Thursday, January 3, 2013

Urge NRC to consider risks of pools & dry casks, improvements of HOSS

Beyond Nuclear, along with numerous environmental allies, provided public comments on the Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision and Rule EIS during an environmental scoping hearing at NRC HQ, pictured here, on Nov. 14th.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has, for decades, used its bogus Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision and Rule to block challenges to high-level radioactive waste generation during licensing proceedings for new atomic reactors, or the extension of licenses at old reactors.

 Since 1984, NRC has expressed mere "confidence" (NRC's word) or "hope" (the federal courts' word) that a permanent dumpsite for irradiated nuclear fuel would be found, and that on-site storage of high-level radioactive waste at reactors, in indoor wet pools and outdoor dry casks, is safe for at least 120 years, if not 300. But this Nuke Waste Con Game was declared game over by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on June 8, 2012, when it ruled in favor of a coalition of states and environmental groups, and ordered NRC to prepare a decades overdue environmental impact statement (EIS), under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), about the risks of on-site high-level radioactive waste storage.

While, due to legal errors, Beyond Nuclear and environmental allies have demanded that NRC withdraw, correct, and re-issue its Federal Register Notice on the Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision and Rule environmental scoping proceeding, the agency has yet to do so. NRC failed to include the proposed action, and alternatives to the proposed action, in its Notice -- basic requirements under the NEPA, as well as its own regulations. Thus, for now at least, NRC's absurdly short deadline of January 2, 2013 for environmental scoping comments still stands.

Please consider using one or more of the points listed in the SAMPLE LANGUAGE below to fashion your own comments to NRC. NRC needs to include the various safety, security, and environmental risks of both pool and dry cask storage of irradiated nuclear fuel in its EIS. It also needs to consider the common sense improvements offered by Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS). And it should include the preferred alternative of stopping the generation of any more high-level radioactive waste at commercial atomic reactors.

Environmental scoping comments can be submitted electronically to, using Docket ID NRC-2012-0246 (despite repeated demands, NRC has yet to provide a simple email address for the submission of comments!). Comments can also be snail mailed to: Cindy Bladey, Chief; Rules, Announcements, and Directives Branch; Office of Administration; Mail Stop: TWB-05-B01M; U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Washington, D.C. 20555-0001.

 Comments can also be faxed to Cindy Bladey/NRC, at (301) 492-3446. Comments are currently due by Jan. 2, 2013, although repeated demands for an extension to this absurdly short deadline have been made.

Another way to make public comments is by attending upcoming NRC Webinars: Wed., Dec. 5, 1-4pm Eastern (10am-1pm Pacific), or Thurs., Dec. 6, 9pm-Midnight Eastern (6-9pm Pacific). Note that, in addition to watching the proceeding online, you can also phone in to listen and provide oral comments. You must pre-register to particpate by contacting NRC's Susan Wittick at or (301) 492-3187.

The preferred alternative is to stop making irradiated nuclear fuel. NRC should cease licensing atomic reactors, which inevitably generate high-level radioactive waste, deadly for at least a million years. This includes the rejection of any more combined Construction and Operating License Applications (COLAs) for proposed new atomic reactors, such as those recently rubberstamped by NRC at Vogtle, GA and Summer, SC. But this also includes the rejection of any more 20 year license extensions, as NRC has rubberstamped at 73 reactors since the year 2000. Thus, such pending license extensions as at Indian Point 2 & 3 (NY), Crystal River 3 (FL), Diablo Canyon 1 & 2 (CA), Seabrook (NH), Davis-Besse (OH), South Texas 1 & 2 (TX), Limerick 1 & 2 (PA), Grand Gulf 1 (MS), and Callaway (MO) should all be rejected by NRC. (Beyond Nuclear has successfully applied the Nuke Waste Con Game victory to win from NRC two year delays in the finalization of licensing approvals for new reactors at Grand Gulf 2 in MS and Fermi 3 in MI, as well as for 20 year license extensions at Grand Gulf 1 in MS and Davis-Besse in OH. A coalition of two dozen environmental groups has applied the victory against three dozen new and old reactor licensing proceedings across the U.S.)
For the nearly 70,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel currently stored at U.S. atomic reactors, Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS) should be required. Pools, at risk of leaks, as well as catastrophic radioactivity leaks due to sudden drain downs or slower motion boil downs, should be emptied. The irradiated nuclear fuel should be transferred into on-site dry casks which are: designed and built to last for centuries; camoflagued to deter, and fortified to withstand, terrorist attacks; safeguarded against accidents; and prevented from corroding and leaking high-level radioactive waste into the environment, as by replacement once per generation, requiring either a pool or a hot cell in which to carry out such transfer operations. Since 2002, nearly 200 environmental groups have called for HOSS, but this has fallen on deaf ears at NRC.

The risks of pool leaks into groundwater, which then flow into surface waters downstream -- as have occurred at Indian Point 2 & 3 (NY/Hudson River), Salem 1 (NJ/Delaware River), CT Yankee (Connecticut River & Long Island Sound), the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Brookhaven High Flux Beam Reactor (Long Island's sole source drinking water aquifer), BWXT Technologies (VA/James River), as well as Hatch (GA/Altamaha River) and Davis-Besse (OH/Lake Erie) -- must be considered in this EIS.

The risks of pool fires must be considered in this EIS. The precarious situation at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 --where a 7.0 earthquake could cause the complete collapse of the reactor building -- risks 135 tons of irradiated fuel catching fire, and releasing ten times the radioactive cesium-137 as was released by the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, directly into the environment. This would dwarf the radioactivity released thus far by the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. But pools at most U.S. atomic reactors contain several times more high-level radioactive waste than does Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4, meaning the potential catastrophes downwind, downstream, up the food chain, and down the generations would be even worse here in the event of a pool fire, whether caused by a sudden drain down (due to an earthquake, heavy load drop, terrorist attack, etc.) or a slower motion boil down (due to loss of off-site electricity, whether due to a natural disaster such as a hurricane, an intentional attack, a reactor accident causing abandonment of the nuclear power plant site, etc.).

The risks of current dry cask storage must also be considered in this EIS. Lack of quality assurance on design and fabrication of dry casks, as revealed by industry and even NRC whistleblowers, calls into question the structural integrity of dry casks currently used for on-site storage. Current dry casks, almost all stored outdoors in plain site, have not been designed to withstand terrorism, such as an attack by TOW anti-tank missiles. Dry casks have also suffered many accidents, such as hydrogen explosions, inner seal leaks risking fuel rod corrosion and radioactive gas leaks, as well as seismic damage.

Lou Zeller of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), one of the environmental groups which won the June 8th court ruling victory, has also submitted comments.

Pat Birnie, of GE Stockholders Alliance, has also submitted comments to the NRC Commissioners on their Nuclear Waste Confidence Rule.

On April 25, 2012, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps had the honor of presenting the GE Stockholder Alliance's resolution to General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and assembled GE shareholders at the company's annual meeting, held in Detroit, Michigan. Recently, Immelt stated that new atomic reactors are not economical