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SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Pat Romanski, Jason Bloomberg, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Dana Gardner

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Groups To Warn Industry Is Pressuring NRC To "Flout" Court Order On Environmental Impact Of Nuclear Reactor Waste

Rebuttal to Nuclear Energy Institute Filing Comes One Day Before Monthly NRC Public Meeting on Waste Issues; NEI Seen Undercutting Needed Research on Reactor Pool Fires, Other Issues.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One day before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) holds its monthly waste confidence rule public conference call, national and grassroots environmental groups from across the U.S. will file a rebuttal of claims made by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), which has suggested incorrectly that the NRC can largely dispense with additional research needed for a court-ordered environmental impact statement (EIS) on long-term nuclear waste-storage issues.   

The groups will release the rebuttal during a phone-based news event at 1:30 p.m. EST Tuesday (January 15, 2013).

In a point-by-point response to the NEI, the groups will show how the nuclear industry trade association would have the NRC "flout" the federal court ruling that triggered the EIS process for nuclear-waste storage.  Among other key issues, the NEI wants the NRC to rely on existing studies of spent fuel pool fire risks -- even though those studies are not only secret, but the agency also recently revealed to the GAO that it has lost track of them.  

News event speakers will be:

  • Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research;
  • Diane Curran, attorney, Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, L.L.P.;
  • John Runkle, attorney, NC WARN; and
  • Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River program director, Riverkeeper, Inc.

TO PARTICIPATE: You can join this live, phone-based news conference (with full, two-way Q&A) at 1:30 p.m. EST on January 15, 2013 by dialing 1 (888) 437-2685. Ask for the "rebutting the NEI" telenews event.

CAN'T PARTICIPATE?:  A streaming audio replay of the news event will be available on the Web at http://www.hastingsgroupmedia.com/011513nrcsupplementcomments.mp3  as of 5 p.m. EST on January 15, 2013. 

BACKGROUND:

On January 2, 2013, two dozen national and grassroots environmental groups said it would be impossible for the NRC to adequately conduct a court-ordered assessment of the environmental implications of long-term storage of spent nuclear reactor fuel in the two short years the federal agency envisions for the process.  The groups' comments and related declarations by experts are available online at http://www.psr.org/resources/nrc-rushing-nuclear-waste-confidence-process.html. (The new rebuttal filing is a supplement to the January 2nd filing.)

In their early January filings, the 24 groups said a full review of the three issues outlined in June 2012 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – long-term storage risks for spent nuclear fuel, spent fuel pool fire risks, and spent fuel pool leakage risks – would take at least the seven years originally projected by the NRC staff, and likely considerably longer. Current federal law requires that the NRC conduct a comprehensive environmental impact statement study before issuing a revised Waste Confidence Decision; the 24 groups submitted their comments about the appropriate "scoping" of the EIS.  

In June 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the NRC's 2010 Waste Confidence Decision and Temporary Storage Rule and remanded them to the agency for study of the environmental impacts of storing spent fuel indefinitely if no permanent nuclear waste repository is licensed or if licensing of a repository is substantially delayed.  Spent nuclear fuel remains highly dangerous for prolonged periods.  It has long-lived radioactive materials in it that can seriously contaminate the environment and harm public health if released.  Additionally, spent nuclear fuel contains plutonium-239, a radiotoxic element that can be used to make nuclear weapons if separated from the other materials in the fuel. 

The NRC monthly public teleconference status call on activities related to the Waste Confidence rulemaking and preparation of the environmental impact statement (EIS) takes place from 1:30-2:30 p.m. EST on January 16, 2013.  Prior to the start of the meeting, please dial 1-800-857-2553 and provide the operator with passcode 3682386.

SOURCE Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Washington, DC; and NC WARN, Raleigh, NC.

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