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Agencies Struggle To Craft Offsite Cleanup Plan For Nuclear Power Accidents via InsideEPA

EPA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are struggling to determine which agency — and with what money and legal authority — would oversee cleanup in the event of a large-scale accident at a nuclear power plant that disperses radiation off the reactor site and into the surrounding area.

The effort, which the agencies have not acknowledged publicly, was sparked when NRC recently informed the other agencies that it does not plan to take the lead in overseeing such a cleanup and that money in an industry-funded insurance account for nuclear accidents would likely not be available, according to documents obtained by Inside EPA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). ( Request Part 1, Request Part 2)

Environmentalists concerned with nuclear safety and cleanup issues say indications in the FOIA documents that the government has no long-term cleanup plan in the event of an emergency casts doubt on the nuclear power industry’s ongoing efforts to revive itself. The industry currently has 22 applications to build new nuclear power plants pending before NRC and is marketing itself as a source of carbon-free emissions.

“This is a revelation that should call into question efforts to revive the industry,” one environmentalist says. “Certainly there should be no new [power plant] construction if this issue can’t be resolved.” The activist adds that the lack of a cleanup plan is “pretty ironic because nuclear energy is not a new technology or issue. The first nuclear reactor was built in 1942 — that’s 68 years ago.”

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