Nuclear waste piling up faster than solutions can be dreamed

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In 1987, Washington unilaterally decided the waste was going to Yucca without seriously considering other potential sites. Not surprisingly, Nevada citizens have railed against the top-down plan ever since.  If the government doesn’t bow to pressure and reverse its decision, U.S. nuclear waste planners will be going back to the drawing board for what promises to be another very prolonged and expensive exercise.

On December 20, 2011 – The First Nations of the North Shore Tribal Council strongly rejected the prospect of the North Shore of Lake Huron becoming a site for the long-term storage of nuclear waste for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO).  Elliot Lake has a long history of uranium mining that resulted in the boom and bust of the city, as well as significant and lasting environmental damage to the local watershed and nearby ceremonial grounds.

“We cannot idly stand by and watch as they inject Mother Earth with this cancer,” says Chief Lyle Sayers [shown], chairman of the North Shore Tribal Council. “We must ensure that the future natural resources of this area are there for our children, generations to come, and businesses alike.”

The half-life of this material is hundreds of thousands of years old and could impact generation after generation.

No site can ever be totally safe for nuclear waste storage.

“Natural disasters sometimes happen, such as we’ve seen in Japan. It could make this whole area a nuclear wasteland suitable for only that industry,” says Chief Sayers.

Our statement to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization is: Do not waste your financial resources if you plan to conduct a study in this area because a nuclear waste dump is not going to happen here.

The North Shore Tribal Council represents seven First Nation communities across the North Shore of Lake Huron.

With more than 400 nuclear power plants in 32 countries, nuclear waste disposal is no longer an afterthought. A global nuclear waste race is underway.

A national lab working for the U.S. Department of Energy is now eying granite deposits stretching from Georgia to Maine as potential sites, along with big sections of Minnesota and Wisconsin where that rock is prevalent.

The Sandia study says that granite’s properties as a chemically and physically stable rock, with low permeability, would “strongly inhibit” radiation from reaching the outside environment if waste canisters leaked.

In addition to the Appalachian mountain range and upper Midwest, the study identifies several areas of the West as rich in granite deposits. But the western regions are described as having moderate to high seismic activity.

In contrast, the northern Appalachian and Adirondack region, including upstate New York and New England, as well as the Lake Superior region of Wisconsin and Minnesota, are described as having little to no seismic and volcanic activity.

Vermont is no stranger to the nuclear waste storage debate. It was one of the places Department of Energy surveyed for potential waste sites in the mid-1980s — before Congress targeted Yucca Mountain.

At one public hearing in Wells River, more than 2,000 people turned out to voice their outrage at the idea.

New England has long been a hotbed of opposition to the nuclear industry. Vermont is currently being sued by Entergy Corp. over the state’s effort to deny a new 20-year license for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Madeleine Kunin was governor the last time a nuclear waste storage site search focused on Vermont. The letters she got and wrote in opposition — one resident said the proposal would “use Vermonters as guinea pigs” — fill more than a half-dozen folders in the state archives.

Kunin said recently she doubted the state would be any more welcoming now to the idea.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “My gut reaction is this would not be a good place.” The waste should go “somewhere really isolated from inhabited land … somewhere in the middle of nowhere.”

International research and co-operation has exploded. So has public decision-making in the once-private affairs of the nuclear power industry.

Deep underground burial in hard rock cavities for hundreds of thousands of years is now considered the best long-term solution for the 240,000 tonnes of highly radioactive spent reactor fuel stacked in temporary storage around the globe.

No nation yet has opened a permanent geological repository. But plans are well advanced in some countries, notably Finland and Sweden.

Canada plans to open a deep repository for high-level waste around 2035, though much work lies ahead, including finding a suitable site. Transferring the estimated four million spent fuel bundles into the vault will take an additional 30 years.

The United States, meanwhile, is in an increasingly desperate situation.

Three decades after the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act said the federal government would handle disposal of high-level radioactive waste, the United States still has no agreed-upon solution for where and how to dispose of about 70,000 metric tons of it. About 10 percent is from the military’s nuclear weapons programs; most of the rest is piling up at commercial reactor sites around the country.

Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear industry engineer who is now a Vermont-based consultant on nuclear-related issues, called the report on granite sites “ominous.” He pointed to factors that he said raise the likelihood of the massive granite outcroppings in rural parts of the Northeast attracting attention as potential waste sites.

Granite would appear to have an advantage over other environments, if the recent development of high-level waste sites in other countries is any guide. Both Finland and Sweden are on track to open waste sites buried deep in granite within the next 14 years.

Source: Soo Today

Source: AP Press

Source: Vancouver Sun

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