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Post date: July 9 2012

A. G. Schneiderman Acts To Ensure Assessment Of Dangers Of Long-term Nuclear Waste Storage At Indian Point Precedes Any Relicensing Decision

NRC Must Comply with AG’s Recent U.S. Appeals Court Victory By Examining Health & Environmental Risks of Spent Fuel Leaks & Fires

Schneiderman: New Yorkers Deserve Nothing Less Than A Full, Fair And Open Examination Of The Dangers Posed By Long-Term Nuclear Waste Storage At Indian Point Before Any Relicensing Decisions Are Made

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he has taken action to ensure the dangers and consequences of long-term on-site storage of nuclear waste at Indian Point are fully examined in the ongoing relicensing review process.  Specifically, Attorney General Schneiderman has filed a contention in the review process arguing that -- in light of his recent U.S. Appeals Court victory -- the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must now review the risks posed by nuclear waste storage at Indian Point before any decisions are made about extending its operating license for another 20 years.     

“There is no question that on-site storage of nuclear waste could pose long-term health and environmental risks,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Despite this, the NRC has refused my repeated requests to address the impacts of spent fuel leaks and fires in Indian Point's relicensing proceeding on the environment and public health.  But now that a federal Appeals Court has sided with my office -- and agreed that the NRC must examine the risks of long-term, on-site nuclear waste storage -- the Commission can not dismiss these impacts at Indian Point.  New Yorkers deserve nothing less than a full, fair and open examination of the dangers posed by long-term nuclear waste storage at Indian Point -- and the alternatives to mitigate those risks -- before any decisions are made about its relicensing.”

The NRC is currently considering an application by Indian Point's owner for permission to operate the facility’s two reactors, which were originally licensed almost 40 years ago, for an additional 20 years.  Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office has raised a number of serious safety and environmental concerns related to the relicensing of Indian Point that the NRC has accepted for consideration as a part of the relicensing proceeding.  However, heretofore, the NRC has repeatedly refused the Attorney General's requests to have the dangers and consequences of long-term storage of nuclear waste at Indian Point be considered in the proceeding. 

But, on June 8th, Attorney General Schneiderman won a landmark victory in a lawsuit against the NRC challenging a Commission finding that the long-term storage of radioactive waste at the nation’s nuclear power plants is safe and has no significant environmental impacts.  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.   

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with Attorney General Schneiderman that federal law requires the NRC to complete review of the public health, safety and environmental hazards such storage would pose before allowing the long-term storage of nuclear waste in communities. The appeals court found that the spent nuclear fuel stored on-site “poses a dangerous, long-term health and environmental risk.”  The Court invalidated the regulation and remanded the matter back to NRC with a directive that the Commission fully comply with federal law.

In addition to Attorney General Schneiderman’s landmark victory on June 8th, he has been highly successful in his other actions aimed at improving regulations and safety at Indian Point, and that could have important benefits for plants nationwide.  For example:

  • In February 2012, the NRC sided with Attorney General Schneiderman by rejecting Indian Point’s request for more than 100 exemptions from critical fire safety requirements. The Attorney General filed a petition last year over Indian Point’s continued failure to comply with federal fire safety regulations established to keep plants secure in an emergency.
  • In July 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman won a landmark ruling by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ordering the completion of  legally-required analyses of Indian Point’s  severe accident mitigation measures before it can be relicensed.  In December of that year, the NRC rejected a move by Entergy, Indian Point’s owner, to reverse that decision. 

The NRC is a federal government agency, headed by five Commissioners, established by the Energy Reorganization Act in 1974 as a successor to the disbanded United States Atomic Energy Commission. 

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Janice Dean and John Sipos of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.