A federal appeals court today asked the Department of Energy to explain why it should be able to continue to collect fees for its nuclear waste fund despite the fact that there is no operating national repository.
The move by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was not unexpected based on April’s oral argument (Greenwire, April 20).
The court’s decision to remand the case back to DOE, with a decision due within six months, falls short of what the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and other petitioners initially wanted. They had asked the court put an end to the payments altogether. It is expected there will be $28 billion in the fund by the end of this year.
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated nuclear engineer Kristine Svinicki to a second term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, posing a potential conflict with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid opposes another five-year term for Svinicki, contending that she “lied” to the Senate during her initial confirmation about the extent of her involvement in the Yucca Mountain Project while employed at the Department of Energy earlier in her career.
A bill introduced in the U.S. House this week joined several other recently introduced bills by South Carolina legislators attempting to force the Yucca Mountain repository to open.
H.R. 4625, the Yucca Utilization to Control Contamination Act, was introduced Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., attempting to require President Barack Obama to reinstate Yucca Mountain as the designated site for the nation’s high-level radioactive waste, penalizing the administration if it fails to do so.
President Barack Obama’s embattled chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced his resignation on Monday, signalling a potential end to three years of controversy, acrimony and stalemate over US nuclear-waste policy.
Last week on the anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster we published a piece by James Conca (see: Fukushima’s Refugees Are Victims of Fear, Not Radiation) where he explained his conviction that the potential threat to Fukushima refugees posed by radiation exposure has been overblown to the point where the irrational fear of radiation is more dangerous to Japan than the radiation itself. The piece generated a host of comments, some supportive, many not. Much of the discussion focused on the merits of Linear No-Threshold Dose hypothesis (LNT), which suggests there is no safe dose of radiation. Conca — who has spent decades researching radiological contamination at national labs — disagrees with LNT, and has prepared the following response to critics of the piece.
By James Conca
Seriously? LNT is not established science, it’s established policy. Ideology and policy are not science. I love Google and Wikipedia, but they don’t take the place of actual research. You need to go back and read the primary documents, review the actual data, read Hermann Mueller’s letters from 1946 and why he chose to ignore certain studies, understand the math of risk analysis, understand the Cold War environment under which LNT was adopted. The job of science is to understand. The job of ideology is to coerce. The people of Japan are not being hysterical, they’re being afraid because we told them to be. Without caring about the consequences. We know better, but sound bites don’t capture the subtleties of this problem.
This is a guest editorial by Dr. James Conca, an international expert on the environmental effects of radioactive contamination.
Every time I eat a bag of potato chips I think of Fukushima. This 12-ounce bag of chips has 3500 picoCuries of gamma radiation in it, and the number of bags I eat a year gives me a dose as high as what I would receive living in much of the evacuated zones around Fukushima. But unlike the Fukushima refugees, I get to stay in my home. We live in a nuanced world of degree. Eating a scoop of ice cream is fine, eating a gallon at one time is bad. Jumping off a chair is no big deal; jumping off a cliff is really stupid. The numbers matter. It’s the dose that makes the poison. There is a threshold to everything.
The radiation in those potato chips isn’t going to kill me. Likewise, no one is going to die from Fukushima radiation. Cancer rates are not going to increase in Japan. The disaster wasn’t hidden like the Soviets did, so that people unknowingly ate iodine-131 for two months before it decayed away to nothing. No one threw workers into the fire like lemmings because they didn’t know what to do.
Where do I get off downplaying the effects of the Fukushima disaster? I’ve been studying the environmental effects of radioactive contamination for three decades, working at America’s national labs and nuclear waste repositories. My enduring frustration: the extreme supposition that all radiation is deadly and that there is no dose below which harmful effects will not occur.
PHOENIX — State Sen. Al Melvin admits that not everyone thinks having a nuclear waste processing plant and burial site in Arizona is a great idea.
So the Republican from Tucson’s far-north suburbs has a sweetener he believes will get some people to change their minds: Money.
He is proposing to make Arizona as the place where all the nuclear plants in the country send their spent nuclear fuel rods. Melvin, a long-time proponent of nuclear energy, said the failure of the federal government to set up a planned high-level radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada creates an opportunity for Arizona.