Friday, June 8, 2012

Nuclear Waste Storage Rules Thrown Out by U.S. Court

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission failed to fully evaluate risks associated with its regulations on the storage of spent nuclear fuel and must draft new ones, an appeals court ruled.
The commission’s conclusion that permanent storage will be available in the future when it’s needed didn’t account for how its absence could affect the environment now, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said today in deciding a lawsuit brought by New York state. The commission also failed to fully assess the dangers of storing spent fuel onsite for 60 years after a nuclear plant’s license expires, the court said.
“The commission’s evaluation of the risks of spent nuclear fuel is deficient,” Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote for the three-judge panel. Spent fuel “poses a dangerous long-term health and environmental risk.”
Spent nuclear fuel refers to fuel rods that, after four to six years of use in a reactor, are no longer efficient at producing energy, according to the court filing. The rods, which still emit dangerous radiation, are transferred to deep-water pools for cooling. They may then be sent to dry storage in concrete and steel casks at the site of the reactor.
Onsite storage is the industry’s only option “due to the government’s failure to establish a final resting place,” Sentelle said...

more: Nuclear Waste Storage Rules Thrown Out by U.S. Court - Bloomberg

Beyond Nuclear - Major court victory against NRC's Nuclear Waste "Con Game"!

Today, a coalition of several states, environmental groups, and a Native American nation have scored a major federal court victory against the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision," more accurately described as a "con game" (a "confidence game" is defined as "any swindle in which the swindler, after gaining the confidence of the victim, robs the victim by cheating at gambling, appropriating funds entrusted for investment, or the like.") NRC has used its "Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision" for decades, to block states, Native American nations, and environmental groups from challenging NRC licenses for new reactors, or license extensions for old reactors, which inevitably lead to the generation of massive amounts of deadly high-level radioactive waste, for which there is no solution.
The Offices of Attorneys General for the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont, the Prairie Island Indian Community of Minnesota (on irradiated nuclear fuel storage issues), and an environmental coalition (on irradiated nuclear fuel disposal issues) represented by Natural Resource Defense Council's (NRDC) nuclear attorney Geoff Fettus and D.C.-based attorney Diane Curran, backed by expert witness Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of Institutue for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), have thus successfully challenged NRC's assertion that high-level radioactive wastes can be safely, securely, and soundly stored at reactor sites for 120 years (60 years of licensed operations, and 60 years post-operations). NRC has since undertaken a study about storing high-level radioactive waste at reactor sites for 200-300 years. Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), NRDC, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), and Riverkeeper comprised the coalition of environmental plaintiffs.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Chief Judge Sentelle (a Republican appointee) wrote the unanimous ruling on behalf of Circuit Judges Griffith (also a Republican appointee) and Tatel (a Democratic appointee), including a summation.
The State of New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, a lead plaintiff, issued a press release, including this statement:
“This is a landmark victory for New Yorkers, and people across the country living in the shadows of nuclear power plants. We fought back against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's rubber stamp decision to allow radioactive waste at our nation’s nuclear power plants to be stored for decades after they’re shut down - and we won. The Court was clear in agreeing with my office that this type of NRC 'business as usual' is simply unacceptable. The NRC cannot turn its back on federal law and ignore its obligation to thoroughly review the environmental, public health, and safety risks related to the creation of long-term nuclear waste storage sites within our communities. Whether you're for or against re-licensing Indian Point and our nation’s aging nuclear power plants, the security of our residents who live in the areas that surround these facilities is paramount. I am committed to continuing to use the full force of my office to push the NRC to fully evaluate -- and ensure -- the safety of Indian Point and our other nuclear plants.”
Co-plaintiff William Sorrell, Attorney General of the State of Vermont, issued a press release, stating: “This outcome illustrates how important it is for states to work together on environmental matters of national importance. Today’s decision is a major victory for New York, Vermont, and all other states that host nuclear power plants. The court confirmed what Vermont and other states have said for many years now—that the NRC has a duty to inform the public about the environmental effects of long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel, particularly when it is occurring at nuclear power plants that were never designed to be long-term storage facilities."

June 8, 2012 Waste Confidence Rule rejected by U.S. Court of Appeals

In a landmark decision on June 8, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the Waste Confidence Rule. This was followed by a petiton by 22 groups and 2 individuals to require the NRC to implement this decision before final licensing decisions are made. This includes Mothers for Peace and the relicensing decision regarding Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
On June 8, 2012, the Court threw out the NRC rule (Waste Confidence Rule) that permitted licensing and re-licensing of nuclear reactors based on the supposition that (a) the NRC will find a way to dispose of spent reactor fuel to be generated by reactors at some time in the future when it becomes “necessary” and (b) in the mean time, spent fuel can be stored safely at reactor sites.
The Court noted that, after decades of failure to site a repository, including twenty years of working on the now-abandoned Yucca Mountain repository, the NRC “has no long-term plan other than hoping for a geologic repository.” Therefore it is possible that spent fuel will be stored at reactor sites “on a permanent basis.” Under the circumstances, the NRC must examine the environmental consequences of failing to establish a repository when one is needed.
The Court also rejected NRC’s decision minimizing the risks of leaks or fires in spent fuel stored in reactor pools during future storage, because the NRC had not demonstrated that these future impacts would be insignificant. The Court found that past experience with pool leaks was not an adequate predictor of future experience. It also concluded that the NRC had not shown that catastrophic pool fires were so unlikely that their risks could be ignored.
In vacating the rule, the Court directed that the NRC comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and conduct a thorough environmental analysis of radioactive spent fuel storage and disposal issues.
The groups petitioning the NRC contend that federal law requires the NRC to suspend its final reactor licensing decisions while it determines what environmental effects could occur if the NRC’s decades-long search for a radioactive nuclear waste repository for spent nuclear reactor fuel never materializes.

June 8, 2012 Waste Confidence Rule rejected by U.S. Court of Appeals — Mothers For Peace

see also

whats up: Federal ruling could give state officials basis for denying Entergy license to operate Vermont Yankee

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