The NFRC was established in 2002 to promote the construction and operation of nuclear reprocessing facilities. NFRC promotes reprocessing commercial spent nuclear fuel that is generated by commercial nuclear power plants.

Reprocessing dramatically reduces the amount of high-level radioactive waste that would have to be stored in a geologic repository. We also support reprocessing plutonium and highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads into fuel for use in commercial nuclear power plants.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Zoning Board Challenges Pilgrim Dry Cask Storage

When the Zoning Board of Appeals ruled last year that Entergy – the owners of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station – didn’t need a special permit to begin construction of a dry cask storage facility on the plant’s Manomet grounds, 18 residents appealed that decision to the state’s Land Court.

More than a year later, after a series of motions, the case is proceeding. Most recently, the court issued an order "allowing in part and denying in part" Entergy’s motion to dismiss the entire case by summary judgment "for lack of standing." The court determined that 11 of the 18 plaintiffs originally named in the case – those residing within two miles of the plant – had standing based on the loss of property value that will result from the construction of the storage facility and the continued operation of the plant.

Because of that ruling, the court is now expected to hear arguments on the merits of the case – whether existing regulations require that Entergy should have obtained a special permit in the first place. Meanwhile, Entergy has moved ahead at its own risk. It has spent a considerable sum on construction of the dry cask storage project. In the past few weeks Entergy has even notified the presiding judge – as part of the court’s conditions – that it could begin transferring nuclear waste from the spent fuel pool to dry cask storage units within the next 90 days.

If Entergy were to lose the case and the conditions originally under discussion by the plaintiffs and others were made part of a special permit, it could face very expensive modifications to its dry cask storage project.  The initial cost estimate for the site work and concrete pad required for dry cask storage is estimated at $140 million.  Entergy officials expressed confidence in the ultimate decision of the courts. (Wicked Local Plymouth, 9/5/2014)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

NRC Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel Rule

On Tuesday, August 26, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved a generic environmental impact statement that clears the way for storing spent nuclear fuel for a hundred years or more (NRC Ruling). New nuclear power plants can now be built without waiting for a final nuclear waste repository to be built (NYTimes).  NFRC supported the rule.

The rulemaking was in response to a 2012 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals that struck down the NRC Waste Confidence Decision, which stated:

- “reasonable assurance exists that sufficient geologic repository capacity will be available for disposal of…spent nuclear fuel when necessary”, and
- “reasonable assurance exists that…spent fuel can be stored safely without significant environmental impacts…in spent fuel pools and…dry cask storage systems.”

As a result of this court ruling, the NRC decided to stop all nuclear licensing activities (CLI-12-016) while it developed a Waste Confidence Generic Environmental Impact Statement that would address these issues, even the possibility that a permanent geologic repository might never be built. This generic EIS would not have to be redone over and over for every site or every license.

Norris McDonald at spent fuel reprocessing facility in France

The French reprocess and reuse their spent nuclear fuel.  America should do the same.  This should be done at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Nuclear power plants in the United States have safely stored spent nuclear fuel for decades in spent fuel pools of water and, later, in concrete dry casks. There has never been a problem. But the centerpiece of our nuclear waste program has always been the idea of a deep geologic repository as the final resting place for nuclear waste.

Therefore, when the Yucca Mountain deep geologic repository project was essentially canned in 2009 (killed for similar political reasons it was born from), it was a blow to the country’s confidence in our ability to handle our spent nuclear fuel. We had never thought about storing this stuff forever.

Dry cask storage behind secure fencing.

The GEIS examined land use, air and water quality, historic and cultural resources over three timeframes: 60 years (short-term), 100 years after the short-term scenario (long-term) and indefinitely. It also analyzed spent fuel pool leaks and fires.
So Tuesday’s approval by the NRC of this new rule on the environmental effects of long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel was enormously important. It restores the confidence that was called into question and let’s new nuclear builds and activities to go forward, once the final rule becomes effective, 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The waste confidence issue has practical and economic ramifications. If the NRC, the agency that regulates the commercial nuclear industry, does not feel confident that the industry can take care of its waste, then they will not issue any new licenses to build any new nuclear power plants, disposal sites or any other nuclear facilities, and will not extend licenses for existing power plants.

Norris McDonald (right) at Spent Fuel Pool
Wet storage of spent nuclear fuel in pools of water. When spent fuel is removed from the reactor it requires about five years in water to cool off and allow the short-lived really hot radionuclides to decay away completely. It can then transferred to dry cask storage (below) until needed, e.g., burned in Generation IV or V fast reactors in the near-future, or just disposed of in a deep geologic repository. It is safe in Dry Cask for over a hundred years while the fuel cools off.

This ruling recognizes storing spent fuel for long periods in dry casks is safe and cheap. Dry casks completely contain all radiation. They effortlessly manage the heat. And they prevent nuclear fission (see figure). The casks resist earthquakes, projectiles, tornadoes, floods, temperature extremes and any other event we can think of, including tsunamis (NRC Casks).

Cooling in the casks is passive, and the heat coming off of a loaded spent fuel cask is less than that given off by the average home-heating system. The heat and radioactivity simply decrease over time without the need of fans or pumps, or any action on our part. The only operational cost is the constant monitoring on the casks.

The United States has about 80,000 tons each of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from commercial nuclear power plants making electricity, and high-level nuclear waste (HLW) from making nuclear weapons. SNF from reactors is in a solid form that is easily handled and easily stored in dry casks once it is removed from the cooling pools after about five years. HLW is in different liquid, sludge and solid forms in various containments at Department of Energy facilities and has nothing to do with commercial SNF.

Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain

The best things you can do with spent nuclear fuel is let it sit for a hundred years. A hundred years is a few half-lives of the two bad players – the uranium fission products cesium-137 and strontium-90. Each of these nuclides has a 30-year half-life, so after 100 years, 90% of each will have decayed away, and the waste will be much, much cooler and easier to handle, no matter what you end up doing with it.

If you end up burning old spent fuel in new GenIV fast reactors, like General Atomics’ EM2 reactor, or the reactor Bill Gates is building (TerraPower), you get ten times more energy out of the fuel as you get from the first round of burning. And the new waste is radioactive for a much shorter time. If you end up just throwing the spent fuel away, it’s still relatively cool and the disposal is easier and cheaper.

This new rule does not itself license or permit nuclear power plants to store spent fuel for any length of time, but it was necessary to allow these licenses to go forward under separate actions.

Ironically, this final rule was renamed, from Waste Confidence to Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel. This name that more accurately reflects the nature of the ruling and is more understandable. (Forbes, 8/29/2014)

Monday, May 5, 2014

UN Report on Fukushima

Increase in Cancer Unlikely following Fukushima Exposure - says UN Report


Low Risk of Thyroid Cancer Among Children Most Exposed

Cancer levels are likely to remain stable in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power accident, according to a new UN report released today.  The report is titled Levels and Effects of Radiation Exposure Due to the Nuclear Accident After the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).
It finds that no discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident; and, that no increases in the rates of birth defects are expected.
Nevertheless, it notes a theoretical possibility that the risk of thyroid cancer among the group of children most exposed to radiation could increase and concludes that the situation needs to be followed closely and further assessed in the future. Thyroid cancer is a rare disease among young children, and their normal risk is very low.
The findings are based on estimates of the exposure of various population groups - including children - as well as scientific knowledge of health impacts following radiation exposure.
According to the study, the expected low impact on cancer rates of the population is largely due to prompt protective actions on the part of the Japanese authorities following the accident.
The Committee analyzed reported worker doses and also independently assessed doses for some of the workers. The Committee's assessments are broadly consistent with reported doses, but uncertainties remain for exposures during the early phase of the accident. The Committee concluded that no discernible increase in cancer or other diseases is expected; however, the most exposed workers will receive regular health checks.
The Committee also evaluated the effects of radiation exposure on both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, finding that any effects would have been transient.
For marine ecosystems, the possibility of effects on flora and fauna was limited to the shoreline area adjacent to the power station and the potential for effects over the long term was considered insignificant.
According to the report, drafted last year but only recently finalized by the U.N.,
The doses to the general public, both those incurred during the first year and estimated for their lifetimes, are generally low or very low. No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their descendants. The most important health effect is on mental and social well-being, related to the enormous impact of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, and the fear and stigma related to the perceived risk of exposure to ionizing radiation. Effects such as depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms have already been reported.”
Increased rates of detection of [thyroid] nodules, cysts and cancers have been observed during the first round of screening; however, these are to be expected in view of the high detection efficiency [using modern high-efficiency ultrasonography]. Data from similar screening protocols in areas not affected by the accident imply that the apparent increased rates of detection among children in Fukushima Prefecture are unrelated to radiation exposure.”
As to environmental effects, the U.N. report goes on to say,
Exposures of selected non-human biota in the natural environment were also estimated. The doses and associated effects of radiation on non-human biota following the accident were evaluated against the Committee’s previous evaluations of such effects. Exposures of both marine and terrestrial non-human biota following the accident were, in general, too low for acute effects to be observed, though there may have been some exceptions because of local variability… Any radiation effects would be restricted to a limited area where the deposition of radioactive material was greatest; beyond that area, the potential for effects on biota is insignificant.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), established in 1955, is mandated to undertake broad reviews of the sources of ionizing radiation and the effects on human health and the environment. Its assessments provide a scientific foundation for governments and UN agencies to formulate standards and programmes for protection against ionizing radiation.
More than 80 leading scientists worked on the study analyzing the effects of radiation exposure following the accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station. Material they prepared was reviewed for technical and scientific quality by its 27 Member States at their annual session in May 2013. All scientists had to declare any conflict of interest related to their participation in the assessment.
The UNSCEAR secretariat is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

* *** *
For more information, contact:
Jaya Mohan
Communications, UNSCEAR
Tel: +43 1 26060-4122
Mobile: +43 699 1459 4122
Email: jaya.mohan[at]

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Obama Administration Ends Construction of MOX Facility

In 2000, the United States and Russia agreed to each dispose of 34 tons of plutonium that was produced for use in nuclear weapons, with most of it being turned into fuel for civilian power reactors.  Now, 14 years after deciding to build a plant near Aiken, S.C., that would have converted the plutonium into reactor fuel, the Obama administration has proposed to stop work on the site, which has already cost the government $3.9 billion. But South Carolina, eager to keep 1,600 construction jobs at the site, where much of the plutonium was made in the first place, is suing to keep the work going.

MOX is 'mixed oxide, mixing plutonium with uranium oxide.

Some speculate that the project could cost $10 billion and cost a billion dollars a year in operating costs.  The price of decommissioning could push the total bill to $35 billion.  That would be over $1 billion a ton.
If the project is, in fact, abandoned, it will join the Superconducting Super Collider, a particle accelerator in Texas canceled in 1993 after $2 billion had been spent, and the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., canceled in 1984 after $1.5 billion.
The senators from Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, along with Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, chairwoman of the Senate energy committee, denounced the shutdown in a letter to President Obama, emphasizing that the plant was “the only congressionally authorized disposition path for weapons-grade plutonium.”
On Tuesday, the department said it would continue work until the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. But it said that unless it could get a promise from Congress of continued construction funding at a level of $500 million to $600 million a year until 2027, and an understanding that annual operating costs would be in that range once construction was completed, it would proceed with shutting the work down.
South Carolina sued in March in Federal District Court in Aiken, insisting that the administration had no right to stop work on a project that was carrying out the plan approved by Congress for disposing of the plutonium. (NYT, 4/29/2014)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NFRC Opposes Retreat on Savannah River MOX Facility

NFRC and the state of South Carolina are outraged by the suspension of the Savannah River MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility construction

State of SC filing a lawsuit against the Department of Energy

NFRC supports the lawsuit

South Carolina is home to the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) Savannah River Site, which provides storage for military weapons material. Some of this - classified as 'surplus' plutonium - has long been earmarked for destruction as fuel in civilian nuclear power reactors. The chosen method for this was manufacture into mixed oxide fuel assemblies via the dedicated plant under construction at the site - but the funding to build this plant was reduced to zero in the DoE's budget request for FY2015. 

The state's attorney general Alan Wilson has stated:
"Through the unilateral indefinite suspension... without any plutonium disposition alternative - without Congressional authorization or approval - and without any legal authority, the federal government has failed to not only honor its commitment to South Carolina but has breached its obligation to responsibly address the disposal of surplus plutonium."

The origin of the project was a bilateral deal made with Russia to remove equal amounts of weapons-usable material from both countries' stockpiles. The two nations agreed to dispose of 34 tonnes of plutonium. America opted for MOX, while Russia decided to use its plutonium as fuel for fast reactors and continues with this.

After around $4 billion appropriated from US budgets over the years, the US MOX plant stands at 60% complete, according to South Carolina's legal complaint. The state said the construction had been employing 1800 people, with another 4500 jobs supported in the local Aiken county. Furthermore, South Carolina is unhappy about remaining the custodian of the unwanted plutonium which now has no disposal strategy. 

Savannah River MOX Facility

The DoE's stated reason for cutting funding for the MOX plant is that "it has become apparent that [the plant] will be significantly more expensive than anticipated, and therefore, the budget request places the MOX facility in cold stand-by while the department evaluates plutonium disposition options."

A report from the General Accounting Office last month said the cost of the MOX plant had risen from an original approved estimate of $4.8 billion to some $7.7 billion as of 2012. At the same time the scheduled start of operation had moved back three years to late 2019.

Wilson called the decision to 'close-up' the MOX plant and stop work on it a "violation of the constitution." The state's lawsuit, filed against the DoE, contests its use of Congressionally authorized funds for close-out rather than construction.

The move to halt the MOX project echoes the 2009 decision by the DoE and President Barack Obama to declare the Yucca Mountain project to be 'not an option' and zero its funding. Appointed by Obama, then-chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Gregory Jaczko caused it to abandon its review of Yucca Mountain's license application. Four years of legal fights saw this declared illegal by the US Court of Appeals and the US is now beginning to launch a new strategy for disposal of its used nuclear fuel. However, the lack of a recognized disposal route has had ongoing knock-on effects for industry, with the NRC currently having taken around 18 months to rewrite the 'waste confidence' rule without which it cannot issue a license for a new nuclear plant. (World Nuclear News, 3/19/2014)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Workers To Enter WIPP Post Radiation Detection

A recovery process has started at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) with the aim of resuming operations. Seventeen workers have so far tested positive for extremely low levels of contamination following a radiological event at the facility last month.
DoE officials recently visited WIPP to observe site recovery activities (Image: DoE)

The WIPP plant in New Mexico is owned by the US Department of Energy (DoE) and operated by Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC (NWP). The facility disposes of transuranic waste packages from the US military in an underground salt formation. An underground monitor detected airborne radiation within the plant on 14 February.

The DoE and NWP have lowered radiological and air quality instruments down the salt handling and air intake shafts at WIPP. Preliminary findings show no detectable radioactive contamination in the air or on the equipment lowered and returned to the surface. Air quality results were also found to be normal.

A team of workers may be sent into the underground facility as soon as the end of the week to characterize the mine's stability and attempt to identify the source of the release. Once identified, the team will isolate the source and implement a plan to remove the contamination hazard.

There were no workers underground at the time but, as a precautionary measure, all those at the surface were checked for external contamination. Filters on the underground plant's vents removed at least 99.87% of contaminants from the air, but trace amounts of americium and plutonium were subsequently detected by an above-ground sampling station near the plant.

Since the event, only essential staff have been allowed on site and no shipments of waste have been delivered to the plant.

So far, tests on 17 workers have indicated "extremely low" contamination. As no detectable contamination has been found in urine samples, it is assumed that the contamination was not inhaled into the lungs.

The DoE and NWP stressed that as the levels of exposure are so low - just above background levels - none of the workers is expected to experience any health effects.
Air sampling data continues to show that no significant contamination has been found offsite. (World Nuclear News, 4/10/2014)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

USEC Files Bankrptcy Protection

Bethesda-based nuclear energy provider USEC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday after delays to a major centrifuge project and shifts in the global market made it impossible for the company to repay debt due later this year. The company expects to receive court approval and emerge from bankruptcy by this summer.

The bankruptcy filing will allow the company to pursue its ongoing business objectives with greater certainty by strengthening its balance sheet.  The deal calls for the note holders to receive $200 million of new debt and 79 percent of the restructured company’s common stock. Existing shareholders would receive 5 percent of the new common stock as part of the deal.

Toshiba Corp. and the Babcock & Wilcox Co. will each take on $20.2 million in debt and 8 percent of new common stock as part of the arrangement.

The company’s management will remain in place following the bankruptcy, though its board of directors will be replaced.

USEC issued $530 million worth of notes in 2007 with the expectation it would repay that money by October of this year. In that time, an economic downturn and natural disaster have dramatically changed the global market for nuclear power, Jacobson said.
The company has been unable to secure a $2 billion loan guarantee and other funding necessary to complete its American Centrifuge Plant. The company had expected the uranium enrichment facility in Piketon, Ohio would be yielding revenue by this point.

The earthquake and tsunami that took out a major nuclear reactor in Fukushima, Japan in March 2011 raised troubling questions about the safety of nuclear power and caused global prices for nuclear fuel to drop. USEC ended last year with $314 million in cash on its balance sheet. (Wash Post, 3/5/2014)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

DOE To Approve Loan Guarantees For Georgia Nuclear Reactors

Sec. Moniz to Georgia, Energy Department Scheduled to Close on Loan Guarantees to Construct New Nuclear Power Plant Reactors

Ernest Moniz
U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz today announced at the National Press Club that he will be traveling to Waynesboro, Georgia tomorrow, February 20, to mark the issuance of approximately $6.5 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant. The project represents the first new nuclear facilities in the U.S. to begin construction and receive NRC license in nearly three decades. In addition, the deployment of two new 1,100 megawatt Westinghouse AP1000® nuclear reactors is a first-mover for a new generation of advanced nuclear reactors.
Vogtle Plant Construction Area
The two new 1,100 megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant will supplement the two existing reactor units at the facility. According to industry projections, the project will create approximately 3,500 onsite construction jobs and approximately 800 permanent jobs once the units begin operation. When the new nuclear reactors come on line, they will provide enough reliable electricity to power nearly 1.5 million American homes.

Project partners include Georgia Power Company (GPC), Oglethorpe Power Corporation (OPC), the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG), and the City of Dalton, Georgia (Dalton).

Department made conditional commitments for a total of $8.33 billion in loan guarantees. Tomorrow, the Department is scheduled to issue loan guarantees to GPC and OPC for a total of approximately $6.5 billion. The Department continues to work on the remaining conditional commitment for a $1.8 billion loan guarantee to MEAG.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized the Department to issue loan guarantees for projects that avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gases and employ new or significantly-improved technologies as compared to technologies in service in the United States at the time the guarantee is issued.

The nuclear facility is eligible for loan guarantees since it is expected to avoid nearly 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, which is the equivalent of removing more than two million vehicles from the roads. In addition, the Westinghouse AP1000® reactor has incorporated numerous innovations resulting in significant operational and safety improvements.

Currently, the Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) supports a large, diverse portfolio of more than $30 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and commitments, supporting more than 30 closed and committed projects. The projects that LPO has supported include one of the world’s largest wind farms; several of the world’s largest solar generation and thermal energy storage systems; and more than a dozen new or retooled auto manufacturing plants across the country. (DOE)

Areva, EDF Team Up With Saudis

A series of agreements aimed at supporting Saudi Arabia's nuclear energy program have been signed by France's EDF and Areva with Saudi organizations.

The agreements will help develop the country's supply chain and workforce.

Two sets of agreements were signed by Areva and EDF with Saudi companies and universities during a visit to Riyadh on 30 December by French president Francois Hollande.

The French companies signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with five Saudi manufacturers: Zamil Steel, Bahra Cables, Riyadh Cables, Saudi Pumps and Descon Olayan. These MoUs aim to develop the industrial and technical skills of local companies to form a domestic supply chain.

Areva and EDF also signed agreements with four Saudi universities: King Saud University in Riyadh; Prince Mohammed bin Fahd University in Al-Khobar; and Dar Al Hekma College and Effat University, both in Jeddah. These agreements are intended to contribute to the development of Saudi Arabia's nuclear expertise.

Separately, EDF signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia's Global Energy Holding Company (GEHC) for the creation of a joint venture whose first task will be to carry out feasibility studies for an EPR reactor in the country. GEHC was established in 2011 to invest in the development of energy-related businesses.

Areva, with the support of EDF, recently launched a training program to provide Saudi companies with an understanding of the safety and quality requirements specific to the nuclear industry. The first session of this program was hosted on 17-18 December by the National Institute of Technology in Bahra, near Jeddah.

Although Saudi Arabia's nuclear program is in its infancy, the kingdom has plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next twenty years. A 2010 royal decree identified nuclear power as essential to help meet growing energy demand for both electricity generation and water desalination while reducing reliance on depleting hydrocarbon resources.

The country has bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with countries including China, Argentina, France and South Korea. Recent months have seen reactor vendors including Toshiba, Westinghouse, Exelon Nuclear Partners (ENP) and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy forge various agreements to work together on proposals for future Saudi nuclear plants.  (World Nuclear News, 1/6/2014)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Babcock & Wilcox To Support Terrapower's Travelling Wave Reactor

A cutaway of the travelling wave reactor (Image: TerraPower)
Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) will provide TerraPower with services and program support, such as: design and fabrication of components; fuel fabrication process development, prototype fabrication and fuel services; reactor design engineering; reactor operations support; engineering services; flow loop testing; licensing support; and materials testing.

Initially developed in the 1950s, the TWR design resurfaced in the early 1990s, and was later patented by Intellectual Ventures, the company from which TerraPower was spun out of. The TWR is a liquid sodium-cooled fast reactor that uses depleted or natural uranium as fuel.

The core design of the original TWR concept envisages a moving region, or 'wave', in which the uranium is bred progressively into plutonium, which is the actual fuel that undergoes fission. However, in mid-2011 TerraPower announced a change of design to a standing wave reactor in order to address the problem of cooling a moving region. The current design would start the fission reaction at the centre of the reactor core, where the breeding stays, while fresh fuel from the outer edge of the core is progressively moved to the central region, as used fuel is moved out of the centre to the periphery.

TerraPower plans to build a 600 MWe demonstration plant, known as the TWR-P, by 2018-2022 followed by larger commercial plants of 1150 MWe from the late 2020s.
B&W is also actively marketing a new reactor design of its own - the 180 MWe mPower. The company pointed out that its own mPower reactor is based on pressurized water reactor technology using standard enriched uranium as fuel, whereas TerraPower's TWR "is a larger reactor based on Generation IV technology and designed to use depleted uranium as fuel." (World Nuclear News, 2/18/2014)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ron Kirk is the new CASEnergy Coalition Co-Chair

NFRC is delighted about this appointment.

Ron Kirk
Ambassador Ron Kirk, former U.S. Trade Representative and mayor of Dallas, has been named co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy (CASEnergy) Coalition. Kirk joins former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who has served as the coalition’s co-chair since its 2006 launch.
In his role as the CASEnergy Coalition Co-Chair, Kirk will provide perspectives on how electricity choices impact local communities, and how investments in advanced energy technologies today will better prepare America to compete in the global marketplace.

Kirk is currently Senior of Counsel for Dallas-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher with a focus on strategic advice pertaining to global interests.

His leadership as U.S. Trade Representative under President Obama will help provide policy leaders and other audiences a broader understanding of the role nuclear energy plays in creating and sustaining American jobs. The global market for nuclear energy trade is estimated at $500 billion to $750 billion over the next decade.

Kirk served as the mayor of Dallas from 1995 to 2001. He was the city’s first African American mayor, and he led the city to garner more than $3.5 billion in new investment and created 45,000 new jobs. (CASEnergy Coalition)

About Clean and Safe Energy Coalition

The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition is a national grassroots coalition that promotes the economic and environmental benefits of nuclear energy as part of a clean energy portfolio. The coalition is comprised of more than 3,400 members across the business, environmental, academic, consumer, minority, and labor communities. To learn more about the coalition, please visit, follow us on Twitter @CASEnergy, and checkout theirr blog, Clean Energy Buzz.

For more information please contact:

The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition
(202) 338-2273

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Waste Control Specialists Specialize in Storage of Low-Level Nuclear Waste

Waste Control Specialists (WCS) runs a very lucrative low level nuclear waste repository in Andrews, Texas. Space inside goes for $10,000 a cubic foot in some cases. Three-quarters of the money goes to WCS and the rest to the surrounding Andrews County and the state of Texas.  WCS is owned by Valhi Inc and began disposing of nuclear waste in April 2012.

As aging nuclear reactors retire, their most radioactive steel, concrete and other components must be shipped for burial somewhere.  Last year alone, utilities announced that they would retire five reactors.  For instance, the owner of Vermont Yankee, a 41-year-old reactor that is scheduled to close soon, will probably ship thousands of tons to Texas.

So far, WCS has a monopoly.  For 95 reactors in 29 states, WCS is the only place that will take some categories of low-level waste. WCS looks likely to collect a substantial part of the disposal fees paid for nuclear waste nationally, which the industry puts overall at $30 billion.

The site itself has a base layer of nearly waterproof clay, then a layer of concrete reinforced with steel and then three layers of plastic. When the waste, loaded into concrete containers, fills the pit, it will be topped by a 40-foot-thick covering cap that includes more concrete, then more clay and finally a “bio-intrusion cap” to keep out burrowing prairie dogs.
David Tudor, a radiological safety technician, stands by with a Geiger counter.
Disposing of low-level nuclear waste is not quite as hard as storing used nuclear fuel, which for some years looked likely to go to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, but is now in a state of uncertainty, with no program to find a repository and no decision by Congress on who should even attempt that task.
But the tale of low-level waste — items as diverse as contaminated tools, protective clothing, used-up filters for radioactive water, plus a smattering of hospital and laboratory wastes, and, soon, a flood of demolition debris — is a government misadventure similar to the high-level waste problem. In the early 1980s, Congress told the states that the federal government would find a place for the fuel, and that the states should unite in multistate compacts to establish shared waste dumps.
A small front-end loader spreads aggregate between containers holding radioactive waste
Many organizations have tried for years under the compact system to establish low-level waste disposal sites, but the Texas site is the first and only one to open.
Mr. Baltzer said 10 attempts had been made, with a total expenditure of $1 billion. There’s an incredibly high barrier to entry.  WCS succeeded in part by making a virtue of the region’s salient characteristic, drought. Intrusion by water, which would spread the waste, will be minimal. 
A sample of the impermeable Triasic Red Bed Clay
 that is below the dump at Waste Control Specialists.
WCS is more sophisticated than other waste sites for spent nuclear fuel used by the multistate compacts. The Atlantic Compact, comprising South Carolina, New Jersey and Connecticut, uses a long-established dump near Aiken, S.C., called Barnwell, while the Northwest Interstate Compact covers a region with just one operating commercial reactor, in Washington State.  Utah licensed a site near Clive, about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City, operated by EnergySolutions, and it is open to all, but it takes only the least-contaminated material.
Rodney A. Baltzer, president of Waste Control Specialists,
 showing a model of the engineered bed that containers
 of radioactive waste sit on. There is a base layer of nearly
 waterproof clay, a layer of concrete reinforced
 with steel and three layers of plastic.
WCS charges waste generators from within its compact — that is, Texas and Vermont — a base price of $1,000 a cubic foot, plus surcharges depending on radioactivity. Out-of-compact waste generators pay far more, to compensate Texas, which hosts the site, and Vermont, which helped pay for it. (NYT, 1/20/2014, photos: Michael Stravato for The New York Times )