Washington, DC – A fast-tracked vote by the four Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioners will allow resumption of licensing and relicensing of nuclear power reactors which make long-lasting deadly radioactive waste, reaffirming their denial that nuclear waste threatens this and all future generations. Today’s bid is to satisfy a federal court order two years ago which struck down the “Waste Confidence Rule,” a key regulation that streamlined the licensing process for nuclear power reactors by establishing the NRC’s “confidence” that its regulations would keep the waste “safe” until that day when it would be removed. The rule has formed the underpinning for all nuclear licensing in the US, since this highly concentrated and deadly radioactive waste is generated solely by nuclear power.
In 2012, a federal three-judge panel (DC appeals court) asserted that NRC had no basis for “confidence” since there is, in fact, no plan for how to manage or isolate the most concentrated radioactive wastes ever produced.
Nuclear promoters are calling for a shell-game approach of moving the waste to a “temporary” site to reduce inventories at reactor sites and to transfer ownership and responsibility to the federal taxpayers. Such consolidated storage would trigger the largest nuclear shipping campaign in history, resulting in significant radiation exposures to the public during transport with and without the inevitable accidents. Communities targeted for consolidated storage are predictably low-income and disproportionately people of color communities.
The final piece of “theater of the absurd” associated with today’s ruling centered around the vote of outgoing Commissioner William Magwood IV, who leaves the NRC at month’s end. Federal law clearly states that his continued voting prior to leaving NRC and taking his new job as an international promoter of nuclear power interests represented a potential if not actual conflict of interest. Earlier 34 organizations nationwide called on NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane to either delay the vote 5 days until his departure, or ask him to recuse himself from the vote, positions which even pro-nuclear publications like the Washington Post and the Charlottesville (VA) Daily Progress editorialists felt were legitimate, and agreed with. Macfarlane did neither.