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Recently, one of the  Humboldt County Planning Commissioners was described in the Independent as saying that the Richardson Grove project would make the movement of 1500 trucks of nuclear material disposal much easier. Several of the protesters against the Caltran’s project in Richardson Grove became very concerned.  Some created a video decrying the project for cutting down ancient redwoods and allowing 1000’s of tons of nuclear waste to travel down Highway 101.

In an effort to find out what the facts were I contacted Michael Welch whose work to stop the reopening of the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant galvanized locals in the Seventies and who is opposed to the Grove project.

1.  Why do you know so much about the Humboldt Bay Power Plant and its waste disposal?

I’ve worked with Redwood Alliance since 1979. RA is an environmental organization that works on energy-related issues. The group started in 1978 to fight the reopening of the Humboldt Bay nuke plant. We were successful in that endeavor.

A few years back, PG&E opened up to the community and now I sit on the Community Advisory Board that acts as a two-way conduit between the Humboldt plant administration and the community.

2.  What is the current status of the Plant and what does that mean for the disposal of nuclear waste from there? Isn’t it in permanent storage there now?

[There] is a brand new plant there that is running on natural gas, just completed last year. The old fossil fuel plants (units #1 and #2) are shut down, as is the nuke plant (unit #3). All three units are going through decommissioning (dismantling) right now. The high-level nuke waste is in secure dry cask storage on site. We are very pleased with how the utility is dealing with their high-level nuclear waste.

The waste to be disposed of is being generated during the decommissioning of the non-nuclear Units 1 and 2 and the nuclear Unit 3. The stuff is going to a toxic waste dump in Idaho.

3.  Do you have any idea how many tons of waste there are?  And how many truckloads that might translate into? Is 1500 anywhere near accurate?

200,000 cu. ft. of mixed waste. Not sure how many truckloads that is. A bunch.

4. Do you have any idea what the planning commissioners were talking about when they described the Grove project as facilitating nuclear waste transport to the Independent?

No, I do not. Large trucks already go through there. In fact, a 115 ft. truck from PG&E with low level waste went through there in December. It was headed for Utah with the condensor from the plant, and the truck was over weight, over height, and over width.

Further, I believe that all the waste, except the high level stuff in long term dry cask storage on site, will be gone before the Grove project is even started.

5.How do you feel about the truck that was over weight etc. traveling?  Isn’t that dangerous?
Not really, it  was planned and had an escort. I think the take-away point here is that if something big needs to get through, it can.

6. What about the “Yucca Mountain plan- which would involve nuclear material coming from all over the world into the [developed port] Humboldt Bay and then being transported via highway to Yucca Mountain. That nuclear material (waste) plan was discussed as if it could be forced upon us through the Yucca Mountain plan. ” Is that something which you have any knowledge of?  What do you think of the likelihood?

The Yucca Mountain idea is dead in the water. It was a horrible place to put the waste, and the state of NV amassed its resources to kill the project. It is still alive on paper, but that is about it.

Our stance is that the high level waste should be safely stored where it was produced, rather than saddling other communities with it or transporting the dangerous stuff through other communities and through the environment.

Thank you, Michael Welch, for your information and civil response.  May we all learn to communicate so civily with those who have different opinions.

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Photo from this informative site here

26 thoughts on “Environmentalist involved with the Decommissioning of the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant Debunks Protesters’ Worries

  1. Not really sure how this interview “debunks” the worries that people have over the transport of nuclear waste. All this interview clears up is that the waste will supposedly be transported before the completion of the HWY 101 widening though Richardson Grove. Rather than soothing our worries, this expounds upon them. Apparently we have less time than we thought to express our concerns about nuclear waste transport from the Humboldt Bay, and we are already at risk from these dangerous, over-sized transports.

    One-hundred and fifteen feet of nuclear waste rolling down the freeway??
    I don’t exactly feel better, Kym.

    Michael Welch states that in the opinion of Redwood Alliance, “the high level waste should be safely stored where it was produced, rather than saddling other communities with it or transporting the dangerous stuff through other communities and through the environment.”

    I agree as I’m sure many of those protesting the injustices of the Richardson Grove road widening project also agree. I’m shocked that this waste is Utah and Idaho bound after being denied by Nevada. The hundreds of communities from here to there don’t deserve to be put at risk by the transport of TONS of nuclear waste. The environment in Idaho does not deserve to be turned into a dead zone by being filled with this waste.

    Additionally, Welch makes the point that large trucks already can and do travel through Richardson Grove when “needed”. So then, why widen the 101 if that widening will harm ancient trees and ecosystems dependent upon them??

    Thanks for the research, these facts are useful. But please, consider the people you seem to be speaking for with this title. Our argument still stands strong.

  2. Great report, Ms. Kemp and Mr. Welch. I appreciated reading this knowledgable article with first-hand reporting and reasonably fair sources used, and aside from hearsay.

    • Capdiamont should take lessons from Skippy. If you’re not careful Kym you’ll end up like Eric and Ernie with a cult following. I had to put my waders on just to write this comment.

  3. Welch here. The waste leaving the area is low-level and mixed waste, not the very dangerous high level waste that will be staying on site. The condenser that went to Utah was not the high level waste that Yucca Mt. was being built to receive.

    While no level of radiation is safe (read John Goffmann), the waste leaving the Humboldt nuke plant is about as innocuous as rad waste as can be. Even still, there is nothing that can be legally done to keep it from being shipped.

    In any case, nuke waste is not an issue that affects whether or not the road through Richardson Grove should be widened. In fact, that the huge truck made it through and was allowed to go through can only bolster the case of the pro-grove folks.

    Sorry if this was not clear in my statements to Kym.

  4. SO where we at with reasons for a bigger freeway through a smaller forest…

    Big trucks: can go through as is, no need for a bigger freeway.

    Safety: anticipating more traffic through faster accomodations…it will be less safe to be close to the freeway, period.

    Economy: HA! Seriously…anybody still trying to say a bigger freeway through richardson grove is for the sake of our mom and pop shops, spit out the alcohol.

    What else? Debunking nuclear waste transport…well, that’s been done, NO NEED FOR A BIGGER FREEWAY…and a pretty epic story being overlooked here for the sake of debunking people who want to protect our forest instead, is why Humboldt HIll is always in the top 3 cancer hot spots of the entire state…not too big a surprise being immediately downwind of them smokestacks at the power plant, you can see the sweeping plumes covering the hillside most mornings.

    Etc. etc. Does kym kemp even live within earshot of the freeway? Must be nice out there without all the noise and traffic.

  5. Thanks Kim and Welch …debunking myths is a vital task we all share.
    I agree with every thing….
    and when they want to bring the waste or what ever through
    Those 17 cop cars (from the protest) can be there to make sure
    everything is safe
    This is my signal option
    Call Me! Text Me ! Call the COPS , Call Blogs, Call Homeland Security
    The Homeland Security is those Natives(locals) With Guns…and me
    try BLINKING LIGHTS – BLINKING LIGHTS – BLINKING LIGHTS
    SLOW THE FLUK DOWN
    b safe
    love u all
    P.S.
    before u move out the nuclear material I may want to put on a bid in on the ” waste”

    • Hey Tom, I checked and STAA trucks can go all the way to Benbow from the North and somewhere south of Richardson Grove from the south. The STAA trucks do the Broadway/ 5th Street corridor all the time.

  6. Thanks for the report Kym. I’m still not sold on the widening. I was behind a STAA truck going through the grove last weekend and it didn’t track over the fog line into the shoulder or over the centerline into oncoming traffic – I watched carefully as I wasn’t driving at the time. Sure, straightening the road will make it “safer” but also with a straighter road comes increased speed, guaranteed. I’m not sure how safe that is. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Seems like a lot of money to be spending right now.

    • Scott,

      I am appreciative of your tone and your comment. I don’t have a good answer for that. I don’t know why that STAA truck made it through without offtracking even the smaller trucks often seem to have some problem.

      • If Scott followed an STA truck through the grove, it was going through illegally. Most of the trucks hire a short tractor to take the trailer through safely.

        I’m beginning to think that some of the people (not Scott) that oppose the realignment through the grove don’t have a clue whats happening. They are not building a freeway through the grove nor are they widening it, they don’t seem to know that. Why do they think that what they say is credible when they don’t even use facts to argue with?

        • I thought it was a realignment project to modify the radius of curvature to allow slightly longer trucks; that includes repairing some drainage issues of the existing road; without cutting any old growth trees in the process? Seems like a lot of controversy is being created by those opposed to a minor project to me at least? And I believe, in the future, Humboldt County will develop more export products and markets (like the flower bulb market now) which will be better served by more products shipped out in fewer trucks thus saving fuel in the long run, promoting conservation of energy in the process. Our farmland can potentially produce more food (our community farm in Garberville for instance) that we can ship out of county. And the future of agriculture in Humboldt County is more than just a “Pot Centric Market”. The “Pot Centric Culture” that has moved in to our area (my bias I’ll admit growing up in a “real” farm based economy as a child in Salmon Creek with fresh fruit, dried fruit and wool as our agricultural base) is getting tiring to me at least. Times are changing and the Pot Market is beginning to collapse thank goodness. Lastly, thanks Kim for providing this forum to share our opinions, hopefully in a respectful manner :)

          • The pot centric culture is struggling. But I’m not glad, I’m sorry. I’ll miss so much about it if it dies.

            I believe with you though “in the future, Humboldt County will develop more export products and markets (like the flower bulb market now) which will be better served by more products shipped out in fewer trucks thus saving fuel in the long run, promoting conservation of energy in the process.”

              • I’ll miss the businesses that will die without pot money to sustain them. I’ll miss the communities that will be emptied of their inhabitants as people leave to find other income. I’ll miss the natural beauty that will almost surely be despoiled as increasingly desperate people scramble to survive. I’ll miss the music and the art and the local crafts and the wonderful restaurants that have flourished here as marijuana infused a steady stream of green into the economy.

                But I won’t miss my pocket money because I’ll be tutoring, and teaching, and writing and selling photographs just like I do now. Unlike most people here, my husband’s job doesn’t rely on this area having pot money. Yet, the marijuana economy blesses our life just as it does almost everyone who lives here. It provides upwards of a billion dollars from outside the county. What the heck do you think is going to happen when it is gone?

                  • Hoping in the near future pot will be fully legal and taxed, beyond the sales taxes paid when people buy stuff with pot money. Currently it seems too much like prohibition times for alcohol. I have nothing against growers or the plant itself, just sad about the associated paranoia, environmental degradation (some not all growers mind you), periodic violence and lives lost in the local area, associated with the illegality and big money for the product. It’s just a plant after all, and a lot of people enjoy it, just like a lot of people enjoy drinking alcohol. Just legalize it already. I hear the prices are dropping already and if legal a base price would still establish itself. I think people would enjoy it more after it is legal. My opinion at least.

  7. All u need is a button. Big trucks stop and push button ,lights stop traffic. It would have been nice if caltrans asked for public input before they spent 1.4 m on plans.As to caltrans giving a sht about safety …they do not . They refuse to fix the dangerous sections or even study them until someone dies. They wont even spend the 10 bucks it would cost to put in lights or bump strips. They do not care about EMT services and refuse to deal with the safety issues raised by the VFD’S.This is a dangerous mindless machine with no public input. And I am not putting down the wonderful workers that work so hard to keep us rolling, this is an administrative problem,just like the planning department ,

  8. Where will the big trucks stop to push the button that is outside of traffic lanes?

    Caltrans held its first public meeting in Benbow Sept. 2007. They held another in Eureka in Feb 2008. They held another in May of 2008 in Fortuna. Those three were held before the draft environmental document was released in December of 2008. There, of course, have been other meetings since then.

    All large organizations are by their nature slow to respond to issues. Caltrans, however, seems particularly good at responding. What areas are you wishing they would address safety in?

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