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writing for godot

An Illinoisan Responds to Bloomberg about Nuclear Waste Dumps

Written by Dave Kraft   
Monday, 28 October 2013 15:38
“The sky is blue. Water is wet. ‘Illinois Biggest Atomic Dump’”
– says Bloomberg Press
Dave Kraft, Director, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), Chicago

An article in the Bloomberg Press of Oct. 25, 2013 titled “Illinois Biggest Atomic Dump as U.S. Fails to Pick Site,” has received a lot of media attention today. While it should be and is appreciated that Bloomberg writes about radioactive waste issues at all, the article in reality is a lot like one about the sky being blue, or water being wet.

With 14 reactors total, and 11 constantly producing more high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the form of irradiated or “spent” fuel, as it is called, it’s no wonder we’ve accumulated over 9,000 tons of the nation’s HLRW in Illinois.

The real “story” of the story, though, seems to be to create a perceived “need” for what the nuclear industry, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and their political allies in Congress and the Obama Administration really want next – “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities for the HLRW.

These allegedly temporary storage sites – “parking lot dumps,” as some describe them -- are proposed in legislation before the Senate (S.1240). Their purpose is to take and store the spent fuel from reactor sites until some magical time in the future when the nation finally opens a permanent, deep-geological disposal repository. By creating a seeming urgency and need to act, however impulsively, the industry and its allies are creating the narrative to accept the only alternative out there – the one they propose and support, which is CIS. Rather than having a needed intelligent debate and real scientific examination of options involving all affected segments of the population, the industry and its allies hope to project CIS as an inevitable fait accompli.

Being from Illinois we've been saying for decades: if you don't have a permanent disposal site, you should not be allowed to make more waste. We didn’t allow the builders of the John Hancock Building and the former Sear’s Tower to construct those skyscrapers without bathrooms. Yet, the NRC allowed and allows the nuclear industry to do just that – operate and produce even more waste without the existence of a certified disposal facility.

For 30 years we’ve supported the need to construct a permanent, deep geologic disposal repository, but our position requiring the prior existence of a waste solution and disposal facility was ignored. But now when Everett Redmond and others from the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI, the nuclear industry trade and lobbying group) cry crocodile tears, it's an "emergency," requiring extraordinary and imprudent measures like "centralized interim storage" (CIS) facilities? That's nonsense!

We need a high-level radioactive waste RE-pository, not a SUP-pository. The only purpose served by CIS is to allow more high-level waste to be created without guaranteeing a final disposal solution. It’s a nuclear industry convenience, not a societal or environmental need.

What the Bloomberg article has conveniently left out is that Illinois is at the top of the list for the first of such CIS facilities, according to a 2012 report from Oak Ridge National Lab. The construction of CIS in Illinois would add an additional 9,000+ tons of spent fuel for storage here to the 9,000+ tons we already have.

We have reported this situation to Senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk. While their staffs have dutifully received our warning, the Senators and the rest of the Illinois delegation has dealt with our information with a thunderous round of indifference.

The nuclear industry, with NEI leading the charge clamored loud and long for dry casks in the 1980s. NRC typically rubber stamped their implementation at reactor sites, while conveniently ignoring their own criteria and regs at the time. BOTH claimed then that dry casks were needed, and could safely store wastes for up to 100 years onsite. So, what has made dry cask storage suddenly so "unsafe" as to require their removal to CIS facilities? At which time were they lying to the public and Congress, then? or now?

According to a paper that geologist and now NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane gave in Illinois in 2005, Yucca Mt. FAILS two of the four international safety standards for the siting of a high-level waste repository. THAT does not sound like a very good long-term solution to our national radwaste problem Yet members of Congress are asking to open Yucca – anyway.

And now NEI, the industry and their Congressional allies are clamoring for "centralized interim storage" as a temporary fix until we get a permanent disposal repository. This new nonsense only creates MORE contaminated sites, uses the exact same technology -- dry casks -- that the industry is so schizoid about in terms of safety, and introduces the additional hazard of unnecessary waste transportation on a degraded transport infrastructure, while having to move it a second time when we build the permanent disposal facilities. (Yes, we will need more than one).

As for the Blue Ribbon Commission's "concern" about reactor communities not "signing on" or giving consent for indefinite waste storage duty, the nuclear hostages in those reactor communities most certainly did not sign on for 20 year reactor license extensions that NRC passes out like indulgences, nor the 80 year reactor life span extension that NRC is studying at NEI's request. To so use the people of reactors communities already victimized by nuclear power in this manner is simply venal, opportunistic and disingenuous.

On November 12th, the public will have an opportunity to weigh in with its opinions on what to do with HLRW at an NRC public meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois, from 6 to 10 p.m. (see NEIS website Calendar for details). More meetings are schedule at other locations around the nation, and are posted in the NRC's website. This will be a long overdue opportunity for the public to tell the NRC, the nuclear industry, and their political allies what to do about the waste problem, “Not TO, not THROUGH Illinois!” The correct option is – stop making it! And permanently dispose of all you’ve made in a responsible manner! your social media marketing partner
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