Schneiderman said, "This is a landmark victory for New Yorkers, and people across the country living in the shadows of nuclear power plants. We fought back against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's rubber stamp decision to allow radioactive waste at our nation's nuclear power plants to be stored for decades after they're shut down -- and we won. The Court was clear in agreeing with my office that this type of NRC 'business as usual' is simply unacceptable. The NRC cannot turn its back on federal law and ignore its obligation to thoroughly review the environmental, public health, and safety risks related to the creation of long-term nuclear waste storage sites within our communities. Whether you're for or against re-licensing Indian Point and our nation's aging nuclear power plants, the security of our residents who live in the areas that surround these facilities is paramount. I am committed to continuing to use the full force of my office to push the NRC to fully evaluate -- and ensure -- the safety of Indian Point and our other nuclear plants."
Schneiderman indicated that the Court of Appeals agreed with him that the NRC violated NEPA when it found -- without conducting the necessary studies -- that no significant safety or environmental impacts will result from storing highly radioactive nuclear wastes onsite at the more than 100 operating reactors around the country, including from the Indian Point reactors in Westchester County, for 60 or more years after the reactors are closed. He said the Court also found that the NRC violated the law when it found "reasonable assurance" that sufficient, licensed, off-site storage capacity will be available to dispose of nuclear power plant waste "when necessary." Efforts to site the only nuclear waste storage facility in the United States, the Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada, were suspended in 2010 and no replacement facility has yet been identified. The appeals court wrote that the NRC "apparently has no long-term plan other than hoping for a geologic repository."
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) one of the parties in the case said the decision will send the NRC back to square one to determine the safety and consequences of allowing nuclear reactors to produce and accumulate radioactive nuclear waste, including the potential environmental effects of the failure to develop a geologic repository. Geoff Fettus, senior project attorney in the nuclear program at NRDC said, "This is a game changer. This forces the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to take a hard look at the environmental consequences of producing highly radioactive nuclear waste without a long-term disposal solution. The court found: 'The Commission apparently has no long-term plan other than hoping for a geologic repository.'"
Representative Ed Markey (D- MA) released a statement saying, "It comes as no surprise that the court has no confidence in NRC's waste confidence decision. The NRC relied on what seemed to be a faith-based methodology to conclude that highly radioactive nuclear waste can be left simply sitting in the giant swimming pools and parking lots in which it is currently stored for an additional 60 years. There was a collective failure on the part of both Congress and the Department of Energy to enable a credible, science-based search for a permanent nuclear waste repository."
The Nuclear Energy Institute's (NEI's) Ellen Ginsberg, vice president and general counsel, made the following remarks in reaction to the ruling saying, "We are disappointed by the court's decision as we believe that the NRC supported its conclusions in the waste confidence decision. Nonetheless, we urge the commission to act expeditiously to undertake the additional environmental analysis identified by the court in the remand. We also encourage the agency to reissue the rule as soon as possible. We are pleased that the court specifically affirmed the agency's discretion to address the environmental issues in a generic fashion using an environmental impact statement or an environmental assessment with a finding of no significant impact."Ironically, on June 6, Senator Pete Domenici and Dr. Pete Miller hosted the fourth and final event in the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) Nuclear Initiative event series -- Near-Term Progress on Nuclear Waste Management: Implementing the Recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission. Both BPC Nuclear Initiative Co-Chairmen believe there is an urgent need to break the current stalemate on nuclear waste management in the United States and to develop an effective system to manage the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. Senator Domenici was a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future (BRC) which released a final report in January 2012 detailing recommendations for creating a safe, long-term solution for managing and disposing of the nation's spent nuclear fuel and high‐level radioactive waste [See WIMS 2/2/12].
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