A.G. Schneiderman Joins Petition Urging Nuclear Regulatory Commission To Fix Gaps In Evaluation Of Long-term Storage Of Radioactive Waste

Current Scope Of NRC's Review Of Hazards Posed By Allowing Long-Term Nuclear Waste Storage In Our Local Communities Contains Critical Omissions

Schneiderman: New York Communities That Serve As Long-Term Radioactive Waste Repositories Deserve A Full And Detailed Accounting Of The Dangers And Consequences

NEW YORK -- New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that he has joined a coalition of states petitioning the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to fix critical omissions in the proposed scope of its review of the hazards of allowing the long-term storage of nuclear waste to linger in communities that are home to nuclear power plants. The petition also calls on the Commission to make necessary changes to its regulations to ensure states and other affected parties are able to raise site-specific concerns about long-term nuclear waste storage at particular plant sites, such as the unique setting of the Indian Point nuclear facilities in Westchester County.

“We are petitioning the NRC to order staff to comply with the court's order and federal law by fixing critical omissions in the scope of its review of on-site storage of nuclear waste,” saidAttorney General Schneiderman. “NRC staff is continuing to ignore serious public health, safety and environmental risks related to long-term, on-site storage. The communities that serve as de facto long-term radioactive waste repositories deserve a full and detailed accounting of the risks.”

In response to a lawsuit brought by Attorney General Schneiderman, a federal circuit court last year ordered the NRC to complete a full review of the public health, safety and environmental hazards before allowing the long-term storage of radioactive waste at the nation’s nuclear power plants and deciding that such storage is safe and has no adverse environmental impacts. This landmark decision means that the Commission cannot license or re-license any nuclear power plant, including the Indian Point facilities, until it fully examines the dangers and consequences of long-term, on-site storage of nuclear waste.

The coalition's petition identifies key gaps in the proposed scope of the review prepared by NRC staff. The petition calls on the NRC to require staff to assess how public health, safety and environmental hazards in communities would be affected if nuclear power plants were not authorized to generate additional radioactive wastes until a permanent national repository (along the lines of the canceled Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada) is available. In addition, the petition calls on the Commission to require an assessment of how these hazards would be affected by speeding the transfer of nuclear waste from densely-packed storage pools to more stable dry cast storage. Although, currently, waste at nuclear power plants is typically stored in pools, the pools require a constant supply of water and electric power to cool the waste and to prevent it from overheating and releasing radioactive elements into the surrounding communities.

The petition also calls on the NRC to modify its regulations to allow states and other affected parties to raise significant site-specific environmental impact issues regarding long-term nuclear waste storage at particular plant sites. The Commission has stated that it will address “generic” waste storage issues in this environmental impact statement, but has not made clear how or whether it will allow plant-specific issues to be raised in licensing or relicensing proceedings. To implement that decision, the NRC needs to modify its current regulations.

In addition to New York, the states joining in the petition filed today are Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General John Sipos and Deputy Chief Monica Wagner of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation, Janet Sabel.