【Petition】Sign on to four principles on radioactive waste, including no more generation via Nuclear Information and Resource Service

December 18, 2012

Earlier this year, a federal court threw out the fundamental underpinning of the NRC’s radioactive waste policy–the agency’s Waste Confidence rule. In a nutshell, that rule stated that the NRC had confidence that highly radioactive irradiated fuel from nuclear reactors would be stored and managed safely forever. That confidence gave the NRC the ability to license and re-license nuclear reactors. The court ruled that the NRC had no basis to make that assertion.

To its credit, the NRC did not challenge the court’s finding, and instituted a two-year moratorium on new reactor licensing and existing reactor re-licensing while it rewrites its rule–a process we think will take a lot longer than two years if it is to include any valid technical justification. Indeed, we believe that there is no such technical justification, and that the moratorium should be made permanent.

In November, the NRC issued a request for comments on the scoping of an Environmental Impact Statement for its rule revision–in other words, what should the agency be considering as it rewrites its rule?

It seems, however, that the NRC doesn’t really want many comments. Despite more than 2,000 of your letters urging extension of the comment period, they have stuck to an uncommonly short period smack in the middle of the holiday season and ending January 2. They have refused to provide an e-mail address for people to send comments to and instead are using only the cumbersome regulations.gov website.
1) NRC must assess the overfilling of highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel pools as a factor in catastrophic events, including drain-downs and fires, but also inadvertent criticality and other events where loss of pool integrity results in inability to stabilize cooling within the structure.

2) NRC must compare and contrast the worst-case-scenarios for radioactive releases and health consequences from a disruption of current dry storage, fuel pools and “hardened” dry storage. Based upon this, NRC must examine alternative changes in its regulatory requirements for waste storage on-site since it is easy to forecast, based on existing data, that hardened storage provides a greater margin of health and safety to the public compared to over-filled pools.

3) NRC should exclude off-site “interim” consolidation of waste storage because the transport evaluations done to date are not an adequate basis upon which to claim an increase in health, safety or security. The period of transport (likely decades) must itself be included in the overall evaluation of increased health, safety or security, where clearly it will not support such a claim.

4) One of the options that the EIS must include is no further production of this waste; based on no further licenses, no license extension and expiration of existing licenses. Inclusion of this alternative must include a consideration of the environmental and health consequences of the production of nuclear fuel since commercial production of nuclear fuel would be phased out under this alternative, but not others. NEPA requires that impacts that are tied together by causation be assessed together.

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