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E-M:/ Radioactive waste alert: contact your state officials now

From: Michael Mariotte <nirsnet@nirs.org>

Subject: Radioactive waste alert: contact your state officials now
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2006 17:33:20 -0400

NIRS Action Alert
Stop Mobile Chernobyls and DOE-imposed long-term high-level radioactive waste dumps in every state with atomic reactors
Contact your Governor, State Attorney General, and State Legislators
Urge them to contact U.S. Congressional Leaders and your State?s U.S. Congressional Delegation to oppose the potential federal government?s siting of atomic waste ?parking lot dumps? against your state?s wishes
Contact info. for:
àyour Governor: http://www.firstgov.gov/Contact/Governors.shtml
àyour State Attorney General: http://www.naag.org/ag/full_ag_table.php
àyour State Legislators: http://www.ncsl.org/public/leglinks.cfm (use this website to find your State Representative and State Senator)
Call, write, fax, or email your Governor, Attorney General, State Representative, and State Senator. Urge them to act now to prevent a rush to centralize long-term surface storage of high-level radioactive waste in your State, which could launch risky atomic waste shipments onto the roads, rails, and waterways, undermining safety and security.
Urge your Governor to join with Governors from other States to oppose this attempt by the U.S. Congress to grant DOE authority to site radioactive waste dumps over the objections of state and local governments.

A Rushed, Secretive, and Sweeping Bill

On June 27th, H.R. 5427, the Fiscal Year 2007 U.S. Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, passed the Senate Subcommittee for Energy and Water Appropriations. On June 29th, the bill was passed by the full Appropriations Committee. Section 313 of the bill, entitled ?Consolidation and Preparation? facilities, would empower the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to site 25-year, ?interim? storage sites in each and every state that has nuclear reactors.
            Although governors would be granted a consultative role in the siting process, the Energy Secretary would have final say. A State that refuses to cooperate with the siting of ?interim? storage within its borders faces the specter of DOE designating that State as a regional ?interim? storage site:  commercial irradiated nuclear fuel from multiple surrounding states could then be centralized and ?consolidated? in the ?un-cooperative? state.
            Not only has this very troubling and sweeping change to U.S. radioactive waste policy been inappropriately attached as a rider to a spending bill, it was hatched secretly behind closed doors and passed by the subcommittee and full committee without a hearing or debate. It will likely be added to an omnibus spending bill after the November federal elections, to be voted up or down without amendments by a ?lame duck? Congress.
What Could Happen: DOE-Imposed Long-Term Storage, and Radioactive Russian Roulette on the Roads and Rails
As troubling as the process that led to the bill?s unveiling and passage has been, the content of the bill is even more troubling.
            Although the licenses for these ?interim? storage sites would be for 25 years and would be non-renewable, once waste is moved somewhere, there is a high probability that it will remain there indefinitely into the future. Thus, ?temporary? storage could become long-term or even de facto permanent storage.
            Centralized ?interim? storage, whether carried out state by state or regionally, would lead to hasty, helter-skelter shipments of high-level atomic waste by truck, train, and barge ? possibly through states having no reactors, considering shipments bound for potential multi-state ?regional interim storage? sites. This would multiply ?Mobile Chernobyl? accident risks and ?dirty bombs on wheels? terrorist attack risks, as waste would roll to ?interim? storage sites, but would then have to be transported yet again if and when a permanent national repository was ever opened.
            This flies in the face of recommendations made by the National Academy of Science earlier this year, which advised that before a large-scale transport program is undertaken, significant issues must be addressed, studies carried out, and preparations made on: full-scale crash testing of transport containers; the threat of terrorist attacks upon shipments; the danger of long-duration, high-temperature fires during severe accidents; numerous steps to improve the transparency, safety, and security of DOE?s waste transport plans and policies (see http://www.citizen.org/documents/NASTransportStudy.pdf for more background).

DOE?s Targets for Long-Term Surface Storage

 The following 34 States have either operational and/or shutdown reactors, and thus are eligible to ?host? one or more DOE-imposed ?interim? dumps for commercial irradiated fuel: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. (Michele Boyd at Public Citizen has created a table listing the states with nuclear reactors, where those reactors are located, when their operating licenses expire, and the amount of irradiated nuclear fuel expected by 2046 in each of those states. This document is available upon request from Michele at 202.454.5134 or mboyd@citizen.org, as well as from Kevin Kamps at NIRS at 301.270.6477x14 or kevin@nirs.org.)

Just How Fast This Might Go Down

This bill also establishes very short deadlines for these ?interim? storage sites to be opened. Within just six months of enactment of the legislative language, DOE would publish a report on siting these ?interim? storage sites. Within three months after that report, DOE must designate one or more ?eligible sites? (on any federal land except National Parks, Nat?l Forests, Nat?l Wildlife Refuges, or U.S. BLM land; or, any private land willingly sold to the federal government) for ?interim? storage within each state with nuclear reactors. Just one month after that designation, DOE must submit a license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) seeking permission to open and operate these ?interim? storage sites. After it receives such applications, NRC is allowed only 2 years and 8 months to publish an environmental impact statement on each proposed ?interim? storage site, and to make a licensing decision. Thus, in just three and a half years, centralized, long-term surface storage facilities for high-level radioactive waste could be operating in each state with atomic reactors.

Political Ins and Outs

Senator Harry Reid, Senate Democratic Leader and Ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, helped craft this bill as a way to further oppose the ill-conceived and dangerous Yucca Mountain dump targeted at his State of Nevada. Sen. Reid believes that no governor would designate a new, clean site for interim storage of wastes, but would instead designate the reactor sites themselves, where the waste is already stored. In addition, this bill would transfer title for the waste to DOE, thereby avoiding court-awarded damages ? costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions to billions of dollars ? to nuclear utilities since DOE has failed to ?pick up the garbage? beginning in 1998 as required.
            One flaw in that logic, however, is that as written the legislation would allow the Energy Secretary to override governors? decisions, and open waste dumps over the objections of state and local governments ? even at away-from-reactor sites, if DOE deems that ?feasible and desirable.?
            In addition, Sen. Pete Domenici, Republican Chairman of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee (and also chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee) is a leading booster and advocate for commercial waste reprocessing. Centralized ?interim? storage, whether within states or regions ? and the transportation needed to accomplish it ? would support Sen. Domenici?s scheme to revive reprocessing in the U.S. Also, this FY07 spending bill would approve $10 million to ?promote the development of one or more? consolidation and preparation ?interim? storage facilities that are ?away from civilian nuclear reactors.? Although $10 million is a relatively small amount of money when it comes to national nuclear waste schemes, its exclusive use for away-from-reactor ?interim? storage points to rushing waste onto the roads and rails, rather than keeping it on-site at the reactors where it was generated.
            Sen. Domenici is also a leading advocate for new nuclear reactor construction in the U.S. Another key aspect of H.R. 5427 would declare ?Nuclear Waste Confidence? ? that irradiated nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste will be ?disposed of safely and on a timely basis for the purposes of the [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission?s] decision to grant or amend any license to operate any civilian nuclear power reactor? ? the law of the land. This would effectively block interventions by concerned citizens, environmental organizations, or even State governments that reactor license extensions, and operating licenses for new reactors, make no sense, given the lack of a solution for the nuclear waste problem.
            But Sen. Domenici?s push for statewide or regional ?interim? storage for at least 25 years shows that states hosting new reactors will be stuck with the wastes generated there for a very long time to come. As Michele Boyd at Public Citizen has pointed out, Congress could revoke the Law of Gravity if it wanted to, but of course the reality is, gravity would still apply. Likewise, Congress can declare ?confidence? that a radioactive waste repository will be opened, but the fact remains that ? due to Yucca?s leaky geology -- no scientifically suitable site has been identified. As Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes has put it, ?interim storage? is as much an illusion of a solution to the radioactive waste dilemma as is the Yucca dump itself. Once generated or moved, high-level radioactive waste tends to stay put for many decades into the future.
            Significantly, Sen. Domenici is also a leading proponent of the Yucca Mountain dump, and is still pushing hard to open it in some way, shape or form. He seems to believe that this bill would not do away with the need for Yucca. Rather, it could embolden Yucca dump proponents to declare atomic waste transport safe, and facilitate shipments through the 45 States (and Washington, D.C.) targeted for Yucca-bound shipments (see http://www.ewg.org/reports/nuclearwaste/find_address.php for how close these road and rail routes come to your address).
Further Reading and Resources:
To read H.R. 5427 itself, go to http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_cong_bills&docid=f:h5427rs.pdf . See Section 313, ?Consolidation and Preparation Facilities,? on pages 111 to 122.
Public Citizen?s ?Summary of Nuclear Waste Storage Provisions in the FY2007 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill? is available upon request from Michele Boyd at Public Citizen (202.454.5134 or mboyd@citizen.org) as well as from Kevin Kamps at NIRS (301.270.6477x14 or kevin@nirs.org).
NIRS? comprehensive critique of U.S. radioactive waste policy, with suggested alternative approaches, is at: http://www.nirs.org/mononline/nm643.pdf
Contact Kevin or Michele if you have questions.
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
6930 Carroll Avenue, #340
Takoma Park
, MD 20912
301-270-6477, www.nirs.org