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The Blue Ribbon Commission / Bus Ride to Augusta

The Blue Ribbon Commission/Bus Ride to Augusta

The busload (34) of antinuclear activists from Western North Carolina and approximately 50 more from South Carolina made it very clear to The Commission that:

Excellent Summaries of current nuclear waste issues:

Good morning. My name is Susan Corbett. I live in Columbia, S.C. I am the Chair of the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club with over 5200 members, and also Chair of the National Sierra Club Nuclear Issues Activist Team.

What to do with the 67,000 tons of irradiated fuel we have created in the U.S. is a major concern to reactor communities all across this country, as well as those communities who know that they are being considered for some kind of nuclear waste disposal site. The failure of Yucca Mountain has brought into sharp relief the problems of isolating long lived radioactive materials from the biosphere. Radioactive materials seeping into water tables over time should be a major concern to this body. Every conceivable step must be taken to see that these long lived, highly carcinogenic materials do not enter our present or future water supply and food chain.
Why would we or any state allow another DOE project to create more radioactive waste when there’s already such a legacy of failed solutions and broken promises?

The 36 million gallons of high level waste (HLW) still awaiting disposition at Savannah River Site are significant and problematic after decades of attempts to clean them up. Some of the High Level Waste in those tanks that was originally going to be removed from our state was “re-classified” by a last minute, non-debated amendment to the 2004 Defense Authorization Bill, allowing what was previously considered High Level Waste to be re-named “Waste Incidental to Reprocessing (WIR), thereby allowing millions of curies to be orphaned at the Savannah River Site, a high water table location, sitting atop the Tuscaloosa aquifer, distinctly unsuited and dangerous for long term storage of long lived radioactive nuclides. The current method of WIR disposition is simply to mix the waste with grout, pour it into concrete vaults, cover it with earth and leave it forever. Waste left at the bottom of the corroded tanks is also grouted and left in place.

Around the world, reprocessing has created a worldwide stockpile of 215 metric tons of weapons- usable plutonium. Our start-up of reprocessing would signal to the rest of the world the acceptance of this dangerous technology as a solution to the waste problem, when it simply heightens the risk of proliferation activities.

Military reprocessing in the U.S., at Hanford, Washington, The Idaho National Laboratory, and The Savannah River Site have left behind radioactive wastes that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars over time to deal with, while risking major water bodies and aquifers. The six year experiment of reprocessing commercial irradiated fuel a West Valley New York, resulted in continuing radioactive contamination of the surrounding soils and waters that now threatens Lakes Erie and Ontario downstream, and is costing tax payers billions for clean up. In France, The La Hague reprocessing facility discharges hundreds of millions of liters per year of radioactively contaminated liquid waste into the English Channel via an underwater pipeline.
Similar environmental assaults have taken place a Britain’s Sellafield reprocessing facility, where 1,000 pounds of ultra-hazardous plutonium have been dumped into the Irish Sea, traces of which have been found in children’s teeth hundreds of miles away.  The Russian reprocessing site at Mayak is the most contaminated geographical location in Russia. The Japanese reprocessing plant at Rokkushu has topped $20 billion and still isn’t working .Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. Announced in October that they will delay full scale start up by two more years. This is the 18th postponement of the project, and will leave it 15 years behind schedule.

Reprocessing is a surcharge on nuclear power. According to the Congressional Budget Office, reprocessing costs 25% more than the cost of direct disposal.

We urge this Commission to concentrate on applying improved methods of interim on-site storage Known as HOSS (Hardened  On Site Storage).  We oppose any sort of central interim storage of spent nuclear fuel as this would needlessly increase transportation costs, safety and security risks.
Finally we respectfully ask the Commission to keep this process open for all to participate. (Perhaps the discussion should be: When will we replace nuclear power with safer, healthier, cheaper technologies for our energy source)?

I am Dr. Lewis Patrie, Chair of Western N. C. chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility from Asheville, NC, speaking on behalf of Physicians for Social Responsibility, a nationwide network of medical and public health professionals reporting to the Blue Ribbon Commission on management of radioactive waste, supplementing the oral report I gave in Augusta, GA, on 1/7/11.

No one can deny the economic boost that nuclear activities have provided large numbers of people in South Carolina and the hope for more employment and economic benefit from additional nuclear industry.

However, considering our nation’s economic distress, how can the allocation of further billions of dollars for the uncertain prospects of the management of radioactive waste be justified? Our nation has expended trillions of dollars over 65 years for nuclear weapons and uncounted amounts for nuclear power, which is now a more costly way of producing electricity than through wind and solar power.

Despite decades of research and experience and investment of billions of dollars to try to create a solution, the biggest, unresolved problem of the nuclear fuel cycle: nuclear waste, still persists. After 50 years, the nuclear industry still has no proved method to safely dispose of highly toxic radioactive waste anywhere in the world.

Deadly radioactive waste persists from every stage of the cycle, from mining to the final deadly and highly radioactive waste. No country on Earth has yet found a proved method to safely store radioactive waste for the thousands of years required.  All of us are aware that mass quantities of the waste generated and stored on site may soon be transported across the U.S., and that it may pass dangerously close to many population centers. For the safety of our children, future generations and our precious environment, we are obligated to deny production of more toxic nuclear waste and to put our resources into clean and renewable energy.

The solutions to climate change lie in energy efficiency and renewable energies, plus other means of reducing our carbon footprint.  The good news is that the technologies and the know-how to deliver these solutions already exist!

Proposals from the Blue Ribbon Commission may well include the promotion of recycling / reprocessing, also known as ‘recycling spent fuel’.  France is usually offered as prime evidence that such processes have been carried out there successfully for years.

People considering the pros and cons of reprocessing seem unaware that much less than 10% of spent fuel can be recycled and that the actual process creates much more waste than originally existed.

However, of 33,000 tonnes of nuclear waste France sent to Russia for reprocessing since 2006, less than 10%, perhaps even less than 1%, have been returned for use as fuel.  The largest utility company in Europe, Électricité de France, has been accused of storing nuclear waste at various poorly protected Russian sites, such as open air car parks in Siberia.  This does not exemplify nuclear safety.

There has been little public airing of the facts the French nuclear reprocessing program emits large quantities of radioactive material into the air, endangering undetermined numbers of people, and the sea, contaminating the ocean as far as the arctic circle.

And these observations do not support the premise that reprocessing is either safe or practical.

Sellafield’s plant in the UK, also has for many years been processing MOX fuel, which exemplifies this phenomenon; it actually produces 180 times the waste that goes into the process.  Sellafield has disposed of considerable amounts of waste into the sea.

Both in the vicinities of these areas of ocean pollution there have been reports of large numbers of people, especially children, with leukemia and other cancers, but there have not been carefully conducted epidemiologic studies to identify etiology.  Frequently ‘experts’ have declared that the exposure levels were too low to have been of significance.

Many recent studies have demonstrated that lower levels of radiation than previously considered significant, are associated with congenital abnormalities, cancers and leukemia.  These include newly released information about the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters, the Baby Teeth Studies and increased incidences of malignancies experienced among children in proportion to the proximity of their residencies to nuclear power plants.

Tooth study results raise the question of whether reactor emissions have raised cancer rates near nuclear plants. Again, government officials dismiss this possibility. But near nuclear plants in New York and New Jersey, increases in Sr-90 in teeth were matched by similar increases in local childhood cancer rates a few years later.

Children suffer the greatest damage from radiation exposure, but adults are not exempt. Thyroid cancer is one of the most radiation-sensitive cancers, because radioactive iodine in bomb fallout and reactor emissions seek out the thyroid gland and destroy its cells. A 2009 scientific article reported the highest U.S. thyroid cancer rate in a small 90-mile radius. This encompassed eastern Pennsylvania, central New Jersey, and southern New York, where 16 reactors are located.

Other scientific reports have documented evidence that nuclear plant shut downs are followed immediately by dramatic reductions in local infant deaths and child cancers. This is similar to what happened nationally following the 1963 ban on above-ground atomic tests.

Although may studies on cancers and leukemias have been reported involving workers at and residents near Savannah River Site (SRS), results have been mixed and suggest that more independent and thorough studies be carried out for larger groups of people who in the past may not have been considered at risk from radiation exposure.

Another recommendation from the BRC may include an answer to the question, what is to be done do with the well over 90% of radioactive waste than cannot be reused. Will SRS become the permanent storage facility for the nations radioactive waste? Or will there be an effort to seek a permanent high-level dumpsite elsewhere? The BRC is not likely to recommend sites, but will set broad policy.

If might point to the possible revisiting of the granite in western N.C. as a possible repository site.  Clearly the people of that area will be opposed to such a selection, and efforts in that direction will be met with opposition.

If radioactive waste is transported from the reactors (where most of it is currently stored) to S. C., massive shipments of it would likely be transported through western N. C. on trucks via I-40 and I-26, and by rail, in order to avoid larger population centers.  We have for many years been on record opposing such transportation.  Despite the lengthy history of the safe transportation of nuclear materials, the sheer increase in volume will increase the likelihood of accidents with the release of radioactive materials endangering lives and health of the public, as well as damage to business, tourist and agricultural interests.  Uninhabitable areas could also result.

In summary, considering the issues of hazards, expense and unsubstantiated processes for the intended purposes, it is difficult to comprehend the justification for more billions of dollars being invested in transporting to or accommodating more radioactive materials (including spent fuel) at Savannah River Site for any purpose.  Why would our experts recommend that we spend billions more on unsafe and unproved methods that have failed to carry out their intended objectives?

Lewis E. Patrie, Chair
Western N. C. Physicians for Social Responsibility
Asheville, N. C.
January 8, 2011

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I have added the following references that support some of the assertions which I have included in my report above:


10 Talking Points on the Environmental Devastation Caused by Reprocessing High•Level Radioactive Waste - 12/08 - by Kevin Kamps, at Beyond Nuclear


1. Areva’s La Hague reprocessing plant has annually discharged 100 million gallons of radioactive liquid wastes into the Eng. Channel via an underwater pipeline.(1), where sediments would be deemed intermediate level radioactive waste, which under British laws & regs, would require deep geologic disposal. Evenso, they are allowed to remain on the sea floor, eroding & carried away by the ocean’s currents. Nearby beaches have been closed to public access due to radioactive contamination. Elevated rates of leukemia have been found in neighboring populations. Radioactivity from La Hague has been detected as far away as Canadian Arctic.(2) Additionally, in the late 1960s, the French reprocessing plant at Marcoule dumped nearly 50,000 waste barrels into the sea off the coasts of Spain & Brittany. (3)

2. Areva’s radioactive gaseous discharges to the atmosphere are even larger. These gaseous discharges include krypton•85 (11 year half life) and carbon 14 (5,736•year half life). These radioactive gaseous discharges blow downwind, resulting in global, collective doses to human beings for millennia to come.Taken together, La Hague’s liquid & gaseous radioactivity discharges will cause a fatal cancer toll of 3,250 lives over the next 100,000 years.(4)

3. Reprocessing complicates, rather than solves France’s radioactive waste dilemma.

Multiple radioactive waste streams are generated from this, most lacking permanent, safe, sound disposal solutions. 75% of long-lived intermediate-level radioactive waste from such & all long•lived low•level radioactive waste are currently stored under inappropriate conditions. High level radioactive waste represents <1% of total reprocessing waste volume, but risks major releases while in liquid form; nearly 1/3 of high•level radioactive waste are currently stored in such risky forms.(5) Reprocessed uranium stored in the Champagne region has begun leaking into the aquifer used to irrigate vineyards in this world•famous region.(6)

4. In the 1990s, many hundreds of high•level radioactive waste shipments to La Hague – 1/4 to 1/3 of all shipments – involved transport containers that were externally contaminated in excess of “allowable” radiation doses. A large number emitted 500 times more radiation than allowed by law and regulation. One shipment emitted 3,000 times the allowable radiation dose. Such contaminated shipments not only put workers at risk, but also unsuspecting members of the public who came in contact with such shipments.(7)

5. Reprocessing risks to workers and the public seem to be increasing. A French trade union warned in ‘07 “…the request for drastic cost reductions in reprocessing - recycling, would not be without consequences on safety, security and working conditions.”(8)


6. British reprocessing at Sellafield has discharged 1,000 pounds of plutonium into the Irish Sea. Plutonium has been detected in children’s teeth hundreds of miles downstream,

with decreasing concentration over distance, indicating that Sellafield (not global fallout

from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing) is the likely culprit.(9)

7. According to an ‘01 report published by the Eur. Parliament's Sci. & Technological Options Assessment, 80% of the collective radiation dose of Franse’s nuclear power industry and 90% of the radioactive emissions & discharges from the British nuclear power program, come from commercial waste reprocessing. The collective radiation dose from 70 years of "routine" (that is, accident free) operations of the French and British reprocessing plants would be equivalent to the collective radiation dose from the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.(10)


8. The West Valley, New York reprocessing plant near Buffalo operated for only six years

(from 1966 to 1972), but caused so much radioactive contamination of the surrounding

environment that it will cost $5.2 billion in Year 1996 dollars ($6.8 billion in Year 2007

dollars) to clean up. If not cleaned up, the radioactive contamination on•site will erode

into adjacent waterways and flow downstream into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario over the

next millenium.(11) During its operations, West Valley had among the highest worker

exposures, and worst water contamination, in the U.S. nuclear power industry. West

Valley suffered so many accidents (including fires), technical glitches and failures that

only one year’s worth of projected reprocessing “throughput” was accomplished in six

years of operations.(12)

9. Reprocessing at Hanford, WN, Idaho National Lab, and Savannah River Site, SC, resulted in so much radioactive contamination that it will cost tens to hundreds of billions of dollars to clean up. The U.S. DOE plans on abandoning high•level radioactive waste sludge resulting from reprocessing in underground storage tanks, deeming them too difficult or expensive to remove. But this risks severe radioactive contamination of the Columbia River, Snake River Aquifer, Savannah River, and Tuscaloosa Aquifer. This could make these major rivers and aquifers unfit for human drinking water, and make associated fisheries unfit for human consumption.(13)

10. Reprocessing does not solve or reduce the radioactive waste problem, but complicates it, generating many new, difficult to manage radioactive waste streams.(14) Liquid highlevel radioactive wastes must be resolidified into glass logs, a process fraught with technical difficulties, e.g. at Hanford, WN, leading to skyrocketing costs. (15) Once vitrified, the highlevel radioactive waste glass logs require a deep geologic repository, which no country on Earth has yet opened. Even so, fears persist that intense radioactivity & thermal heat of the waste will degrade the glass, leading to its release into the environment over time.  (16)


(1) Arjun Makhijani, Carbon•Free, Nuclear•Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy Michigan book tour, October 3•4, 2008.

(2) Kevin Kamps, “Muddying the Waters: COGEMA’s Hidden Environmental Crimes,” NIRS Nuclear Monitor newsletter, 3,4/00, viewable at; see also “Leukemia near La Hague, France” in Annie Makhijani, Linda Gunter, and Arjun Makhijani, COGEMA: Above the Law? Concerns about the French Parent Co. of a U.S. Corp. Set to Process Plutonium in South Carolina, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Safe Energy Communication Council, May 7, 2002, viewable at under “The French Connection” section.

(3) Mycle Schneider and Yves Marignac, “Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing in France,” Int’l Panel on Fissile Materials, 4/08 at: (4) Ibid. (5) Ibid.

(6) S. Burnie, “French Nuclear Reprocessing - Failure at Home, Coup d'Etat in the US,” 5/07,


(7) Mycle Schneider, “Transport Special,” Plutonium Investigation No. 6/7, June 1998,

viewable at http://www.wise• under “Bulletins.”

(8) Mycle Schneider and Yves Marignac, “Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing in France,” Int’l Panel on Fissile Materials, 4/08 at

(9) "Plutonium in Children's Teeth," Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment

press release, Dec. 11, 2003,

(10) Mycle Schneider, X. Coeytaux, Y. B. Faid, Ian Fairlie, D Lowry, Y. Marignac, E. Rouy, D. Sumner, G. Thompson, “Possible toxic effects from nuclear reprocessing plants at Sellafield (UK) and Cap de La Hague,” STOA Report, European Parliament, 11/01, viewable at www.wise•

(11) Table 5•9, "Summary of Closure Costs for Implementing Alternative I (Removal)," pg. 5•35, U.S. DOE and NY State Energy Research & Development Authority, Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Completion of the West Valley Demonstration Project and Closure or Long•Term Management of Facilities at  Western NY Nuclear Service Center, 1/96.

(12) Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director, Nuclear Information & Resource Service, 11/08.


(13) See, for example, Arjun Makhijani & Michele Boyd, “Nuclear Dumps by the Riverside: Threats to the Savannah River from Radioactive Contamination at SRS,” Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, 2004, viewable at under “IEER Technical Reports”; see also “Danger Lurks Below: The Threat to Major Water Supplies from US DOE Nuclear Weapons Plants,” Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, viewable at

(14) See Chapter VI., Waste Generation, and Figure 3, “Waste and materials generated in the nuclear fuel chain,” in Mycle Schneider and Yves Marignac, “Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing in France,” International Panel on Fissile Materials, April 2008, viewable at

(15) Lesley Stahl, “Lethal and Leaking,” 60 Minutes, CBS News, 4/30/06, viewable at

(16) Makhijani, Glass the Rocks:Some Issues Concerning Disposal of Radioactive Borosilicate Glass (Yucca Mtn) 1/29/91


Information Regarding the Bus Trip to Augusta for the Public Hearings of The Blue Ribbon Commission
On America’s Nuclear Future

Having pondered the design and deliberations of The Presidents Commission from its web site, I must conclude that:  It is a Department of Energy platform  for centralizing the recycling, reprocessing and the burying of nuclear waste.

For design, Note:  “Membership and Designation.  Commission members shall be experts in their respective fields and appointed as special Government employees based on their knowledge and expertise of the topics expected to be addressed by the Commission or representatives of entities including among others, research facilities, academic and policy- centered institutions, industry, labor organizations, environmental organizations, and others.  Should the Commission’s task require such representation, Members shall be appointed by the Secretary of Energy. The approximate number of Commission members will be 15 persons. The Chair or Co-chairs shall be appointed by the Secretary of Energy.”

Content of deliberations:  Much verbiage established a consensus in this group that, given another decade or two of Research and Development, American innovation and genius will perfect a process that will minimize nuclear waste.  The immediate problems of expense, volumes of waste, contamination, transport, plutonium production, proliferation and terrorism are not addressed at this hearing

Good News   The genie of nuclearism  has come to us from the unlimited destructive power of nuclear weapons.  Our Congress has finally come to accept this by ratifying the New Start Treaty  72 to 26.  Thanks to Senators Lugar, Kerry and Dorgan, the goal  of finally eliminating nuclear weapons   was clearly and officially presented.  Without the weapons there will be  no more reason to make plutonium.

Stan Dienst

Mission Statement

PREVENTING WHAT WE CANNOT CURE: Physicians for Social Responsibility is the medical and public health voice working to prevent the use or spread of nuclear weapons and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and the toxic degradation of the environment.