IL Delegation: No to Yucca & CIS

The following letter and a supplemental packet of supportive information (see NEIS Literature page for some of these) was submitted by U.S. mail and e-mail to the entire Illinois Delegation to Congress today, urging them to oppose the re-start of the Yucca Mt. site, and “centralized interim storage” (CIS) of reactor spent fuel. NEIS urged instead that Congress support the use of “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) of reactor spent fuel, and get on with a legitimately scientific investigation for a permanent deep-geologic disposal facility for the wastes.

Legislation (H.R.3053) supporting Yucca and CIS is expected to be voted on in the House in early October. (See Action Alert of 9/21/17 below).

The Letter:

23 September, 2017

TO: Illinois Congressional Delegation

RE: proposed legislation on Yucca Mt. and “Centralized Interim Storage” (CIS) of High-Level Radioactive Waste (HLRW)

Greetings,

We hope that this letter finds you well.

By all recent news accounts and objective measures, the Nuclear Age as we knew it is coming to an end. In its place we are entering the “Age of Decommissioning.” This is the period where reactors close and are torn down, and both they and the wastes they have produced and accumulated for decades must be dealt with and kept sequestered from the environment for as much as thousands of years.

For a variety of reasons – mostly political, and many pre-dating the years of Harry Reid and Barack Obama – society has prepared poorly for The Age of Decommissioning. Utilities try to dodge the inevitable closure of reactors by seeking government bailouts to prop up failing reactors. Agencies charged with protecting the public and the environment enact faulty or inadequate regulations, or fail to enforce the good ones. And, the short term needs of Congressional election cycles long past have left the enormous nuclear structure with literally no “bathroom.” And now, the debt collector is at the Nation’s door.

With the Nation’s nose very close to the fan blades, Congress now scrambles to “take swift action” on complex, serious problems that have been left to fester for decades. But, speed of action is not what is needed. This is not a movie set, where you get multiple takes to “get it right.” We will only have one opportunity to get right the choices we must make on reactor decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal that will properly protect the public and the environment.

Because of this reality, we urge you to reject the flawed, facile responses to the Nation’s radioactive waste problem found in H.R.3053 – the ‘‘Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017’’.

Specifically, we urge you to 1.) reject the re-start of the flawed Yucca Mt. site in Nevada; and 2.) reject the implementation of “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities for spent-fuel from reactors.

We instead ask you to advocate for 1.) the use of “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) of reactor spent-fuel in enhanced enclosures at reactor sites, while 2.) the initiation and completion of a genuinely science-based search for a permanent deep geologic HLRW repository, one where the science comes first and is thorough, before Congress and the President make the final selection, and where the historic petty politics of the last 35 years will stand down and permit that kind of search to proceed.

We provide you with short background pieces that illustrate the many flaws and undesirability of engaging in CIS or a Yucca Mt. re-start; and the positive attributes of the viable alternative HOSS proposal for handling HLRW.

We are available to discuss these issues in greater detail with you and your staff; and can provide you with contact information for experts of national and international renown in the fields of radioactive waste storage, transport and disposal.

NEIS has followed this issue since 1982, when the Nuclear Waste Policy Act first passed. We recognize that Illinois, with its 11 operating and 3 closed reactors, and the Nation’s only HLRW storage facility, is the 10th largest nuclear power in the world (just behind the UK and Ukraine). We recognize that the 10,000+ tons of HLRW generated by Exelon Corporation’s reactors is the largest inventory in the U.S. The easy choice would be for us to become NIMBY’s and clamor to have this headache removed ASAP, to somebody else’s backyard.

However, this is not about “easy” choices – it’s about making the right choice the first time. We cannot support inadequate plans made more out of political expedience than sound science and environmental responsibility.

For these reasons we encourage you to reject the irresponsible provisions found in H.R.3053. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your consideration of our views. Stay well.

Stop H.R. 3053

ACTION ALERT: House vote expected next week on Shimkus Bill to Re-Start Yucca Mt.

A vote is finally expected on the controversial H.R. 3053, the NUCLEAR WASTE POLICY ACT AMENDMENTS OF 2017.  This bill is authored by Rep. John Shimkus (D.16 IL.), and has 7 Illinois co-sponsors at present, mostly those with nuclear plants in their districts or close ties to Exelon.  Action on the bill had been postponed due to the recent massacre in Las Vegas.

This bill would provide funds and plans to restart the demonstrably faulty Yucca Mt. project in Nevada; and would also begin the process and funding of “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities – allegedly “temporary” high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage facilities — operated by private companies (Illinois may be a potential candidate for one, BTW).  Several sites are being targeted in West Texas and Southeast New Mexico.  Both the Yucca project and the CIS facilities would result in massive numbers of shipments of spent reactor fuel traversing  the nation’s deficient roads and rails, and possibly waterways.  More detailed information and proposed transport route maps can be found on the NEIS Literature Page, and on the Beyond Nuclear site.

A letter of opposition was sent to Rep. Shimkus earlier this summer, and co-signed by more than 40 national and regional safe-energy and environmental groups including NRDC, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Beyond Nuclear, NIRS and of course, NEIS.  An updated version is in formation, and will be circulated soon to organizations, urging them to co-sign.  Recently, Sierra Club national set up a sign-on page in opposition to H.R.3053.  Sierra Club members are urged to use this page to register your opposition.

Read more

EDITORIAL: The End of the (Nuclear) World As We Know It…and I Feel Fine! (and Bankrupt)

Who would have thought that the Nuclear Age would end, not with a bang (mercifully) or a whimper, but with the sucking sound of $9 billion being legally siphoned out of the wallets of South Carolinaratepayers with the announced closure of the VC Summer nuclear plant project? [1] A little further south in Georgia, estimates to complete the overbudget and 4-year late Vogtle nuclear reactor project have soared from the 2007 Georgia Power company estimateof $14 billion to a whopping $29 billion [2] Ratepayers are on the hook in advance for those construction costs too, whether the plant gets finished or not.

The ratepayers in Florida got off easy:  They only have to pay $1+ billion for the canceled Duke Power Levy reactors which will never give them any electricity.  The final cost estimate for these unneeded and uneconomic reactors exceeded $25 billion. [3]

And through all this the company slated to build many of these reactors – Westinghouse – went bankrupt, bringing down its parent company – Japanese giant Toshiba – in the process.  Apparently its state-of-the art AP1000 reactor design was a bit more complicated and expensive to build than expected.

Why relate these economic horror stories?  Because in spite of them, well-intentioned (or not) public officials are still going around the country advocating for the construction of new nuclear power plants and the bailout of old ones at a time when cheap natural gas and growing-ever-cheaper renewables are leading the way to a global energy transformation – a transformation which renders continued use of nuclear power as anachronistic as advocating for clipper ships and Conestoga wagons.

That humans are not rational creatures, but rather “rationalizing” ones is continuously validated by the excuses given by nuclear cheerleaders to continue the nuclear boondoggle.  Take for example those offered recently in an editorial [4] by Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R.-IL16; who also happens to have 8 operating reactors in district, and has received $87,982 in campaign contributions from Exelon Corporation since 2010). Nuclear:

  • “provide(s) …energy…without carbon emissions.” RESPONSE: so do wind and solar, and without producing nuclear wastes or threat of catastrophic accidents.
  • “provid(es) thousands of good paying jobs, and millions of dollars in property taxes…” RESPONSE: the Illinois renewable energy and efficiency sectors combined provide nearly 4-1/2 times as many direct jobs as do nuclear plants.  Those industries pay taxes, too.
  • “supplies close to 20% of [U.S.] electricity…” RESPONSE: according to the Energy Information Agency, renewables have produced more electricity than nuclear since the beginning of 2017; and are growing in capacity, while nuclear capacity is shrinking.
  • “reactors… are suffering economically because of…subsidies to wind power.” RESPONSE: A 2012 study done by the Union of Concerned Scientists identified over 30 forms of subsidy or economic advantage granted to nuclear power.  If we’re going to discontinue subsidizing energy sources and enhance true competition, let’s get rid of all of the subsidies for all of the energy sources .

Wisely, the Congressman did not refer to nuclear power as “clean,” as so many other nuclear cheerleaders glibly do.  Perhaps he realizes that an energy resource that has generated over 75,000 tons of high-level radioactive wastes – some of the most deadly substances ever produced by humankind – with no place to dispose of them responsibly is not really so “clean” after all.  Over $30 billion have been collected for HLRW disposal, and not a single gram has been disposed of yet.  The tens-of-millions of cubic feet of low-level radioactive wastes should also be kept in mind – and out of the environment.

How is it that such nuclear economic follies are allowed to persist?  Robert Trigaux, the business writer for the Tampa Bay Times commenting on the V.C. Summer fiasco sums it up [3] succinctly:

“Billions upon billions spent for essentially nothing. [fill in your state] ratepayers likely to get stiffed for the flood of red ink. Regulators failing to be tough overseers. Captive state legislators too eager to bow to rich power companies…

 “None of these projects would have seen the light of day if state laws had not been enacted to shift the financial risk of grotesquely expensive nuclear plants from power company shareholders and dumped it all on hapless ratepayers.”

Given the $2.4 billion nuclear bailout that the Illinois Legislature and Governor Rauner recently lavished on Exelon Corporation to prop up 4 money-losing Illinois reactors, it seems like Trigaux’s message could have been written for Illinois, too.  Worse, Steve Cicala, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, predicts, “They’ll find themselves in the same situation all over again once the subsidies have expired.” [5]

To paraphrase former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Peter Bradford, just like we don’t fight world hunger with caviar, no matter how nutritious fish eggs might be, we won’t be meeting our future energy needs using exotic and over-expensive sources like nuclear power.  The Nuclear Age is over; the Age of Decommissioning is beginning.

In short, the fate of nuclear power has been decided; it’s now truly “blowin’ in the wind.”

Sources:
[1]  “Billions lost in nuclear power projects, with more bills due,” Associated Press, Aug. 5, 2017.

http://www.nydailynews.com/newswires/news/business/billions-lost-nuclear-power-projects-bills-due-article-1.3387296

 [2]  “Group says Georgia nuclear plant costs rise to $29 billion,” by Tom Hals, Reuters

Business News, June 15, 2017.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-toshiba-accounting-westinghouse-bankr-idUSKBN1962YH

[3]  “Blind to runaway costs, nuclear power industry abandons another nuke plant,” Robert Trigaux, Tampa Bay Times Business Columnist, 08/02/17.

http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/energy/trigaux-blind-to-runaway-costs-nuclear-power-industry-abandons-another/2332308

[4]  “Kinzinger: Why nuclear energy is the future in Illinois and globally, “ U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Chicago Sun-Times,  Aug. 5, 2017.

http://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/kinzinger-why-nuclear-energy-is-the-future-in-illinois-and-globally/

[5]   “U of Chicago professor: IL Zero Emissions Credit Exelon bailout ‘short-sighted,’ despite challenge dismissal,”  by Kacie Whaley,  Cook County Record,   Aug. 7, 2017.

http://midwestenergynews.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=ae5d3a0c6088cad29d71bf0d0&id=45842b4e1a&e=7b9bd73e8c

Shimkus Bill Re-Starts Yucca Mt.

ACTION ALERT! – Stop H.R. 3053 – Shimkus Bill Re-Starts Yucca Mt., build CIS facilities; House vote expected next week

A vote is finally expected on the controversial H.R. 3053, the NUCLEAR WASTE POLICY ACT AMENDMENTS OF 2017.  This bill is authored by Rep. John Shimkus (D.16 IL.), and has 7 Illinois co-sponsors at present, mostly those with nuclear plants in their districts or close ties to Exelon.  Action on the bill had been postponed due to the recent massacre in Las Vegas.

This bill would provide funds and plans to restart the demonstrably faulty Yucca Mt. project in Nevada; and would also begin the process and funding of “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities – allegedly “temporary” high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage facilities — operated by private companies (Illinois may be a potential candidate for one, BTW).  Several sites are being targeted in West Texas and Southeast New Mexico.  Both the Yucca project and the CIS facilities would result in massive numbers of shipments of spent reactor fuel traversing  the nation’s deficient roads and rails, and possibly waterways.  More detailed information and proposed transport route maps can be found on the NEIS Literature Page, and on the Beyond Nuclear site.

A letter of opposition was sent to Rep. Shimkus earlier this summer, and co-signed by more than 40 national and regional safe-energy and environmental groups including NRDC, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Beyond Nuclear, NIRS and of course, NEIS.  An updated version is in formation, and will be circulated soon to organizations, urging them to co-sign.  Recently, Sierra Club national set up a sign-on page in opposition to H.R.3053.  Sierra Club members are urged to use this page to register your opposition.

What You Can Do:
  • Contact your federal representative (Capitol Switchboard is (202)224-3121), urging him/her to oppose H.R.3053, or any legislation that calls for a Yucca Mt. re-start or construction of a CIS facility.
  • Tell your reps to SUPPORT “HOSS”- hardened onsite storage of high-level radioactive wastes as a better alternative.
  • Make sure to add “comments” to any news accounts in print, online, or on radio/TV, urging opposition Yucca and CIS funding and construction, and promoting HOSS instead.

NEIS to IL Delegation: NO to Yucca and CIS

The following letter and a supplemental packet of supportive information (see NEIS Literature page for some of these) was submitted by U.S. mail and e-mail to the entire Illinois Delegation to Congress today, urging them to oppose the re-start of the Yucca Mt. site, and “centralized interim storage” (CIS) of reactor spent fuel. NEIS urged instead that Congress support the use of “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) of reactor spent fuel, and get on with a legitimately scientific investigation for a permanent deep-geologic disposal facility for the wastes.

Legislation (H.R.3053) supporting Yucca and CIS is expected to be voted on in the House in early October. (See Action Alert of 9/21/17 below).

The Letter:

23 September, 2017

TO: Illinois Congressional Delegation

RE: proposed legislation on Yucca Mt. and “Centralized Interim Storage” (CIS) of High-Level Radioactive Waste (HLRW)

Greetings,

We hope that this letter finds you well.

By all recent news accounts and objective measures, the Nuclear Age as we knew it is coming to an end. In its place we are entering the “Age of Decommissioning.” This is the period where reactors close and are torn down, and both they and the wastes they have produced and accumulated for decades must be dealt with and kept sequestered from the environment for as much as thousands of years.

For a variety of reasons – mostly political, and many pre-dating the years of Harry Reid and Barack Obama – society has prepared poorly for The Age of Decommissioning. Utilities try to dodge the inevitable closure of reactors by seeking government bailouts to prop up failing reactors. Agencies charged with protecting the public and the environment enact faulty or inadequate regulations, or fail to enforce the good ones. And, the short term needs of Congressional election cycles long past have left the enormous nuclear structure with literally no “bathroom.” And now, the debt collector is at the Nation’s door.

With the Nation’s nose very close to the fan blades, Congress now scrambles to “take swift action” on complex, serious problems that have been left to fester for decades. But, speed of action is not what is needed. This is not a movie set, where you get multiple takes to “get it right.” We will only have one opportunity to get right the choices we must make on reactor decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal that will properly protect the public and the environment.

Because of this reality, we urge you to reject the flawed, facile responses to the Nation’s radioactive waste problem found in H.R.3053 – the ‘‘Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017’’.

Specifically, we urge you to 1.) reject the re-start of the flawed Yucca Mt. site in Nevada; and 2.) reject the implementation of “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities for spent-fuel from reactors.

We instead ask you to advocate for 1.) the use of “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) of reactor spent-fuel in enhanced enclosures at reactor sites, while 2.) the initiation and completion of a genuinely science-based search for a permanent deep geologic HLRW repository, one where the science comes first and is thorough, before Congress and the President make the final selection, and where the historic petty politics of the last 35 years will stand down and permit that kind of search to proceed.

We provide you with short background pieces that illustrate the many flaws and undesirability of engaging in CIS or a Yucca Mt. re-start; and the positive attributes of the viable alternative HOSS proposal for handling HLRW.

We are available to discuss these issues in greater detail with you and your staff; and can provide you with contact information for experts of national and international renown in the fields of radioactive waste storage, transport and disposal.

NEIS has followed this issue since 1982, when the Nuclear Waste Policy Act first passed. We recognize that Illinois, with its 11 operating and 3 closed reactors, and the Nation’s only HLRW storage facility, is the 10th largest nuclear power in the world (just behind the UK and Ukraine). We recognize that the 10,000+ tons of HLRW generated by Exelon Corporation’s reactors is the largest inventory in the U.S. The easy choice would be for us to become NIMBY’s and clamor to have this headache removed ASAP, to somebody else’s backyard.

However, this is not about “easy” choices – it’s about making the right choice the first time. We cannot support inadequate plans made more out of political expedience than sound science and environmental responsibility.

For these reasons we encourage you to reject the irresponsible provisions found in H.R.3053. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your consideration of our views. Stay well.