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.
Coalition of states, groups, and Native American tribe press appeal against NRC's false "Nuclear Waste Confidence"
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.
On July 3rd, Wallace L. Taylor, an attorney based in Cedar Rapids, IA, filed a Friend of the Court brief on behalf of the Sierra Club, in support of environmental petitioners in the New York v. NRC II federal court case.
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:
"NOTICE TO THE PARTIES IN:
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.
State of Vermont resists Entergy's attempts to eliminate emergency preparedness for high-level radioactive waste storage pool fire
As reported by Vermont Digger, a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel has just denied a petition by the State of Vermont demanding NRC require Entergy Nuclear to maintain emergency monitoring data systems on its high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage pool at the recently permanently shutdown Vermont Yankee (VY) atomic reactor. VY's pool currently holds nearly 3,000 highly radioactive, thermally hot irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies.
As also reported three months ago by Vermont Digger, Entergy also wants to do away with emergency response planning by April 2016, even though HLRW will remain in the storage pool for several years beyond that. The State of Vermont wants emergency preparedness kept in place as long as HLRW is stored in the pool.
Whether due to a fast breaking drain down (as from the drop of a heavy load, natural disaster, insider sabotage, or terrorist attack), or a slower motion boil down (as from loss of offsite electricity to run circulation pumps), the loss of the cooling water in the storage pool would lead, within hours, to the ignition of the zirconium metal cladding on the fuel rods. A catastrophic radioactivity release over a wide region would follow, as the pool is located outside of robust containment structures.
Before later becoming NRC Chairman, Dr. Allison Macfarlane, et al., warned in a Jan. 2003 report about the catastrophic risks of pool fires. Robert Alvarez of Institute for Policy Studies, one of her co-authors, documented shortly after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began that VY's pool holds around 100 million curies of hazardous, radioactive Cesium-137. As cited in the 2003 Macfarlane et al. study, NRC has admitted that up to 100% of the volatile Cs-137 could escape into the environment in a pool fire.
Environmental coalition demands NEPA & AEA compliance re: Nuclear Waste Confidence in reactor licensing proceedings
In a legal filing today, a coalition of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has demanded that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fulfill its legally required obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), regarding its Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and Rule in various atomic reactor licensing proceedings around the country. The coalition is represented by attorneys Diane Curran of Washington, D.C., and Mindy Goldstein of Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University in Atlanta.
In several reactor licensing proceedings where Final EISs came out prior to court victories negating NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence policy (or "Nuke Waste Con Game," for short!) for violating NEPA and AEA in 2012, NRC has neither included the full 2014 Continued Storage GEIS and Rule in new reactor combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) proceeding FEISs, nor old reactor license extension proceeding FEISs. To not do so violates NEPA, and portions of AEA, and their implementing regulations at NRC, as well as the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
On Dec. 8, 2014, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, represented by Curran (as well as Henry Robertson of Great Rivers Environmental Law Center in St. Louis), filed a Nuclear Waste Confidence-related, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) "placeholder" contention in the Callaway atomic reactor license extension proceeding. That contention has, thus far, succeeded in staving off NRC's imminent rubberstamp of Callaway's 20-year extension.
Attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo represents Beyond Nuclear in the intervention against NRC approval of the proposed new Fermi Unit 3 reactor COLA in southeast Michigan, on the Great Lakes shoreline. Today's filing by Lodge in that proceeding seeks to preserve Beyond Nuclear's opportunity to file a Nuclear Waste Confidence contention against Fermi 3, like was done at Callaway several weeks ago.