CHICAGO—Safe energy advocates from numerous organizations around the Great Lakes Basin converged on Oak Brook, Illinois to deliver a message to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC): “We have NO confidence in NRC’s ‘Waste Confidence’ rule!”
The NRC has scheduled a meeting to take public comment on its draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS) dealing with the storage of high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the form of spent reactor fuel rods currently stored at over 70 sites nationwide. The Chicago meeting is one of a series of 12 being held around the country, although NRC initially left Chicago off its list, and had to be forced into scheduling a session in Illinois – the state with the most reactors and most HLRW.
The NRC has been forced by a 2012 federal court ruling to justify with hard data, not just verbal assurances as was historically the case, that all the radioactive wastes ever generated by all U.S. reactors can be safely stored onsite at these reactors – indefinitely, if necessary. If NRC cannot do this, they will lose their authority to give out operating licenses to new reactors, or re-license old reactors, such as the four Exelon reactors applying for license extension at Byron and Braidwood in Illinois.
“Fifty years into the Nuclear Age, and as yet no place to permanently dispose of the more than 70,000 tons of spent reactor fuel, 9,000+ tons in Illinois alone,” notes Dave Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), an Illinois nuclear watchdog organization. “The nuclear industry has no bathroom, so to speak; yet, NRC continues to allow them to keep excreting more waste with nothing more than the verbal assurances of its Waste Confidence Rule to claim the public is protected. Those days of ‘fairy dust safety’ are over.”
“The NRC it must abandon its so-called “Waste Confidence” policy and stop licensing nuclear reactors when there is no proven solution to the waste problem – except to stop making it,” maintains Maureen Headington of Stand Up, Save Lives! of Burr Ridge, Illinois.
This sentiment is echoed both local and nationally:
“The Sierra Club is dedicated to creating a sustainable future for all mankind that is without dependence on fossil and nuclear fuels…The problem of what to do with radioactive waste – to pick the “safest of the unsafe” alternatives – will be with us for all time. We only get one chance to get it right,” warns Linda Lewison of the newly formed Sierra Club Illinois Nuclear Free Committee. “We do not have confidence in the NRC. How can they continue to license and relicense nuclear reactors with no plan in place for a permanent geological repository?…We don’t buy this lack of a plan.”
The NRC must develop a new and complete Generic Environmental Impact Statement to the Court’s satisfaction if it is to regain its ability to license nuclear reactors. Part of the GEIS process is to gather public comment on the proposed rule through public meetings like the one in Oak Brook. Not everyone is convinced that NRC is addressing the most important issues in its proposed GEIS: