Georgia WAND’s Historic 2019 DC Days: A Success!

By Phyllis Richardson and Jumana Master

 From May 18-22, 2019, Georgia WAND descended on Washington DC with an historical delegation of 10 women, the majority of whom were women of color. We participated in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s (ANA) annual D.C. Days. ANA is comprised of more than 30 local, regional, and national groups concerned about the consequences of U.S. nuclear policies.  

THANK YOU for supporting this important work!!!  The Georgia WAND delegation held 24 meetings with Senate offices representing the following committees: Armed Services; Appropriations; Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Energy and Natural Resources; Environment and Public Works; and more. On the House side, we met with offices representing on Appropriations; Energy and Commerce; Natural Resources; the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis; and others. We took our Nuclear Harm Reduction message from Georgia to Colorado, Florida to Illinois, South Carolina to Texas, and beyond. We held roughly a third of ANA’s 70+ meetings.   But it didn’t stop there! We also had meetings with staff and department directors from the Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Management, DOE Enterprise Assessments, DOE Legacy Management, U.S. Office of Management & Budget (OMB), and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB), which oversees the nuclear weapons activities of DOE. We asked legislators to take the following measures on our issues/support the following:

  • No to Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste storage facility
    • Finding a solution to storing highly radioactive waste for thousands of years is definitely a challenge. However, Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste storage facility is not a safe option. Relocating toxic, hazardous nuclear waste requires transporting it all across the country, which poses a high contamination risk and threatens the health and safety of all US residents and beyond. ANA and Georgia WAND believe that Hardened On Site Storage (HOSS) is a much safer storage solution.
  • Limit all transportation of highly toxic nuclear materials
    • Moving highly toxic, hazardous nuclear waste requires transporting it all across the country. This poses a high contamination risk, threatening the health and safety of all US residents and beyond. When applicable, ANA and Georgia WAND recommend Hardened On Site Storage (HOSS) as a safer storage solution. 
  • Increase funding for nuclear waste cleanup
    • We need to invest in the cleanup of radioactive nuclear waste. 
  • No new nuclear energy reactors and no new nuclear warheads
    • We do not need new nuclear power and new nuclear warheads. Nuclear power costs much too much, contaminates our communities, and in fact, does not help our current climate crisis. We do not need additional nuclear warheads as our current arsenal is quite robust. You can read more about the intersection of nuclear and climate change by clicking here.
  • Support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    • Also known as House Resolution 302, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons calls on the President to make nuclear disarmament a centerpiece of US national security policy. ANA and Georgia WAND call on all US Representatives to co-sponsor this resolution. 
  • No to the re-modification of the W87 warhead to the 87-1 warhead
    • The W87 is an American thermonuclear missile warhead. There is currently a $112 million re modification program in place to replace the W78 with the W87- 1. The W87-1’s annual costs will rise to more than $500 million. Additionally, in order to make these new warheads, it is proposed that plutonium pits be produced at the Savannah River Site. 
  • No to Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)
    • A Small Modular Reactor is a type of nuclear fission reactor that is far smaller than a conventional light water reactor. SMRs are not cost-effective and are not scalable for a range of reasons such as the risk of nuclear accidents, little economic competitiveness, and the production of  toxic radioactive waste that affects the health and safety of us all. To learn more about why we do not need SMRs, check out the Beyond Nuclear SMR Fact Sheet by clicking here
  • No to DOE Order 140.1
    • DOE Order 140.1 seeks to restrict the DOE’s only oversight board, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) by reducing DOE and contractor communications with the board. It also limits access to facilities that the DNFSB currently oversees and monitors. ANA and Georgia WAND want our representative to say no to DOE Order 140.1 as having a fully operational DNFSB is vital to our health and safety. 
  • Support the Hold the Low-Yield Nuclear Explosive (LYNE) “Hold the LYNE” Act
    • This bill prohibits the Department of Defense (DOD) or the Department of Energy (DOE) from using funds for research and development, production, or deployment of the Trident D5 low-yield nuclear warhead. Read more about the Hold the LYNE Act by clicking here.  
  • Support the No First Use Policy
    • The No First Use Policy, known as HR 921 and SB 272, is sensible legislation that prevents the United States from making the first nuclear strike.
    • Georgia WAND, along with Senator Nan Orrock and Representative Becky Evans, introduced a No First Use Policy in Georgia, known as HR 379 in the House and SR 243 in the Senate.  
  • No to Redefining High Level Waste (HLW)
    • The DOE wants to redefine HLW to classify hazardous, toxic waste as low level waste. This would affect sites all over the United States, including the Savannah River Site, and would cut the cost of cleaning radioactive nuclear waste by $40 billion, by leaving the waste where it already is. The proposed re-labeling is an attempt at ignoring and burying a serious environmental hazard, and is being advertised as a “cost effective solution.” Read more about HLW and Georgia WAND’s stance by clicking here

Including the above ANA agreed-upon asks, our delegation focused on the following educational points in our meetings: 

  • Environmental justice and how communities of color are most affected by nuclear weapons
  • The Radionuclide Education Monitoring and Outreach Program (REMOP) in Burke County
  • The expansion of Plant Vogtle and the environmental contamination in the community
  • Our public health concerns in Burke County using county-level data
  • The personal experiences of women of color in Burke County
  • Local farmers and environmental contamination
  • The urgent need for a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to analyze in detail potential efforts to expand plutonium pit production at SRS
  • K-Area activities at the Savannah River Site
  • The need for robust independent environmental radiological monitoring in Georgia
  • The need to launch an investigation into the failed MOX project
  • The intersection between climate change and nuclear activities
  • Our Nuclear Harm Reduction model
  • The devastating news of radiological contamination in a Piketon, Ohio Middle School and the need for DNFSB to retain full access to DOE sites and information
  • The bathtub effect, which is the much higher likelihood of a nuclear accident occurring at the beginning (and end) of a reactor’s life cycle
  • The National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the annual budget and expenditures for the Department of Defense
  • Compounded environmental insults in Burke County, Georgia and other downwind / downstream communities
  • Threats to voting rights in Southern states
  • And much more!

Overall, we further built new legislative allies and have a wealth of strategic leads and next steps.  For more information, contact Phyllis Richardson, Government Affairs Coordinator, at phyllis@georgiawand.org.