Thursday, March 29, 2007

GNEP Hearing Hood River, OR March 26, 2007 Report: Great Success

The turnout was fabulous given the 13 day notice we had for this hearing. At 6PM 120 people were in attendance as USDOE began its presentations. At least 30, and as many as 50 additional people came, filling the room and with a large standing group in back. Many people thanked Natalie and I for phone calls from Heart of America Northwest (CRK gave us a list of around 200 members of theirs to call, and we reached many of them in addition to the Heart of America members in the Gorge / Portland area).

TRIDEC did bring a bus with GNEP supporters down from the Tri-Cities. TRIDEC is the Hanford contractor group which is both the “applicant” proposing GNEP for Hanford, and the grantee given over $1 million by USDOE to study the site and report on regional stakeholder concerns. They seemed surprised that we had such a strong turnout, and prevented them from having their pro-GNEP / pro-FFTF reactor message on equal terms. Several of them commented to me that the opponents were articulate and well informed, while others called names and made threats.

Many thanks to all the concerned citizens and groups’ representatives who came – with wonderful statements.

Media coverage was excellent: OPB (NPR affiliate) ran a news story throughout the afternoon with our concerns about trucking High-Level Nuclear Waste through Portland and the Gorge, reprocessing and lack of openness. Hood River news ran article from news release put out by Natalie, and two of the three main Portland TV stations responded to the news release by sending crews all the way to Hood River (60 miles up the Columbia Gorge) – which has never happened before for any hearing.

USDOE opened the hearing with its standard presentation and Powerpoint slide show on GNEP – used at all the GNEP hearings. This touts the wonders of nuclear power, the benefits of reprocessing Spent Fuel (“recycling”), and has only two slides about generic facilities being considered for applicant sites, with no specific information.

Following the presentation, I (politely) raised a point of information inquiring why USDOE had not presented a single detail about what facilities and wastes were proposed for Hanford, e.g., how much Spent Nuclear Fuel would be imported, what size and number of reprocessing facilities were proposed (and whether use of old, contaminated facilities was proposed)... since USDOE’s own slides stated that the point of a “scoping” hearing was for the public to provide input on the scope of impacts to be studied from the proposal. This was greeted by GNEP FFTF supporters cat calls and one big guy standing up to threaten to make me sit down. Scores of other attendees then applauded and called on USDOE to answer why there was no information, and demanded to know how we were expected to comment without disclosure. A lame answer came from a USDOE official who said they would provide those details in a few months, after TRIDEC did its “siting study”. Numerous citizens pointed out that this would deny them their chance to comment on the scope. The official, if I heard correctly, said they would respond.

GREAT Opening Comments by Oregon and Senator Wyden:

The State of Oregon’s Ken Niles was the first speaker. The State’s position is very strong against GNEP: “it is lunacy”. The State opposes siting GNEP at Hanford, noting “skepticism”about USDOE’s “amazing claims” that USDOE could make reprocessing work, would reduce wastes – when, in fact, reprocessing would add more wastes to Hanford.

This was loudly applauded.

The Yakama Nation’s speaker noted the need for consultation with the Tribe before USDOE could proceed and objected to such use of ceded lands without cleanup.

Senator Wyden’s statement opposing GNEP and siting GNEP at Hanford was very strong and loudly applauded (delivered very well by Mary Gautreaux). In fact, at least three citizens quoted from it in their testimony later in the evening.... especially the line that reprocessing was like King Midas on steroids, and everything touched by reprocessing would be radioactive and become waste requiring cleanup on top of all the wastes already at Hanford.

Tri-City Benton County Commissioner Claude Oliver also spoke under state and local officials. Oliver has been leading the fight to restart FFTF for years. He referred to using “assets” without saying the words: “FFTF Nuclear Reactor” and “restart.” He played well by appreciating the turnout and saying this would be so much better of a forum if there were scientific experts at the front of the room who would answer the public’s questions, instead of just having USDOE officials sitting there without responding. Claude Oliver insinuated that there would be developments coming out of the study... but he offered no info on what was being proposed despite being on the team.

Public comment was then limited to 2 minutes per speaker – due to the number signed up and to the fact that the Hood River – White Salmon bridge across the River was closing at 9:30 due to construction. Testimony was very articulate despite the limit. Many people thanked our groups (CRK, PSR, HoA) for providing them with information which was not otherwise available... one man noting that he had to “donate to Heart of America Northwest to protect him from his own government.”

themes of opponents:

- cleanup first;

- Honor the public’s vote for Initiative 297 and public sentiment against adding any new wastes to Hanford when USDOE has not been able to cleanup what is already there;

- Public relations gimmick “glib terminology” calling chemical processing of spent fuel “recycling” only increased distrust;

- Transporting Spent Nuclear Fuel had serious risks – including terrorists as well as accidents and unnecessary radiation exposures along routes. Keep SNF at reactors.

- Terrorist risks for facilities at Hanford would increase;

- Groundwater and River impacts from making more wastes and disposing of them at Hanford;

- Invest same funding in renewable, sustainable energy and conservation would get far more done for energy independence. This was called on to be studied as a reasonable alternative.

- Calling nuclear power “clean” for Global Warming is like calling coal clean because it doesn’t release radiation.

- Where would waste from overseas be imported... study impacts and hold hearings in each potential port and each transportation route.

- Incredible waste of funds for GNEP in hundreds of millions for this year and proposed for next year.

- Cleanup funds diminishing at same time USDOE wants to create more waste.

- vitrification plant is $8 billion over budget and decades behind for just half the liquid High-Level Nuclear Wastes at Hanford, while USDOE wants to create more.

- Reprocessing not cost effective in France and serous problems

- Reprocessing sets bad precedent for other nations to reprocess and extract weapons usable Plutonium and Uranium.

- Reprocessing actually increases volume of waste even if less goes to repository. This is just a way for USDOE and nuclear utilities to get around lack of repository.

- Many thanked State of Oregon and Senator Wyden;

- lack of notice from USDOE of this hearing... including from two local officials.


- FFTF Reactor a valuable asset, its use would save billions from building a new Advanced Burner Reactor;

- FFTF Reactor can be restarted safely and make medical isotopes... cure cancer...

- US needs nuclear... if US doesn’t build more nuclear plants we will no longer be a ‘world power”

- France and Britain reprocess and leave us behind, can be done safely.

- Reprocessing is non-proliferation

- Decrease the volume of radioactive waste

- Hanford best place to reprocess and already has FFTF (not as much of this as at Pasco hearing, of course)

- Anti GNEP people are “hysterical”... Heart of America should “get a heart” instead of opposing cure for cancer.

- Oregon should welcome reprocessing of Spent Fuel stored at Trojan... bet Oregon would want to send its Spent Fuel to Hanford for reprocessing.

- alternative energy can not meet energy demand.

Last note: USDOE apparently asked for security at the hearing. There were several private security guards present. This bears watching. At the FFTF restart hearings, USDOE made claim that police and security, including undercover, was needed due to claimed threats from citizen group. Obviously, there were no such threats about this hearing (nor about the FFTF... but, there the only violence came from FFTF supporters assaulting us).

43 people filled out “ballots” developed by Angela of Oregon PSR on GNEP and USDOE’s priorities. Good way to gather additional comments for submission. We will submit them all.

Gordon Sturrock of Vets for Peace from Eugene posted this debrief, and has photos on their website:

Another trip to speak out against the proposed GNEP (Global Nuclear Exchange
Program), this time to Hood River, Oregon where the bussed-in pro-nuke crowd
was severely out-numbered. The tables had turned from the previous meeting
which took place in Pasco, Washington, home base of the selfish nuclear
scientists and workers who clearly were more interested in putting their own
financial welfare ahead of the health and safety of their fellow humans
beings all along the Columbia River and the entire Pacific Northwest...


No comments: