Nuclear Waste Threatens Our Future

Nancy Braus of the Safe & Green steering committee has an excellent editorial in today’s Brattleboro Reformer. It is useful reading for anyone (hopefully YOU) planning on making a comment to the NRC Public Hearing on decommissioning on February 19.

You can read Nancy’s OpEd in full here.  She opens:

As Vermont Yankee is closing, local people are learning the ugly truth of nuclear energy — that the sites hosting nuclear reactors for four or five decades will probably be hosting high-level waste forever Those of us living in the region around the reactor should have a voice in the manner in which this waste is stored. However, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Entergy, a corporation with no long-term commitment to our region, will be making all the choices.

She goes on to explain the limited choices available to US nuclear sites and their disadvantages. It is discouraging that other countries have more secure methods.

Far more technically sophisticated casks are used in Germany, France, and Japan — casks with a thicker metal wall, and allowing for real time remote monitoring to alert those in charge of the waste should there be a pressure change , or another worrisome development. Why are these casks not even in use in the United States?

Entergy isn’t even using the best available US technology. Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates and Leslie Sullivan Sachs of Fairewinds and Safe & Green included a critique of Yankee’s dry casks in their comments on Entergy’s decommissioning report:

Entergy had the opportunity to buy earth bermed canisters. To save money, Entergy did a “fleet buy” of canisters that are designed to sit aboveground.  When Vermont Yankee Uprated its power, the fuel enrichment increased from 3-4% enriched fuel up to 5+%, higher enrichment fuel. In both cases, Entergy profited, but Vermonters were and will be impacted by higher radiation risks. High burn up fuel presents serious storage problems that were not analyzed when Entergy bought the cheapest casks.

The canisters Entergy has are not strong enough for HBF fuel rods to ride out an accident. If they leak, or if the DOE doesn’t pick them up in 30 years, there is no way to move spent fuel rods into new canisters without using a fuel pool. We would love to knock that building down but it may have to stay. What is Entergy’s Plan B if containers leak and there is no fuel pool?

The Keene Sentinel Editorial, Spent Nuclear Fuel is a Costly Proposition, looks at spent fuel in New England. With VT Yankee closing, “…there are nearly 6,000 spent nuclear fuel rod assemblies sitting around in New England from shuttered nuclear plants. And that doesn’t even count the waste from the active Millstone, Pilgrim and Seabrook plants.” And there is still no long term plan from the DOE for its final disposal.

onedaysonallthiswillbeyoursDry cask storage DONE RIGHT is one of Safe & Green’s talking points for Yankee Decommissioning. This is from our list of issues:

  • Getting the best dry casks available for the long term for the 910 tons of waste in the fuel pool and reactor core. Two others nukes are also looking at dry cask storage, San Onofre in California, and Pilgrim in Mass. They determined that a superior system is used in Germany, France, and Japan.
  • See Reports: Dry Cask Storage Issues, and Top 10 Reasons to Buy Thick Casks; and
  • a presentation to the NRC’s Waste Conference 11.19.14 (YouTube video) comparing the thin canisters we’re stuck with to the German version, which are monitored for radiation 24/7 and are fully enclosed in a secure building – not left out on a pad in the flood plain.
  • CAN info on waste storage:


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