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Senator Jim Anderson

Bill to authorize nuclear waste storage talks withdrawn

in Energy/News
Wyoming Legislature nuclear waste storage protest
A protest sign lies next to the sign-in sheet at Tuesday’s meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee. The committee was to have studied a bill that would authorize the state to negotiate with the federal government over the storage of spent nuclear fuel rods, but the bill was withdrawn without action being taken. (Photo by Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily)
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

CASPER — A measure that would have allowed the state to negotiate with the federal government over the possible storage of spent nuclear fuel rods in Wyoming was removed from consideration Tuesday by a legislative committee.

Members of the Legislature’s Joint Minerals Business and Economic Development Committee agreed to stop work on the bill after its Spent Fuel Rods Subcommittee, formed to examine the issue, met in September.

Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Casper, a chairman of both the committee and subcommittee, told committee members that based on what the subcommittee heard during its meeting, legislative authorization for the state to enter into negotiations over spent nuclear fuel storage is not needed

“I have prepared a bill as the chairman if the committee to give the governor’s office authority to negotiate with (the federal Department of Energy) on this subject,” he said. “I found out that we really don’t need to give the governor’s office the authority, that they have the authority right now. So at this time, I would like to withdraw that bill from the docket.”

Members of the Legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee during their meeting in Casper on Tuesday.
Members of the Legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee during their meeting in Casper on Tuesday. Committee members were to have reviewed a bill that would authorize the state to negotiate with the federal government over the storage of spent nuclear fuel rods, but a subcommittee formed to examine the issue decided to pull the bill from consideration. (Photo by Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily)



Anderson also told the committee that any negotiations could take five to nine years to complete.

The idea of storing spent nuclear fuel in Wyoming has surfaced several times over the last three decades and each time, it has generated strong opposition.

Opponents to the plan were on hand for Tuesday and said they were prepared to argue that any rewards from accepting spent nuclear fuel would be outweighed by the risks.

 “The biggest issue for me and the state of Nebraska, who says they don’t want a dry cask storage place to get the transportation coming through, it’s the transportation,” said Coleen Whalen, a spokesperson for Wyoming Against Nuclear Dumps. “It’s going to get off on I-80 and I-25 on our teeny little highways“

Whalen said she was pleased the committee killed the bill, but unsure of how the issue would unfold going forward.

“The bill kind of came up quick and the withdrawal of it, I’m glad they are not telling the governor to negotiate, but it could be that they are just moving it out of the public eye,” she said.

Anderson noted that there are no plans for Gov. Mark Gordon to open negotiations with the Department of Energy about the waste storage.

Honoring the unclaimed: US Veterans’ remains laid to rest In Evansville

in News/military
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Evansville — The unclaimed cremated remains of 23 United States soldiers were interred with full military honors at the Oregon Trail State Veterans Cemetery in Evansville this week. 

Bagpipes played as members of the Wyoming chapter of the Patriot Guard Riders escorted the soldiers’ remains to the Tom Walsh Chapel, where services were held. Greeting the fallen were members of local military, police and firefighters. Along the entrance to the cemetery, more than a dozen people stood at attention, holding flagpoles. 

The services were organized by Tammy Mansfield, state president of the Wyoming State Society Daughters of 1812, a volunteer women’s serviced group dedicated to promoting patriotism. Also helping to organize the event was the Missing in America Project, a group formed to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of American Veterans.

Officials attending the services included Gov. Mark Gordon, state Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Casper, and a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

The names of the 23 soldiers being honored were read aloud as the attendees who filled the chapel sat silently. Upon the completion of the reading, and with military precision, a solemn soldier presented a folded American flag to Mansfield. The ceremony ended with the bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace,” followed by a 21-gun salute. 

Following the services, organizers and dignitaries gathered outside to speak with the public.

“For me, this is personal, and it’s especially personal when you see people who we honor this way, who have their remains been unclaimed.” said Gordon.

Gordon praised organizer Mansfield and the Missing in America Project.

“It shows that this country has a love that somebody would have the initiative to say, ‘We need to find out who these people are, and properly honor them,’” he said.

To organize the day’s honors it took “…less than a year, and MIAP kicked in about June.” said Mansfield.

The Patriot Guard Riders is a national group formed to show respect for fallen members of the military by escorting their remains to funeral services. According to Wyoming Patriot Guard Riders’ Sr. Capt. Richard Parks, the riders have escorted remains to 88 services throughout Wyoming this year.

Subcommittee collects facts on nuclear waste storage

in Energy/News
Nuke Hearing
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

A legislative subcommittee formed to examine the possibility of storing spent nuclear fuel rods in the state is just collecting facts on the issue so far, its chairman said Thursday.

Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Casper, chairman of the Legislature’s Spent Fuel Rods Subcommittee, told listeners at the group’s first meeting in Casper that the committee would offer no opinions on whether nuclear waste should be stored in the state.

The Wyoming Legislature’s Spent Fuel Rods Subcommittee in Casper (photo credit: Tim Mandese).

During the hearing, committee members heard from members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Department of Energy and a retired nuclear physicist.

The committee’s questions focused on the type of waste to be stored, containment, storage, transportation and location requirements as well as the permitting process. Safety concerns and risk assessments were also discussed.

Nuclear waste can take many forms, and come from many sources. Sources of waste include material from commercial power plants and non-power reactors as well as waste from medical, industrial, and academic uses of radioactive material. The primary focus of the meeting was on one type of waste, spent fuel rods used in nuclear power plants.

Spent fuel rods contain nuclear fuel that has reached the end of its useful life. Such fuel is physically hot and contains ionizing radiation and is held in a containment vessel or “cask”. The casks are made of several inches of lead or depleted uranium (which is not radioactive) sandwiched between inner and outer layers of concrete, to provide gamma ray shielding that reduces the radiation emitted to levels just above normal background radiation. The federal government is looking for a temporary storage spot for the waste pending congressional funding for completion of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in Nevada.

Under consideration for Wyoming is an above-ground “Monitored Retrievable Storage facility,” or MRS that would hold a maximum of 10,000 metric tons of waste.

Currently, no applications for site permits have submitted, so no specific sites have been determined. Recommended locations for MRS sites would be near a rail spur and away from populated areas.

Mike Layton, director of the NRC’s Division of Spent Fuel Management, said waste would be transported by truck and rail in the casks, which are built to withstand drops onto hard surfaces, punctures, fire and water immersion.

According to the NRC, no casks have leaked in over 40 years of transporting nuclear waste.

Before a storage site can be approved, a lengthy permitting process — sometimes taking up to nine years — is completed by the NRC, said John McKirgan, chief of the NRC’s Spent Fuel Licensing branch.

The Wyoming Legislature’s Spent Fuel Rods Subcommittee in Casper (photo credit: Tim Mandese).

The process begins with the prospective licensees making a deposit of $800,000, according to the agency, and examines scenarios including earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters.

Pete Davis, a retired nuclear physicist who conducted a study into the impacts of a breech of the Yucca Mountain containment facility, told committee members the only scenario that would result in a leak of nuclear material would be the intentional crash of a commercial aircraft into the facility.

Parts of the aircraft engine and landing struts were found sufficient to penetrate the waste handling building during a crash, Davis said.

The study concluded that in such a disaster, 42 spent fuel assemblies would be impacted and all rods ruptured. All fuel pellets would be converted to powder by the resulting fire and 12 percent of the powder would be released into the atmosphere. The scenario also assumes the winds blowing to highest population sector or 100,000 people. The study concluded that about six latent cancer fatalities would occur as a direct result of such an accident, along with a 0.03 percent increase in cancer fatalities for the exposed population.

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