Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Coalition On West Valley Nuclear Wastes v. Chu

Aug 31: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Case No. 07-5243. As explained by the Appeals Court, the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes, et al contend that the United States Department of Energy (DOE, & Secy. Chu) violated both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the terms of a 1987 settlement between the Coalition and the DOE by issuing an environmental impact statement concerning waste management activities at the West Valley Project site, a portion of the Western New York Nuclear Service Center, that did not address long-term closure issues regarding the rest of the Center. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of DOE on all claims and the Appeals Court affirmed the decision.

On one of the main issues of contention, the Appeals Court said, "The DOE’s final Record of Decision on the Waste Management EIS indicates that its waste management actions entail shipping certain kinds of waste off-site and storing high-level waste at the West Valley site until it can be shipped to a geologic repository. . . As the district court found, removing the waste from the site has “independent utility,” for instance in storing the waste more safely, regardless of whether the Center as a whole is closed or decommissioned. Appellants have failed to present any evidence that would suggest that dealing in a more permanent fashion with waste that is currently left on the Project site somehow depends on closing the entire Center for its justification. Thus, we agree with the district court’s conclusion that the waste management actions are not “connected” to the closure actions. . . We also perceive no basis in the record for concluding that the actions are either cumulative in character, yielding cumulative environmental impacts that should be discussed in the same EIS . . . or that they are so similar that the 'best way to assess adequately the combined impacts . . . is to treat them in a single impact statement' . . ."

Access the complete opinion (click here).

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