Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Globe Flashback: Dumping Nuclear Waste

Sorry it took so long....

"Toxic waste stranded as nuclear plants close" by Catherine Traywick and Mark Chediak Bloomberg News  November 05, 2016

The victory is bittersweet.

The reactors will disappear, but 1,600 metric tons of radioactive waste remain. While some is stacked in steel-lined casks, and the rest is submerged in cooling pools, all of it is trapped in a political and regulatory limbo that keeps it from going anywhere anytime soon. And San Onofre isn’t alone: More than 76,000 metric tons of waste is stranded at dozens of commercial sites, just as the United States approaches a critical mass of nuclear-plant retirements.

‘‘Many were surprised to learn that when the plant is decommissioned, the fuel has nowhere to go,’’ said David Victor, chairman of the San Onofre Community Engagement Panel tasked with overseeing the closure. ‘‘The problem is, nobody is in charge.’’

That means up in Vermont....

Under a 1982 law, the US government, not the utilities, is responsible for disposing of radioactive waste that can take thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of years to degrade. But more than a half-century after nuclear energy powered the first American home, the US Department of Energy still doesn’t have a permanent solution for the waste left behind.

It’s a problem that will only get worse. [The] ‘‘the big wave of retirements really starts coming in around 2030,’’ Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz warned last month at an event in Washington.

Among experts, the nuclear waste debate invariably turns on the fleeting nature of human institutions in dealing with an element that the Environmental Protection Agency has said must be isolated for 10,000 years to protect humans and the environment from toxic radiation.

‘‘The problem with federal agencies is that the management structure changes every few years,’’ said Allison Macfarlane, a former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which licenses and regulates civilian use of radioactive material. ‘‘In hundreds of years, will these institutions be there, will they care, will they pay?’’

That’s one issue. A second is where exactly to put the waste.

Just a thought, but how about you stop making it first? I'd rather take my chances on choking to death on mythical global warming than nuclear anything. Sorry.

The safest thing to do is to bury it deep underground, below the water table, and within a stable rock formation. Congress picked such a site in 1987: a desert ridge in Southern Nevada known as Yucca Mountain. The site abuts a nuclear weapons testing ground where 928 atomic tests were conducted between 1951 and 1992.

Who knows what those blasts (ever see the file footage? You can see a big flash under the earth and then the thing craters a bit. My advice? Don't do that anymore. And who knows? I would imagine that kind of stress can set off reverberations leading to "natural" disasters like earthquakes) did, but beyond no nuke tests, what if the stuff leaks into the water supply?

While a few Nevada counties agreed with the selection, the state government didn’t, and the Yucca solution soon devolved into a decades-long political fight that crossed party lines and spanned presidential administrations. In 2010, President Obama finally scrapped the plan altogether, declaring the site unworkable.

Harry Reid stood in his way.

Moniz, whose agency has primary authority for disposing of the waste, is hoping to overcome the problem, at least for the short term, by using interim storage sites built by the private sector, he testified before Congress in September. Last month, the DOE for the first time began soliciting public comments on that proposal.

(Blog editor smirks; which well-connected corporation got those contracts?)

But plans for two private facilities are already facing flak.

They mention Dallas, Texas.

Allowing an interim site ‘‘lets the utilities off the hook,’’ making them less inclined to push for a permanent solution, said Mindy Goldstein, an Emory University law professor who coauthored the letter. Another concern: ‘‘Private owners will be cutting costs at every turn to maximize profits,’’ said Tom Smith, director of the Texas office for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group....


UPDATENew Mexico OKs reopening troubled nuclear dump