Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2014
Nine large environmental groups filed lawsuits in federal court Oct. 29 charging that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has violated earlier court findings.
The NRC has issued proposed rules that would allow high-level radioactive waste to pile up at reactor sites and would permit a generic environmental impact statement to be used in reactor license applications, regardless of the vast differences in size, type, location, population density and water use by separate reactors. The nine groups allege that the NRC’s proposed rules violate a 2012 federal court ruling that had reversed previous agency plans.
Filed in the District of Columbia, the earlier lawsuit resulted in halting US reactor licensing until the NRC finished a study of the impact of long-term storage of high-level reactor wastes at individual reactor sites. The government’s failure to site a centralized disposal site for the industry’s 141,000 metric tons of waste fuel means that reactor operators have to continue to store their extremely hot and radioactive wastes onsite for many decades.
Geoffrey Fettus, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the plaintiffs, said, “The NRC disregarded the explicit direction of the DC Circuit [Court] to examine the environmental impacts of indefinite storage of [waste] fuel in the event there is no [permanent] repository. … Instead … the NRC created an expedient fiction that ‘nothing will ever change … and safe agency practices will persist forever, obviating the need for a [central] repository.’”
The lawsuit asks the court to order the NRC to do the work that the earlier decision required.
“Dr. Arjun Makhijani, an expert who analyzed the NRC rule for the nine groups, said, “Until the NRC has studied the … environmental impacts of [waste] fuel disposal, it should [not] allow the generation of more highly radioactive [waste] reactor fuel.”