Australian news, and some related international items

USA govt to reclassify some radioactive wastes, to save money, and time

US to label nuclear waste as less dangerous to quicken cleanup, Guardian, 6 June 19, 
Energy department says labeling some waste as low-level at sites in Washington state, Idaho and South Carolina will save $40bn,
The US government plans to reclassify some of the nation’s most dangerous radioactive waste to lower its threat level, outraging critics who say the move would make it cheaper and easier to walk away from cleaning up nuclear weapons production sites in Washington state, Idaho and South Carolina.The Department of Energy said on Wednesday that labeling some high-level waste as low level will save $40bn in cleanup costs across the nation’s entire nuclear weapons complex. The material that has languished for decades in the three states would be taken to low-level disposal facilities in Utah or Texas, the agency said………

Critics said it was a way for federal officials to walk away from their obligation to properly clean up a massive quantity of radioactive waste left from nuclear weapons production dating to the second world war and the cold war.

The waste is housed at the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina, the Idaho National Laboratory and Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state – the most contaminated nuclear site in the country.

Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee, a Democratic presidential candidate, and the state attorney general, Bob Ferguson, said the Trump administration was showing disdain and disregard for state authority.

“Washington will not be sidelined in our efforts to clean up Hanford and protect the Columbia River and the health and safety of our state and our people,” they said in a joint statement.

The new rules would allow the energy department to eventually abandon storage tanks containing more than 100m gallons (378m liters) of radioactive waste in the three states, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The change means that some of the “most toxic and radioactive waste in the world” would not have to be buried deep underground, the environmental group said.

“Pretending this waste is not dangerous is irresponsible and outrageous,” the group’s attorney Geoff Fettus said.

Tom Clements of Savannah River Site Watch, a watchdog group for the South Carolina nuclear production site, called the reclassification of waste “a cost-cutting measure designed to get thousands of high-level waste containers dumped off site”. He said moving the waste to Utah or Texas is a bad idea involving “shallow burial”.

The old definition of high-level waste was based on how the materials were produced, while the new definition will be based on their radioactive characteristics – the standard used in most countries, the energy department said……..

The nuclear site 200 miles (322km) south-east of Seattle contains about 60% of the nation’s most dangerous radioactive waste that’s stored in 177 ageing underground tanks, some of which have leaked.

Cleanup at Hanford has been under way since the 1980s, at a cost of more than $2bn a year.

The energy department said it would immediately begin studying one waste stream at the Savannah River Plant to see if it should be reclassified as low-level waste.

June 8, 2019 - Posted by | General News

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