U.S. DOE racing to “test” Deep Borehole Disposal of highly radioactive wastes (October 2015)

As revealed at a two-day long meeting of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) on Oct. 21 & 22, 2015 in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is racing to begin “testing” the concept of Deep Borehole Disposal of highly radioactive wastes, even though most people — including those whose communities could be targeted to “host” such facilities — have not even heard about it yet.

Links to the agenda, NWTRB press release, numerous presentations, and additional materials are now posted at the NWTRB website.

Also, a transcript is supposed to be posted, but it has not been yet. (It is unclear if a video recording of the Webcast will be made available, in addition, or whether that was only viewable in real time.)

By “Deep Borehole Disposal,” the DOE proponents are referring to the concept of drilling a relatively small diameter hole, 3 to 5 kilometers (1.9 to 3.1 miles) straight down into the Earth’s crust, in order to insert radioactive waste containers in the bottom. A common figure discussed at the meeting was 40 containers of radioactive waste, stacked one on top of the other, in the bottom of each Deep Borehole. A field of Deep Boreholes — enough to accommodate all the radioactive waste to be buried — would be drilled in close proximity to each other, in order to economize on the very expensive drilling equipment and skilled personnel required. The Deep Boreholes would then likely (but not for sure — this hasn’t been decided yet) be back-filled with sealant materials, yet to be designed/determined.

While most of the explicit discussion revolved around the potential to bury radioactive cesium and strontium capsules (themselves highly radioactive and long-lasting — Cs-137 and Sr-90 remain hazardous for around 300 to 600 years, as but two examples), the clear implication is that other categories of radioactive wastes, including irradiated nuclear fuel, could also be disposed of this way.

DOE has not only solid irradiated nuclear fuel, but also post-reprocessing high-level radioactive waste, as well as other categories of highly radioactive waste, under its own jurisdiction (from the nuclear weapons complex, research reactors, etc.), to be dealt with. Even disposing of weapons-grade plutonium in Deep Borehole Disposal was discussed.

In addition, DOE is still being looked to at this time as the agency responsible for carrying out commercial nuclear power irradiated nuclear fuel disposal, as well as commercial Greater Than Class C (GTCC) “low-level” radioactive waste disposal (GTCC is considered as radioactively hazardous as high-level radioactive waste, and is in line for deep geologic disposal).

Since all of the categories of radioactive waste lack ultimate disposal sites, it is fair to be concerned that DOE could be considering Deep Borehole Disposal as an option for one or more of those wastes streams.

Such Deep Borehole Disposal could take place on-site, where the radioactive wastes were generated in the first place, or at unspecified “remote locations.”

While DOE hastened to say that the initial testing would not involve radioactive materials, DOE spokesmen did admit that a suitable site, initially only involved in non-radioactive testing, could then proceed to become an actual Deep Borehole Disposal radioactive waste dump.

As with past proposed DOE high-level radioactive waste dumps, like at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, or centralized interim storage (de facto permanent parking lot dumps), targeted sites for Deep Borehole Disposal could well include Native American lands and reservations, already badly contaminated DOE nuclear weapons complex facilities, and/or nuclear power plant sites themselves.

This is most disconcerting, especially considering DOE’s rush to begin “testing” this largely to entirely unknown (to the public anyway) Deep Borehole Disposal concept. The two-day NWTRB meeting revealed clearly that many, even basic questions and concerns about the risks of Deep Borehole Disposal, have not yet been asked, let alone addressed.

As Beverly Fernandez of Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump put it at the Oct. 6, 2015 Toronto town hall meeting on Ontario Power Generation’s proposal to bury radioactive wastes on the Great Lakes shoreline at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario, assurances made that so-called “deep geologic repositories” (DGR) at Asse II and Morsleben in Germany, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New Mexico, proved false. All three DGRs have leaked hazardous radioactivity into the environment. So DGR proponents’ “trust us, we’re experts” line has worn quite thin.

Note that the so-called “Deep” Geologic Repository at Bruce would be only 680 meters (2,230 feet) below ground. Significantly, if OPG’s on-site radioactive waste “DGR” disposal is allowed to happen, it could set a precedent for Deep Borehole Disposal of radioactive wastes (including high-level radioactive wastes) on-site at other reactor sites to follow, as well.

[This is posted online at: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/radioactive-waste-whatsnew/2015/10/22/doe-racing-to-test-deep-borehole-disposal-of-highly-radioact.html]

Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.

Incoming Liberals Asked To Stop Great Lakes Nuclear Dump (October 2015)

An Ontario Lobby Group is hopeful the incoming Liberal Government will live up to a promise to protect the environment, and put a stop to plans to bury nuclear waste a kilometre from Lake Huron at Bruce Power.

Beverly Fernandez of the Group “Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump” says 40-million people rely on the great lakes for drinking water.

She says so far, the world’s nuclear waste burial sites have a 100 per cent failure rate.

“We do have to keep in mind that there are only three nuclear waste burial sites on our entire planet, and all three of them have leaked,” says Fernandez.

She says taking that kind of risk defies logic.

Fernandez adds Ontario Power Generation did not look at any other site in a a province of a million square kilometres.

The proposed DGR would encase low and medium level nuclear waste in ancient rock 680 metres below ground.

She says 87,000 people have signed a petition opposing the plan, and 177 municipalities on both sides of the border have passed resolutions to keep Deep Geologic Repository out of the Great Lakes Basin.

A Joint Environmental Review Panel supported the plan last spring, and the environment minister was due to make a decision in December under the old government.

Fernandez expects the decision to be delayed due to the huge volume of information the incoming environment minister needs to assess.

October 28, 2015 12:37pm, Blackburn News, as posted at http://blackburnnews.com/uncategorized/2015/10/28/lobby-groups-asks-incoming-liberals-to-stop-the-great-lakes-nuclear-dump/

Seven locations make Australian nuclear waste dump shortlist (October 2015)

Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg is poised to release a shortlist of sites that could play host to a permanent nuclear waste storage facility in Australia.

Fairfax Media has been told the shortlist contains seven possible locations for the facility and had been finalised and approved by the Abbott government before Ian Macfarlane was replaced as Resources Minister by Mr Frydenberg.

The list of sites was originally scheduled to be released by August. Mr Frydenberg now intends to release the short list by the end of the year, after consulting with local MPs affected the decision, the opposition and other stakeholders over the politically sensitive issue.

Two locations in South Australia’s Kimba shire, west of Port Augusta, and two in Western Australia, at Leonora, north of Kalgoorlie and Yalgoo, north of Perth, have voluntarily nominated to be considered for the shortlist, while a proposal for the facility to be located at Mt Isa, in remote Queensland, was recently advanced. The full list of possible locations is a tightly held secret.

Once the shortlist has been released, a further period of public consultations will begin before a preferred site is identified in mid-2016, with a detailed business case due in mid-2017 and construction and operation of the facility due by the end of the decade.

The pending decision on the waste facility comes amid renewed debate on a possible future nuclear industry in Australia.

Date October 29, 2015, Sydney Herald – Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/seven-locations-make-nuclear-waste-dump-shortlist-20151029-gklxu4.html#ixzz3q4JnIcEJ

Central Huron in Early DGR Stages – Municipality passes early stages for possible site of burial of used nuclear fuel (October 2015)

Nuclear officials are in the early stages of picking future sites to bury used nuclear fuel.

So far, Central Huron has potential to meet site selection requirements, whether or not it decides to host a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) in the future.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization says Central Huron is one of nine communities to continue past the first phase of preliminary assessment for a DGR.

However, NWMO officials confirm this does not mean the municipality has any areas which could technically house the used nuclear fuel.

It simply means Central Huron has been identified for more detailed studies to assess technical, scientific and social suitability for hosting a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel.

Officials say it will take several more years to complete the necessary studies to find a preferred site, and Central Huron has not been asked to confirm it’s willingness to host the project.

As posted by Bayshore Broadcasting, 29 October, 2015; Read story plus NWMO news release at http://www.bayshorebroadcasting.ca/news_item.php?NewsID=78990

U.S. House passes nuclear waste transport bill (October 2015)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBW) – A plan to transport thousands of gallons of radioactive nuclear waste into the United States via the Peace Bridge could be delayed.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to provide a complete threat assessment the transportation of chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological materials through U.S. land borders and within the United States.

The bill was sponsored by local Congressman Brian Higgins (D-26) and triggered by The U.S. Department of Energy’s plan to transport highly-enriched liquid uranium from Chalk River Ontario to the DOE’s Savannah Energy River site in South Carolina.

The trip would require two rail crossings and three automobile crossings over the Western New York border between the U.S. and Canada, and Higgins says it could make Western New Yorkers vulnerable to a potential terrorist attack.

“Terrorists and militant groups have expressed an interest in using highly dangerous weapons, especially those utilizing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, known as CBRN agents or materials,” said Higgins. “This bill gives federal agencies the information they need to make decisions and develop policies that are informed by the terrorism threat picture.”

A companion bill is expected to pass in the U.S. Senate, and President Obama is expected to sign the mandate into law.

As posted at
http://www.wkbw.com/news/us-news-world/us-house-passes-nuclear-waste-transport-bill by WKBW Staff, Oct 23, 2015

“Risk of cancer from occupational exposure to ionising radiation: retrospective cohort study of workers in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States (INWORKS)” (October 2015)


Study question Is protracted exposure to low doses of ionising radiation associated with an increased risk of solid cancer?

Methods In this cohort study, 308 297 workers in the nuclear industry from France, the United Kingdom, and the United States with detailed monitoring data for external exposure to ionising radiation were linked to death registries. Excess relative rate per Gy of radiation dose for mortality from cancer was estimated. Follow-up encompassed 8.2 million person years. Of 66 632 known deaths by the end of follow-up, 17 957 were due to solid cancers.

Study answer and limitations Results suggest a linear increase in the rate of cancer with increasing radiation exposure. The average cumulative colon dose estimated among exposed workers was 20.9 mGy (median 4.1 mGy). The estimated rate of mortality from all cancers excluding leukaemia increased with cumulative dose by 48% per Gy (90% confidence interval 20% to 79%), lagged by 10 years. Similar associations were seen for mortality from all solid cancers (47% (18% to 79%)), and within each country. The estimated association over the dose range of 0-100 mGy was similar in magnitude to that obtained over the entire dose range but less precise. Smoking and occupational asbestos exposure are potential confounders; however, exclusion of deaths from lung cancer and pleural cancer did not affect the estimated association. Despite substantial efforts to characterise the performance of the radiation dosimeters used, the possibility of measurement error remains.

What this study adds The study provides a direct estimate of the association between protracted low dose exposure to ionising radiation and solid cancer mortality. Although high dose rate exposures are thought to be more dangerous than low dose rate exposures, the risk per unit of radiation dose for cancer among radiation workers was similar to estimates derived from studies of Japanese atomic bomb survivors. Quantifying the cancer risks associated with protracted radiation exposures can help strengthen the foundation for radiation protection standards.

Funding, competing interests, data sharing Support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan; Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire; AREVA; Electricité de France; US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; US Department of Energy; and Public Health England. Data are maintained and kept at the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

READ REPORT: http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h5359

Fukushima Nuclear Plant Worker Confirmed To Have Radiation-Related Cancer (October 2015)

Following the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant incident in March 2010, more than 80,000 residents evacuated for fear of radiation. Three reactors melted down due to the massive earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the prefecture.

A 12-mile evacuation zone surrounding the nuclear plant has been, imposed following the meltdown’s containment. The incident resulted in the evacuation of more than 80,000 residents in the prefecture for fear of radiation. Majority of children living near the area are given regular ultrasounds. Twenty-five children werediagnosed with ‘suspicious or malignant cases’ of thyroid cancer in 2014. In August 2015, 137 children were found to have thyroid cancer. Four years following the nuclear plant incident, a worker at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has been diagnosed with leukemia.

The nuclear plant worker has filed for a compensation claim for the radiation-related illness. The claim was approved by the Office of Health and Labor Ministry. Dr. James O’Donnell, the nuclear medicine division chief at the University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Ohio expressed that the nuclear plant worker’s radiation exposure ‘slightly increased’ his risk of developing cancer. O’Donnell added that connecting the cancer to the nuclear plant incident is a ‘big, big leap’. He explained that there is a four to five percent increase in cancer risk among Fukushima nuclear plant employees. Taking out the radiation factor, there is a 10 to 15 percent risk of developing cancer for every 100,000 people. O’Donell noted that a four percent increase could mean that 11 to 16 workers may develop cancer out of 100,000 workers.

October 22, 2015

Read Full Story. Found online at “Tech Times” at http://www.techtimes.com/articles/97839/20151021/fukushima-nuclear-plant-worker-confirmed-to-have-radiation-related-cancer.htm