The following is a summary of key recent events, activity and announcements. Full media reports and other links to these events and news announcements can be found on our international media page. Scroll through the international media page for the date on which the event or announcement occurred to read the relevant article.
Yucca Mountain funding
Despite support within the House of Representatives, the Senate refused to approve the federal government’s request to fund renewed assessment of the proposed site for a geological disposal facility at Yucca Mountain. Although further Congressional attempts to push the Yucca project forward are expected, there seems little expectation that the funding will be available this year, much to the annoyance of those living in the area (22 & 23 March). Nevada’s Tourism Board vows to fight on against Yucca Mountain (10 April).
Congressional debate about radioactive waste and geological disposal
Although the funding of the Yucca Mountain project may have been deferred for a year, this only seems to have placed the issue of what the US is going to do about its radioactive waste higher up the political agenda. The issue has been raised in a number of separate Congressional committees and hearings, for example:
Commercial proposals for temporary storage facilities
Two separate proposals, by Holtec in New Mexico, and Orena in West Texas, are widely discussed and analysed (19 March – 7 April). Both pitch to Congressional concerns about the cost to taxpayers of storing waste at interim surface facilities across the USA, by indicating that their proposals would substantially cut costs to taxpayers. Although the Holtec proposal has been viewed positively because of local political, business and community support, an activist campaign has started in New Mexico to oppose Holtec’s plans.
The two proposals have also been discussed in Vermont, as potential places to which the waste currently stored at the decommissioned Yankee nuclear facility might be sent. The same concern about where to store waste is echoed in California and what to do with waste at the San Onofre plant (27 March).
NRC renew support contract for evaluating geological disposal
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has renewed a contract with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to operate the Centre for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses (CNWRA). The five-yearUS$52 million contract is to provide the NRC with technical assistance and research support for activities related to the storage, transportation, possible reprocessing and ultimate geological disposal of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste (5 April).
Nevada test first responders on radioactive waste transport
Local Nevada TV news report on preparations for transport of radioactive waste from California which will travel across Nevada for processing at a facility in Idaho before being sent back across Nevada for final disposal in the WIPP facility in New Mexico (9 April).
Idaho may house waste prior to yucca
US Energy Department considering keeping open a nuclear waste treatment facility in Idaho. The facility packs waste in preparation for disposal at the US’s WIPP geological repository. It is due for closure next year, with the loss of 700 skilled jobs. The facility also houses specialised equipment purchased by the taxpayer. Local environmentalists concerned about the proposal, while cautious State officials want to explore economic and environmental impacts before making a decision (21 March & 13 April).
Pennsylvania & New Jersey lawmakers set higher safety standards than NRC
Feature article on how state legislators are stepping in to raise safety standards for surface storage of radioactive waste above the levels required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (26 March).
University of Iowa invests in radwaste students
Article emphasising that the longer politicians defer decisions on radioactive waste disposal the greater the need to train a new generation of scientists with the skills which will be required once we do start disposing of the waste. Young students see the work as part of a “global effort” to resolve the long-term issue of safe nuclear waste disposal (21 March).
US Department of Energy has commissioned a national group of scientists to study the viability of permanently storing plutonium at the WIPP repository in Carlsbad New Mexico. Local politician Cathrynn Brown said the Carlsbad community was supportive of the repository and was confident moving and storing plutonium could be done safely (17 March).
WIPP reinstates Speaker’s Bureau. WIPP employees are being offered to help answer questions from the local community and to inform the public on operations at the site (9 April).