by Ace Hoffman
Attorneys for the state of California have filed a 400-page document with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, describing two dozen serious flaws with the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository plan. These follow on the heels of Nevada's own 229-count objection.
I'm sure I could come up with hundreds of serious flaws, too, and so can you. The Yucca Mountain plan stinks, no doubt about it.
Nevertheless, both of these states' complaints are half-measures at best, and in the case of California (where the author's lives), the absurdity of the attorneys' claims in the face of their own actions -- or rather, LACK OF ACTION -- against California's operating nukes is, to say the least, baffling. To say they seem to have blinders on isn't nearly good enough. They seem to have erected a lead shield to protect themselves from grasping -- and then acting on -- the facts. Our nuclear power plants need to be closed -- not tomorrow, but immediately. Yesterday would have been better, but today will have to do. Waiting until tomorrow could be tragic, and in any case, will add additional costs to the problems these plants will leave us, no matter when -- or why -- we close them.
But somehow, despite California's many objections to Yucca Mountain, those same attorneys for the state evidently cannot see that creating additional radioactive waste on a daily basis with no solution in sight is foolhardy at best.
Such myopia should be called what it REALLY is: Criminal Negligence.
The root reason the waste problem isn't solved is technical. Since radioactive emissions are strong enough to destroy ANY container (1) , the "technical" problem will NEVER be solved. New alloys, new crystal structures, microbes that eat radioactive waste, vitrification -- all worthless (2). Rocketing the waste into space, subduction zones in the sea, deep holes -- won't work either (3).
Every day, there is more waste, more radioactive pollution, such as tritium, which is killing our citizens, and more of the "ignoble seven" whose daughter products include noble gases, which are freely released by nuclear power plants in copious quantities (4).
These attorneys seem to have missed the elephant thrashing about in the livingroom. The plants need to be closed NOW. They are old, corroded, embrittled, dilapidated and their employees have repeatedly abdicated their responsibilities, from proper training (5) to doing their fire rounds (6), to numerous problems with top management, and so on.
Every day the plants run, they increase the total risk, the total cost, the immediate risk, and the immediate cost -- costs in terms of health effects around the plants, and delayed costs from accidents or just from fuel storage. Even if we stop making nuclear waste, every movement of the fuel entails enormous risk. And there will be tens of thousands of shipments from all around the country.
A really safe transport of nuclear waste is impossible and any transportation is a big production. Consider all the bridges that have to be strengthened, the potholes that have to be filled, the roads that have to be blocked off as the caravan passes, the staggering number of caravans that will be needed. Each shipping container will hold "only" about 15 tons of spent fuel. With more than 2,500 tons -- 5,000,000 pounds -- of waste (of which any millionth of a gram will poison you fatally) already created in California alone, it will take decades to do anything with the waste. But what? And how? And where? Lawyers don't know, because scientists don't know.
Each trip is a terrorist's best friend and a sane person's worst nightmare. The lawyers seem to have grasped that, at least somewhat.
But what are we left with? Does anyone in California remember Bande Ache? I don't think so, because years afterwards, our nuclear waste is still piled along the coast, and those people charged with protecting it either have no idea it's their responsibility, or have abdicated that responsibility utterly.
Does the San Clemente fire department think it is equipped to deal with tsunami-busted dry casks, a permanent evacuation of thousands of square miles, mass deaths, and a meltdown or two to go with it -- or Genpatsu-Shinsai (the same thing, but starting with an earthquake instead of a tsunami)? If so, they are sadly mistaken.
The utility spokespeople tell the public, the press, and even the NRC that dry casks are safe, knowing that they (the plant employees) are safe from investigation for lying (7). The NRC will barely study the plans at all, won't inspect the casks before use (hardly, anyway), and won't study the actual construction work records whatsoever. So the utilities all say their casks are safe, but any fool who ever studied engineering (or explosives) for more than a day can tell you that's just wrong. In reality, no dry cask is safe -- not one. And nearly every site's casks are different, for no apparent reason. Why are Diablo Canyon's spent fuel rods stacked vertically, and San Onofre's horizontally? Whim? Real estate issues? Earthquake issues?
And there is every reason to fear each ADDITIONAL dry cask. Complacency is a common cause of accidents.
The storage casks are designed to do one thing well (and I doubt they can even do that), which is to sit in one place for up to 100 years, or 20 years -- depends on who you ask (and who you believe).
The proposed shipping casks aren't designed to take ANY significant stress. The fire retention standards are way too low (as proven in the Baltimore train tunnel fire), the load-drop or crush protection is equally inadequate (as proven in the Minnesota bridge collapse, et al).
Splitting the atom is very, very costly.
In fact, the only reason anyone would keep these plants open is because "experts" from places like LLNL are brought in every so often to tell the Energy Commission these plants are safe. These experts are not vetted -- their opinions are not presented in public (they are given in private to, say, Governor Schwarzenegger, or to individuals on the California Energy Commission).
Such experts, of course, now form the heart of the upcoming Obama administration's energy policy.
Author, The Code Killers: An Expose
(1) For a chart of energy levels, see page 9 of my book The Code Killers.
(2) There are seven long-lived fission daughter products which are sure to cause problems (along with THEIR daughters). See page 18 of The Code Killers for a list of "the ignoble seven."
(3) The Yucca Mtn team was charged with finding any other solution they thought was better. They were NOT limited to thinking about Yucca Mountain. These other choices were eliminated for various reasons, mainly unpredictability (for space-based disposal, reliability was especially a problem, but then, so was money, technical issues, the record of failure, etc. etc.).
(4) See the glossary of The Code Killers for various isotopes, such as Cerium-144 and others, that are manufactured and sometimes (if not always) released by nuclear power plants in large quantities. The "ignoble seven" are: Technetium-99, Tin-126, Selenium-79, Zirconium-93, Cesium-135, Palladium-107, and Iodine-129. All have half-lives > 200,000 years.
(5) After dropping a crane in 2001, San Onofre had to completely retrain virtually everyone in the place who had any chance of ever being involved in a lift. I heard (from a plant worker) that it cost them about 4,000,000 dollars, including all the new strapping, I-beams, hooks, etc. they also had to buy after they dropped a rented crane.
(6) A recent news item reported that for four years, such records were falsified. Numerous other incidents, including threats by armed ex-employees, nearby airplane crashes, etc. etc. should also serve as a warning to all.
(7) "Statements made by the public affairs officer of a NRC licensee are not regulated activities. Therefore, the veracity of such statements will not be investigated by the NRC." Letter to the author from the NRC, received March 30th, 2002.
At 03:26 PM 12/29/2008 -0500, Janette Sherman <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>Begin forwarded message:
>>From: MoJo <email@example.com>
>>Date: December 29, 2008 3:00:52 PM EST
>>To: HD-Global <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>Subject: [NukeNet] California Says Yucca Poses Threat to People, Resources
>>NukeNet Anti-Nuclear Network (email@example.com)
>>California Says Yucca Poses Threat to People, Resources
>>Dec 25 - Las Vegas Review - Journal California is urging federal regulators to turn down the Energy Department's bid to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, charging analysts did not fully study how the plan would affect Death Valley groundwater and the state's transportation networks.
>>"Proceeding with the project in the manner described by DOE poses a threat to the people, natural resources and environment of California," attorneys said at the outset of a 400-page document filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
>>The commission "may not approve DOE's license application unless DOE provides an adequate environmental analysis that analyzes threats to California and how to mitigate them," said the lawyers from the state's Energy Commission and its Department of Justice.
>>California's objections were made available on Monday, several days after Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto announced Nevada was submitting 229 repository challenges to the NRC on a variety of technical grounds.
>>There is significance to California raising similar issues before the NRC, according to Joe Strolin, planning division administrator for the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.
>>"Anytime you have California in the mix it lends a gravitas to an issue," Strolin said Tuesday.
>>"They are always considered a 600-pound gorilla in the room," Strolin said. "Having them weigh in makes a statement that this is an important issue and not just a Nevada issue. That there are other states, and big states, that have concerns as well."
>>DOE spokesman Allen Benson said the department was reviewing the contentions and would respond to them within 50 days, as set in NRC regulations.
>>California attorneys identified 24 issues it wants the NRC to consider as it weighs the safety of the repository plan and decides whether to issue DOE a construction license.
>>Many of California's contentions charge the government failed to adequately analyze the transportation impacts from hundreds of radioactive waste shipments that would originate at reactors in the state as well as shipments through California from other states.
>>"DOE has not conducted sufficient analysis or provided sufficient evidence that such shipments will be conducted in the safest manner," according to the state's complaint.
>>Attorneys said DOE took care to fully analyze transportation risks in Nevada "yet it illogically did not do this analysis for the likely transportation routes in the rest of the country, and specifically not in California."
>>The state's complaint further said DOE has failed to analyze how waste at California reactors could be packaged safely for shipping.
>>California has four operating reactors, two at Diablo Canyon, near San Luis Obispo, and two at San Onofre, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Three other reactors - at San Onofre, the Humboldt Bay station in Eureka and the Rancho Seco plant south of Sacramento are no longer operating but spent fuel is stored there and is awaiting removal.
>>Collectively, the reactors have generated 2,510 tons of spent nuclear fuel, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
>>Other California contentions charge that more analysis is needed to determine how a buildup of contaminants expected to leak from the Yucca site over time would affect aquifers that feed springs in Death Valley.
>>"Recent scientific work done by the County of Inyo indicates that contaminants entering the carbonate aquifer from the repository could migrate to the springs in Death Valley relatively quickly," attorneys said.
>>"These springs are the only source of water for the park workers and the approximately 1.25 million annual visitors to Death Valley National Park," attorneys said.
>>Contact Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.
>>(c) 2008 Las Vegas Review - Journal. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
>>A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
>>"No degree of prosperity could justify the accumulation of large amounts of highly toxic substances which nobody knows how to make safe and which remain an incalculable danger to the whole of creation for historical or even geological ages. To do such a thing is a transgression against life itself, a transgression infinitely more serious than any crime perpetrated by man. The idea that a civilization could sustain itself on such a transgression is an ethical, spiritual, and metaphysical monstrosity. It means conducting the economical affairs of man as if people did not matter at all." -- E. F. Schumacher �Small is Beautiful�
>>Molly P Johnson
>>Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility www.a4nr.org
>>H.O.M.E. (Healing Ourselves & Mother Earth) www.h-o-m-e.org
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Author, The Code Killers: An Expose
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