Opposition to Highly Radioactive Liquid Shipments Continues

For Immediate Release February 3 2017

In spite of a disappointing ruling by a US Judge on Thursday afternoon, February 2, public opposition remains to an unprecedented plan to ship 23,000 litres (6000 gallons) of intensely radioactive liquid from Chalk River, Ontario, to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina – a distance of over 2000 kilometres. The liquid is an acidic solution of dozens of extremely radiotoxic materials such as cesium-137, strontium-90, and plutonium-239.

The first armed convoy, in a series of 100-150 truckloads over a period of four years, had been put on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge in US federal court. Plaintiffs had urged the court to either suspend the shipments, or to require a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in compliance with US environmental law (NEPA), because such highly radioactive material has never before been transported over public roads in liquid form.

But on February 2 the court ruled against the Plaintiffs, deferring to the Department of Energy’s 2013 and 2015 claims that the transport of this dangerous waste in liquid form poses no more dangers than hauling it in solid form. So now, these unprecedented highly radioactive liquid waste shipments have been judged to have no legal obstacles, even without an EIS. Consequences of a spill and discussion of alternatives will not be available for scrutiny by the public or other agencies as a result of the ruling.

The suit was brought by seven US organizations: Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Savannah River Site Watch, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Lone Tree Council, Sierra Club andEnvironmentalists, Inc. Dozens of other organizations on both sides of the border support the plaintiffs in their opposition. All these groups will continue to challenge the plan to transport such dangerous liquid over public roads and bridges – a feat never before attempted, and one they consider to be entirely unnecessary as there are safer alternatives.

Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch in South Carolina, said “Citizens here don’t want to be a dumping ground for Canada’s nuclear waste. Last year, Indonesia demonstrated a method called ‘down-blending’, carried out with DOE approval, that eradicates any need for shipping highly radioactive liquid. The same technique can be utilized at Chalk River. Down-blending and solidifying the waste in Canada would be cheaper, faster and safer than moving this dangerous liquid cargo through dozens of communities, then processing and dumping it into aging waste tanks at SRS.”

Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., a mathematician with the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, and Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D., a physicist with the US-based Nuclear Waste Management Associates, both filed technical declarations in support of the lawsuit.

Dr. Edwards’ declaration based on published data from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the US Environmental Protection Agency, showed that the toxicity of a few ounces of the Chalk River liquid would ruin an entire city’s water supply. “This liquid is among the most radiotoxic …read moreRead More


Arnie recently appeared on the EcoShock radio show to discuss extreme nuclear dangers with host Alex Smith. One of Alex’s listeners had told him that “Even if one reactor blows in America or Europe… the impact and the number of dead will be far less than the millions of all species who will die in a rapid climate shift.” Listen as Arnie debunks this claim and covers even more topics, such as Trump and his call to develop more nuclear weapons, the relationship between the nuclear power industry and nuclear weapons development, and the risks of keeping old reactors operating past their prime. Listen below and please head over to the Ecoshock webpage and see the full blog post for the Interview.


Listen:

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/305772919" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Transcript:

English

Radio Ecoshock (ES): Normally, I introduce our guest. It’s the polite thing to do. This time, though, I will first ask a question to keep our climate listeners tuned in. Several Radio Ecoshock supporters suggest I go easy on the nuclear power industry. Maybe we should keep the existing old reactors going as long as we can to avoid burning more fossil fuels. Even if one reactor blows in America or Europe, says one of my correspondents, the impact and the number of dead will be far less than the millions of all species who will die in a rapid climate shift. So there’s the question. Should we keep old reactors going to reduce our damage to the atmosphere? Mystery guest, what do you say?

Arnie Gundersen (AG): Definitely not. Building nukes and even keeping the old ones running actually is going to make climate change worse.

ES: All right. Well, we’re going to get into the details of why that is and for those who don’t know already, we’re talking with nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen. All through the Fukushima nuclear tragedy and some close calls in America, Arnie has been our repeat guest on Radio Ecoshock. He’s an expert who testifies in court cases connected to nuclear power. He’s been in the nuclear industry. He knows how it operates Arnie is the chief engineer and scientist for the nuclear education agency, Fairewinds.org, founded by his wife, Maggie Gundersen. Arnie, a warm welcome to Radio Ecoshock.

AG: Hey, it’s nice to be back, Alex.

ES: Well, I really appreciate talking with you again even though it’s kind of a tough subject every time we do talk. A little later, we’ll have our necessary chat about Donald Trump. But first let’s talk about another disaster that’s been around for a little bit longer. Please talk about your trip to Fukushima, Japan in 2016.

AG: Oh, yes. I was there just about a year ago today and I spent a month collecting data. It was exciting because it was crowd sourced. We had individuals helped pay for my plane fare over and then the Japanese paid for my lodging and things like that. So it was truly a …read moreRead More


There is a climate crisis upon us. Polar ice is melting. Sea level rise is happening. Time is running out. Emergency solutions are the only option — energy supplies that can come on fast and sustainably.

Sadly, some in the U.S. Congress would rather bury their heads in radioactive quicksand, sinking our money into nuclear energy research at national laboratories that have sought but failed to find illusory atomic answers for decades.

The House and Senate are re-introducing near identical versions of the “Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017,” which promises to throw our money down the nuclear rabbit hole rather than direct major funding to renewable energy solutions that are already addressing climate change quickly and effectively but should be supported and accelerated before it’s too late.

The Act states as its purpose “To enable civilian research and development of advanced nuclear energy technologies by private and public institutions, to expand theoretical and practical knowledge of nuclear physics, chemistry, and materials science, and for other purposes.” It passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate.

In reality, it is another futile tilt at the so-called “advanced reactor” windmill, when real windmills would actually do the job far faster, more safely and cheaply and without all the attendant risks of tinkering with radioactive materials and perpetuating a deadly waste problem into eternity.

The bill states it would authorize research, modeling and simulation of “advanced nuclear reactor concepts” that are “inherently safe.” This chimera has been chased for decades and inherent safety won’t be found in the designs the national laboratories are pushing, such as the sodium-cooled reactor, proven to be literally explosive.

So-called new generation “fast reactors” are another old idea from an old research establishment, the Argonne National Laboratory, which would be delighted to be on the receiving end of this latest transfusion. Argonne’s first attempt at a fast neutron reactor was canceled by the U.S. Congress in 1994.

A new documentary, The New Fire, (a singularly odd choice of title given the subject), celebrates the excitement of eager young scientists determined to invent the better nuclear mousetrap. But back in 1996 the National Academy of Sciences already acknowledged that the development of a reactor that could recycle its own waste would have very high costs and marginal benefits and would take hundreds of years — time we definitely do not have.

The thrill of theoretical experimentation in the laboratory may be exciting for young engineers. But they shouldn’t get our money. Nor should we hand these aspiring atomic alchemists the mandate to cure climate change. That race is already being won by renewable energy research and implementation. It is in this field where the real “innovation” lies and where Congress should be directing their mandate and funding dollars.

…read moreRead More