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Post date: November 15 2007

Scuomo And Coalition Of States Call For The Nuclear Regulatory Commission To Protect Public Safety

ALBANY, NY (November 15, 2007) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he and the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, and Vermont have submitted a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”) expressing the States’ serious concerns about the NRC’s failure to confront issues such as vulnerability to terrorist attacks and local seismic activity when deciding whether to renew the operating license of a nuclear power plant beyond its initial forty-year term.

“The NRC=s failure to consider safety issues in the relicensing of nuclear power plants is dangerously irresponsible, especially after a recent earthquake in Japan forced the emergency shutdown of the world’s largest nuclear plant and resulted in the release of radioactive material into the air and water,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “This letter signals our collective call for the NRC to thoroughly review terrorism vulnerability, seismic issues, and other significant concerns in the relicensing process.”

Under current regulations, the NRC license renewal procedures address age-related structural degradation of fixed, non-moving components, like the reactor core, containment systems, pipes, and electrical cables, but do not specifically include factors relevant to the avoidance of catastrophe, such as:                      

  • Location of the plant and local population density
  • Security and susceptibility to a terrorist attack
  • Adequacy of emergency warning and evacuation plans
  • Geographic and seismic issues

The letter states: “By forgoing a vital opportunity to evaluate the entirety of threat to public health and safety in a single, unified public relicensing proceeding, NRC remains blind to its mandate from Congress to protect the public from the dangers inherent in nuclear power generation.”

Attorney General Cuomo was joined by Attorneys General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Beau Biden, III, of Delaware, Lisa Madigan of Illinois, Gregory B. Stumbo of Kentucky, and William H. Sorrell of Vermont. 

In July, Attorney General Cuomo filed an amicus brief calling for the NRC to broaden the criteria considered in the relicensing of nuclear power plants, an action that could have implications for the Indian Point power plant.  Attorney General Cuomo was joined by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in filing the amicus brief.  The case in which Attorneys General Cuomo and Blumenthal filed the brief is Andrew Spano et al. v. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2d Cir. 07-0324-ag).  It is currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. 

The current relicensing regulations were developed in 1991 and 1995, when the NRC concluded that limiting the scope of its inquiry would make the relicensing process “more stable and predictable” for the licensees.  To date, the NRC has granted approximately 48 license renewals, and it has yet to deny one.