On Saturday, thousands of South Koreans marched in Seoul to protest Japan's plans to dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. Protesters are concerned about the risks to food security and marine ecosystems that the release of nuclear wastewater could cause as early as late August. Previously, on Friday, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) found leaks in a hose used at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to transfer nuclear-contaminated wastewater. TEPCO conducted a probe after higher-than-usual levels of radioactive material were detected in rainwater in the dike around a storage tank.
The world is awash in radioactive waste. We simply haven’t a clue where to put it. The best we have come up with in the United States is a harebrained scheme to ship the lethal carcinogenic garbage from nuclear weapons and civilian nuclear power plants, by rail and by truck, from the four corners of the continent, and bury it in a hole in the ground in Nevada at Yucca Mountain. Citizens groups, like the proverbial boy with his finger in the dike, have been holding off the onslaught of this devastating disposal solution, preventing the legislation from passing in the Congress. Deadly plutonium remains toxic for 250,000 years and there is no way of guaranteeing that the Yucca site could prevent radioactive seepage into the ground water over this unimaginable period of time.
Benton County, Washington - The most polluted place in the United States — perhaps the world — is one most people don’t even know. Hanford Nuclear Site sits in the flat lands of eastern Washington. The facility — one of three sites that made up the government’s covert Manhattan Project — produced plutonium for Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II. And it continued producing plutonium for weapons for decades after the war, helping to fuel the Cold War nuclear arms race. Today Hanford — home to 56 million gallons of nuclear waste, leaking storage tanks, and contaminated soil — is an environmental disaster and a catastrophe-in-waiting. It’s “the costliest environmental remediation project the world has ever seen and, arguably, the most contaminated place on the entire planet,” writes journalist Joshua Frank in the new book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America.
How far is your house or apartment from a major highway, or railroad line? Do you want to play Russian roulette with radioactive waste in transit for 40 years? Last month US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff quietly reported preparing for tens of thousands of cross-country shipments of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear reactors to the desert Southwest. The oft-disparaged US infrastructure of decrepit of roads, faulty bridges, rickety rails, and rusty barges may not be ready for such an onrush of immensely heavy rad waste casks. Diane D’Arrigo, of Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Maryland, and Leona Morgan, with Nuclear Issues Study Group in New Mexico, report for NIRS that the transports would carry “the hottest, most concentrated atomic waste from the nuclear fuel chain, misleadingly dubbed “spent nuclear fuel.
A year-and-a-half after a scathing Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that the US Department of Energy (DoE) has no coherent plan in place to manage nuclear waste from weapons manufacturing piling up at more than 150 sites across the country, the DoE has made little progress in developing a safe and strategic plan to handle the waste. Meanwhile, the estimated cost of handling the material is rising steadily — $512 billion at last count — and the federal government hasn’t yet figured out how to pay for it. And, of course, much of the waste will have to somehow remain safely stored for 10,000 years or more, a timeframe even more mind boggling than the size of the debt.
More than 2 million visitors flock each year to California’s San Onofre state beach, a dreamy slice of coastline just north of San Diego. The beach is popular with surfers, lies across one of the largest Marine Corps bases in the Unites States and has a 10,000-year-old sacred Native American site nearby. It even landed a shout-out in the Beach Boys’ 1963 classic Surfin’ USA. But for all the good vibes and stellar sunsets, beneath the surface hides a potential threat: 3.6m lb of nuclear waste from a group of nuclear reactors shut down nearly a decade ago. Decades of political gridlock have left it indefinitely stranded, susceptible to threats including corrosion, earthquakes and sea level rise. The San Onofre reactors are among dozens across the United States phasing out, but experts say they best represent the uncertain future of nuclear energy.
Window Rock - President Jonathan Nez has sent a letter stating the Nation wants radioactive mine waste disposed off of — and nowhere near — the Navajo Nation. The letter is in response to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent proposal to allow United Nuclear Corporation to transfer the waste from the Northeast Church Rock abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation to the neighboring uranium mill tailings impoundment at the UNC Church Rock Mill Site. Comments are being taken until May 27. Nez’s letter to John R. Tappert, director of the ?Division of Rulemaking, Environmental, and Financial Support Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards ?for the NRC, states the Red Water Pond Road Community and many other Navajo communities have been severely impacted by the legacy of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation.
Tokyo - In a matter of weeks, the government of Japan will have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world how much it values protecting human rights and the environment and to meet its international obligations. In the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, myself and other U.N. special rapporteurs consistently raised concerns about the approaches taken by the government of Japan. We have been concerned that raising of "acceptable limits" of radiation exposure to urge resettlement violated the government's human rights obligations to children. We have been concerned of the possible exploitation of migrants and the poor for radioactive decontamination work. Our most recent concern is how the government used the COVID-19 crisis to dramatically accelerate its timeline for deciding whether to dump radioactive wastewater accumulating at Fukushima Daiichi in the ocean.
By Ruth Thomas for War Is A Crime - The federal government has secretly been working on a plan to transport highly radioactive liquid from Chalk River, Ontario, Canada, to the Savannah River Site in Aiken, SC — a distance of over 1,100 miles. A series of 250 truckloads are planned by the Department of Energy (DOE). Interstate 85 is one of the main routes. Based on published data of the US Environmental Protection Agency, a few ounces of this liquid could destroy a whole city water supply. These liquid shipments are unnecessary. The radioactive waste can be down-blended on-site, making it into a solid. This has been done for years at Chalk River. Records from the past are very clear about this liquid and how it should be managed. The report “Detailed Statement on the Environmental Considerations By the Division of Material Licensing, US Atomic Energy Commission” (December 14, 1970) — which has within it Allied General’s application for the Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant (Docket No. 50-332) — describes the waste generated at that facility, and describes how to manage the waste. I knew of this report because of the successful legal challenge to this facility in the 1970s in which I participated.
By Staff of Democracy Now - Environmental activists in California are fighting plans to store 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive nuclear waste on a popular beach in San Diego County. In 2012, a radioactive leak at the San Onofre nuclear power plant forced an emergency shutdown. The plant was fully closed by June 2013. Now residents are fighting the permit issued by the California Coastal Commission to store the millions of pounds of nuclear waste in thin, stainless steel canisters, within 100 feet of the ocean. We speak to Ray Lutz, founder of Citizens' Oversight, which has filed a lawsuit challenging the expansion of the nuclear waste storage facility.
By Staff of Associated Press - A portion of a storage tunnel that contains rail cars full of radioactive waste collapsed Tuesday morning, forcing an emergency declaration at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington state. Officials detected no release of radiation and no workers were injured, said Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology. There were no workers inside the tunnel when it collapsed. But nearby Hanford workers were evacuated and others who were farther away were told to remain indoors, the U.S. Department of Energy said. An emergency has been declared at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, pictured in 2014, after a portion of a tunnel that contained rail cars full of nuclear waste collapsed
By Niamh McIntyre For Independent - A Japanese company tasked with cleaning up Fukushima, the site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, has admitted that its attempts to probe the site are failing repeatedly due to incredibly high levels of radiation. The nuclear meltdown at Fukushima in 2011 was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami which left around 18,000 people dead and more than a million buildings destroyed. At least 100,000 people living near the plant were forced to leave their homes. High rates of mental health problems and post-traumatic stress disorder have been observed within the displaced population.
By Joshua Frank for The Investigative Fund - It’s a new year and new administration, but the strong radioactive stench is the same out at Hanford in eastern Washington, home of the world’s costliest environmental cleanup. In January, a dozen workers reported smelling a toxic odor outside the site’s tank farms, where nuclear waste is stored underground. From April to December 2016, 70 people were exposed to chemical vapors emanating from the facility — and 2017 is off to the similar start. Toxic odors at an old nuclear depot? This would be startling news anywhere else. But this is Hanford after all, where taxpayer money freely flows to contractors despite the snail-paced half-life of their work.
By Ralph Vartabedian for Los Angeles Times - The U.S. Energy Department said Friday that its long-troubled attempt to build a plant to process highly radioactive sludge at a former nuclear weapons site in central Washington state will cost an additional $4.5 billion, raising the project’s price tag to $16.8 billion. The Hanford treatment plant, a small industrial city with some two dozen facilities on a desert plateau along the Columbia River, is more than a decade behind schedule and will cost nearly four times the original estimate made in 2000. The government aims to transform 56 million gallons of deadly sludge stored in leaky underground tanks into solid glass, which theoretically could then be stored safely for thousands of years.
By Ralph Vartabedian for Los Angeles Times - When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations. The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department’s credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste.