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Post date: October 30 2013

A.G. Schneiderman Statement Criticizes NRC Assessment Of Risks Of Storing Nuclear Waste In Our Communities

Attorney General Calls On Federal Nuclear Regulators To Address Deficiencies In Assessment Of Environmental, Public Health And Safety Risks Of Long-Term Waste Storage At Nuclear Power Plants, Including Indian Point

Schneiderman: Communities That Serve As De Facto Nuclear Waste Repositories Deserve A Full And Detailed Accounting Of The Risks

NEW YORK -- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today calls on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to strengthen its proposed assessment of the environmental, public health and safety risks of storing highly radioactive nuclear wastes on-site at the more than 100 reactors around the country, including the three Indian Point reactors in Westchester County, for 60 or more years after the reactors are closed. The Attorney General's remarks will be delivered this evening by an assistant attorney general from his Environmental Protection Bureau at a public meeting held by the NRC in Tarrytown on the proposed assessment, the Waste Confidence Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement or DGEIS.

The testimony at the hearing includes this statement: 

"Attorney General Schneiderman led the successful challenge in 2012 to the Temporary Storage Rule because he believes that communities that serve as de facto long-term nuclear waste repositories deserve a full and detailed accounting of the environmental, public health, and safety risks. Unfortunately, he believes that the Waste Confidence DGEIS, as presented, fails to provide such a full and detailed accounting, and therefore, fails our communities. Attorney General Schneiderman looks forward to the Commission addressing the draft's deficiencies in this ongoing rule making process."

The entire statement can be viewed here.

The DGEIS was prepared by the NRC in response to Attorney General Schneiderman's successful court challenge to the commission's Temporary Storage Rule in which the NRC had found, without conducting necessary studies, that no significant safety or environmental impacts will result from long-term, on-site storage of radioactive waste at nuclear power plants. In 2012, a federal circuit court agreed with Attorney General Schneiderman that federal law requires the NRC to complete a thorough analysis of the public health, safety and environmental hazards such storage would pose before allowing the long-term storage of nuclear waste in communities. In reaching its decision, the court found that the spent nuclear fuel stored on-site at nuclear power plants “poses a dangerous, long-term health and environmental risk.”

In his court challenge to the NRC's Temporary Storage Rule, the Attorney General argued that full compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act requires the commission to conduct a rigorous analysis of the potential for environmental, health and safety impacts from long-term, on-site radioactive waste storage. An analysis of this type, if conducted thoroughly and objectively, would identify any environmental, health and safety risks related to long-term, onsite storage of radioactive waste at each site, as well as those mitigation measures (such as increased groundwater monitoring, transfer of spent fuel from pools to dry storage casks, or repair of leaking spent fuel pools) needed to fully address them.

However, in his testimony today, Attorney General Schneiderman calls the DGEIS prepared by the NRC "significantly flawed." For example, he notes that, while it recognizes that spent fuel pools are susceptible to fires and that a fire would have severe consequences comparable to those of a severe nuclear accident, the assessment treats the consequences of such an accident generically and uses two nuclear power plants located in rural or low-population areas as its basis. The 50 miles around Indian Point, by contrast, are home to 17 million people. Attorney General Schneiderman argues that a generic review of a spent fuel pool accident risk, as performed by the NRC for the DGEIS, at the Indian Point facility is inappropriate given that the consequences of such an accident in the densely populated areas that surround the facility would be substantially greater than in rural or less populated areas. 

The Attorney General's testimony also faults the NRC for assuming, with no factual basis, that all nuclear waste will be removed from the spent fuel pools of the nation's nuclear power plants by 60 years after the plants are closed.  He notes that, currently, there is no available off-site location to store high-level nuclear waste from those facilities. The Attorney General states in his testimony that the DGEIS fails to meet the requirements of the circuit court's ruling by making decisions based on an "unsubstantiated hope" that sufficient, licensed, off-site radioactive waste storage capacity will be available to accept nuclear plant waste within 60 years. 

Attorney General Schneiderman intends to provide additional written comments during the comment period on the DGEIS, which ends on December 20th. 

The public meeting this evening begins at 7:00 P.M. at the Westchester Marriott, located at 670 White Plains Road in Tarrytown. 

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, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.