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Nuclear Waste Disposal: Exit Yucca Mountain, Enter Illinois?

Storage Options Limited as National Geologic Repository Is Withdrawn

By Dave Levitan

Mar 18, 2010

Abandoning Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a potential long-term repository for nuclear waste was an Obama campaign promise, and it garnered public support in the state and from opponents of nuclear power everywhere.

Now that the Department of Energy has officially begun the process to , though, it is clear that not everyone shares the same desire to shutter the decades-old project.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, or NARUC, filed a brief with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board earlier this week that proper processes were not followed to withdraw the application. They also argue that billions of dollars of the public’s money has been spent on the project at Yucca Mountain, and abandoning it now is a step in the wrong direction.

“If we don’t go to Yucca Mountain, what do we do?” asked Brian O’Connell, the director of the nuclear waste program office at NARUC. “The answer is, we have the status quo for an indefinite period until something else comes along.”

The decision to shutter the nation’s only suggested long-term geologic repository for nuclear waste comes at an interesting time. The first are out the door to help build the first new nuclear reactors in more than a decade, and general talk of a nuclear revival has forced the oft-maligned power source back into the energy conversation. O’Connell’s question, then, is all the more relevant—if we aim to produce more nuclear waste, where are we going to put it?

Regional Storage?

There are no other geologic repositories up for discussion, but the DOE has recently formed a commission that will study the question for two years.

“President Obama is fully committed to ensuring that the Nation meets our long-term storage obligations for nuclear waste,” the DOE’s general counsel, Scott Blake Harris, said in a statement.

For the moment, there aren’t a lot of ideas for meeting those obligations. According to the DOE's Energy Information Administration's most recent data set (2002), there are more than 47,000 metric tons of spent uranium in the country, with about another 2,000 metric tons
produced each year. That means there are more than 100 million pounds of nuclear waste needing a permanent storage solution.

Currently, nuclear waste is first stored in cooling pools and then in at the nuclear power plants themselves; these casks have a good safety history, and will apparently suffice for at least a few more decades. And given the pace of long-term storage research and development to-date, they are much needed decades.

There have been discussions, meanwhile, of temporary regional storage options for radioactive waste. According to Dave Kraft, director of the Illinois-based nuclear watchdog group , dealings in the Illinois state legislature could position the state as a “de facto radioactive waste dump.”

The state senate voted this week to overturn a 23-year-old moratorium on the construction of new nuclear reactors in Illinois. Interestingly, the moratorium was put in place with the expressed purpose of waiting for a suitable permanent waste repository; Yucca Mountain was already under investigation at the time. Now that Yucca is off the table, that ban seems to make even more sense.

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Reason for DOE License Application

The DOE does not own Yucca Mountain. The Western Shoshone paople do. See the Nevada Organizing Act provision: "no portion of Indian country to be included in the boundaries or jurisdiction of any state or territory..." See the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley. The Western Shoshone allied itself with the North and thereby preserved the Union. That is our contention at the NRCASLBPCAB.

My country is not, and has never been part of the US. We do not consent and object to to the use or inclusion of any part of our country to be included into the boundaries of the US.

YMP

Letter to the Editor
On February 23rd and 26th, 2010, the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects website reported the following: Hanford, Washington area businesses, Aiken County, South Carolina, and the Tri-City State of Washington leaders officially filed lawsuits against President Obama and Secretary of Energy Chu for scrapping plans to build the Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) Nuclear Waste Facility in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Washington, D.C. The S.C. the lawsuit is seeking to stay the removal of the Yucca Mountain License Application. The Aiken County lawsuit alleged that withdrawal of the license application violated the Nuclear Waste Act of 1982 and its Amendments. Additionally, it may also violate the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969.
The Tri-city lawsuit stated that the termination of the YMP license application could pose health risks to their community. My contention is that the Department of Energy - Yucca Mountain Project license application is incomplete since it failed to address health and safety risk issues associated with metals and radionuclide exposure through groundwater as is mandated under the NEPA Act and its subsequent regulations. The NEPA Act clearly mandated regulatory agencies to prepare a detailed statement on significant environmental impact (EIS) of major federal actions, and to include reasonable alternative actions.
Next, a YMP official in the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2004 stated that “to calculate health risks from the combined effects of heavy metals and radioactive materials when there is no requirement to do so would be ‘like challenging the speed limit.’”
The DOE position is in conflict with the NEPA Acts of 1969 since DOE failed to properly discuss the potential/probable significant environmental impact of radionuclide and heavy metals on the human environment in the EIS. In addition, the 40 Code of Federal Regulation 1502.22, “Cumulative Effects,” stated that “when an agency is evaluating reasonably and foreseeable significant adverse effects on the human environment in the environmental impact statement and there is incomplete information, the agency shall always make it clear that such information is lacking.”
Furthermore, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a letter dated March 30, 2009 stated that with regards to my concerns about interaction between chemicals and radionuclides at Yucca Mountain, “the DOE’s EIS the NRC staff agree that analysis did not provide an adequate discussion of the cumulative amounts of radiological and non-radiological contaminated that may enter groundwater over time, this contaminated would behave in the aquifer and related environment. We have found that this failure to adequately characterize potential contaminates releases to the groundwater and surface discharge renders that the portion of the EIS is inadequate. DOE’s discussion of these impacts in the EIS’s is not consistence with the NRC’s regulations for completeness and adequacy of discussion of environmental consequences of proposed action.” The importance of this letter that is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission directed the YMP to submit a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement “to ensure that the 2002 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the Supplement EIS are adequate.”
The DOE is required to comply with regulations, Section 10 CFR 63.10 (a) and (b), which require the DOE to submit a complete and accurate license application; and Section 63.10 b) which requires the DOE to report any significant implications for public health and safety. The DOE license application failed to notify the Commission of information that the applicant or licensee has identified as having a significant implication for public safety.
Therefore, it is my opinion that the President of United States and the Secretary of Energy are within their rights to withdraw the license application as incomplete.
Yours,

Dr. Jacob D Paz

Nuclear waste win/win/win

The problems of spent nuclear fuel (SNF); heat, ionizing radiation and radiolysis, which breaks down water into ions corrosive to fuel bundles and their containers are all facilitators of unconventional oil production.

Hydrogen released by the process of radiolysis and the heat generated by SNF within an oil sands formation overturn the equilibrium of the system and contribute both to the in situ cracking and mobilization of the resource, while the high-energy flux of SNF ionizes and fractures (upgrades) a portion of the long chain bitumen in the ground.

Then energy return on investment for the SAGD method to produce Alberta's oil sands. is 5.2/1. Therefore it costs about $15 to produce a barrel of oil burning natural gas to produce the steam required and significant quantities of CO2 are produced in the process.

SNF can produce the temperatures required to lower the viscosity of the bitumen sufficiently to allow it to flow to a producing well without producing CO2. The use of SNF in this manner is not less than any other geothermal energy process.

The global inventory of SNF could produce close to 6 billion barrels of bitumen a year and once this resource was depleted there is nothing to stop the recovery of the SNF for recycling. In fact it can be burned again in a CANDU as is.

Capitalizing on the back end of the fuel cycle in this manner addresses both of the other drawbacks to nuclear power. It offsets the high front end cost of reactors and prevents access to the plutonium contained in SNF. It other words the Nuclear Assisted Hydrocarbon Production Method is a win/win/win.

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