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)

Abstract

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

Nuke-sector study sees rising cancer risk, 1 in 100 deaths, from prolonged low-dose radiation exposure (October 2015)

PARIS – Prolonged exposure to even low doses of radiation increases the risk of cancer, according to a new study of workers in the nuclear sector in Britain, France and the United States.

The results, published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal, provides “direct evidence about cancer risks after protracted exposures to low-dose ionizing radiation,” said the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, which coordinated the study.

The findings demonstrate “a significant association between increasing radiation dose and risk of all solid cancers,” said the study’s co-author, IARC researcher Dr. Ausrele Kesminiene.

“No matter whether people are exposed to protracted low doses or to high and acute doses, the observed association between dose and solid cancer risk is similar per unit of radiation dose,” he added.

The International Nuclear Workers Study (INWORKS), a collaboration between international partners, evaluated the exposures of more than 300,000 nuclear workers in Britain, France and the United States between 1943 and 2005.

The results showed that the risk of death from solid cancers was “modest” but that 1 in every 100 cancer deaths could be attributed to workplace radiation exposure.

October 22, 2015 – The Japan Times News

Read story at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/10/22/world/science-health-world/nuke-sector-study-sees-rising-cancer-risk-1-100-deaths-prolonged-low-dose-radiation-exposure/#.VikaaH6rTIV

Nuclear waste fire that shut down US 95 called hot, powerful (October 2015)

Whatever caught fire Sunday in the state-owned radioactive waste dump at the US Ecology site near Beatty packed a powerful punch, Nevada’s chief fire marshal said Tuesday.

“We don’t know exactly what caught fire. We’re not exactly sure what was burning in that pit,” Fire Marshal Chief Peter Mulvihill said in a conference call with reporters.

He said in the early stages of the fire “there was some energetic burning” that blew a hole in the cover soil that caps trench No. 14, where low-level radioactive materials were buried in unlined, clay terrain in the 1970s.

Mulvihill added that investigators who were converging to begin their probe at the site Tuesday, about 10 miles south of Beatty and about 108 miles northwest of Las Vegas, don’t know yet if an explosion occurred before the fire was reported to the Nevada Department of Public Safety and Emergency Management about 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

“There was something that definitely burned very hot,” he said.

The state’s public safety team decided to allow the fire to burn itself out instead of trying to douse it because they didn’t want put water on any material that might be reactive to water else they could potentially exacerbate the problem.

“That was a prudent and reasonable approach for local officials to take,” Mulvihill said, adding that the fire was no longer visible in the early morning hours Monday.

The fire prompted authorities to shut down a 140-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 95 for nearly 24 hours. It happened as Nye County’s first responders were grappling with flash flooding from heavy rains Sunday.

The state’s probe will consider if the fire was related to the wet weather, and if disposal records kept by the state in Carson City and at the site list any materials that could have reacted with water to cause the fire.

Dump history

For 30 years — from 1962 through 1992 — the dump operated by US Ecology and its predecessor, Nuclear Engineering Co., on state land leased to the companies was one of a few graveyards in the United States for disposing low-level nuclear waste.

Items buried at the 40-acre site include contaminated laboratory gear, medical isotopes and nuclear reactor crud but not highly radioactive used-nuclear-fuel assemblies, the type of high-level waste the government has planned to entomb in Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The Beatty site was licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission until 1997 when authority was transferred to Nevada after the low-level radioactive waste portion of the site was closed. US Ecology continues to operate a 40-acre landfill for hazardous waste including chemical waste on land the company leases from the state.

Caleb Cage, chief of Nevada’s emergency management division, said preliminary results of aerial surveys and ground samples that were collected during the response to the fire by Department of Energy aircraft and four Nevada National Guard soldiers who walked within 6 feet of the burn center turned up negative for radioactivity.

He said there are no cost estimates yet for the multi-agency response that involved a twin-engine fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter equipped with radiation-detection sensors. Both aircraft are part of the Department of Energy’s remote sensing laboratory at Nellis Air Force Base.

Jon Bakkendahl, of the state’s Radiation Control Program, said preliminary results from the aerial survey gives the state’s public safety team confidence that there is nothing in the fire’s plume that was radioactive based on negative results for gamma rays “that can travel a long way.”

Mulvihill said any heavier radioactive beta or alpha particles would be expected to show up closer to the surface of the burn hole in soil samples but none, so far, have been detected.

Asked if an independent investigation should be conducted to validate the integrity of the probe given that the state is conducting an investigation of an incident that happened on its own land, Department of Public Safety Director James Wright said the state has the expertise and “at this point we feel we have to get the initial findings.”

“We will determine those findings and determine the appropriate course of action. If something has to be fixed, we will fix it,” Wright said.

By Keith Rogers, Las Vegas Review-Journal, as posted October 20, 2015 at http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/nevada/fire-shut-down-us-95-called-hot-powerful

Beatty residents call for transparency after nuclear fire ignited in a low-level nuclear storage site (October 2015)

BEATTY — The town sits in the shadow of nuclear history — 20 miles west of the Yucca Mountain repository and the former Nevada Test Site, home to hundreds of nuclear explosions in the last 65 years.

But when a perfect-storm disaster scenario blew through Beatty on Sunday, the 100 residents who gathered at the Beatty Community Center on Tuesday say Nye County officials failed to give them real-time updates and verification about the events, leaving many to wonder about the health and safety of their town.

“I heard stuff but couldn’t verify anything,” said Wendy Caskey, owner of the Happy Burro Chili and Beer restaurant in Beatty. “We need to get a plan.”

Early Sunday morning a fire ignited in a low-level nuclear storage site in the desert 10 miles from Beatty and 115 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The blaze followed flash flooding that shut down the town’s escape routes: U.S. 95 and Highway 373.

A plume of smoke billowed over the storage site and the rain continued to pound the hardscrabble landscape of the Mojave Desert. County officials and law enforcement were taking hundreds of phone calls, working to clear the roads and planning evacuations. They declared an emergency and received intel from the state and federal government. But officials didn’t rush to update the community.

“We are sorry,” said Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly.

Helicopters and other aircraft were flying 50 feet from the ground to test air quality for radiation. Support teams from the Nevada National Guard, state agencies and the federal government were also performing tests in the region throughout Sunday and Monday. While the federal and state governments say that there are no signs of high-level radiation polluting the air, residents want transparency going forward. Vance Payne, director of the Nye County Department of Emergency Management, apologized for the county’s public information response to what he called a “rapid-fire” event he never wants to repeat.

“You guys seeing all those choppers and not know what they were doing: That will never happen again,” he said.

The 80-acre storage site, run by waste Company US Ecology, is home to 22 low-level nuclear storage trenches that range in size from shallow holes to chasms hundreds of feet deep and wide as football fields. The federal government dumped the nuclear waste — equipment and clothing once subjected to government nuclear testing — from 1970 to 1992. The holes are covered with the dirt and rocks of the desert, and officials from the county and state have not concluded what started the fire.

Marty Campbell, a five-year Beatty resident, said he didn’t know that the company was a steward of nuclear waste.

“If it’s done properly — somewhere else — it’s fine,” he said. “But nobody wants it in their backyard.”

But Beatty, a sleepy town dotted with trailer homes, a casino and abandoned mines, has a long relationship with nuclear weapons, storage and testing. Many residents support a high-level nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain and others can recall the flashes and bangs at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s.

Chirlett Reed, a life-long Beatty resident, said she saw the mushroom clouds plume from the desert when she was 9 years old. The storm and fire, she said, wasn’t a big deal.

“I wasn’t very worried,” she said.

By Kyle Roerink, Las Vegas Sun, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 | as posted at http://lasvegassun.com/news/2015/oct/20/beatty-residents-call-for-transparency-after-nucle/