On-Site Storage

Currently, all radioactive waste generated by U.S. reactors is stored at the reactor site - either in fuel pools or waste casks. However, the casks are currently security-vulnerable and should be "hardened" while a better solution continues to be sought.



Where is America’s cyberdefense plan?

The Empire State Building towers over the skyline of a blackout-darkened New York City just before dawn. (George Widman/Associated Press)That is the online title of an op-ed by Ted Koppel appearing in the Washington Post (the hardcopy headline reads "Before the cyber-blackout"). Koppel, best known for hosting the ABC news program “Nightline” from 1980 to 2005, is the author of the new book, Lights Out: A Cyberattack, a Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.

The op-ed raises the specter of a power outage lasting not hours, or days, but weeks, or months, due to a coordinated cyber-attack on the vulnerable U.S. electricity grid.

But the op-ed does not address what this would mean at the 100 still operating atomic reactors across the country, and even at the numerous atomic reactors permanently shutdown.

Even if operating atomic reactors were able to power down and shutdown safely during a power outage, their thermally hot cores would still have to be cooled for several days, or longer, before cold shutdown was reached, or else risk melting down.

Although high-level radioactive waste storage pools would have a longer fuse -- days or even weeks before boiling would expose irradiated nuclear fuel to air, and risk a catastrophic fire -- the pools are not even required to be connected to emergency diesel generators, as reactors are. More.


DTE doesn't oppose holding Fermi 3 Nuclear Waste Confidence matters in abeyance, pending resolution of NY v. NRC II appeal

On July 31st, Detroit Edison filed a response to Beyond Nuclear et al.'s motion to hold the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor proceeding in abeyance. The nuclear utility agreed with Beyond Nuclear that the Nuclear Waste Confidence aspects of the proceeding should be held in abeyance, pending resolution of New York v. NRC II. However, DTE emphasized its desire that the other matters on appeal -- namely, quality assurance (or lack thereof), and transmission corridor "pre-construction" National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)-compliance (or lack thereof) -- be resolved ASAP.

Detroit Edison proposes building a General Electric-Hitachi ESBWR (so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor") at its Fermi nuclear power plant site in Monroe County, MI, on the Lake Erie shoreline.

On-site storage of high-level radioactive waste at reactors is an aspect of NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence policy, renamed Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel in 2014. NRC has expressed continued confidence that irradiated nuclear fuel can, and will, be stored safely, securely, and soundly, indefinitely into the future. This "assumed safety" applies not only at on-site storage at reactor sites, but also away from reactors, at centrailzed interim storage sites, in NRC's current policy.

Beyond Nuclear's appeal against Nuclear Waste Confidence at Fermi 3 challenges this "assumption of safety." NEPA requires a "hard look," actual concerted analysis, at environmental impacts of a proposed action, such as NRC approving new reactor licenses, as at Fermi 3, which will inevitably lead to the generation, and storage, of high-level radioactive waste. And the Atomic Energy Act requires NRC establish "reasonable assurance of adequate protection" of public health and safety, which NRC has not done in its Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement) and Rule.


Sierra Club says "stop making radioactive waste"!


Coalition of states, groups, and Native American tribe press appeal against NRC's false "Nuclear Waste Confidence"

The lethal legacy of the Atomic Age, and we don't even know what to do with the first cupful. It's time to stop making it!A coalition of states (Connecticut, New York, and Vermont), along with the Prairie Island Indian Community, and an alliance of nine environmental groups (Beyond Nuclear, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, New England Coalition, Nuclear Information & Resource Service, Riverkeeper, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition), plus Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) -- collectively, the Petitioners -- are pressing their appeals in federal court against the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) 2014 "Continued Spent Fuel Storage Rule" and its associated GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement).

Geoffrey H. Fettus, Counsel for NRDC, and Diane Curran of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, as well as Mindy Goldstein of Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Co-Counsel for Beyond Nuclear et al., filed their INITIAL OPENING BRIEF FOR PETITIONERS on June 29th with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second highest court in the land.

The State of Massachusetts has intervened on behalf of the Petitioners; the Nuclear Energy Institute, Entergy Nuclear, and Northern States Power have intervened on behalf of NRC; and the Sierra Club is participating as a Friend of the Court on behalf of the Petitioners.

The coalition of states and the Native American tribe has focused its appeal on NRC's violation of court orders in New York v. NRC (New York I, of 2012), by not carrying out an adequate analysis of the safety, health, and environmental risks of irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool fires and leaks.

The alliance of environmental groups has focused its appeal on NRC's violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as by not carrying out an adequate court-ordered analysis of the potential impacts if a permanent repository is never opened. The environmental coalition has also appealed NRC's violation of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), by not making assurances that post-operations high-level radioactive waste storage in the short-term, long-term, and indefinitely forevermore, will be done safely.

The current appeals, dubbed New York v. NRC II, challenge numerous attempts by NRC to approve new reactor licenses, as well as old reactor license extensions, despite the still-unresolved legal issues. Examples include Beyond Nuclear's challenge against the Fermi 3 proposed new reactor in MI, and its challenge to the Davis-Besse license extension in OH. Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge has represented Beyond Nuclear, and other environmental groups, in those interventions since 2009 and 2010, respectively.

On May 1, 2015, the NRC approved Fermi 3's COLA (combined Construction and Operation License Application), despite the unresolved Nuclear Waste Confidence issue. In addition, Beyond Nuclear and a coalition consisting of Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (CEA), Don't Waste MI (DWM), and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, plan to appeal quality assurance (QA) and transmission corridor issues. Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc. in Burlington, VT, serves as expert witness for the environmental coalition on QA issues. The NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board unsuccessfully requested permission to review NRC staff violations of NEPA vis a vis the transmission line corridor.

In recent months, the NRC ASLB panel overseeing the Davis-Besse license extension proceeding, at FirstEnergy Nuclear's request, has also moved to end the intervention, and toward ultimate NRC approval of the 2017-2037 extension. This, despite the environmental coalition's (including CEA, DWM, and Ohio Green Party) still unsolved contentions re: renewable energy alteratives to 20 more years at Davis-Besse, and the atomic reactor's severely cracked, and ever worsening, concrete containment shell.

Cynically and absurdly, NRC has flagrantly flouted the court orders stemming from New York v. NRC I. Rather than analyze the environmental impacts of further generation of forever deadly high-level radioactive waste at atomic reactors, NRC instead merely compared the efficiency of various administrative approaches towards completing the GEIS. NRC also changed the name of its now highly controversial "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy, to "Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel." In doing so, NRC also ignored many thousands of oral and written public comments submitted by concerned citizens and environmental groups nationwide in 2013.


NRC Commissioners to reveal votes on Nuke Waste Con Game Thursday, Feb. 25

Portrait of the current NRC Commission. Pictured from left to right: Commissioner Jeff Baran, Commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki, Chairman Stephan (sic) Burns and Commissioner William C. Ostendorff. (Please note, Chairman Burns' first named is correctly spelled Stephen. His first name is misspelled in the text, below this portrait, posted on NRC's homepage.)The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Electronic Information Exchange (EIE) Hearing Docket this morning served to following notice to intervening parties against old reactor license extensions, as well as proposed new reactor combined construction and operating license applications:


Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant, Units 3 and 4, Docket Nos. 52-014-COL & 52-015-COL
Callaway Plant, Unit 1, Docket No. 50-483-LR
Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, Units 3 and 4, Docket Nos. 52-034-COL & 52-035-COL
Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Unit 1, Docket No. 50-346-LR
Diablo Canyon Power Plant, Units 1 and 2, Docket Nos. 50-275-LR & 50-323-LR
Fermi Nuclear Power Plant, Unit 3, Docket No. 52-033-COL
Fermi Nuclear Power Plant, Unit 2, Docket No. 50-341-LR

Indian Point Nuclear Generating Units 2 and 3, Docket Nos. 50-247-LR & 50-286-LR
Levy County Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2, Docket Nos. 52-029-COL & 52-030-COL
North Anna Power Station, Unit 3, Docket No. 52-017-COL
Seabrook Station, Unit 1, Docket No. 50-443-LR
Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, Units 1 and 2, Docket Nos. 50-327-LR & 50-328-LR
South Texas Project, Units 3 and 4, Docket Nos. 52-012-COL & 52-013-COL
South Texas Project, Units 1 and 2, Docket Nos. 50-498-LR & 50-499-LR
Turkey Point, Units 6 and 7, Docket Nos. 52-040-COL & 52-041-COL
Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, Unit 2, Docket No. 50-391-OL
William States Lee III Nuclear Station, Units 1 and 2, Docket Nos. 52-018-COL & 52-019-COL

The Commission has scheduled a tentative Affirmation Session for Thursday, February 26, 2015, 12:55 p.m. EST, that addresses the Petitions to Suspend Reactor Licensing Decisions and Reactor License Renewal Decisions Pending Issuance of "Waste Confidence" Safety Findings, filed on Multiple Dockets.

Note: This session will be publicly webcast.  Please use the link below to view the session. ".

The NRC Commissioners' votes are relevant to on-site storage, for NRC's "nuke waste con game" assumes that so-called "interim" on-site storage storage can continue indefinitely into the future, safely and soundly, whether in wet pools (for 60 years post-reactor shutdown), or literally forevermore in dry cask storage (although, NRC admits, the dry cask storage will have to replaced, once per century; NRC very optimistically assumes non-existent "Dry Transfer Systems" will make this doable, safely and soundly, as well.) However, the Continued Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage rule and environmental impact statement, as the discredited "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy has been renamed (liguistically detoxified), is not legally sufficient in making such optimistic assumptions. In fact, the rule and EIS avoid making those assumptions official or explicit, which is why they violate such laws as the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

As indicated by the bolded text above, Beyond Nuclear is directly, officially intervening against the 20-year license extensions proposed at Davis-Besse, OH (a Three Mile Island twin design), Fermi 2, MI (a Fukushima Daiichi twin design), and Seabrook, NH. In addition, Beyond Nuclear is an official intervenor against the proposed new reactor at Fermi 3, MI.

Thus, the NRC Commissioners will rule, on Feb. 26th, on a coalition of environmental intervenors' Petition to Suspend Licensing and Re-licensing of Reactors. That Petition was filed on Sept. 29, 2014, by some three dozen organizations, engaged in the 27 pending, individual reactor NRC licensing proceedings listed above.

As explained by Diane Curran and Mindy Goldstein, the attorneys representing the environmental coalition, "the Petition accompanied [the groups'] contentions challenging the NRC's failure to make Atomic Energy Act-required Waste Confidence safety findings in those cases." (Attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo serves as the environmental coalition legal counsel in the Davis-Besse and Fermi 2 & 3 proceedings listed above.)

The Petition, as well as the contentions in the individual proceedings, would form the basis for an appeal to the federal courts regarding NRC's 2014 Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel rule and environmental impact statement.

Although NRC Commissioners Kristine L. Svinicki and William C. Ostendorff voted in favor of the finalization of the Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel rule and environmental impact statement last year, the other two NRC Commissioners -- Chairman Stephen G. Burns, and Commissioner Jeff Baran -- were not yet serving in 2014. (The fifth seat on the NRC Commission currently remains unfilled.) See the photo, above left.