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Thursday
Jul122012

Beyond Nuclear files Nuke Waste Con Game contentions against 4 atomic reactors

Yucca Mountain belongs to the Western Shoshone Indian Nation, as recognized by the U.S. government in the 1863 "peace and friendship" Treaty of Ruby Valley. This photo by Gabriela Bulisova shows Yucca Mountain as framed by a traditional ceremonial sweat lodge.Beyond Nuclear has filed intervention contentions against a total of four atomic reactors (proposed new reactors at Grand Gulf Unit 3, MS and Fermi Unit 3, MI seeking construction and operating licenses, as well as degraded old reactors at Grand Gulf Unit 1, MS and Davis-Besse Unit 1, OH seeking 20 year license extensions) based on a recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruling gutting the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision."

That confidence game has been used against states, environmental groups, and concerned citizens for decades, blocking them from challening the generation of high-level radioactive waste in atomc reactor licensing proceedings, as the NRC has flippantly expressed "confidence" that storage on-site was safe for decades or even centuries, and that a geologic repository for permanently disposing of irradiated nuclear fuel was just over the horizon -- despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

The court victory was won by a coalition, including state attorneys general from NY, NJ, VT, and CT, environmental groups Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, NRDC, Riverkeeper, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and D.C. attorney Diane Curran. In addition to Beyond Nuclear's four intervention contentions, similar motions were filed on July 9th by environmental groups against another 30 applications for proposed new reactor construction/operating licenses, and degraded old reactor license extensions, across the U.S.

Ironically, the July 9th filings came on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. Senate's 2002 60-39 vote to shove the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste dump down the State of Nevada's throat, and the 8th anniversary of another D.C. Circuit ruling nullifying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's misguided attempt to cut off radiation protection regulations at Yucca just 10,000 years after high-level radioactive waste burial there. Under court order, EPA was forced to admit that high-level radioactive waste is hazardous for a million years. Since 2009, fulfilling a campaign pledge to Nevadans, President Obama has zeroed out the funding for the Yucca dump, cancelling the unwise project targeted at Western Shoshone Indian Nation sacred land (see photo, above left).

The Attorney General of the State of New York, Eric T. Schneiderman, a lead plaintiff in the recent court victory against NRC, stated in a press release "This decision means that the NRC cannot license or relicense any nuclear power plant -- including the Indian Point facilities in Westchester County -- until it examines the consequences of long-term on-site storage of nuclear waste."

Despite this, Platts has reported that the very recently resigned NRC Chairman, Greg Jaczko, said last week that, despite delays in reactor license extensions due to the need for NRC to undertake a court ordered Environmental Impact Statement on storage and disposal risks of high-level radioactive waste, NRC regulations would allow reactors to keep operating (and generating high-level radioactive waste) despite their initial 40 year licenses expiring. Platts reported: "...Although no license renewals will likely be issued until a new environmental impact statement is complete, the industry impact may be slight, Jaczko said. Existing reactors that have applied for renewal of their operating licenses probably could continue to operate past their original license expiration, he said...'I think it will be fairly straightforward,' he said. 'It will take some time, a few years, so that may have an impact on the timing on some decisions on licensing, but in the end it may not necessarily impact the operation of any facility.'

Such a mockery of the rule of law has previously happened, at the Oyster Creek in New Jersey, the oldest operating atomic reactor in the U.S. An environmental coalition had so effectively challenged the proposed license extension at this Fukushima Daiichi twin design that its 40 year license expired before NRC could rubberstamp its 20 year extension. In the interim, NRC let it operate anyway!

Pro bono attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo represents Beyond Nuclear, and coalitions of environmental groups and concerned local residents, in the Davis-Besse and Fermi 3 proceedings on the Lake Erie shoreline in Ohio and Michigan. Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter, who helped lead the effort against Oyster Creek's license extension mentioned above, is serving pro se in the Grand Gulf interventions in Mississippi.