EPA sets Yucca radiation standards

EPA sets Yucca radiation standards

Reid, Matheson call ‘lowered’ number risky

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday it has established final radiation standards for the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The standards are intended to protect human health and the environment for 1 million years.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the “lowered” radiation standard will instead put people at risk.

“In other words, the (EPA) agency decided just how much radiation you and I can live with,” Reid said. “Let me be clear, there is no way this weak standard will breathe life into the Bush-McCain plan to dump nuclear waste in Nevada. Instead, it will breathe life into more litigation against this terrible project.”

Last June the Department of Energy submitted an 8,600-page license application to build the dump 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas at the edge of DOE’s Nevada Test Site. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will include EPA’s new standards in its licensing regulations. Congress directed the EPA to develop the standards.

The new EPA standards set per-year limits on millirem doses of radiation (15 millirem) for the first 10,000 years after disposal and 100 millirem for up to 1 million years after that on allowable annual radiation exposure at the dump site. Fifteen millirem is the amount of radiation from a typical X-ray.

On average human beings are exposed to about 360 millirem per year from naturally occurring and man-made sources, the EPA noted in a statement. Invisible, odorless radon gas in homes, ultraviolet radiation from the sun and medical X-rays are a few sources.

The final standards also require the Department of Energy “to consider the effects of climate change, earthquakes, volcanoes and corrosion of the waste packages to safely contain the waste during the 1 million year period.”

Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, also called the standard weak.

“Shoddy science has been used to move the flawed choice of Yucca Mountain forward … and the latest action by the EPA is more of the same,” Matheson said in a statement. “That is why I oppose Yucca Mountain and have proposed a plan to store the nuclear waste on site where it is produced.”

The EPA added how its standards will be “consistent with the recommendations of the NAS (National Academy of Sciences) by establishing a radiological protection standard for this facility at the time of peak does up to 1 million years after disposal.”

The waste site would be located in Yucca Mountain, 1,000 feet below the top of the mountain and 1,000 feet above ground water.

The EPA has noted that the repository would be located over a “large, deep source of fresh water currently used as agricultural and drinking water. This water feeds a larger groundwater basin south of the site that has the potential to supply many people in the surrounding area.”

If approved, the site would be the country’s first geologic repository for disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Thousands of tons of nuclear waste from around the country, some transported through Utah, would be dumped at the Nye County site. About 1,400 people live within 20 miles of the site.

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons has said he will continue to try stopping the Yucca Mountain site from being built, and Reid also has been a vocal opponent. Last June Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the application to build the site will “stand up to any challenge anywhere.”

The site at one time had been proposed for opening in 1998, but legal, political and scientific controversies have pushed the new estimated operational date to at least 2020. The lifetime cost of maintaining the site is estimated in the tens of billions of dollars, while earlier this year Congress approved spending nearly $390 million on the project. In 1978 the DOE began looking at Yucca Mountain as a possible nuclear waste dump.

More information is available at www.epa.gov/radiation/yucca.



Officials face anger over radioactive site

NEWFIELD — Residents had their first shot in nearly two years Tuesday night to corner regulators about the future of the former Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corp.

The issue is whether the radioactive residue of the former smelting facility goes away for disposal or becomes a 1,000-year environmental sore in eyesight of the downtown.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is overseeing the facility’s decommissioning. It dispatched 12 officials, from groundwater specialists to legal counsel for an unusual meeting at Edgarton Memorial School on Catawba Avenue.

The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection sent a team of four. The agency has applied to the NRC to take over operations.

NRC attorney Mike Clark said approval of that request rests in part on New Jersey adopting regulations that match those on the federal level.

A display poster at the meeting indicated New Jersey could become responsible for the Shieldalloy site on Sept. 30, 2009. A 39-week review process is started with the state’s submission of an application.

The final decommissioning plan could be delivered to the NRC for review by mid-2009, officials said.

Regulators fielded questions from more than 50 residents — many openly disgruntled and suspicious. Dispositions didn’t improve after learning that many basic questions, such as results of testing for leaking contaminants, were unanswered and would be for months.

Sandy Drive residents Ralston Edwards and his wife Sue didn’t like the format, either.

Regulators kept remarks brief and general. Residents instead moved individually to a series of display stations where they could ask questions.

The Edwardses wanted a conventional public hearing, with questions coming from an audience and answers coming back for all to hear.

“He could give everyone a different answer,” Ralston Edwards said.

Sue Edwards said the meeting struck her as a “stalling exercise.”

“I said, ‘Are they coming back in 90 days to give us answers?'” she said, adding the response was indefinite.

“We won’t see in 90 days,” she said bitingly.

The NRC last was here in December 2006, when it held two public hearings to review the decommissioning plan. At the time, officials estimated it would take two years to complete a technical review.

Shieldalloy, at 35 S. West Blvd., was used for smelting and alloy production from 1940 through 2001.

One raw material used was an ore called pyrochlore. The ore contained uranium and thorium, which are subject to NRC regulation.

The uranium and thorium are contained in slag and baghouse dust, according to an NRC report.

In 2006, Shieldalloy submitted to NRC a decommissioning plan for the facility.

The company proposed creating a single pile of all materials containing uranium and thorium on the facility’s storage yard.

According to the plan, the material would be shaped and covered with an “engineered barrier.”

The rest of the facility then would be to be used for other purposes, if it can be shown there is no dangerous contamination.

Planning Board member John Nessel complained to Keith McConnell, a NRC official, that the meeting format appeared set up to “divide and conquer” residents.

Nessel worries about the damage to the borough’s image as well as its land and water.

“The point is Newfield used to be a teeming town,” Nessel said. “Now, no one comes to Newfield.”

Gloucester County’s Board of Freeholders sent to the meeting an attorney and borough resident Richard Westergaard, a former borough mayor employed at the county Department of Public Works.

Westergaard said he liked the NRC’s performance to date but also was let down by the forum’s format. He was buoyed by reports that New Jersey could take over at the facility.

“Next September, the state could tell them to get it out of here,” Westergaard said, referring to Shieldalloy’s waste piles. He based the observation on a NRC official’s remarks.

Borough resident Jim Milton was unimpressed to hear Shieldalloy was testing underneath its waste piles. “That should have been done 20 years ago,” he said.


Signs of Nuclear Test Ground Restoration Observed

Signs of Nuclear Test Ground Restoration Observed
By Park In Ho
[2008-10-01 16:12 ]   <!–   권은경//–> Read in Korean
Activities which might represent an attempt to restore the location for nuclear experimentation in Poongkye-ri, Kilju, North Hamkyung Province, where North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon two years ago, have been captured by a South Korean intelligence organization and are being elaborately analyzed.

A comment from a source within the South Korean administration was quoted on Wednesday by Yonhap News, a South Korean news agency, as saying, “Smoke ascending around the nuclear experiment place in Poongkye-ri was captured and we are monitoring precisely whether North Korea is attempting to restore the nuclear testing ground.”

The South’s intelligence agency assumes that smoke around the testing ground was generated by the destruction of equipment or clothes by fire. It is analyzing whether or not this move is connected to the resurrection of the Yongbyon facilities.

This move also is attracting attention, with analysts wondering whether it is related to Christopher Hill’s October 1st visit to North Korea.

After the nuclear test on October 9, 2006, when North Korean Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan met with Christopher Hill in January, 2007, North Korea repaired the gangways of the testing ground in Poongkye-ri and carried in equipment.

When the second phase measures for North Korean nuclear disablement were under debate at the Six Party Talks in October of the same year, wire entanglements were constructed and the military guard at the facility was reinforced.

An affiliate with the South Korean intelligence agency said that “We don’t have anything confirmed yet. Ostentatiously showing activity at such locations is often a bargaining tool to create an acute crisis atmosphere.”

Agreements pertaining to the second phase of the Six Party Talks cover the 5MW nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, reprocessing facilities and fuel rod manufacturing facilities as the targets of nuclear disablement, but the testing ground facilities at Poongkye-ri are excluded from it.


Proposed sites for demo reactor ruled out

Melanie Gosling
October 01 2008 at 01:23PM

Three sites under consideration for Eskom’s pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR) – Thyspunt, Bantamsklip and Pelindaba – have been ruled out as suitable locations for the proposed demonstration model of the nuke.

According to the draft environmental impact report released on Tuesday, Thyspunt, near Cape St Francis, and Bantamsklip, near Pearly Beach, have been eliminated because of their “greenfield” status.

All three were eliminated because of the lack of infrastructure and the high cost of providing it.

Pelindaba was ruled out after the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA (Necsa) stated “categorically” that it was not responsible for generating electricity, but for the manufacture of nuclear fuel.

It was unlikely to begin producing commercial electricity before 2023

The report quotes Necsa as saying: “Unless the national energy policy and strategy for South Africa is altered to reflect Necsa as a commercial power generator, and the Nuclear Energy Act is amended accordingly, it will not be possible to locate the demonstration power plant at Pelindaba.”

The only site left was Koeberg.

The report said if the PBMR demo model were authorised, it was unlikely to begin producing commercial electricity before 2023. This was two years before many of the country’s existing power stations would have to be decommissioned5.

If approved, construction “could commence” in 2010, with the plant being commissioned in 2016. There would then be a seven-year period of “non-commercial” operation, to assess the commercial viability of the pebble bed.

All uranium for the fuel would come from mines in South Africa. Depleted fuel would be stored on site at Koeberg, as is the case with the spent fuel from Koeberg’s nuclear reactors.

No licensed site exists where high-level radioactive waste can be dumped. The low-and medium-level radioactive waste is to be trucked to Vaalputs in the Northern Cape.

The demonstration plant would have a footprint of about 9ha. There would be destruction of wetland habitat to construct the transmission lines, destruction of a sensitive wetland habitat because of the modification of the Modder River, and “extensive destruction of pristine natural habitat” for laydown areas.

There would be loss of dune thicket, sandplain fynbos and impacts on the primary dune system. Of the 321 plant species on the site, 22 (6,9 percent) are threatened.

The report found, however, there were “no environmental fatal flaws that should prevent the proposed project from proceeding”, provided the mitigation measures were implemented.

  • Eskom said on Tuesday no decision had been taken on the procurement and investment for proposed Nuclear-1 pressurised water reactor nuclear power station. It said the process was likely to be finalised by the end of the year. It was “inappropriate” to speculate when this would be.

    Earlier reports were that Eskom was expected to announce a decision between France’s Areva and the US-based Westinghouse Electric by the end of last month

  • Reid Delivers Millions to Nevada Projects, Cuts Millions from Yucca

    Reid Delivers Millions to Nevada Projects, Cuts Millions from Yucca

    September 27, 2008

    Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid today commended the passage of a package of bills that funds the federal government and important Nevada projects, while also cutting millions from the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump.

    “I am pleased the Senate passed these important funding bills,” said Reid. “By working in a bipartisan fashion, we were able to pass legislation that funds the federal government, delivers millions of dollars to important Nevada projects, and also cuts more than $100 million from the President’s budget for Yucca Mountain.”

    The Continuing Resolution passed today will fund the federal government through March 2009.  Funding for Yucca Mountain was frozen at fiscal year 2008 levels, $386.451 million, a cut of more than $108 million below the President’s request level for fiscal year 2009.  The continued resolution only provides funding through March 6, 2009, when Congress will need to revisit the funding for the agency and determine the budget for the rest of the fiscal year.

    The Defense Appropriations bill, passed in this package, contains more than $82 million for military and defense projects at Nevada’s military bases, universities and in the state’s private sector. More than $160 million was included in the Military Construction bill for operations, improvements, and construction of Nevada military facilities. In addition to the above funding for military projects and facilities, Reid secured $102 million in the Homeland Security bill for the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium which includes the Nevada Test Site. The test site will receive $23 million of the funding to continue its vital research of new security measures and operations.


    NUCLEAR WASTE SITE: EPA sets Yucca radiation standards

    DOE must prove system can meet safety requirement

    Graphic by Mike Johnson.

    WASHINGTON — The government on Tuesday issued long-awaited radiation standards for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository, setting a key public health threshold for experts to judge whether the nuclear waste site should be built.

    A regulation issued by the Environmental Protection Agency purports to set the acceptable levels of radiation that people could receive from the Nevada site up to 1 million years in the future — no matter that nobody can tell what the Earth will look like then

    Scientists vary in their confidence to predict climate and geology that far into the future, which helped explain why the EPA took three years to finalize the standards after floating a draft version in August 2005.

    Now, in order to win a construction license, the Department of Energy must prove, through complex computer modeling, that the underground tunnel system it wants to excavate 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas to store spent nuclear fuel can meet the safety requirement.

    “We believe we can meet the standard,” DOE spokesman Allen Benson said. The department’s case is laid out in a repository license application that is pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    “With the issuance of the EPA standard for Yucca Mountain, the regulatory framework is in place for the nation to move forward to a regulatory decision by the NRC on Yucca Mountain,” Benson said.

    The EPA set a two-part standard.

    For the first 10,000 years after the repository is filled with 77,000 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel, a theoretical farmer living 11 miles south of the Yucca site at Amargosa Valley could receive no more than 15 millirem of radiation exposure annually from materials escaping from the Yucca site.

    For comparison, EPA officials say a chest X-ray exposes a patient to 10 millirem while a mammogram results in a 30 millirem exposure. Americans receive about 360 millirem a year from naturally occurring radiation in the environment.

    After 10,000 years, and for up to 1 million years the allowable dose from the repository would be 100 millirems.

    The time period was extended that far at the direction of the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that the most dangerous levels of radiation from decaying isotopes could exist way beyond the initial 10,000 years.

    The EPA regulation also requires the DOE to consider the effects of climate change, earthquakes, volcanoes and waste canister corrosion during the million-year period.

    An earlier EPA standard that limited the standard to 10,000 years was thrown out by a federal court in 2004, sending the agency back to the drawing board.

    The revised regulation is more stringent than the draft, which recommended a long-term radiation standard of 350 millirem annually.

    Initial reaction from Nevada was mixed.

    The director of state’s nuclear projects agency said the rule was being studied but it appeared the EPA tightened the standards in several ways that would benefit public health.

    “Clearly this standard is more protective than the previous one, no doubt about it,” said Bob Loux, who announced his resignation on Monday but who is continuing until a replacement is named.

    But Loux added that if the EPA changed directions entirely between the draft and the final regulations, the state might request a new round of public comments on the rules, which could also serve to delay them from going into effect.

    “It may very well be the right number,” Loux said. “But if they used a different rationale it may have to be reproposed and sent out for comment again.”

    Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the leading repository foe in Congress, said the EPA standard still was unacceptable.

    “Let me be clear, there is no way this weak standard will breathe life into the Bush-McCain plan to dump nuclear waste in Nevada,” Reid said in a statement. “Instead, it will breathe life into more litigation against this terrible project.”

    The EPA said it set aside the 350 millirem standard after receiving a number of critical public comments.

    It said the newly set dose level of 100 millirem per year “is well established as protective of public health under current dose limits, and as such represents a robust public health protection standard in the extreme far future.”

    Groups such as the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency “recommend its use as an overall public dose limit in planning for situations where exposures may be reasonably expected to occur.”

    At least one environmental organization, Beyond Nuclear, echoed Reid’s criticism.

    Representative Kevin Kamps said it was “incredible” that the EPA would allow future generations to be exposed to higher doses of harmful radiation than current generations.

    “EPA’s final Yucca radiation release regulations are unacceptable. All human generations are of equal importance and moral worth,” Kamps said.


    McCain Campaign Rewrites Alaska History.

    McCain Campaign Rewrites Alaska History.

    30 09 2008

    Every once in a while we hear tha sound of hoofbeats on the Mudflats….  Hark!   Is that…..a horse?  Why yes, it’s our trusty white knight Representative Les Gara galloping up to deliver his latest opinion piece on the Palin debacle.  He unfurls his scroll and reads…

    Over the past few weeks we Alaskans have been scratching our heads over the interesting claims the McCain campaign has made about our Governor. A lot of them have been news to us. Governor Palin’s nomination to the McCain ticket has created unusual common ground for Alaskans. Whether we support her or not, we’ve been furrowing our eyebrows a lot lately as we watch the McCain campaign re-write Alaska history.

    As a legislator who’s both agreed and disagreed with Governor Palin, I know some of her positions are difficult to sell. Some are not. But to avoid that whole messy thing of explaining controversial positions, the spin doctors running the McCain campaign are doing what got George Bush elected. Many campaigns spin in the gray areas, where the truth isn’t clear. But the McCain campaign’s taken a page from Karl Rove, and decided to spin past the margins. They’re pitching the verifiably false as true.

    During the August Republican National Convention, Alaskans heard for the first time that our Governor opposed a national symbol of federal pork, what folks in the Lower 48 call the “Bridges to Nowhere.” We didn’t know that. In her 2006 Governor’s campaign, when her opponents took the risk of telling boomers these two bridges might be too expensive – candidate Palin said she supported them – and said she’d work to get more Congressional money for them.

    Now the campaign has a new line, that Governor Palin “told Congress thanks, but no thanks” for this money. That’s a problem. See, she never could have said that. Congress debated our Alaska’s request for $400 million in bridge money in 2004 and 2005, before Palin was elected Governor. A national outcry against these projects, at a time when a Republican Congress was pushing pork over effective relief for Hurricane Katrina’s victims, forced Congress to re-write this earmark. Alaska ultimately got the money in 2005, but the Congressional language requiring that we spend it on these bridges was deleted. We said thank you. Governor Palin never opposed this funding. She never offered to return it when she took office in 2007.

    Then there’s the claim by Senator McCain that our Governor has been a “maverick” fighting federal earmarks. We didn’t know that either. Alaska takes more federal earmarks per capita than any state in the country. Governor Palin asks for them. She, like her predecessors, happily accepts them. Alaska’s budget contains hundreds of millions in earmark dollars. Alaska politicians love earmarks, and campaign on their ability to get them.

    We also heard at the Convention that Governor Palin’s been a budget cutter. But in Governor Palin’s two years as Governor state spending has gone up by 20%. She did veto projects, and I supported those vetoes. But after vetoes, there’s still been a 20% budget hike. Depending on your views, a 20% spending increase might be defensible. It’s not defensible to make people believe you cut the budget when you didn’t.

    Here’s what else I know about my state. We have the third worst children’s health insurance program in the nation. The Governor wouldn’t support cost-effective measures to extend insurance to the 10,000 children of Alaskan working parents who cannot afford coverage. She campaigned against a recent proposal to prevent large strip mines from spilling toxic chemicals into Alaska’s salmon waters – something that’s raised the ire of fishermen and Alaska Natives in remote Southwest Alaska communities. Thirty-five to forty percent of our kids don’t graduate from high school, and we can’t convince Governor Palin to join the 41 other states that have accepted the science showing statewide pre-k education helps kids succeed when they don’t have other good options at home.

    There are a lot of important issues to discuss this campaign. They should be debated honestly. So far, as Senator McCain’s joined Barack Obama’s call for change, he’s only succeeded at changing the truth.

    We now return you to the McCain-Palin campaign already in progress.