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SRS might keep nuclear waste

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Nuclear waste could remain at Savannah River Site much longer than anticipated under Energy Secretary Stephen Chu's proposal to scrap plans for a permanent repository in Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

Dr. Chu told members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week that new strategies could be developed for nuclear waste, and that a 27-year, $13.5 billion effort to establish the Yucca Mountain project should be abandoned.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has supported Yucca Mountain as a means to get high-level nuclear waste out of his state.

"This represents a broken promise to South Carolina and a lot of other states that have been storing a lot of nuclear waste," said Joel Sawyer, Mr. Sanford's communications director.

Yucca Mountain was being designed to accommodate radioactive material stored at 121 temporary sites in 39 states, including SRS, where high-level wastes are encased in glass and stored in steel cylinders that were to eventually be shipped elsewhere.

Jim Giusti, an Energy Department spokesman at SRS, said it is too early to determine what will happen with wastes stored at the site if Yucca Mountain is abandoned.

"We'll be waiting for guidance from Washington on how to proceed," he said. "But I can say that we're going to ensure there is no safety issue with the material we're handling here, whether it be spent fuel in a water basin or a stainless steel canister with glass waste inside."

Mr. Sawyer said it is disappointing that the media didn't fully explore the waste disposal issue in more detail before the election.

"This is a question that should have been asked during the presidential campaign: what would an Obama administration mean for Georgia and South Carolina in terms of keeping promises on nuclear waste?"

Stephanie Mueller, an Energy Department spokeswoman in Washington, said Dr. Chu intends to pull together leading experts in the nuclear waste field later this year to come up with a new plan.

Tom Clements, the southeast nuclear campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, noted that Yucca Mountain was being designed to hold 70,000 tons of waste, of which only 10 percent was to be from the Department of Energy, with the remainder originating at commercial nuclear reactors.

"So I'm not sure this development changes anything as far as (SRS) waste because it was always at the bottom of the pecking order," he said.

Dr. Chu's declaration that Yucca Mountain was no longer an option was mirrored in President Obama's proposed budget, which eliminated funds for the project.

Yucca Mountain is 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

DEVELOPMENTS:

- In June, the U.S. Energy Department delivered a formal application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build the nation's first national repository for high-level radioactive waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

- If the site is built, radioactive material stored at 121 temporary sites in 39 states would have a permanent resting place.

- SRS has two glass waste storage buildings, where radioactive waste encased in glass is stored in steel cylinders that are supposed to be shipped to Yucca Mountain.

- This week, President Obama's energy secretary, Steven Chu, announced intentions to scrap the Yucca Mountain repository.

IMPACT:

If the Yucca Mountain project is not pursued, the waste would likely remain in South Carolina indefinitely or until alternatives are explored.

BACKGROUND

Yucca Mountain and Savannah River Site

- Last June, the U.S. Energy Department delivered a formal application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build the nation's first national repository for high-level radioactive waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

- The application is substantial -- more than 8,600 pages -- and represents a $13.5 billion investment spanning two decades.

- If the site is built, radioactive material stored at 121 temporary sites in 39 states -- including Savannah River Site -- would have a permanent resting place.

- SRS has two glass waste storage buildings, where radioactive waste encased in glass is stored in steel cylinders that are supposed be shipped to Yucca Mountain.

- This week, President Obama's new energy secretary, Steven Chu, announced intentions to scrap the Yucca Mountain repository in favor of convening a panel of experts to explore other options.

- If the Yucca Mountain project is not pursued, the waste would likely remain in South Carolina indefinitely or until alternatives are explored.

Comments (13) Add comment
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MYPOINT
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MYPOINT 07/20/10 - 11:02 pm
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.

.

robaroo
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robaroo 03/07/09 - 08:32 am
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This is an outrage. The

This is an outrage. The waste should have been moved to Yucca Mountain years ago. Governor Stanford should have the State Troopers set up a blockade around SRS to make sure no more waste comes in, and only full waste trucks go out.

Niko Mahs
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Niko Mahs 03/07/09 - 08:58 am
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Got Cancer?

Got Cancer?

SCEagle Eye
958
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SCEagle Eye 03/07/09 - 09:06 am
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While politics played in

While politics played in choosing Nevada as the dump site and are at play now, there is no demonstrated ability of the site to meet licensing criteria. The site ran into technical problems long ago and it was becoming clearer that it couldn't meet NRC licensing requirements. Those that say its only a political problem choose to overlook this key point. After a decide of trying, DOE wasn't able to license the facility, even with the backing of Bush, so that tells you a lot about the technical problems. If you back new nuclear reactors in South Carolina, you will be supporting 20 tons of high-level waste per reactor being left in our state. Speak up if you are you willing to support a leave-it-in-South-Carolina position with the new nukes?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/07/09 - 10:29 am
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I have been saying this for a

I have been saying this for a long time. Yucca Mountain by default. One of the reasons Yucca Mountain was chosen is that it is not near a river. Now we are going to store wastes here and at Hanford an over a hundred other commercial sites when there is no safer place than the dry caverns deep inside Yucca Mt. After spending a huge amount working on the storage vaults there, Harry Reid has managed to kill the project. Oh well, look on the brght side, it ensures jobs here for quite awhile.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/07/09 - 11:21 am
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This is probably the biggest

This is probably the biggest story in the CSRA EVER and it is being largely ignored. For over 50 years nuclear waste site disposal was studied with hundreds of sites considered. The consensus of the scientists is that it should be deeply buried far from rivers, not near aquifers and not near cities. Geologic formations were considered. Billions were spent in research to find the perfect site. Yucca Mt. “won.” Harry Reid has led the battle to have the repository in his state stopped. Reid has demanded a “warranty” that not a single atom will leak from the site. Duh, nothing can guarantee that, but it is a way for Reid, with his Democrat followers, to stop the project and have the wastes end up here for the next 100 million years or so.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/07/09 - 01:11 pm
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Nuclear waste is being

Nuclear waste is being created at a rate of 2,000 tons a year. Mark my words, much of the waste from commercial sites will end up here in addition to what we already have and create here.

thefish
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thefish 03/07/09 - 03:30 pm
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If Yucca Mtn can't meet NRC

If Yucca Mtn can't meet NRC licensing requirements, then who can?? Let us see the list. Yucca certainly has to be a far better site than SRS or Hanford (Columbia River). A very quick check online reveals that WA and OR have sued DoE over the Hanford cleanup-I saw something about behind schedule and over budget.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/07/09 - 05:33 pm
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By law, the NRC licensing

By law, the NRC licensing process takes years and the Yucca Mtn. process can't simply be shutdown. There is hope yet, if Republicans take power in Congress in 2010.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/07/09 - 05:39 pm
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What Dr. Chu is counting on

What Dr. Chu is counting on is that another process for waste disposal will be developed soon. Son of a gun, we're all for that, but how would it hurt to have wastes stored in Yucca Mtn. until that difficult solution is found? It is not that easy if we paid BILLIONS to come up with the Yucca Mtn. solution. It may take lots longer than Dr. Chu comprehends. He is following the leadership of Harry Reid who vowed Yucca Mtn. would never open. Nice job, Harry, at the expense of your country.

The Knave
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The Knave 03/07/09 - 06:02 pm
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To: Riverman1 RE: "There is

To: Riverman1 RE: "There is hope yet, if Republicans take power in Congress in 2010." Surely you jest. You people who think that either of the two political parties is working in our best interests are delusional. The Republi-cons were in power in the Congress for a decade, and look what that got us. The Demon-rats are no better, but they do now admittedly have a lot of messes to clean up after the lost years of The Shrub. I think that, at least and finally, there is a Sec. of Energy, Dr. Chu who is well-respected as a scientist and administrator. This has usually been a strictly political job. So, I do have a glimmer of hope that he will try to do the "right" thing, i.e., something for once that is rational and logical. If that means giving up on Yucca Mtn. as a fatally flawed solution, well than, better to admit that now, rather than to continue pouring good money after bad down the rat hole. --- "The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it." - (Edward Dowling)

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/07/09 - 07:17 pm
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Tin foll hat stuff aside,

Tin foll hat stuff aside, Yucca Mtn. was set. Billions of dollars in studies had been done. The scientific community was in agreement that was the solution. Harry Reid and the Democrats decided we would keep burning the trailer steps for firewood and not worry about it. Want to bet the waste will still be where it is, meaning lots at SRS, when Obama is gone?

SCEagle Eye
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SCEagle Eye 03/08/09 - 09:14 am
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Be cautious for special

Be cautious for special interests trying to take advantage of the Yucca Mountain situation - either pushing for an interim spent fuel storage site at SRS or for a facility to reprocess spent fuel. Reprocessing, whereby spent nuclear fuel is dissolved in acid to remove the plutonium, would lead to a huge volume of high-level waste and this, too, would likely stay at the site. If you think existing waste at SRS is a now problem then gird yourself for what reprocessing would bring. We need a moratorium at the site for no new nuclear waste production.

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