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Environmental coalition urges NRC Commissioners to approve ASLB review of agency staff's NEPA violations at Fermi 3

Although atomic reactors and their transmission lines are inextricably interconnected, NRC failed to include them in its Fermi 3 FEISThe National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) demands that major federal actions require the lead agency to take a "hard look" at the impacts of the proposal, alternatives to it, as well as mitigative actions, and communicate all that to the public for its response, in order to arrive at a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), and "preferred action."

But, as an environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, has warned for two and a half years, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has been derelict in its NEPA duty at Fermi 3, a proposed new ESBWR (General Electric-Hitachi so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor") atomic reactor on the Great Lakes shore in Monroe Co., MI. NRC has failed to analyze the environmental impacts of Fermi 3's nearly 30-mile long transmission line corridor, which would pass through various ecosystems, including forested wetlands, likely home to endangered and threatened plant and animal species.

On July 7th, the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel, overseeing the Fermi 3 Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) proceeding, essentially agreed with the coalition, sending a 60-page memo to the NRC Commissioners requesting permission to review the matter. The ASLB cited U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), concurrence that NRC has not done its NEPA duty.

A short four days later, the four remaining NRC Commissioners (Commissioner Apostalakis left the agency on June 30th) ordered briefs from the parties engaged in this proceeding by July 28th.

The coalition's attorney, Terry Lodge of Toledo, met the challenge of that very short deadline, filing a motion supporting the ASLB's review of the NEPA violations.

The nuclear utility, DTE (formerly Detroit Edison), as well as the NRC staff, filed motions opposing the ASLB's requested NEPA review. The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the nuclear power industry's lobbying arm, also filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief, urging the NRC Commissioners to block the ASLB's NEPA review.

The environmental interveners, DTE, and NRC staff now have an August 7th deadline by which to respond to one another's July 28th briefs to the NRC Commissioners.

The coalition (which also includes Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter) has officially resisted the Fermi 3 COLA since March, 2009. It has filed dozens of contentions against the proposed new reactor, all of which have been opposed by DTE and NRC staff, and ultimately were rejected by the ASLB.