Statement From A.G. Schneiderman On NRC Commitment To Assessing Dangers Of Long-term Nuclear Waste Storage At Indian Point Before Making Any Relicensing Decisions

NEW YORK – The following statement can be attributed to New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in response to the order issued today by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in which the Commission committed to reviewing the risks posed by long-term nuclear waste storage at Indian Point before any decisions are made about extending its operating licenses.     

“The storage of nuclear waste at nuclear power facilities poses long-term health and environmental risks, including the risk of leaks from spent fuel pools and fires.  Despite this, the NRC has refused my repeated requests to address the serious risks of long-term, on-site storage of nuclear waste in Indian Point's relicensing proceeding.  In light of my recent federal appeals court victory and a related contention I filed last month in the relicensing proceeding, however, it appears that the NRC has finally changed course.  Today, in a victory for the 17 million people living and working close to Indian Point, the NRC has committed to addressing the risks posed by long-term nuclear waste storage at the facility before making any relicensing decisions.  The NRC's commitment is a welcome step toward ensuring a full, fair and open examination of the numerous critical questions about the safety and environmental impact of Indian Point before any decisions are made about extending its operating licenses for another 20 years.”

BACKGROUND

On June 8, 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman won a landmark victory in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit 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. 

In today's order, which responds to that June 8 decision, the NRC commits to not issuing new or renewed operating licenses for nuclear power plants until it completes review of the public health, safety and environmental hazards posed by long-term storage of nuclear waste at power plants around the country.

The D.C. Circuit agreed with Attorney General Schneiderman that federal law requires the NRC to reexamine 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 the NRC with a directive that the Commission fully comply with federal law.

On July 2, 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman filed a contention in Indian Point's ongoing relicensing review process arguing that -- in light of his U.S. Appeals Court victory -- the NRC must now review the risks posed by nuclear waste storage at Indian Point before any decisions are made about extending its operating licenses for another 20 years.  The Commission’s order today adopts that position.  

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