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Post date: October 27 2014

A.G. Schneiderman And State Coalition To Challenge Rules Governing Continued Storage Of Nuclear Waste In Our Communities

Coalition Cites Federal Nuclear Regulators’ Continued Failure To Fully Assess Environmental, Public Health And Safety Risks Of Long-Term Waste Storage At Nuclear Power Plants, Including Indian Point

Schneiderman: I Will Fight To Ensure Communities Receive The Full, Detailed Accounting Of Risks Of Long-Term, On-Site Nuclear Waste Storage That They Deserve

NEW YORK—Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, and the Attorneys General of Connecticut and Vermont, announced today that they will challenge recently issued rules of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that govern the long-term storage of 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 close.   

The coalition of attorneys general initiated a challenge to the rule, entitled “Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel,” in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  In its filing, Attorney General Schneiderman’s coalition argues that those rules, and the underlying environmental impact statement, do not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) and other requirements, and are inconsistent with earlier decisions by various federal courts concerning waste and accident issues.  

A copy of the petition is here.   

“In 2012, we won a landmark federal court ruling requiring NRC to perform a full and detailed assessment of the risks involved in the long-term, on-site storage of highly radioactive nuclear wastes at nuclear power plants,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.  “However, in responding to that ruling, the NRC has turned its responsibilities on their head -- focusing on issues that are unrelated to the risks posed to the environment, public health, and safety.  The NRC’s approach is wrong and illegal, and I will continue to fight to ensure that our communities receive the full and detailed accounting of the risks of long-term, on-site nuclear waste storage that they deserve.”   

The NRC’s Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel rule, and an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the rule, were finalized on September 19.  The rule and EIS are the NRC’s response to a June 2012 landmark victory by Attorney General Schneiderman in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that federal law requires the NRC to complete review of the public health, safety, and environmental hazards that 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 an earlier regulation and remanded the matter back to NRC with a directive that the Commission fully comply with federal law.  

In its current challenge, the coalition asks the court to review the new rule and EIS, invalidate the NRC’s actions as inconsistent with federal regulations, and order the Commission to develop a remedy that fully complies with federal law. Today’s filing initiates the coalition’s challenge; the date by which the coalition will fully brief its challenge will be set by the court.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Kathryn Deluca, Andrew Frank, Laura Heslin, John Sipos, and Monica Wagner of the Environmental Protection Bureau, with support from Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg, and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.