LANL reports more safety lapses at waste sites (December 2015)

Thousands of mislabeled waste containers, missing safety equipment and a broken emergency alarm system were among the more than 400 hazardous waste permit violations that Los Alamos National Laboratory listed in a report to the state this week.

The report, submitted annually to the Waste Management Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department, largely characterized the violations as “inconsistencies” in record-keeping and labeling. However, it is the latest in a series of reports revealing a culture of negligence and lax safety protocols at the lab and follows a February 2014 radiation leak that shut down the nuclear waste storage facility in Southern New Mexico after a mislabeled and mishandled LANL drum burst there.

As a result of these lapses, the federal government announced last week that it will end its contract with the private consortium that overseas the lab, Los Alamos National Security, in 2017.

The hazardous waste report, submitted to the state Monday following a three-week extension beyond the original deadline, details inspections of LANL’s waste storage areas between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30 of this year. It states that while none of the violations “posed a potential threat to human health or the environment,” the number of violations listed has sharply increased over those reported in previous years: In the 2015 fiscal year, inspectors found 421 instances of noncompliance, compared to just 76 in fiscal year 2014 — excluding the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant leak in February 2014, which was detailed in a separate report — and only 14 violation in 2012.

The state Environment Department confirmed Thursday that the spike in violations is in part due to higher scrutiny imposed this year.

The increased oversight comes on the heels of the incident at WIPP, in which a container with a volatile mix of chemicals ruptured, exposing staff to low levels of radiation and leading to a massive cleanup and security effort that has largely shut down the waste repository and is estimated to cost at least $500 million. An audit by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Energy in July found that current lapses in safety protocol at the lab could contribute to “nuclear accidents,” and in November, a federal report found that lab wasn’t effectively tracking and remedying safety issues.

The new report highlights problems that have taken years to resolve, as well as problems that reoccur annually.

In early 2014, about 3,000 “parent” containers used to hold transuranic waste were out of compliance with the lab’s hazardous waste permit, but as of the new report’s filing, more than 2,000 of those containers had yet to be inspected.

Among a litany of other mislabeled containers, many were classified as “non-hazardous” or even “empty” — and stored upside-down — but were found, in fact, to contain hazardous waste. Other containers had no identification or were double-labeled as both “hazardous” and “non-hazardous,” resulting in the need for re-inspection.

And despite the report’s claim that none of these issues posed a potential health or environmental threat, at least three toxic waste drums failed to identify the dangerous chemicals inside them, one drum was missing a label required to alert workers of potentially fatal toxins and another drum was missing any indicator that the materials inside were potentially explosive.

Chloroform, an odorless chemical used widely for its anesthetic properties, was found to be improperly stored and managed. And a number of flammable waste containers were found grouped with other waste drums, rather than stored in a separate area, as the state permit requires.

Some of the more glaring violations in the report also posed basic safety risks to workers, including broken telephone systems, and dysfunctional showers and eye-wash stations needed to remove chemical exposure to workers, should it occur. The report listed another long-overdue safety hazard: Emergency evacuation alarms, inoperable since 2013, had yet to be fixed at Area G, a 63-acre site that holds the lab’s remaining nuclear waste from decades of nuclear weapons development that began with the Manhattan Project.

“It only takes one drum,” said Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear watchdog organization. “There are too many problems in this report to feel at all comfortable. It suggests there is some kind of long-standing, deep compliance problem. … There should be consequences.”

Mello said he found much of the mismanagement in the report “beyond imagination.” He also noted that the extension granted to the lab allowed the report to be released after the federal allocation of nuclear funds earlier in the month.

Matt Nerzig, director of communications for the laboratory, confirmed in an email that the lab had self-reported the 421 violations, but he had no additional comments on the report.

State Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said in an email Thursday that the department’s goal is for LANL to be “fully compliant.” However, he said he appreciated the “increased rigor” demonstrated in the report.

“Because of the events that occurred at LANL and WIPP, the Environment Department is requiring LANL to scrutinize their activities more closely than ever,” he said.

“We will require LANL to correct each and every issue identified in this year’s report.”

Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2015 8:45 pm | Updated: 9:05 pm, Thu Dec 24, 2015 at

By Rebecca Moss
The New Mexican

U.S. DOE Launches “consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste management facilities” (December 2015)

The Department of Energy has announced a consultation on their intended “consent-based” process for the siting of nuclear waste management facilities. The invitation to participate is expected to be posted on the Federal Register on December 23. The following paragraphs are excerpted from the DOE announcement; please read the full story for details:

Today, the Department of Energy is taking a critical step toward the development of a consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste management facilities as part of a strategy for the long-term storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. The launch of our consent-based siting initiative represents an important step toward addressing this nuclear waste management challenge, so that we can continue to benefit from nuclear technologies. Today’s step forward follows Secretary Moniz’s announcement in March 2015 that DOE would move forward with the development of a separate repository for defense waste.

What is a consent-based siting process, and why is it needed? In short, it is a way to ensure that communities, tribes and states, as partners, are comfortable with the location of future storage and disposal facilities before they are constructed. We will be developing a detailed plan for this process in the coming year, and we need your help. …

Our strategy for managing both spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste is laid out in a strategy document from 2013, which was based on recommendations from President Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC). The Strategy outlines a need for a pilot interim storage facility, a larger interim storage facility, and long-term geologic repositories. To support each of these elements of an integrated waste management system, the Strategy also emphasizes the importance of a consent-based approach to siting waste storage and disposal facilities throughout the decision making process.

The first step for commercial spent fuel begins with developing a pilot interim storage facility that will mainly accept used nuclear fuel from reactors that have already been shut down…. Beyond the pilot-scale facility, the Administration also supports the development of a larger interim storage facility with more capacity and capabilities. … The final piece of the Administration’s Strategy is moving toward one or more long-term geologic repositories for both spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. …

We want to hear from you, so please respond to our Invitation for Public Comment, which will be published in the Federal Register in the coming days. You can also attend one of our public meetings taking place across the country throughout 2016. Finally, you can send emails with comments or concerns to the Department of Energy at consentbasedsiting. Please also visit our website at to learn more about our activities and find opportunities to participate.

Article Title: Finding Long-Term Solutions for Nuclear Waste, December 21, 2015 – 1:00pm, as posted at

Nuclear workers show America’s darker side (December 2015)

The numbers are sobering. The problem is immense.

In a special report presented over the past week, our fellow McClatchy journalists put faces on the heavy and often hidden cost of America’s atomic weaponry.

A total of 107,394 workers have been diagnosed with cancers and other diseases after building the nation’s nuclear stockpile over the last seven decades. At least 33,480 former nuclear workers are dead after helping the U.S. win World War II and the Cold War before getting sick enough to qualify for government compensation.

Taxpayers have spent $12 billion so far treating and compensating more than 53,000 sick nuclear workers.

But fewer than half the workers who sought help had their claims approved. More than 54,000 workers have been denied government help. Some say the government’s tactic is to “Delay, deny, until you die.”

South Carolina, home to the Savannah River Site outside Aiken, has certainly paid a toll to the silent killer. The site that turned 65 this year was established by President Truman to produce the basic materials used in the fabrication of nuclear weapons.

Nearly 40 million gallons of highly radioactive nuclear waste remains at SRS — 90 miles up the Savannah River from where much of Beaufort County’s drinking water is withdrawn. The waste is stored in aging tanks.

And the federal government’s poor record for helping its workers is matched or exceeded by its miserable record of dealing with the nuclear waste that will threaten workers and communities ad infinitum.

Earlier, McClatchy reported that the United States already has generated more than 80,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste, and the toxic materials are stored at some 80 sites in 35 states.

The answer is a central repository, and in 1987, after immense study, Congress decreed that site would be under Yucca Mountain in Nevada. There, nuclear waste would not be a human threat for at least 10,000 years. The government spent more than $15 billion preparing to accept the waste by Congress’ 1998 deadline. Utility customers also have paid billions into this solution. But President Barack Obama egregiously mothballed Yucca Mountain as soon as he became president.

What we see is a nation in denial. We see a nation willing to consider workers in its hodgepodge of nuclear sites to be collateral damage. We see a nation that has grossly underestimated the cost to the workers.

And we see a nation that for pure politics will endanger entire communities and states by failing to confront its sick legacy of the atomic age.

We see a nation that should do much better by its own people.

December 19, 2015 9:28 PM Editorial, IslandPacketnewsroom, as posted at

Read more here:

First tranche of Canadian uranium for India’s nuclear reactors arrives after four decades (December 2015)

NEW DELHI: Four decades after civil nuclear cooperation was suspended following the test at Pokhran the first consignment of uranium from Canada for India’s nuclear reactors has arrived this month following conclusion of commercial pact between the two sides during PM visit last April.

This is the first tranche of uranium for India as committed under five year contract and launch of implementation of civil nuclear deal, Canadian High Commissioner to India Nadir Patel told ET in an exclusive interaction days after the consignment arrived. Canada, following the contract, will supply 3,000 metric tonnes of uranium to energy-hungry India beginning this year under a $254 million five-year deal to power Indian atomic reactors.

“This consignment is first tangible result of the deal and has set the stage for partnership across full spectrum of nuclear energy ecosystem,” Patel pointed out

Read more at:

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, ET Bureau | 19 Dec, 2015, 03.57AM IST

Japanese Gov’t to propose candidate areas for nuclear waste disposal (December 2015)

TOKYO — Japan aims to classify geologically suitable areas for the final disposal site for high-level nuclear waste by the end of next year, the industry minister said Friday.

The plan was confirmed at a meeting of relevant ministers, Motoo Hayashi, the minister of economy, trade and industry, said at a press conference.

The government will classify locations into three categories depending on their suitability for hosting a disposal facility.

The government sees the classification as “the first step on the long way to realizing” the disposal scheme, a ministry official said.

The government will also set up a committee to assess progress in choosing a disposal site, the official said.

For permanent disposal, high-level nuclear waste needs to be stored at a final depository more than 300 meters underground until radiation levels fall and there is no longer potential harm to humans and the environment.

Last month, Finland became the first country to give the green light to construction of a final nuclear waste disposal site, aiming to put it into operation in the 2020s.

Japan, on the other hand, has struggled to make progress in finding a disposal site.

The government once tried to solicit local governments willing to host a disposal site, touting economic benefits and job creation as benefits of accepting such a facility.

However, the only response came from the western Japan town of Toyo in Kochi Prefecture, before it rescinded its application.

A total of 13 out of 47 prefectures in Japan refuse to host a final disposal site, a recent survey conducted by Kyodo News showed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe introduced a new scheme in May allowing the government to choose candidate sites based on scientific grounds such as resistance to earthquakes.

A government panel has already listed geological requirements for a final depository site.

Japan restarted nuclear reactors this year for the first time under tighter safety rules imposed after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.


National Dec. 19, 2015 – 06:30AM JST, as posted at

Ignace hub of activity as Nuclear Waste Management sets up new office space (November 2015)

The Town of Ignace is seeing some increased activity as the Nuclear Waste Management Organization begins construction on a new office.

The shovels officially hit the ground last month, and work began to convert an old hardware store in the town’s market square to a new NWMO office space.

The Ignace area is one of nine in Ontario currently involved in the NWMO site selection process. The NWMO’s mandate is to build and operate an underground storage facility for Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

It provides more room for board meetings, offices and equipment.

With those improvements, the town will see more company representatives from out of town coming for meetings and further exploration.

Mayor Lee Kennard says even with construction still in progress, he is seeing increased traffic, and he expects more to come.

Construction on the new office is expected to be finished by February of next year.

It’s all part of a $21-billion project that is about 30 years away from being operational.

2015-11-16 at 08:19, By, as posted at

Swedish repository application accepted for review (December 2015)

The application for construction of a used nuclear fuel encapsulation plant and repository in Sweden is now complete, the Land and Environment Court in Stockholm has decided. It will now publish the application and proceed with the review process.

Sweden’s radioactive waste management company Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB) submitted its application to build the country’s first repository for used nuclear fuel, together with a plant to encapsulate the fuel prior to disposal, to Sweden’s Radiation Safety Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten, SSM) in March 2011.

Sweden’s used nuclear fuel is currently under temporary storage at the interim storage facility (Clab) in Oskarshamn. SKB plans to build a used fuel repository at Forsmark in Östhammars municipality. The method that has been developed involves first encapsulating the fuel in copper canisters, which are then sealed and placed in a system of tunnels about 500 metres deep in the solid bedrock. Here they will be embedded in Bentonite clay.

SKB’s application has since been examined by SSM and the Land and Environment Court, who since its submission have requested additional information to support the application. The court will assess the application under Sweden’s Environmental Code, while SSM will examine it under the country’s Nuclear Activities Act.

With the Land and Environment Court’s decision that the application is now complete, the application will be published. Copies will be circulated for consideration and comment to the municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammars, environmental organizations, the Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste and regulatory authorities.

According to the current timetable of the Land and Environment Court, the application will be released in January and the main hearing on it will take place between October and December 2016.

SKB president Christopher Eckerberg said, “This is an important milestone in the permitting process and another step on the way to fulfilling our mission for the long-term safe management of Swedish used nuclear fuel.” He added, “The review of our application now goes ahead and we look forward to the next main hearing.”

Following the main hearing, the court and SSM will submit their opinions to the government.

However, before the government makes a final decision on the application, it will consult with the municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammars, which have the power to veto the application.

Once the government has made its decision, the application will again be referred to SSM and the court, which will stipulate the terms and conditions for the facilities.

SKB currently anticipates starting construction of the repository and encapsulation plant sometime in the early 2020s. The facilities are expected to take some ten years to complete.

Published 18 December 2015 Researched and written by World Nuclear News Posted at