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Environmental groups challenge NRC's false confidence on radioactive waste, organize for nationwide public comment meetings

The desperate attempts to drop water by helicopter into the Fukushima Daiichi HLRW storage pools during the first days of the catastrophe -- when it was feared they had drained dry -- clearly show that the catastrophic risk of HLRW pool fires is all too real.On September 18th, a coalition of environmental and public interest groups challenged the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Draft Consequence Study" on the risk of fires in high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage pools.

At a hard-won public meeting held at NRC's HQ in Rockville, Maryland, attorney Diane Curran, and expert witness Dr. Gordon Thompson, President of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, speaking on behalf of an environmental coalition of 26 groups, including Beyond Nuclear, repeated their strong criticisms of the "Draft Consequence Study," calling for its withdrawal due to its misleading and incomplete nature, and its lack of scientific integrity.

They were joined in the room by Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, who prepared written remarks. Also tesitfying in person were representatives from Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. A representative of the State of New York Office of Attorney General also testified.

Joining by phone were representatives of the State of Vermont's Attorney General's office, Pilgrim Watch, Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign, Vista 360, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Georgia Women's Action for New Directions, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, San Luis Obispo Mother's for Peace, concerned local residents near HLRW storage sites, as well as longtime watchdogs on the permanently shutdown San Onofre nuclear power plant, and the still operating Diablo Canyon atomic reactors.

U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), a longtime congressional watchdog on the nuclear industry, also wrote NRC's Chairwoman, Allison Macfarlane, pointing out the irony of NRC's "Draft Consequence Study," given her own co-authorship of a 2003 study that strongly warned of the needless risks of fire in densely-packed HLRW storage pools. In fact, a number of her co-authors on that study were among those at yesterday's meeting strongly criticizing NRC's "Draft Consequence Study," including Alvarez and Thompson mentioned above, as well as Dr. Ed Lyman, now at Union of Concerned Scientists.

NRC staff plan to use the "Draft Consequence Study," done as part of the agency's "Fukushima Lessons Learned" review, as the basis for leaving HLRW storage pools packed to capacity not only during 40 or even 60 years of reactor operations, but even for an additional 60 years post reactor shutdown, during nuclear power plant decommissioning. The environmental coalition is challenging this conclusion as absurd. Hundreds of groups have long called for the emptying of the vulnerable, densely-packed storage pools into "Hardenend On-Site Storage" (HOSS) as an interim measure, and top priority for national security, public health, safety, and environmental protection. However, for well over a decade, calls for NRC to require HOSS have fallen on deaf ears.

September 18th's showdown over NRC's "Draft Consequence Study" comes just 5 days after the agency published its court-ordered Nuclear Waste Confidence draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) in the Federal Register, officially commencing a short 75-day public comment period. NRC has announced a dozen public comment meetings around the country between October 1st and November 14th. Please find the public comment meeting nearest you, make plans to attend, and bring as many folks as you can with you! Organize a carpool or even a van-load! Organizing has begun nationwide to pack these meetings! Groups in some regions are even considering chartering buses!

If you cannot physically attend an NRC "Nuke Waste Con Game" public comment meeting, then call-in to, or take part in the webcast of, the very first and very last of the public comment meetings, both to be held at NRC's HQ in Rockville, on October 1st and November 14th, respectively. You will be able to submit oral comments remotely to those two meetings only.

NRC has requested that meeting participants who wish to submit oral comments pre-register, by phoning (301) 287-9392, or by filling out the webform at:

The public comment period ends on November 27th, a couple weeks after the last public comment meeting. NRC is accepting public comments via email, webform, snail mail, fax, and hand-delivery, in addition to orally at the public comment meetings described above. Please see Beyond Nuclear's sample comments, which you can use to write your own. Submit public comments "early and often" to NRC -- there is no limit to the number of times you can submit public comments between now and November 27th!