Beyond Nuclear International

Illegal and opposed

Beyond Nuclear files suit to stop massive radioactive waste dump

Beyond Nuclear has filed suit in federal court to prevent the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from licensing a massive “consolidated interim storage facility” (CISF) for highly radioactive waste in Andrews County, West Texas.

In its Petition for Review filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Beyond Nuclear asked the Court to dismiss the NRC licensing proceeding for a permit to build and operate a CISF proposed by Interim Storage Partners (ISP), a business consortium. ISP plans to use the facility to store 40,000 metric tons of highly radioactive irradiated fuel generated by nuclear reactors across the U.S., (also euphemistically known as “used” or “spent” fuel), amounting to nearly half of the nation’s current inventory.

The irradiated fuel would be housed on the surface of the land, on the site of an existing facility for storage and disposal of so-called “low-level radioactive waste” (LLRW). The LLRW facility is owned and operated by Waste Control Specialists (WCS). WCS and Orano (formerly Areva) comprise ISP. ISP’s CISF is located about 0.37 miles from the New Mexico border, and very near the Ogallala Aquifer, an essential source of irrigation and drinking water across eight High Plains states. 

The Beyond Nuclear petition charges that orders issued by the NRC in 2018 and 2020 violate federal law by contemplating that the U.S. government will become the owner of the irradiated fuel during transportation to and storage at the ISP facility. Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the government is precluded from taking title to irradiated fuel unless and until a repository is licensed and operating. No such repository has been licensed in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) most recent estimate for the opening of a geologic repository is the year 2048 at the earliest.

In its 2020 decision, in which the NRC rejected challenges to the license application, the NRC Commissioners admitted that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act would indeed be violated if title to irradiated fuel were transferred to the federal government so it could be stored at the ISP facility.  But they refused to remove the proposed license provision which contemplates federal ownership of the irradiated fuel.

The Beyond Nuclear petition charges that orders issued by the NRC in 2018 and 2020 violate federal law by contemplating that the U.S. government will become the owner of the irradiated fuel during transportation to and storage at the ISP facility in Texas. (Photo: Nukewatch)

Instead, they ruled that approving ISP’s application would not directly involve NRC in a violation of federal law – according to the NRC, that violation would occur only if DOE acted on the approved license – and therefore they could approve it, despite the fact the  provision is illegal. The NRC Commissioners also noted with approval that “ISP acknowledges that it hopes Congress will change the law to allow DOE to enter storage contracts prior to the availability of a repository” (December 17, 2020 order, page 5).

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A grim reality

Living longterm in radioactively contaminated areas damages our health

By Cindy Folkers

A growing body of evidence supports a grim reality: that living in radioactively contaminated areas over multiple years results in harmful health impacts, particularly during pregnancy

This is borne out in a recent study by Anton V. Korsakov, Emilia V. Geger, Dmitry G. Lagerev, Leonid I. Pugach and Timothy A. Mousseau, that shows a higher frequency of birth defects amongst people living in Chernobyl-contaminated areas (as opposed to those living in areas considered uncontaminated) in the Bryansk region of Russia.

Because the industry and governments are pushing to spend more money on new nuclear reactors — or to keep the old ones running longer — they have been forced to come up with a deadly workaround to surmount the strongest argument against nuclear power: its potential for catastrophic accidents.

Higher rates of birth defects have been found in the Bryanska Oblast region (pictured) than in other areas uncontaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. (Photo by Geo Days on Unsplash)

Even the nuclear industry and the governments willing to do its bidding understand that you cannot really clean up after a nuclear catastrophe. For example, in Japan, where the March 2011 nuclear disaster has left lands radioactively contaminated potentially indefinitely, there is an attempt to mandate that people return to live in these areas by claiming there are no “discernible” health impacts from doing so. 

Bodies that are supposed to protect health and regulate the nuclear industry, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the International Commission on Radiological Protection and Nuclear Regulatory Commission are raising recommended public exposure limits, considering halting evacuations from radiation releases, and encouraging people to live on, and eat from, contaminated land.  

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No nukes in Asia…or anywhere

Groups call for a nuclear power ban and no radioactive water dump at Fukushima

By No Nukes Asia Forum Japan • Citizens’Nuclear Information Center • Friends of the Earth Japan

On the 10th Anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, groups in Japan have initiated an international signature campaign against the discharge of contaminated water and calling for the discontinuation of nuclear power plants now! Please join this campaign by signing the petition.

The Japanese government is planning to release Fukushima’s radioactive contaminated water into the ocean. Japanese citizens, from Fukushima Prefecture and beyond, are strongly opposed to this plan. 

The Fukushima Prefecture Fishermen’s Association, with the backing of the Fishermen’s Association from all over Japan, have submitted an opinion of opposition to the government. The Fukushima Prefecture Agricultural Cooperatives and Forestry Associations along with 43 local governments in Fukushima Prefecture also participated in this campaign, and 450,000 citizens from across Japan have signed a petition against the government plan. 

Fishermen from all over Japan, as well as a huge groundswell of Japanese public, are strongly opposed to the proposal to dump radioactive water into the ocean from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant site. (Photo:Matthias Lambrecht/Creative Commons)

The threat of the release of contaminated water has triggered much concern and opposition among citizenry overseas as well, including those from neighboring countries. 

Contaminated water from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant has already exceeded 1.24 million tons. We are deeply concerned about the adverse effects the water will have on the human body by way of consuming fish and shellfish, which are staples in the region’s diet. 

We demand the Japanese government keep the contaminated water stored in the tanks until the water’s levels of radioactivity are significantly reduced. The government could also adopt mortar-induced radioactive waste solidification technology. 

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Nukes are illegal, now what?

The necessity for total nuclear disarmament—including American disarmament—is more urgent than ever

By Robert C. Koehler

Let’s not forget: We are standing at the edge of global change. I believe what’s visible in this fleeting moment is our own evolution.

Let’s not let this moment flicker and die, to be replaced, with a despairing shrug, by business as usual. Donald Trump shattered the centrist political norms, sent chaos rippling through the corridors of power. Now he’s gone. We have to look through the cracks—these cracks in American exceptionalism—and see what’s possible. We have to make sure Joe Biden sees it as well.

And what’s possible is geopolitics beyond borders. What’s possible is addressing the truly profound threats that the planet—and the future—face, among them climate change and, with even more immediacy, nuclear war. The necessity for total nuclear disarmament—including American disarmament, for God’s sake—is more urgent than ever. This is bigger, by far, than reinstating the Iran nuclear agreement, necessary as that is. We must move beyond the world’s fragile pseudo-peace maintained by the threat of Armageddon. The time to move beyond this insanity is now.

A nuclear war would inflict hell — a nuclear winter — on every occupant of Planet Earth. (Photo: Nuclear winter by Joel Ormsby for Creative Commons)

Consider this tidbit of logic: Since nuclear war would respect no borders—its outbreak would inflict hell on every occupant of Planet Earth—why should their use and, indeed, their existence, be at the whim of the nine national leaders whose nations possess nuclear weapons?

Because that’s the way it is?

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Unacceptable suffering

Beyond banning the bomb, new treaty recognizes its victims

By Kate Hudson

New treaties are not often greeted with the recognition and enthusiasm that they merit.

They can seem dry and legalistic, overladen with clauses and dusty formulations.

But the reality is that treaties are often the bringing into law of profoundly humanitarian principles, of significant advances in human rights, of steps towards peace and to protect all communities.

And they are often the result of years of campaigning, of lobbying, marching, and direct action.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which came into force on January 22, is just such a treaty. The result of over 60 years of anti-nuclear campaigning it is a remarkable and path-breaking achievement.

1983 CND demonstration. The TPNW is “the result of over 60 years of anti-nuclear campaigning. . . a remarkable and path-breaking achievement”. (Photo: Johnragla/Wikimedia Commons)

The Treaty bans the use, production, possession and deployment of nuclear weapons, along with specific activities that could enable or assist anyone to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

For the first time, nuclear weapons are declared illegal under international law. In the past, the World Court ruled that their use would be unlawful under virtually all circumstances, but this is the first time that their production and possession — indeed their very existence — has been ruled illegal.

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Off to a good START

The US and Russia have extended the treaty, but it’s not about disarmament

This story was prepared by Linda Pentz Gunter largely derived from information provided by ICAN 

The United States and Russia have agreed on extending New START for another five years.

Extending New START is an important action by these two countries after four years that saw both countries undermining arms control agreements. However, it is important to remember that it is not a disarmament step, but rather an extension of the current levels of nuclear arsenals. 

Nevertheless, it is a welcome development to see the new US administration and Russia return to where they left off four years ago rather than escalate. It also comes at an auspicious time, as the world has just witnessed the entry into force on January 22, 2021 of the first global treaty to ban nuclear weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The United States and the Russian Federation agreed on January 26, 2021 to extend the bilateral cap on U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for five additional years. 

This is not the first time now President Biden has been involved in discussions around the New START Treaty. (Photo: President Barack Obama hosts a START Treaty meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 18, 2010. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).
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