Nuclear Waste Out Of Control, On Purpose – Diane D’Ariggo



November 13, 2012

Dear Friends,

During the summer, a federal court threw out the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s “waste confidence” rule. That rule states that the NRC has confidence that radioactive waste can be stored safely essentially forever. But the court said that the lack of progress toward a permanent waste storage site and the NRC’s own lack of assessment of the environmental impacts of long-term onsite storage add up to a complete lack of waste confidence.

This was especially important because the waste confidence rule underpins all of the NRC’s licensing decisions: without demonstrated confidence on radioactive waste, the NRC cannot license new reactors or issue license renewals for existing reactors.

The NRC responded by saying it would re-examine the issue, and declared a two-year moratorium on new reactor licenses and license extensions while it does so. That moratorium is currently in effect.

On October 25, 2012, the NRC published a Notice in the Federal Register announcing the official beginning of that re-examination process. This initial step seeks “scoping” comments for preparation of the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In other words, the NRC is asking: what issues should this waste confidence EIS cover?

But there are a couple big problems with this Notice. The biggest is that not only is the Notice vague about the NRC’s plans, but it fails to describe (as required by an EIS) possible alternatives to the proposed action. In this case, a possible alternative could–and should–be: no more reactor licensing at all!

On November 8, 25 organizations, including NIRS, sent a letter to the NRC asking the agency to withdraw its Notice and re-submit a more complete version that actually complies with the law. You can read that letter here.

Another problem is the very short period the NRC is allowing for public comments: they are due January 2, 2013, or immediately after the holiday season when just about all of us have family and other obligations and really are trying not to think too much about radioactive waste! This deadline is clearly intended to suppress–not encourage–public comment.

So, here is one thing you can do right now: Tell the NRC to withdraw their Notice, fix it, and resubmit; and tell them to extend the comment period by at least 60 days. You can do that here.

And you can watch the webcast of tomorrow’s meeting–and call in and comment–by going here. It’s at 1 pm eastern time and goes until 4 pm. It will be re-cast from 9 pm eastern time until midnight at the same url. If you would like to speak at this hearing, please call Ms. Susan Wittick 1-800-368-5642 ext 3187 or Ms. TR Rowe at 1–800–368–5642, ext 3133. Both are NRC staff members arranging for people to speak.

When it comes to substantive comments, the NRC is making it much more difficult for you to comment. In order to prevent NIRS and other groups from making it easy for you to have your say, they are not accepting e-mail comments. Instead, they are accepting comments only by snail mail, fax, and through a webform. If you already know what substantive comments you want to make, you can do so at their webform here and search for NRC–2012–0246.

However, NIRS is preparing substantive comments and we will present them to you in a format–probably a petition that we will mail, fax and perhaps hand-deliver to the NRC–that will be easy for you to use. We will provide these to you in plenty of time for you to meet the comment deadline, so watch for them!

I will point out that this is just the opening salvo in what will be an increasingly active period on radioactive waste. Over the next Congressional session, we are expecting major battles on radioactive waste in both Congress and at the NRC, that have the real potential to change our nation’s nuclear policies for the better–or the worse. It will take every one of us raising our voices and taking action and reaching out to our friends and neighbors and colleagues to win these battles and prevent widespread and unnecessary transportation of lethal radioactive waste over our nation’s highways and railways.

And think about it: what would be better than making the two-year moratorium on reactor licensing permanent? The fact is, it is not possible to be confident that radioactive waste can be stored safely anywhere. The real solution is to stop generating it and stop making the problem worse.

Thanks for all you do,
Michael Mariotte
Executive Director
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Stay Informed:
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