History of the National Grassroots Summit on Radioactive Waste
WHO IS THIS SUMMIT FOR?
Activists, organizers, and other persons “in the trenches” of radioactive waste proposals and policies. We will come together from Friday night through Sunday afternoon at a retreat center in Chicago, Illinois.
We will be a community during the National Grassroots Radioactive Waste Summit of people from nuclear power reactor areas, where highly radioactive waste is currently located; communities being targeted for new nuclear waste sites; and those along transport routes in between.
This Summit is being convened to build on work started at the 2016 Summit which was timed shortly after the US elections and the anticipated departures of the Obama Administration and Harry Reid. This Summit, like 2016, is called to build grassroots agreement on High-Level Radioactive Waste policy, and strengthen our community, and our work together.
During the 2016 Summit, three working groups were formed, and these have continued to provide focus for community effort to stop bad proposals from industry and government that would destabilize and worsen our hopes for a reasonable, science-based plan for deadly radioactive waste.
FOR DECADES, THE FOLLOWING VALUES HAVE FORMED THE BASIS OF OUR WORK:
- It is essential that all communities confronted with High-Level Radioactive Waste (both reactor and storage/disposal) work together.
- We need to create effective strategies and actions to defeat policies that will support the survival and expansion of the nuclear industry.
- New plans to relocate waste target vulnerable communities. Until the criteria of sound science and environmental justice drive policy, waste should remain where it is–at reactor sites.
- At the same time, keeping waste where it is for now, in reactor communities, must include upgrades for greater safety and security.
- The communities around reactors are forced to be guardians of the world’s most toxic and long-lasting waste. The ultimate goals of long-term containment and isolation of radioactivity from our environment can only be met now, at the reactor sites.
WHAT DOES RESPONSIBLE “INTERIM” STORAGE OF WASTE ON REACTOR SITES LOOK LIKE?
Our community has broad support for Principles of Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactor Sites, also referred to as Hardened On-Site Storage, or “HOSS.” HOSS is a mandate to remove accumulated High-Level Radioactive Waste from reactor fuel pools and to provide greater safety and security for all waste storage on reactor sites. At the 2016 Summit we formed a Working Group to Implement HOSS which has been meeting by phone since 2016.
ALTHOUGH THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTED TO DISPOSE OF HIGH-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE (HLRW), NO ACCEPTABLE PROGRAM EXISTS.
Congress mandated a repository program in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and then abandoned science in favor of politics when Yucca Mountain of the Western Shoshone in Nevada was targeted. The site did not meet basic scientific criteria and the local community, the Western Shoshone Nation and the State of Nevada all said “No.” Billions of dollars have been expended to establish Yucca Mountain as a permanent repository, which failed (though the cancellation is not complete) due to site unsuitability, corruption, inadequate safeguards, and the opposition of the Western Shoshone and Nevada. At the 2016 Summit we established the “End Yucca” Working Group which has been actively engaged since the 2016 Summit.
THE INDUSTRY HAS A PRESSING NEED TO CREATE AN ILLUSION OF A SOLUTION BECAUSE DANGEROUS WASTE PILING UP AT REACTOR SITES UNDERMINES ITS POSITION THAT NUCLEAR IS CLEAN AND SAFE.
The industry’s plan is simple: move the waste to another site (or sites). Consolidation of waste off the reactor site, known as a “Parking Lot Dump,” would use the exact same dry storage technology in use at reactors. As reactors continue to make more waste, the new site is simply “one more” site. In addition to the absurdity that simply moving the waste is a “solution,” there is the danger that these sites will become de facto permanent. Proposed consolidated storage sites do not have to meet the environmental standards of a permanent site.
There are active proposals for Parking Lot Dumps in Southeast New Mexico, and Central West Texas. The STOP Consolidated Storage Working Group that formed in 2016 has continued to work together.
LIKE EVERY EXISTING NUCLEAR SITE, FROM MINING TO MILLING TO PROCESSING TO REACTORS TO WASTE DISPOSITION, THESE NEW PROPOSED SITES ARE ROUTINELY SITED THE COMMUNITIES OF NATIVE AMERICAN, PEOPLE OF COLOR, LOW INCOME, AND RURAL POPULATIONS.
A new wrinkle is the idea that the nuclear industry “winning consent” from a “host community” makes this picture “ok.” Moving this waste more than once and treating storage of the worst waste ever as “economic development” for communities in need is something that our community explicitly opposes. The Department of Energy will need a change in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to move ahead, but it is even now making plans for “consent-based siting” of High-Level Radioactive Waste at the WCS so-called “low-level” waste site in Andrews County, TX; and / or Eddy-Lea Counties Energy Alliance, in NM; at possible but undisclosed Native American reservations; at the Dresden nuclear power plant in IL; and possibly on or near the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
THE INDUSTRY AND SOME OF ITS NEWEST, YOUNGEST PROPONENTS SEEK TO PIT NUCLEAR COMMUNITIES AGAINST EACH OTHER: REACTOR COMMUNITIES FEAR INADEQUATE STORAGE CASKS, LACK OF ONSITE PROTECTIONS AND HLRW ABANDONMENT BY THE FEDS.
Targeted communities for nuclear waste disposal share the same concerns but don’t want dangerous nuclear waste in their backyard, particularly given the abysmal record of leaks and inadequate environmental protections. Waste communities face unconscionable choices: short-term economic survival or long-term health and safety. Nonetheless, we all have more in common with each other than we do with the nuclear industry that seeks to manufacture more and more of this waste.
WE ARE COMMUNITIES THAT SHARE THE SAME OVERALL GOALS: THE END OF THE PRODUCTION OF HIGHLY RADIOACTIVE WASTE AND A ROBUST COMMITMENT TO ITS CONTINUED SECURITY, CONTAINMENT AND ISOLATION FROM OUR ENVIRONMENT.
We, and communities along the roads and rails between us, must work together. When we work together, we can create effective strategies & and actions to defeat the Industry’s illusion they have eliminated the waste problem. When we work together, we can influence US energy policy to turn away from making more nuclear waste of any kind.
The National Grassroots Radioactive Waste Summit provides a space for grassroots activists to come together to brainstorm in working groups. For this reason, it is not open to the public, but we have shared our presentations from the 2016 summit for your benefit.