By Gregory B. Hladky
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission - prompted by the federal courts - is now doing a study on the possible environmental problems of long-term storage of tons of spent nuclear fuel at nuke plants around the nation.
Connecticut's Attorney General George Jepsen is all in favor of that idea. He should be, since this state was one of the parties protesting the NRC's local nuke waste storage plans.
There are something like 1,880 metric tons of deadly nuclear waste already being stored at Connecticut plant sites, and more is being produced every year.
The federal government resorted to the plan to have nuke plants keep their radioactive waste on site after a hugely expensive plan to create a permanent underground storage facility in Nevada's Yucca Mountain fell apart.
Here's Jepsen's full press release on the NRC's latest move:
Attorney General George Jepsen said today that he supports a federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission order to its staff to develop an environmental impact statement (EIS) and a revised waste confidence rule on the temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel.
“This action affirms the position Connecticut and other states have taken for years – that the environmental impact needs to be assessed before any decision is made to allow longer storage of spent nuclear fuel at reactor sites,” Attorney General Jepsen said. “We look forward to working with the NRC in this process.”
The NRC was responding to a landmark decision June 8, by U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, following a successful challenge by Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Vermont and several other states to the NRC’s revised waste confidence rule, which allowed spent nuclear fuel to be stored at reactor sites for up to 60 years after the plants shut down.
The court said the NRC’s December 2010 rule change was a “major federal action necessitating either an environmental impact statement or finding of no significant environmental impact” as required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
The NRC directed its staff Thursday to develop -- within the next two years -- an environmental impact statement, as well as a revised waste confidence decision and rule on the temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel.
According to the NRC “waste confidence” is a generic finding that spent nuclear fuel can be safely stored for decades beyond the licensed operating life of a reactor without significant environmental effects. Prior to the December 2010 revision, fuel could be stored on site for up to 30 years after a reactor closed.
The NRC said the rule enables the agency to license reactors or renew their licenses without examining the effects of extended waste storage for each individual site.
Connecticut has two operating nuclear plants, Millstone 2 and Millstone 3 in Waterford and two decommissioned nuclear plants, Millstone 1 in Waterford and Connecticut Yankee in Haddam. The spent fuel from those plants remains on site awaiting a permanent federal storage facility.
In preparing an environmental impact statement, the commission said its staff could draw on previous work as well as environmental assessments, studies and reports done by other agencies to address the impacts of transportation and consolidated storage of spent fuel. In addition, the commission ordered staff to “provide ample opportunity for public comment” on the proposed EIS and rule.