Archive for the ‘wastes’ Category

Australia’s undemocratic nuclear waste law disempowers indigenous landowners

May 18, 2017

13 March 2017, Friends of the Earth Australia is today releasing a detailed report on the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (NRWMA). The report ‒ written by Monash University fifth-year law student Amanda Ngo ‒ comes against the backdrop of the federal government’s targeting of a site near Hawker in SA’s Flinders Ranges for a national radioactive waste store and repository.

The NRWMA is heavy-handed, undemocratic legislation that gives the federal government the power to extinguish rights and interests in land targeted for a radioactive waste facility. In so doing the Minister must “take into account any relevant comments by persons with a right or interest in the land” but there is no requirement to secure consent. Traditional Owners, local communities, pastoralists, business owners, local councils and State/Territory Governments are all disadvantaged and disempowered by the NRWMA.

The NRWMA disempowers Traditional Owners ‒ in this case Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners ‒ in multiple ways, including:

  • The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste facility is valid even if Aboriginal owners were not consulted and did not give consent.
  • The NRWMA has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect the archaeological or heritage values of land or objects, including those which relate to Indigenous traditions.
  • The NRWMA curtails the application of Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the important site-selection stage.
  • The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste facility.

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners have been clear in their opposition to the planned radioactive waste facility in the Flinders Ranges. “I call upon the Federal and State Governments to put an end to this volatile position that the Adnyamathanha people are facing,” said Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Enice Marsh. “Native Title and the Aboriginal Heritage Act are not protecting our land. This needs a complete review or a Royal Commission. The Barndioota site in the Flinders Ranges must be struck off as a potential radioactive waste dump site and the National Radioactive Waste Management Act needs to be amended to give us the right to say ‘no’.”

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie, who lives on Yappala Station near the proposed dump site, said: “The NRWMA is a political attack on Adnyamathanha women’s spiritual beliefs. The destruction of our culture and significant woman’s sites is a form of assimilation and thus breaches Article 8.1 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The NRWMA also breaches Article 25 of the UN Declaration which refers to our spiritual relationship with the land and the right to maintain and strengthen our culture. This is a breach of our Aboriginal human rights and our people and amounts to cultural genocide.”

The NRWMA has been criticised in both Senate Inquiries and a Federal Court challenge to an earlier federal government attempt to impose a national radioactive waste facility at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.

The NRWMA also puts the federal government’s radioactive waste agenda above environmental protection as it seeks to curtail the application of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Dr Jim Green, national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia, said: “A senior government official claims the NRWMA is based on ‘world’s best practice’. In fact, the legislation systematically disempowers local communities and Traditional Owners and weakens environmental protections. It needs to be radically amended or replaced with legislation that protects the environment and gives local communities and Traditional Owners the right to say no to nuclear waste dumps.”

 Amanda Ngo’s paper, ‘National Radioactive Waste Management  Act 2012′, is posted at http://tinyurl.com/nrwma-2017

Hanford nuclear safety problems ignored for 30 years

May 18, 2017

Thousands of workers were forced to shelter after a roof collapsed at a waste site created in the 1950s and mostly ignored since then, Center for Public Integrity, By Peter CaryPatrick Malone, May 13, 2017 
A series of warnings by state and federal experts, stretching back more than thirty years, preceded this week’s cave-in of a tunnel in Hanford, Washington, that holds lethally radioactive debris from the U.S. nuclear weapons program, according to government documents.

A report in 1980 for the Energy Department, which oversees safety and cleanup work at the site, said that wooden beams holding up the tunnel had lost a third of their strength by then. A contractor for the department pointed to the issue again in 1991, warning that by the year 2001, the beams would be further degraded.

A group of academic experts, working under contract to the department, said more alarmingly in a 1,969-page report in August 2015 that the roof of the tunnel in question had been seriously weakened and that a “partial or complete failure” could expose individuals even 380 feet away to dangerous levels of radiation.

No action was taken by the department in response, and earlier this month — the precise date remains uncertain because conditions at the site were not closely monitored — a portion of the roof collapsed at the tunnel, creating a 20-foot square hole. Afterward, the managers of the Hanford site were forced on May 9 to order 3,000 workers to shelter indoors. But instead of shoring up the beams inside the tunnel in question, they poured in 54 new truckloads of dirt.

The tunnel was one of two at the Energy Department’s Hanford reservation used as dumping grounds from 1960 to 2000 for radioactive machine parts, vessels, and other equipment. It was, in short, a tangible expression of the department’s policy of covering over some of its nuclear bomb-making detritus and effectively pretending it isn’t there.

The neglect followed a blunt warning 26 years ago from the State of Washington — cited in a 1991 Energy Department contractor’s report — that the tunnels were not a safe repository and that the wastes should be moved elsewhere.

Under an agreement overseen by a federal court in eastern Washington, the department was supposed to start crafting a way to deal with the tunnel’s lethal dangers by September 2015, but it missed the deadline and promised to do it later this year as part of an overall agreement with the state and the Environmental Protection Agency to push back completion of the site’s overall cleanup from 2024 to 2042. (Hanford remains the most toxic site in America and the government’s most costly environmental cleanup task.)…….

In the 1991 report, by Los Alamos Technical Associates, Inc., the authors made clear after conducting an internal inspection of the tunnel that the DOE knew the timbers holding up the roof had been substantially weakened as early as 1980. It predicted that by 2001, they would be at 60 percent of their original strength and recommended another evaluation in 2001. But records indicate that it never happened.

A Department of Ecology inspection in 2015 noted that because the tunnels were closed up, “no permanent emergency equipment, communications equipment, warning systems, personal protective equipment, or spill control and containment supplies” were located inside — deficiencies that could complicate emergency efforts in the case of a tunnel fire or other safety incident.

A Government Accountability Office estimate in 2016 placed the total cost of cleaning up the toxic legacy of the U.S. nuclear weapon program at more than $250 billion. https://www.publicintegrity.org/2017/05/12/20862/repeated-warnings-preceded-collapse-hanford-tunnel-storing-deadly-wastes

Russia’s secret nuclear weapons build-up, and waste dumps, close to Norway

May 18, 2017

The satellite images, however, only reveal what is visible on the surface. Most of the actual warheads are underground.  

What now takes place in regard to submarine-launched ballistic missiles’ facilities hasn’t been seen at the naval bases on Kola since the large-scale infrastructure construction to support the Typhoon submarines at the Nerpichya base in Zapadnaya Lista happened in the 1980s.

Norway pays for nuclear safety While nuclear weapons are stored inside the mountain on the east side of the Litsa fjord, huge amounts of nuclear waste are stored just two kilometers away, across the fjord in the infamous Andreeva Bay. Thousands of cubic meters of solid radioactive waste and nearly 22,000 spent nuclear fuel elements from submarine reactors are stored here. Neighbouring Norway, along with other donor countries, have spent hundres of millions kroner (tens of millions euros), on nuclear safety projects aimed at upgrading the infrastructure in Andreeva Bay.

Satellite images show expansion of nuclear weapons sites on Kola, Barents Observer [excellent pictures]  By Thomas Nilsen, May 08, 2017 The reverse gear seems to hang up for continuing disarmament of nuclear weapons in the Arctic. Barents Observer has made a comprehensive review of satellite images from naval base-level storage facilities that confirms heavy construction works.

The New START Treaty says USA and Russia must limit the numbers of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 by February 5, 2018. Over the last two years, Russia has increased the number of deployed warheads and is now 215 over the max limit to be reached.

There are extensive construction work at two of the Northern Fleet’s facilities for storage of warheads and ballistic missiles for submarines (SLBM) on the coast of to the Barents Sea. The Barents Observer has studied satellite images of the Kola Peninsula open available via Google Earth, combined with open-source data on numbers of nuclear warheads in Russia. The results are frightening.

Expansion of the two base-level storages in Okolnaya Bay near Severomorsk and Yagelnaya Bay in Gadzhiyevo are clearly visible. At both locations, new reinforced bunkers, auxiliary buildings and infrastructure partly finished and partly still under construction can be seen.

The satellite images, however, only reveal what is visible on the surface. Most of the actual warheads are underground.

What now takes place in regard to submarine-launched ballistic missiles’ facilities hasn’t been seen at the naval bases on Kola since the large-scale infrastructure construction to support the Typhoon submarines at the Nerpichya base in Zapadnaya Lista happened in the 1980s.

There are four storages for nuclear weapons on Kola. From satellite images, these storages are not too difficult to find. All are surrounded by double or triple layer barrier of barbed wire fences with extraordinary security at the single entry-exit checkpoints. Also inside the outer fences, the different sections of the facilities are separated with similar security fence barriers. Comparing satellite images with photos posted on internet by naval officers or their family members makes it possible to get a pretty good impression of the current situation.

Several of the storage locations are visible on photos, although mainly in distance, available by searching Yandex, Russia’s own search engine.  Also, Wikimapia, an online editable map where people can mark and describe places, has been a good source to information when writing this article.

Zaozersk is the nuclear weapons storage nearest to Norway in a distance of 65 kilometers to the border in Grense Jakobselv. The Norwegian town of Kirkenes is 94 kilometers away. Distance to Finland is 120 kilometers. All four storage sites on Kola are within a radius of 190 kilometers from Norway and 180 kilometers from the Finnish border………..

Today, Kristian Åtland estimates that around 60 percent of Russia’s more than 700 sea-based strategic nuclear warheads are concentrated on the Kola Peninsula, whereas the remaining 40 percent is based with the Pacific Fleet at Kamchatka.

«The numerical increase in Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal, including the part of it that is based on submarines operating from the Kola Peninsula, is neither dramatic nor unexpected. The increase is to be understood in the context of Russia’s long-standing and still on-going defense modernization. The modernization of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces has been a key priority in the State Armaments Program for the period up to 2020 (“GPV-2020”), which was launched in 2010. In addition, the general deterioration of Russia’s relationship with the West, particularly since 2014, seems to have led to a renewed focus on the issue of nuclear deterrence, in Russia as well as in the United States,» Åtland elaborates.

Gorbachev called for nuclear-free zone

2017 marks the 30-years anniversary since Michael Gorbachev’s famous Murmansk-speech on October 1st 1987 where he called for a nuclear-free zone in Northern Europe. Since then, the numbers of nuclear warheads based on the Kola Peninsula saw a continuing decrease until 2015, five years after Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START Treaty in Prague. In July 2015, Russia reportedly had less deployed strategic nuclear warheads than the United States, 1,582 versus 1,597, the Bureau of Arms Control with the U.S. Departement of State reported.

215 over New START Treaty limit

Latest exchange and verification numbers from the same bureau dated April 1, 2017 shows that Russia now has 1,765 versus the United State’s 1,411. In other words; Russia has 215 warheads more than the maximum set to be achieved nine months ahead. The questions is whether Moscow is likely to dismantle over 200 warheads in less than a year.

Katarzyna Zysk, Associate Professor with the Norwegian Defense University College, says to the Barents Observer that Russia has a vested interest in maintaining the New START agreement. «Russia has a vested interest in maintaining the New START given that it keeps the development of the US strategic nuclear capabilities under control, provides Russia transparency measures and valued insight into to the US nuclear forces, thus increasing predictability,» she says, but underscore that the numbers must down.

«In order to meet the New START Treaty limits when it enters into effect in February 2018, Russia will have to decrease the numbers. However, Russia has been moving toward meeting the obligations as the number of Russia’s deployed strategic warheads has been decreasing compared with 2016. The US is now below the treaty limit and is in fact increasing the number of strategic deployed warheads,» Zysk explains.

Åtland agrees and underscores that today’s numbers do not constitute a treaty violation.

«The fact that Russia is now above the maximum warhead limits of the new START Treaty, which entered into force in 2011, does not in itself constitute a treaty violation. The treaty does not mandate any particular schedule for reductions other than that the agreed-upon limits must be met by February 2018, which is in nine months from now. Reductions in the number of deployed warheads are fairly easy to achieve once the political will is there, either by phasing out old delivery platforms or by removing deployed warheads to central storage. Thus, the identified “peak” may be temporary,» Åtland says. He hopes both the United States and Russia will work towards an extension of the Treaty.

«Hopefully, Russia will stand by its commitments under the current START Treaty regime. In any event, it is important that Russia and the U.S. continue to exchange data about the status of their nuclear arsenals and that they provide for mutual inspections and other transparency measures outlined in the START Treaty and other documents. The parties should also work towards an extension or replacement of the Treaty when it expires in February 2021.»…………..

Norway pays for nuclear safety

While nuclear weapons are stored inside the mountain on the east side of the Litsa fjord, huge amounts of nuclear waste are stored just two kilometers away, across the fjord in the infamous Andreeva Bay. Thousands of cubic meters of solid radioactive waste and nearly 22,000 spent nuclear fuel elements from submarine reactors are stored here. Neighbouring Norway, along with other donor countries, have spent hundres of millions kroner (tens of millions euros), on nuclear safety projects aimed at upgrading the infrastructure in Andreeva Bay.

On June 27, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende, travels to Andreeva Bay to mark the first shipping of spent nuclear fuel out of the area, a job that is likely to continue for more than five years. Meanwhile, Russia continues to spend huge amounts of money on new nuclear weapons in the border areas. ………..

Bolshoye Ramozero – the most secret

The most secret of all secret nuclear weapons storages on the Kola Peninsula is located some 20 kilometers to the northeast of the mining town Olenegorsk, on a side road towards Lovozero. The location, diffcult to find referances to on the internet, has several names; Katalya is one, Bolshoye Ramozero is another (the nearby lake). Like other secret towns in the Soviet Union, also this one had a post-code name; Olenegorsk-2. The nickname is Tsar City, allegedly because of the priviliges the inhabitants had. The town is also simply known as Military Unit 62834 or Object 956.

While it is easy to find selfies and blogposts from most Russian military garrisons and bases, few can be found from this town. Not too strange; the town is under full supervison of the 12th Chief Directorate of the Ministry of Defense. This directorate is responsible for all of Russia’s nuclear weapons, including storages, technical maintenance and transportation.

The 12th Chief Directorate is probably the most secretive organization in the Russian Armed Forces, even more than the foreign military intelligence agency GRU and the strategic missile forces, according to Wikipedia.

Bolshoye Ramozero serves a national-level nuclear weapons facility, one of 12 such storages across Russia, according to a recent report written by Pavel Podvig and Javier Serrat. The report, focusing on non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, is published by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

It is believed that all non-strategic nuclear warheads possible aimed for naval, air force and army weapons for the Kola area, and maybe even more, are stored at the central national level storage in Bolshaya Ramozero. According to the UNIDIR report, the 12th Chief Directorate is responsible for providing the nuclear warheads to the different military units “when deemed necessary.” If a threatening situation occurs, warheads can be transported by trucks from this site to the different military units on the Kola Peninsula which holds weapons systems that could be armed with tactical nuclear weapons, like naval cruise missiles or torpedoes, or cruise missiles carried by aircrafts.

The nearest airbase to the central storage on Kola is Olenogorsk where Tu-22 bombers are stationed.

Inside the underground storage bunkers in Bolshaya Ramozero are only the warheads stored.

Satellite images show that there are two storage areas just north of the town. The first area has three internal sites, of which only two seems to be actively used. The second area is located another kilometer further north. https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/content/satellite-images-show-expansion-nuclear-weapons-sites-kola

Japan’s massive nuclear waste problem, six years on

May 18, 2017

Struggling With Japan’s Nuclear Waste, Six Years After Disaster https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/11/world/asia/struggling-with-japans-nuclear-waste-six-years-after-disaster.html?_r=0 by MOTOKO RICH 

The estimated 6,000 cleanup workers at the site put on new protective gear every day. These hazmat suits, face masks, rubber gloves and shoe coverings are thrown out at the end of each shift. The clothing is compressed and stored in 1,000 steel boxes stacked around the site.

To date, more than 64,700 cubic meters of gear has been discarded, the equivalent of 17 million one-gallon containers. Tokyo Electric says it will eventually incinerate all this contaminated clothing to reduce the space needed to store it.

Branches and Logs From 220 Acres of Deforested Land The plant’s grounds were once dotted with trees, and a portion was even designated as a bird sanctuary. But workers have cleared about 220 acres of trees since the meltdown spewed radiation over them.

Now, piles of branches and tree trunks are stacked all over the site. Officials say there are about 80,000 cubic meters of this waste, and all of it will have to be incinerated and stored someday.

200,400 Cubic Meters of Radioactive RubbleExplosions during the meltdown filled the reactors with rubble. Workers and robots are slowly and carefully trying to remove this tangled mass of crushed concrete, pipes, hoses and metal.

Tokyo Electric estimates that more than 200,400 cubic meters of rubble — all of it radioactive — have been removed so far and stored in custom-made steel boxes. That is the equivalent of about 3,000 standard 40-foot shipping containers.

3.5 Billion Gallons of SoilThousands of plastic garbage bags sit in neat rows in the fields and abandoned towns surrounding the Fukushima plant. They contain soil that was scraped from land that was exposed to radiation in the days after the accident.

Japan’s Ministry of the Environment estimates that it has bagged 3.5 billion gallons of soil, and plans to collect much more. It will eventually incinerate some of the soil, but that will only reduce the volume of the radioactive waste, not eliminate it.

The ministry has already begun building a massive, interim storage facility in Fukushima prefecture and negotiating with 2,360 landowners for the thousands of acres needed to complete it. And that is not even a long-term solution: The government says that after 30 years it will need another site — or sites — to store radioactive waste.

1,573 Nuclear Fuel Rods

The ultimate goal of the cleanup is to cool and, if possible, remove the uranium and plutonium fuel that was inside the three reactors at the time of the disaster.

Hundreds of spent fuel rods are in cooling pools inside the reactors, and the company hopes to have cleared away enough rubble to begin removing them next year. The much bigger challenge will be removing the fuel that was in use in the reactor core at the time of the meltdown.

The condition and location of this molten fuel debris are still largely unknown. In one reactor where a robot was sent in January, much of the melted fuel is believed to have burned through the bottom of the inner reactor vessel and burrowed into the thick concrete foundation of the containment structure.

The plan is to completely seal the containment vessels, fill them with water and use robots to find and remove the molten fuel debris. But the rubble, the lethal levels of radiation and the risk of letting radiation escape make this an exceedingly difficult task.

In January, the robot sent into one of the reactors discovered radiation levels high enough to kill a person in less than a minute. Another had to be abandoned last month after debris blocked its path and radiation disabled it.

Tokyo Electric hopes to begin removing fuel debris from the reactor cores in 2021. The entire effort could take decades. Some say the radioactive material may prove impossible to remove safely and have suggested leaving it and entombing Fukushima under a concrete and steel sarcophagus like the one used at Chernobyl.

But the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric say they are committed to removing all the waste and cleaning the site, estimated at a cost of $188.6 billion.

“We want to return it to a safe state,” said Yuichi Okamura, general manager of the company’s nuclear power and plant siting division. “We promised the local people that we would recover the site and make it a safe ground again.”

Los Alamos National Laboratory increasing storage of nuclear wastes

May 18, 2017

The request also raises new concerns about the amount of radioactive waste being stored on the lab’s property, which has been threatened by catastrophic wildfires at least twice in the past 20 years, and about the lab’s long-troubled history of waste management, which has been a frequent subject of federal oversight reports.

Work was stalled for a number of years at the facility because of safety concerns with the building, including an inadequate fire safety system and its potential inability to withstand an earthquake.

“The desire to make more waste is actually competing with [the] desire to get on top of their safety and [existing] waste issues”

The continued storage of above-ground waste also raises questions about the safety of the drums in the event of a fire

LANL seeks permission to store more nuclear waste on-site http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/lanl-seeks-permission-to-store-more-nuclear-waste-on-site/article_169f3934-21a2-5ede-9d21-cfd2946e2bdb.html Mar 12, 2017. By Rebecca Moss The New Mexican LOS ALAMOS — Los Alamos National Laboratory wants to store thousands of gallons of newly generated radioactive waste for an indefinite number of years, possibly decades, on laboratory property that is primarily used for plutonium research and nuclear weapons development.

The lab in January asked the state for permission to modify its 2010 hazardous waste permit in order to use two waste rooms and an outdoor storage pad near the lab’s plutonium facility to hold 1,700 waste drums, or 95,000 gallons, of radiologically contaminated materials — enough to fill six backyard swimming pools.

The new waste would join millions of gallons of radioactive waste and other hazardous contaminants stored in shallow pits and above ground throughout the lab’s 43-square-mile property, some of it dating back to the Manhattan Project. The request underscores the nuclear weapons industry’s continuing struggle to find places to dispose of its growing stockpiles of radioactive waste, an endeavor that was set back in part by the nearly three-year closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Southern New Mexico. An improperly packaged waste drum from the lab burst in an underground chamber in February 2014, causing a radiation leak.

Even with the reopening of WIPP in January, the facility is unlikely to return to full speed for several years, and new rules for accepting radioactive waste will only further delay shipments from Los Alamos.

The request also raises new concerns about the amount of radioactive waste being stored on the lab’s property, which has been threatened by catastrophic wildfires at least twice in the past 20 years, and about the lab’s long-troubled history of waste management, which has been a frequent subject of federal oversight reports.

Officials said the newly generated waste has been accumulating at the lab since WIPP stopped accepting shipments.

Keith Lacy, a group leader for hazardous materials management, said at a public meeting in Los Alamos on Wednesday that the waste currently being generated by the lab has no place to go, creating “the need for increased storage capacity to support continued mission operations.”

Most of the new individual drums would only be permitted to remain at the site for a year, but exceptions in the plan could allow some drums to stay longer if, for example, they cannot be disposed of elsewhere.

The lab also will have to reassess the waste in at least 300 of the new drums because they are at risk of being too flammable to ship to WIPP, which cannot accept such materials under new guidelines created after the 2014 accident. The assessments would take place in the new storage area, Lacy said, adding that it would be safer to conduct all of this work in the same place.

But nuclear watchdogs question why the lab needs so much new waste storage capacity and whether it is wise to store hazardous waste so close to the highly sensitive work done at the plutonium facility, PF-4, located at Technical Area 55.

“I am not filled with confidence,” said Greg Mello, director of the independent watchdog Los Alamos Study Group. He said storing waste at TA-55 puts too many eggs in one basket and that the lab should focus on cleaning up the waste it already has before continuing work that generates new waste.

“One has the sense from this that we are looking at one ad-hoc solution built on top of another,” Mello said. “The people who are potentially hurt by this are not going to be people miles away, they are going to be workers.”

PF-4 is the heart of the laboratory’s work in plutonium-related programs and is seen as central to maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program. Since 1998, the site has been used in part to build plutonium pits, which are essentially grapefruit-sized atomic bombs — each with about the yield of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan — that are used to trigger thermonuclear weapons.

Work was stalled for a number of years at the facility because of safety concerns with the building, including an inadequate fire safety system and its potential inability to withstand an earthquake; it is located over a seismic fault line. While some of those issues are still in the process of being resolved, work restarted in late 2015 as part of nuclear weapons modernization efforts outlined by the Obama administration, which sought to build as many as 80 pits per year by 2030.

Permit documents state that because the facility is up and running again, “an anticipated increase in the generation of MTRU [mixed transuranic] and TRU waste is expected.”

Transuranic waste includes materials like tools, rags and soil that have been contaminated by radioactive particles. Mixed hazardous waste contains heavier radioactive elements, like plutonium, and another hazardous waste component, such as a toxic chemical, which makes treatment more complex.

In addition to pit production, Los Alamos began converting plutonium to fuel for NASA space missions in thr fall, according to a recent statement by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The storage space requested by the lab would double the amount of storage allowed at the site but only increase the total storage throughout the laboratory complex by 2 percent, according to Tammy Diaz, with the lab’s compliance programs.

Still, some nuclear watchdogs wonder what the lab would be doing to produce so much waste.

It seems ambitious,” said Scott Kovac, with Nuclear Watch New Mexico. Because operations were stalled for several years at the plutonium facility, he asked, “Where is all that waste going to come from?”

The new storage space would only be for newly generated waste, with the oldest drum dating back to 2011.

In total, however, legacy waste generated during the Manhattan Project and Cold War has already created at least 5 million gallons of waste at the lab, officials say. Some estimates place this figure much higher. Data analyzed by the Los Alamos Study Group found that roughly 82 million gallons, or 11 million cubic feet, of radioactive and hazardous waste are buried in shallow and deep pits, largely concentrated at Area G, the lab’s largest waste storage site.

And for Mello, this is the crux of the problem.

“The desire to make more waste is actually competing with [the] desire to get on top of their safety and [existing] waste issues,” he said.

The continued storage of above-ground waste also raises questions about the safety of the drums in the event of a fire. The lab has fire mitigation plans that are updated every five years and include work to deter fire, such as extensive tree thinning and brush removal within a specific perimeter of the lab.

But these measures haven’t prevented unintentional wildfires from burning through areas used to store radioactive waste on a number of occasions.

The 2000 Cerro Grande Fire burned 112 lab structures, consuming 7,500 acres of laboratory property, with fire engulfing TA-55 and encroaching on Area G, according to lab documents.

In 2011, the Los Conchas Fire burned more than 150,000 acres in Los Alamos and came alarmingly close to transuranic waste drums stored at Area G.

The fire prompted Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration to call for the lab to prioritize above-ground legacy waste cleanup, with a deadline to ship the waste off the Hill to WIPP by June 2014.

But this deadline faced an unanticipated setback with the shutdown of WIPP.

The transuranic waste drums that remain at Area G are now contained in a steel structure covered by a dome with fire-retardant fabric, which includes a sprinkler system and fire-retardant blankets on hand in the event of a fire.

Michael Lonergan, a spokesman for Gov. Martinez, referred questions to the state Environment Department.

Allison Majure, a spokeswoman for the Environment Department, said, “The New Mexico Environment Department works closely with all of our federal facilities, like LANL and others, to keep New Mexicans safe through enforcing the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act protocols, which require the mitigation of fire risk.”

She said the department is still reviewing the lab’s request and will give it, and public feedback, “proper consideration and act on the information accordingly.” Members of the public have until April 5 to submit comments to the Environment Department on the proposed permit.

Los Alamos’ management of nuclear waste has been an issue for decades. The cleanup of legacy waste alone is estimated to cost nearly $4 billion and take at least another 20 years.

This waste cleanup was originally governed by a 2005 consent order between the lab’s management contract, Los Alamos National Security LLC, the U.S. Department of Energy and the New Mexico Environment Department. The order outlined an aggressive goal to remove all legacy waste from the laboratory within a decade.

Following the WIPP accident, a new consent order was negotiated between the parties and finalized in June 2016. This document requires the lab to develop annual cleanup milestones, but does not set a final date for removing all legacy waste — an element of the agreement that elicited criticism from nuclear watchdogs and other members of the public.

Though WIPP has reopened and began to store new waste in January, shipments from outside facilities won’t begin until April, and they will proceed at a slower rate than before the 2014 closure.

Los Alamos is the last in the queue and won’t begin sending shipments until September, according to permit documents.

Only 24 shipments will be allowed to go from Los Alamos to WIPP in the next year, compared to 230 shipments sent in fiscal year 2012, according to a lab news release.

Jeff Carmichael, with the lab’s Environmental Protection and Compliance group, said, “If we were shipping to WIPP [over the past three years], this would not be a problem today.”

Contact Rebecca Moss at 505-986-3011 or rmoss@sfnewmexican.com.

UK’s nuclear waste cleanup costs – up to £219 billion, with development of autonomous robots

March 9, 2017

UK funding development of autonomous robots to help clear up nuclear waste A new UK consortium will be developing robots to handle nuclear sites, bomb disposal, space and mining. International Business Times,     By   February 28, 2017 The UK government is funding a new consortium of academic institutions and industrial partners to jump start the robotics industry and develop a new generation of robots to help deal with situations that are hazardous for humans.

It is estimated that it will cost between £95 billion and £219 billion to clean up the UK’s existing nuclear facilities over the next 120 years or so. The environment is so harsh that humans cannot physically be on the site, and robots that are sent in often encounter problems, like the small IRID Toshiba shape-shifting scorpion robot used to explore Fukushima’s nuclear reactors, often break down and cannot be retrieved.Remote-controlled robots are needed to turn enter dangerous zones that haven’t been accessed in over 40 years to carry out relatively straightforward tasks that a human could do in an instant.

The problem is that robots are just not at the level they need to be yet, and it is very difficult to build a robot that can successfully navigate staircases, move over rough terrain and turn valves.

To fix this problem, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is investing £4.6m ($5.7m) into a new group consisting of the University of Manchester, the University of Birmingham, the University of the West of England (UWE) and industrial partners Sellafield, EDF Energy, UKAEA and NuGen…….http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/uk-funding-development-autonomous-robots-help-clear-nuclear-waste-1608985

Scrutinising ARPANSA’s Information for Stakeholders on nuclear radioactive waste facility

February 1, 2017

Effectively this is the same draconian situation that existed under the earlier Commonwealth Noonan, David
Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 introduced by the Howard government to override State and Territory interests to protect community health, safety and welfare from the risks and impacts of nuclear wastes and to nullify Federal laws that protect against imposition of nuclear wastes.


Public submission to the draft ARPANSA Information for Stakeholders & associated Regulatory Guide to Licensing a Radioactive Waste Storage or Disposal Facility

Summary

Revised ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” should address the following:

The nuclear fuel waste Store in the Flinders Ranges is intended to operate for approx. 100 years.

The ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” fails to be transparent and is not fit for purpose.

ARPANSA must inform the public on the proposed licence period for this nuclear fuel waste Store.

ARPANSA should also publicly acknowledge the Contingency that the proposed nuclear fuel waste Store may be at a different site to the proposed near surface Repository in the Flinders Ranges.

The proposed above ground Store in our iconic Flinders Ranges is unnecessary as the ANSTO’s existing Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can manage reprocessed nuclear fuel waste on contract from France and from the United Kingdom over the long term.

The ANSTO application for the Interim Waste Store was conservatively predicated on a 40 year operating life for the IWS, and ANSTO has a contingency to “extend it for a defined period of time”.

ANSTO also has a contingency option for the “Retention of the returned residues at ANSTO until the availability of a final disposal option” – which does not involve a Store in the Flinders Ranges.

The Lucas Heights Technology Centre is by far the best placed Institution and facility to responsibly manage Australia’s existing nuclear fuel waste and proposed waste accruals from the Opal reactor.

The Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can conservatively function throughout the proposed operating period of the Opal reactor without a requirement for an alternative above ground nuclear fuel waste Store at a NRWMF in the Flinders Ranges or elsewhere.

It is an inexplicably omission or an unacceptably act of denial for ARPANSA to fail to even identity or to properly explain Australia’s existing nuclear fuel wastes and proposed further decades of Opal reactor nuclear fuel waste production in the “Information for Stakeholders”.

Australia’s nuclear fuel wastes are by far the highest activity and most concentrated and hazardous nuclear wastes under Australian management, and must be distinguished from other waste forms. (more…)

Deep borehole as a potential way to bury highly radioactive nuclear trash

February 1, 2017

It is a good idea to at least test the feasibility of deep boreholes. As one resident said “Something must be done with the wastes”. There is no obligation on that community to agree to actually accept high level nuclear waste – only to host the testing of the deep bore concept.

The whole project would really make sense if it were combined with a definite plan to STOP MAKING TOXIC RADIOACTIVE WASTES, by closing down all nuclear reactors. This could be done, with genuine good will, and planning for compensation and transition to other employment for workers in the nuclear industry.

New Mexico town steps up for nuclear borehole project  LMT Online, , January 15, 2017 “……. The U.S. Energy Department, Quay County and two energy development companies say the nation’s latest nuclear waste experiment could inject as much as $40 million into the county’s economy. Nara Visa residents just have to agree to let the companies drill a three-mile-deep borehole — seven times deeper than the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad — into the crystalline, granite crust of the earth a few miles outside of town, on land currently occupied by fat, black cattle.

Right now, the project is pegged as a scientific experiment. The Energy Department says no nuclear waste will be placed in the test borehole.

The ultimate goal is to find a permanent place to dispose of the ever-growing and deadly stockpile of spent nuclear fuel rods and high-level radioactive waste collected at nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons laboratories nationwide.

Until this year, no town in the U.S. had agreed to the proposal. But when the Quay County Commission approved the plan in October, it put Nara Visa on track to become the first.

About seven miles outside Nara Visa, there is a small, gravel roadside park where semi-truck drivers pull off U.S. 54 to sleep. Below the earth, the granite is devoid of oil but just right for deep drilling.

These 10 acres belong to Louis and Elaine James, who’ve agreed to lease it to the government………

As far as the nuclear waste component is concerned, Louis James, 69, said, “I have more of a problem with it sitting over at Pantex 100 miles away than I do with it being under the ground, because you know it will get you if they ever attack those spots.” He was referring to the Pantex Plant, a nuclear weapons assembly facility outside Amarillo, Texas……

The test hole planned for the James’ property is meant to be just 8 1/2 inches wide but would go deep below ground, first through the water table and a mile through sediment before hitting the top of a crystalline rock layer. From there, the hole would be drilled another two miles into the Earth. This is the layer where nuclear waste would be stored, then sealed off with a steel casing and concrete to protect the environment and water in the mile span separating the waste from the land’s surface.

Utah-based DOSECC Exploration Services LLC and Enercon Federal Services, Inc., based in Atlanta, are developing the Nara Visa proposal and are one of four groups that have been granted the go-ahead from the Energy Department for Phase 1 of the project. This is referred to as “community buy-in,” gaining not only public approval but also support for the project, and securing the land for the borehole site.

If DOSECC and Enercon win this bid, they will get $35 million over a five-year period to drill the first hole. The Energy Department will grant an additional $50 million to drill a second, wider borehole if the first is successful……

State Rep. Dennis Roch said that after meeting with the companies, he felt confident there was “no connection between this viability test and the ultimate decision of where to dispose of nuclear waste way down the road.”…….

The Nara Visa site would only be permitted for drilling, he added. Nuclear waste storage would require an entirely different permitting and regulatory process…….

WIPP, after being closed for nearly three years following the radiation leak, began depositing waste below ground for the first time in December. But the stagnation of waste disposal at these facilities left the Energy Department scrambling for alternatives, and in 2012, deep boreholes resurfaced as a potential alternative, an idea that was first floated in the 1950s.

To store all of the waste sitting at 77 U.S. facilities, the Energy Department needs to drill 950 boreholes at an estimated $20 million per hole, or $71 billion for the entire project, including transportation, environmental reclamation, monitoring and site characterization, according to the 2010 Sandia study. In contrast, Yucca Mountain was estimated to cost $96 billion.

Each hole is expected to contain 400 vertically stacked fuel pods that, unlike the costly steel drums used to pack waste headed to WIPP, would not require specialized containers but instead would be stored in their spent fuel form or glass. Multiple boreholes could be drilled just over 200 meters apart to avoid thermal reactions.

Though the Sandia study said boreholes could be used for nuclear reactor waste, Mast from Enercon said he believes the Energy Department is only looking at boreholes for waste from nuclear weapons development.

To actually begin placing nuclear waste in the boreholes will require an amendment to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Before the proposal reaches that stage, Greg Mello, director of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, says the government should be more transparent about exactly what type of high-level nuclear waste would go in the holes: spent fuel rods, nuclear weapons waste or down-blended plutonium. …..http://www.lmtonline.com/news/article/New-Mexico-town-steps-up-for-nuclear-borehole-10858853.php

The danger of plutonium being released at United States at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

February 1, 2017

Puget Sound’s ticking nuclear time bomb, Crosscut by , 10 Jan 17  “……“Command and Control” shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to destroy us, and it speaks directly to Puget Sound citizens: Locally, we face a similar threat in Hood Canal with the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

An accident at Bangor involving nuclear weapons occurred in November 2003 when a ladder penetrated a nuclear nose cone during a routine missile offloading at the Explosives Handling Wharf. All missile-handling operations at the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) were stopped for nine weeks until Bangor could be recertified for handling nuclear weapons. Three top commanders were fired but the public was never informed until information was leaked to the media in March 2004.

The Navy never publicly admitted that the 2003 accident occurred. The Navy failed to report the accident at the time to county or state authorities. Public responses from governmental officials were generally in the form of surprise and disappointment.

The result of such an explosion likely would not cause a nuclear detonation. Instead, plutonium from the approximately 108 nuclear warheads on one submarine could be spread by the wind…… http://crosscut.com/2017/01/nuclear-accidents-bangor-accident-command-and-control/

Hanford nuclear cleanup costs goes up by another $4.5 billion

February 1, 2017

The price tag for cleaning up nuclear waste at Hanford site just went up another $4.5 billion LA Times, 16 Dec 16 Ralph Vartabedian  Contact Reporter The U.S. Energy Department said Friday that its long-troubled attempt to build a plant to process highly radioactive sludge at a former nuclear weapons site in central Washington state will cost an additional $4.5 billion, raising the project’s price tag to $16.8 billion.

The Hanford treatment plant, a small industrial city with some two dozen facilities on a desert plateau along the Columbia River, is more than a decade behind schedule and will cost nearly four times the original estimate made in 2000.

The government aims to transform 56 million gallons of deadly sludge stored in leaky underground tanks into solid glass, which theoretically could then be stored safely for thousands of years.

But the effort has involved an extended history of errors, miscalculations and wrongdoing. The result has been a massive, partially built concrete facility that has been under a stop-work order for three years because of serious technical doubts.

The biggest technical problems involve two giant facilities, a melter building for high-level radioactive waste and a pretreatment building to prepare the sludge for chemical processing.

After an exhaustive technical review, the Energy Department at the beginning of this year ordered fixes for more than 500 problems, some of them fundamental design deficiencies at the melter. Construction of the building and equipment was 78% complete at the time of the review.

And in November, the Justice Department settled a False Claims Act suit against two major contractors at the plant, San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. and AECOM, an engineering, design and construction management company based in Los Angeles. The allegations originally were brought by three engineers at the plant, who had long raised concerns that the fundamental design of the plant was flawed. The two companies agreed to pay $125 million in damages, a portion of which will be awarded to the three whistle-blowers……..

outside watchdogs say the giant cost increase could jeopardize the cleanup at a time when the incoming president, Donald Trump, has already sharply criticized high-cost government projects and contracts.

Tom Carpenter, executive director of the Hanford Challenge, which has helped whistle-blowers disclose problems at the site, said the new cost estimate puts a target on the plant that could lead the Energy Department to begin searching for lower-cost and less safe solutions to the waste problem.

One potential lower-cost remedy at Hanford, which has been used at other former nuclear waste sites, would be to pour concrete into the tanks to solidify the waste and then simply leave it in place. The risk is that the concrete might eventually break down, leak radioactivity into the groundwater and contaminate the Columbia River about seven miles away, Carpenter said.

“There are a lot of question marks about the fate of this facility,” Carpenter said.

The revised plan disclosed Friday is part of an effort to get the waste treatment plant started up sooner, though the estimated delay for full operational status seems to be growing.

In 2013, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu stopped most construction on the project after a whistle-blower warned about a potential for explosion from accumulated hydrogen gas in the melter tanks. In an effort to get the cleanup moving again, Chu’s successor, Ernest J. Moniz, ordered that some of the lower-level waste be solidified without any pretreatment — a so-called direct feed system — and on a faster schedule at the low-level melter.

The early processing could begin in 10 years or less, but the full capability for the most highly radioactive sludge that requires the high-level melter is now scheduled for a 2036 start-up, some 20 years past the original schedule, Carpenter said.

“It is an astounding date,” he said.  http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-hanford-cost-20161216-story.html