break down. The international consortium now running AECL, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), is proposing to place one million cubic meters of “Low Level” and “Intermediate Level” radioactive waste in the NSDF landfill.  No mention is made in the proponent’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of “Very Low Level” radioactive wastes, the only classification of radioactive waste that would be considered suitable for disposal in a landfill by the IAEA.

The proponent’s EIS clearly states their intention to dispose of ALL of the radioactive wastes from decommissioning at the Chalk River facility and Whiteshell Labs in Manitoba in the NSDF landfill. This includes many highly-toxic and long-lived radionuclides that will be hazardous for thousands of years. The relevant section of the EIS may be viewed (here). Some of these radioactive wastes are also mixed with toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic; and with persistent organic pollutants such as dioxin and PCBs. To propose to dispose of and ultimately abandon such materials in a landfill beside the Ottawa River is brazen and scientifically indefensible.

This proposal should never have reached the Environmental Assessment stage given that from the outset it clearly proposed to violate IAEA standards on management of radioactive waste. Canada’s gutted Environmental Assessment process and Canada’s policy vacuum on the long-term management of non-fuel radioactive wastes are two factors contributing to this potential debacle, which have negative implications for all projects involving the governance of radioactive waste in Canada. We are preparing a petition to the Auditor General that will request an investigation into these and other problems that have allowed this colossal waste of taxpayer dollars to get as far as it has.

Our group is actively participating in the flawed Environmental Assessment process for this project. Our comments on the initial and revised project descriptions are posted on the CEAA website and we recently submitted a detailed list of serious deficiencies in the EIS for the project.

We note that CNL and CNSC officials have signed an “Administrative Protocol” with an Appendix that includes several “federal review” phases.  We request that you ensure that officials in your department are reviewing this project, that you provide them with this letter, and ask them to inform you about the review comments that they have provided or will be providing to CNSC.

In case you are not already aware, Bloc Quebecois Leader, Martine Ouellet, recently gave an excellent speech on the threat posed by the NSDF to Quebecers. Here is a link to her speech to the Quebec National Assembly’s Commission des Transports et de l’Environnement on May 3, 2017.

The NSDF must be stopped or, at minimum, be put on hold until Canada’s Environmental Assessment Process can be repaired according to the recommendations in the Report of the Expert Panel, which recommends sole decision making authority not reside with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on projects such as this. We would be happy to meet with you to provide any additional information that you require in order to take appropriate action.

Yours sincerely,

Lynn Jones

Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

https://sites.google.com/site/concernedcitizensrca/

cc:

Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources

Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader

Tom Mulcair, NDP Leader

Rona Ambrose, Conservative Party Leader

Linda Duncan, NDP Environment Critic

Martine Ouellet, Bloc Quebecois Leader

Monique Pauze, Bloc Environment Critic

Ed Fast, Conservative Environment Critic

Stéphane Bergeron, MNA for Verchères

David McGuinty, MP for Ottawa South

Will Amos, MP for Pontiac

Cheryl Gallant, MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke

Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa

Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal

Marc Demers, Mayor of Laval

Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, Mayor of Gatineau

Bob Sweet, Mayor of Petawawa

Joan Lougheed, Mayor of Deep River

Mike LeMay, Mayor of Pembroke

Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario

Phillippe Couillard, Premier of Quebec

Jennifer Murphy, Warden of Renfrew County

Raymond Durocher, Warden of Pontiac County

Julie Gelfand, Environment Commissioner, Office of the Auditor-General

— Japan alert: May-June symposiums to reveal maps of proposed nuclear waste dumps

Many half-truths and untruths in this article.

“Robust containers” — really? Sounds like an advert. No mention of manufacturer. Also the thickness of the containers is conspicuously missing.  Also, are these single-walled or double-walled?

Selection will be based on “scientific grounds rather than waiting for municipalities to volunteer”. In other words, these waste storage sites will be forced on communities.

The most hilarious statement is that these facilities will be in stable bedrock. Where does that exist in Japan, a country on the Ring of Fire, with earthquakes and volcanoes?

On what basis is the claim that radioactivity will be reduced to 1/1000 in 1000 years? On which radioactive element is the government and the news media basing this claim, and what about all the other radioactive elements?

There’s enough scary information — 1,500 sieverts per hour from these containers — to make any sane person ask, “What are we doing creating and increasing this lethal nightmare every single day?” 

But then sanity was never part of nuclear energy’s scheme.

From Japan Times

Government to release map of potential final nuclear disposal sites this summer

May 2, 2017

The government has set the criteria for a map meant to identify potential final disposal sites for high-level radioactive nuclear waste, paving the way for its release as early as this summer.

The process of finding a host for nuclear waste could face challenges amid public concerns over safety.

Based on the map, the government will approach select municipalities to allow research to be conducted for suitable sites to store waste from nuclear power generation.

For permanent disposal, high-level nuclear waste needs to be stored at a final depository more than 300 meters underground for up to about 100,000 years until radiation levels fall and there is no longer potential harm to humans and the environment.

The government plans to create a permanent underground repository somewhere in stable bedrock so the canisters can be stored for tens of thousands of years.

The map is likely to classify which areas are geologically suitable for such a structure to be built deep enough underground. This would rule out areas near active faults and volcanoes as well as oil and coal fields.

Based on waste transport criteria, the map is likely to show that zones within 20 km of the coastline are favorable to host final disposal sites.

The government hopes other municipalities — not just the ones located near nuclear power plants — may also become interested in hosting the disposal facilities. It also wants to show that a variety of places nationwide are suitable for nuclear waste management.

The map was originally planned for a 2016 release but the publication date was later postponed, as some local governments were wary that disposal sites would be imposed on them.

About 18,000 tons of spent fuel currently exist in Japan. Including spent fuel that has already been reprocessed, the country’s total jumps to about 25,000 canisters of vitrified high-level waste, all of which needs to be managed.

The process to find local governments willing to host final storage started in 2002, but little progress was made due mainly to opposition from local residents.

In May 2015, the central government introduced a plan announcing that final depository site selection would be based on scientific grounds, rather than waiting for municipalities to volunteer.

Before presenting the map, the government will hold symposiums between mid-May and June at nine cities to explain the map criteria to the public. The cities include Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka.

Radioactive waste is classified into two categories: The high-level type is generated from reprocessing spent fuel by separating the plutonium and uranium for recycling, while the low level type refers to all other waste.

High-level waste is a byproduct of fission in the reactor core, which is very hot and dangerous. It is mixed with glass and solidified before being placed in robust heat-resistant stainless steel canisters that are 130 cm high, 40 cm in diameter and weigh 500 kg each.

A full canister emits about 1,500 sieverts per hour — an extremely lethal biological level — and has a surface temperature in excess of 200 degrees.

Its radioactivity starts at 20,000 trillion becquerels. It will take about 1,000 years to fall to one-thousandth of that level, and tens of thousands of years to weaken to the same intensity as natural uranium ore, the Natural Resources and Energy Agency says.

Worldwide, only Finland and Sweden have been able to successfully decide on a final depository site for nuclear waste, while many other countries with nuclear plants face difficulties in doing so.

The United States decided in 2009 to call off a plan to build a site to dispose spent fuel in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain due to local opposition, but President Donald Trump earmarked funds to revive the plan in the budget proposal for fiscal 2018 unveiled in March.

In Japan, the selection process is also a touchy issue and has triggered conflicts in the communities around which prospective depository sites have been considered.

In one example, Minamiosumi Mayor Toshihiko Morita in Kagoshima Prefecture filed a criminal complaint against a 65-year-old resident for libel, claiming that his allegations that the rural town office had been actively inviting such a facility was not only groundless but also defamation.

The resident handed out flyers to about 500 households in the town in January which said Morita went to Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, and Horonobe in Hokkaido at the invitation of the private sector involved in the construction of nuclear waste disposal facilities. Both municipalities host nuclear-related facilities.

Morita flatly denied the allegations, telling Kyodo News in writing that he has heard “rumors” that there have been moves aimed at hosting a nuclear waste disposal facility but “I myself haven’t gone anywhere and been treated to anything.”

“I would reject any request from the central government” to host one, Morita said. The town approved an ordinance to reject a plan to host a nuclear waste disposal facility the year after the 2011 nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

A supporter of the mayor, however, did visit nuclear-related facilities in locations including Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, several years ago, according to the supporter’s admission, and a Tokyo company covered the expenses of the trip.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/02/national/government-release-map-potential-final-nuclear-disposal-sites-summer/#.WQ11pfnysnQ

Posted under Fair Use Rules.

— “Interim” parking lot dump for 50% of U.S. nuclear waste in Andrews, Texas? NRC public scoping hearing February 23; attend and comment — in person, by phone, by webinar, by email

From Beyond Nuclear

February 8, 2017

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has, at long last, published the announcement for its quickly approaching HQ meeting, at its Rockville, MD HQ, re: WCS, TX’s environmental scoping public comment opportunity, to be held on Thursday, February 23, 2017. Please attend in person if you can, or by Webcast/Teleconference Call-In. Please pre-register in advance to make oral public comments for the official record, raising various concerns in opposition to WCS’s application.

NRC’s announcement is posted at: https://www.nrc.gov/pmns/mtg?do=search.results&pageno=1&StartDate=2/23/2017&EndDate=2/23/2017

Here are those details and additional links:

Date/Time: 02/23/17, 1:00PM – 4:00PM

Purpose:

To conduct a public scoping meeting for the NRC’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Waste Control Specialist LLC (WCS) license application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel at the WCS site in Andrews County, Texas. At the meeting, the NRC will receive comments from the public on the appropriate scope of issues to be considered in, and the content of the EIS. [more…]

Participation: Category 3

Teleconference/Webcast

[Here is the Webinar info.:

Webinar

Webinar Link:https://video.nrc.gov/
Webinar Meeting Number:None
Webinar Password:None

Here is the teleconference/call-in info.:

Teleconference

Bridge Number: 8006199084
Passcode: 3009542]

[Yes, comments can be submitted orally via the Webcast/Call-in options. Please sign up in advance — see below — and do make comments!]

Location [yes, in person attendance is an option, and oral comments can be made there]:


NRC One White Flint North
11545 Rockville Pike
Commission Hearing Room
Rockville MD

NRC Contacts:

James Park
301-415-6954

Debbie Miller
301-415-7359

From NRC’s Public Meeting Schedule: Meeting Details link: https://www.nrc.gov/pmns/mtg?do=details&Code=20170198

Members of the public who will attend the meeting in person, and those wishing to present oral comments [via Webcast and/or teleconference/call-in] may register in advance by contacting Mrs. Debra Miller at (301) 415-7359, or by email to Debra.Miller@nrc.gov, no later than February 21, 2017. Those comments may be limited by the time available, depending on the number of persons who wish to speak. Please provide name and company or organization for each attendee. Arrive 30 minutes early to allow time for security registration.

[Please see entries below, for more background details and links to additional information. Please attend by watching the webcast and/or calling in. Please sign up to make comments at the meeting. Additional written comments can be made until March 13th. Legal intervention deadline is March 31st (or forever hold your peace). See entries below for links to more info.

See http://www.beyondnuclear.org/centralized-storage/

http://www.beyondnuclear.org/centralized-storage/2017/2/8/nrc-environmental-scoping-mtg-for-public-comment-on-wcs-tx-c.html

— Toshiba to withdraw from nuclear plant construction, chairman to quit

Comments from Beyond Nuclear below.

From Japan Times

January 28, 2017

Toshiba Corp. will cease taking orders related to the building of nuclear power stations, sources said Saturday, in a move that would effectively mark its withdrawal from the nuclear plant construction business.

The news comes amid reports Toshiba’s chairman may resign over the massive write-down that has doomed the company’s U.S. nuclear business.

The multinational conglomerate said Friday it will review its nuclear operations and spin off its chip business to raise funds in a bid to cover an expected asset impairment loss of up to ¥700 billion ($6.08 billion).

After Toshiba ceases taking new orders, it will focus on maintenance and decommissioning operations, according to the sources.

The company will continue work on four nuclear plants under construction in the United States that are expected to be completed by 2020.

The Japanese industrial conglomerate may announce company chairman Shigenori Shiga’s resignation as soon as Feb. 14, when it reports its April-December financial results, the sources also said.

Shiga once served as president of the U.S. nuclear unit, Westinghouse Electric Co., which Toshiba has said could face a multibillion-dollar loss due to cost overruns from delays in plant projects.

The post of Toshiba chairman is expected to remain vacant after Shiga’s resignation.

Westinghouse Chairman Danny Roderick is also set to step down, the sources said, but Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa is likely to stay on.

Shiga, Roderick and Tsunakawa took their current posts last June as Toshiba reshuffled its management following an accounting scandal that surfaced in 2015.

Shiga was the vice president in charge of the power systems business when Westinghouse acquired CB&I Stone & Webster in late 2015. CB&I Stone & Webster is the U.S. nuclear plant construction firm at the heart of Toshiba’s massive write-down problem.

Comment on article:

Does this mean that Toshiba will scrap plans for the “biggest nuclear development in Europe” in Cumbria, UK.? TOshiba have already damaged 1500 acres of greenfield and floodplain in Cumbria. Toshiba are right now dumping radioactive wastes from 300 boreholes (which have brought up decades of deep contamination from Sellafield) into the river Ehen. What about Toshibas nuclear fuel manufacturing at Springfields in Preston …how reassuring (not) to have this financially broken company running a nuclear fuel manufacturing plant which dumps radioactive waste into landfill on the site and to nearby Clifton Marsh. Springfields also has a “discharge” pipeline direct to the river Ribble. There is no spotlight shone on Springfields Toshiba activities…despite the worlds first nuclear fuel manufacturing plant providing nuclear fuel for nuclear catastrophes such as the Windscale Fire. #StopMoorside

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/28/business/corporate-business/toshiba-chairman-resign-struggling-u-s-nuclear-business#.WJPMslMrInS

Posted under Fair Use Rules.

From Beyond Nuclear:

…Toshiba will suffer an estimated $6 billion loss due to its uneconomic nuclear business and is looking to offload Westinghouse, its U.S. subsidiary. The company turmoil could throw a welcome wrench into the proposed new reactor at Moorside in the U.K., a nation whose nuclear problems are compounded by its exit of Euratom as part of the Brexit deal. Toshiba says its 4 Westinghouse AP-1000 reactor projects underway in Georgia and South Carolina will continue although the Vogtle project (pictured) is at least three years behind schedule and more than $3 billion over budget. And with the Trump administration threatening to weaken already inadequate federal regulations, Toshiba is seizing the opportunity to blame its financial woes on what it calls “stricter safety standards in the U.S.” Our mandate will now mean not only insisting on the enforcement of existing regulations, but likely a fight to block them from being gutted.

http://www.beyondnuclear.org

— 1 meter tsunami at Fukushima reactors; cooling system at Fukushima Daini failed; fears of nuclear waste leakage; more quakes possible

From ENE News
November 21, 2016

Kyodo News, Nov 22, 2016 (emphasis added):  BREAKING NEWS: 1 meter tsunami observed at Fukushima reactors… URGENT: M7.3 quake hits northeastern Japan, tsunami warning issued

NHK, Nov 22, 2016: [Officials] are urging residents of coastal areas to evacuate to higher ground following a powerful earthquake… The Japan Meteorological Agency says the magnitude 7.4 earthquake hit off Fukushima … Heavy swaying could be felt as far away as [Tokyo]…

Japan Times, Nov 22, 2016: An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture rocked widespread areas early Tuesday, triggering tsunami warnings… People have been warned to evacuate immediately to high ground in Fukushima…

NHK, Nov 22, 2016: [An] official Koji Nakamura spoke with reporters after an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.4 struck off the coast of Fukushima… Nakamura said tsunami waves are being observed in various coastal areas, and that damage could occur… He urged residents to flee… Nakamura also warned that another quake of a similar scale could occur within a week, which may also generate a tsunami.

Guardian, Nov 21, 2016: Fukushima: tsunami waves arrive after 7.4 magnitude earthquake… A 60cm (2ft) tsunami was observed at Fukushima’s Onahama Port and a 90cm (3ft) tsunami at Soma… A spokesman for [JMA said] that the tide level was still rising… the Fukushima Daini Reactor 3 cooling system had stopped operating

Bloomberg, Nov 21, 2016: NHK warned bigger tsunami waves could hit the coast. Workers at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant… were evacuated

The Australian, Nov 22, 2016: [The JMA] has just upgraded it to a 7.4… cooling equipment for the spent nuclear fuel pool in the reactor No. 3 of Tepco’s Fukushima No. 2 power plant has stopped‘Please flee immediately’ — An announcer on public broadcaster NHK is urging residents along the coast to move to high ground. “Please flee immediately,” the male voice says, with great urgency… So far, several tsunami waves, the biggest measuring 90 centimetres (three feet) have hit… [JMA says] waves have been “observed offshore and therefore are expected to be higher by the time of arrival in coastal areas’’… Footage of Japanese television appears to show rapid movement of water on the coast. [Tepco] is checking its nuclear plants in Fukushima for damage… Television footage showed ships moving out to sea from Fukushima harbours.

Sydney Morning Herald, Nov 22, 2016: A series of tsunami waves have been observed along the coastline… 60-centimetre tsunami was observed at the Port of Onahama, at Iwaki, Fukushima. NHK said back-wash has been reported at the port, as the sea level decreases for the approach of a tsunami. The second and third waves of the tsunami are likely to be higherthan the first wave, NHK reported. Tsunami waves may reach their maximum height a few hours or more after the initial wave, JMA said.

Yahoo News, Nov 22, 2016: ‘Evacuate immediately’: Tsunami warnings after 7.3 quake hits Japan… A surge about 90 centimetres high was reported at Soma about an hour after the quake. A wave of about 60cm has been recorded at Fukushima, with more expected. Residents near the Fukushima coast have been told to leave. Emergency broadcasters in Japan are warning of a wave of up to three metres, and possibly higher.

KQED, Nov 21, 2016: A major earthquake [has] triggered tsunamis… [JMA] has reported tsunami waves as high as 1.4 meters — about 4 feet — so far.

The Mirror, Nov 21, 2016: Cooling systems at nuclear reactor have FAILED… The breakdown at the Daini plant has sparked fears nuclear waste may leak

RT, Nov 21, 2016: According to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency the cooling system servicing the Unit 3 spent fuel pool is not able to circulate water to cool the nuclear fuel… the system might have been “shaken” during the earthquake, according to nuclear agency officials…

NHK, Nov 22, 2016: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government will do all it can to deal with the effects of a powerful earthquake that struck on Tuesday… He also instructed officials to grasp the extent of the damage and to do their utmost to respond to the disaster.

Watch broadcasts: NHK | Yahoo | Guardian

http://enenews.com/urgent-emergency-at-fukushima-after-rocked-by-m7-4-quake-tsunami-wave-hits-destroyed-nuclear-plants-cooling-systems-at-reactor-failed-prime-minister-we-must-grasp-extent-of-damage-ex

 

— Germany: “Nightmare” problems with nuclear waste causes public distrust in disposal plan

“There were people who said it wasn’t a good idea to put radioactive waste down here, but nobody listened to them.”
Annette Parlitz, spokeswoman, Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS).

From New Scientist

By Fred Pearce in Asse, Germany
January 29, 2016

Major problems at a salt mine where 126,000 drums of radioactive debris are stored are fuelling public distrust of long-term waste disposal plans, reports Fred Pearce from Asse, Germany

Half a kilometre beneath the forests of northern Germany, in an old salt mine, a nightmare is playing out.

A scheme to dig up previously buried nuclear waste is threatening to wreck public support for Germany’s efforts to make a safe transition to a non-nuclear future.

Enough plutonium-bearing radioactive waste is stored here to fill 20 Olympic swimming pools. When engineers backfilled the chambers containing 126,000 drums in the 1970s, they thought they had put it out of harm’s way forever.

But now, the walls of the Asse mine are collapsing and cracks forming, thanks to pressure from surrounding rocks. So the race is on to dig it all up before radioactive residues are flushed to the surface.

It could take decades to resolve. In the meantime, excavations needed to extract the drums could cause new collapses and make the problem worse.

“There were people who said it wasn’t a good idea to put radioactive waste down here, but nobody listened to them,” says Annette Parlitz, spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), as we tour the mine.

This is just one part of Germany’s nuclear nightmare. The country is also wrestling a growing backlog of spent fuel.

And it has to worry about vast volumes of radioactive rubble that will be created as all the country’s 17 nuclear plants are decommissioned by 2022 – a decision taken five years ago, in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima disaster. The final bill for decommissioning power plants and getting rid of the waste is estimated to be at least €36 billion.

Some 300,000 cubic metres of low and intermediate-level waste requiring long-term shielding, including what is dug from the Asse mine, is earmarked for final burial at the Konrad iron mine in Lower Saxony.

What will happen to the high-level waste, the spent fuel and other highly radioactive waste that must be kept safe for up to a million years is still debated.

Later this year, a Final Storage Commission of politicians and scientists will advise on criteria for choosing a site where deep burial or long-term storage should be under way by 2050.

But its own chairman, veteran parliamentarian Michael Muller, says that timetable is unlikely to be met. “We all believe deep geology is the best option, but I’m not sure if there is enough [public] trust to get the job done,” he says.

Lack of trust

Many anti-nuclear groups are boycotting the commission.

Although they agree Germany must deal with its own waste, they don’t trust the process of choosing a site. They fear that the authorities are secretly fixed on reviving plans for burial at Gorleben, another Lower Saxony salt dome.

Currently, 113 flasks containing high-level waste are housed in a temporary store there.

One flask of high-level waste contains as much radioactivity as 30 Hiroshima bombs,” says Wolfgang Ehmke, who has been a campaigner for 40 years. “We cannot bury this waste here in northern Germany [because] there could be 10 ice ages, with glaciers scraping away the rocks, before the waste is safe.”

The protesters have wide popular support. And the problems at the Asse salt mine have led to further distrust of engineers and their solutions.

The abandoned mine was bought by the German government in 1965, ostensibly to research the suitability of salt domes for disposing of radioactive waste. Yet after two years, without waiting for scientific reports, the authorities secretly turned it into a cheap and supposedly permanent nuclear dump.

By then, 90 per cent of the mine’s 5 million cubic metres of salt had been excavated, and the mine was already buckling under the weight of the rocks above, says Ingo Bautz of the BfS, who oversees activities at the site.

As the walls bent, cracks formed. And because the miners had dug to within 10 metres of the impervious rock, in 1988, underground water started to trickle in.

The true state of affairs only became public knowledge in 2008. Despite hurried backfilling of much of the mine, the degradation continues. Brine seeps in at a rate of around 12,000 litres a day, threatening to flush radioactive material to the surface. “It is a disastrous situation,” says Jochen Flasbarth, state secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Environment.

Painfully slow

In 2011, the BfS ruled that the waste had to be removed. But the task is hard and likely to take decades. Just checking the state of the 13 chambers holding the waste drums is painfully slow. Engineers drilling to reach them through 20 metres of rock don’t know whether the drums have leaked, and of course they cannot risk a release of radioactivity.

Since work started in 2012, just one borehole has been completed into one of the chambers. Engineers say they will need to sink a second shaft and open up big new galleries where the drums can be made safe before they are retrieved.

But exploratory drilling has revealed that the salt dome is not as big as thought, says Bautz.

And unless care is taken to keep clear of the geological barrier, the excavations risk allowing more water in. “We can’t rule out that the mine could flood,” he says. “If that happened, retrieval would be impossible. We would backfill it all.”

Nothing will be moved until at least 2033, says Bautz. Meanwhile the bills keep rising. It costs €140 million a year just to keep the mine safe for work to continue. The final bill will run into many billions.

Is it worth it? Many experts fear that digging up the drums, with consequent risks of radioactive leaks, could create a much greater hazard than leaving them where they are.

A former top official on the project, geochemist Michael Siemann, told the media in 2012 that safe retrieval was unrealistic. “Many people know this, but no one wants to say it.”

“There could be a conflict between protecting future generations and creating risks for today,” Bautz concedes.

Germany may ultimately perform a service to the world if it can pioneer solutions that other nuclear countries may look to in the future, including the UK, which is struggling with its own waste legacy.

But if Germans ever thought that abandoning nuclear power would end their nuclear problems, they couldn’t have been more wrong.

Read more: Waste away: Nuclear power’s eternal problem

Fred Pearce’s costs during the field trip to the mine were paid for by Clean Energy Wire, an independent non-profit media service.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2075615-radioactive-waste-dogs-germany-despite-abandoning-nuclear-power/

Posted under Fair Use Rules.