But more work remains: 37 tons of nuclear waste are in an eroding bluff near King Salmon
Following a years-long effort to decommission the former nuclear power plant in Humboldt Bay, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. recently filed a request with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to terminate the power plant’s license marking a “major milestone” for the Humboldt County community.
Decommissioning efforts for the Humboldt Bay Power Plant Unit 3, a 63-Megawatt electric boiling water reactor, began in June 2009, more than 30 years after the power plant had ceased operations. It operated from 1963 to 1976 and was permanently defueled in 1984.
At the time of the power plant’s construction, atomic energy was hailed as the solution to global energy needs. Cost-efficient construction methods and innovative engineering made the power plant “the first economically viable, privately funded nuclear power plant in the world,” according to documentation from the Library of Congress.
At this point, the site has been remediated to levels “meeting an extensive set of standards and release criteria for a post-industrial, ‘residential farming’ use,” according to PG&E. “The ‘resident farmer’ scenario is the most restrictive level for remediation in (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) guidance for decommissioning former nuclear reactor sites.”
However, the work is not over. Buried deep into Buhne Point, a highland bluff directly northeast of King Salmon, is an underground nuclear waste storage facility known as the Humboldt Bay Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation, or ISFSI. While the ISFSI will effectively contain the 37-tons of nuclear waste for approximately 50 years, it is not a permanent solution.
“The projections indicate that the sea level will be four feet higher in 50 years than it is today,” said Jennifer Kalt, Humboldt Baykeeper director. “The ISFSI is on the top of an eroding bluff, it’s 44-feet above sea level, it’s buried to 30 feet below the surface, so the bottom is only 10 feet above sea level currently. …What are we going to do, you know? It’s pretty clear that there needs to be a plan to at least move it back from the bay, it’s going to be really expensive and controversial, but leaving it there is not a plan. It’s a nightmare.”
It won’t be easy, but Kalt said there needs to be a community process in deciding where to relocate the ISFSI. “It is essential for the community advisory board to continue meeting but we also want the community involved and not just experts researching it,” she said.
Matthew Marshall, executive director of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, also underscored the need to develop a plan to relocate the spent fuel casts. “There will be an ongoing need to address the safe, long-term management of this radioactive waste, and there is currently no viable alternative/permanent storage location,” he said. “But it is great to have the plant decommissioning and site cleanup safely and thoroughly completed after so many years of complex work.”
When asked what happens next, PG&E spokesperson Carina Corral said, “PG&E does not currently have plans beyond industrial use for the site as the ISFSI and the Humboldt Bay Generating Station are located within the former (power plant) site boundary.”
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In wake of recent fatality, safety upgrades urged on Eureka’s Broadway corridorIn wake of recent fatality, safety upgrades urged on Eureka’s Broadway corridor.

After two nonmotorists were recently struck by vehicles on Broadway in Eureka on the same night, a local advocacy organization continues to call for safety improvements along this highly used thoroughfare.

Colin Fiske of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities told the Times-Standard the two cases make the group’s calls for Broadway corridor safety improvements for nonmotorists feel more urgent than ever.

“It’s so sad, it’s frustrating. It’s infuriating, really. We’ve been saying for the last several years we need to make these (nonmotorist safety) improvements now so people don’t keep being killed. It hasn’t happened yet and people keep being killed,” he said.The coalition has previously spoken in favor of safety improvements along the Broadway/U. S. Highway 101 corridor and began to circulate a petition Aug. 27 calling for several key safety improvements.

More specifically, the petition calls for various safety improvements to be made in the nearterm including building additional safe pedestrian crossings, improving safety of signal intersections with new infrastructure and reprogrammed signals, building protected bike lanes, supporting the city’s efforts to provide pedestrian- scale lighting and providing landscaping and raised medians on Broadway.

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A Wyoming-based corporation’s plan to get federal-sign off on use of a vacated rail line has provoked Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors into pursuing a local coal export ban.

At their Oct. 5 meeting, supervisors took action on heading off coal export through Humboldt County.

During public comment, Colin Fiske of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities asked the county to also get involved in the federal railbanking process.

Fiske said railbanking is “the most effective way to address the coal export threat” and it’s important for the county to advocate for it.

Also during public comment, Bruce Silvey of the Humboldt Trails Council said the environmental impacts of coal transport are severe and proposals for it have been squashed in several West Coast regions.

“It would take hours to lay out all the research on the damage and unavoidable toxic coal dust in the air and water, and human health impacts that come with transporting and exporting coal,” he said. “And then there’s coal’s impact on climate change.”

Supervisors didn’t need to be persuaded and public comment was limited to a handful of people due to lack of doubt about what the board’s stance would be.

Supervisor Rex Bohn had suggested that there’s no need for public mobilization against coal transport through the county because there’s absolutely no support for it. “This horse is dead and the hole’s already dug,” he said.

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The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution opposing the threat posed by potential coal exports via Humboldt Bay.

The notion that such a resolution would even be considered may have seemed implausible as recently as early last month. But then news broke that a mysterious corporation is trying to take over the North Coast Railroad Authority’s right-of-way between Humboldt Bay and the San Francisco Bay Area in an apparent effort to facilitate large-scale exports of coal from the Powder River Basin to markets in Asia.

Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson and Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass brought Tuesday’s resolution to the board, and in his introductory remarks Wilson said there’s fairly strong evidence that people behind the shadowy, newly formed North Coast Railroad Co., LLC, are fueled by the dirty-burning mineral.

“I think it’s reasonable for Humboldt County to take the potential for coal exports seriously,” Wilson said.

He mentioned a study commissioned by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, back when he was on the board of commissioners, which found that coal was the only commodity valuable enough to potentially cover the hefty price of rehabilitating the dilapidated rail line between Humboldt Bay and Willits.

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The smoke is starting to clear from a bizarre scheme to ship coal up the North Coast on a long-defunct rail line for export.

A likely destination is China, which relies heavily on coal-fired power plants and has recently reported a severe depletion of its coal supply.

This is a crazy, costly, hazardous plan. In this age of climate change, when reducing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial, it isn’t a stretch to say that creating new supply lines for coal-fired power plants anywhere is bad for the entire planet.

Trains haven’t run between Willits and Eureka since 1998, when winter storms destroyed much of the rail bed. It wasn’t the first time. Over the previous 10 years, the 110-mile route through the Eel River Canyon was closed time and again by mudslides that washed out the tracks.

So, it wasn’t particularly surprising that those behind the venture tried to stay in the shadows. Or that a little exposure to sunlight sent a few participants scurrying for cover.

But the petition hasn’t been withdrawn. Rep. Jared Huffman, state Sen. Mike McGuire and other North Coast elected officials are organizing opposition. Meanwhile, reporters from Salt Lake City to Santa Rosa to Eureka are still digging for details about the North Coast Railroad Company and this antediluvian plan to ship dirty coal around the globe.

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