Since 2012, the NRC has not been able to issue licenses for new nuclear reactors, or issue renewals for existing licenses. This is because a federal judge threw out the NRC’s radioactive waste policy – called the “waste confidence rule.” The waste confidence rule stated that the NRC was confident that radioactive waste would be stored or disposed of safely, therefore it was fine for nuclear fuel to continue to be generated.

But when the proposed Yucca Mountain federal repository was cancelled in 2010, and no alternative plan in place, there was no way the NRC could be “confident” of permanent safe disposal. The waste confidence rule was thrown out. The court also ruled that the NRC had no technical basis for asserting that current on-site storage practices at individual plants (in spent fuel pools and dry cask storage facilities) were safe for long-term. Thus, the ban on licencing reactors began.

Now the NRC has now prepared a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) as part of the process to replace its “waste confidence” rule. The purpose of the DGEIS is to address impacts to public health and the environment that could occur if spent fuel is not disposed of in a permanent federal repository. However, there are many flaws in the DGEIS. The NRC has requested public input on the DGEIS document – this is an opportunity to point out the problems with the DGEIS.

The NRC is holding a series of public meetings nation-wide to gather public comments on their DGEIS (ours is in Chelmsford, MA on Oct 28th). In addition to the meetings, public comments are also being requested by email, mail or through the government rulemaking website. Read the directions about submitting comments here.

The easiest way to submit comments is to draft of a short paragraph or a short list of bullet points (the website provides some examples) and email to December 20th is the deadline (UPDATE: the comment period has been extended from November 27th to December 20th). Be sure to include Docket ID NRC–2012–0246 in the subject line.

This is an opportunity to point out the flaws in the NRC’s DGEIS and to express your concerns about the safety of nuclear waste storage.

Here are some examples of talking points that you could use in your comments:

A Small Selection of General Comments:

  • There is no basis for NRC’s determination that waste can be stored safety; the production of nuclear waste needs to stop now
  • The transfer of spent fuel to dry casks should be expedited
  • The NRC should perform site-specific reviews of the environmental impacts of continued storage at each facility; there is no way an EIS that is generic in nature can accurately assess the impacts
  • The NRC should assess the likelihood of a federal repository being successfully sited, and the health and environmental consequences of the outcome where a repository is not sited or has an accident

A Small Selection of Comments Specific to Environmental Concerns:

  • The NRC only considers the direct CO2 footprint of continued storage; the DGEIS should consider the entire fuel life-cycle in its scope, including the effects of uranium mining, milling, and processing, the transport of fuel, reactor operation, decommissioning and final storage of radioactive waste.
  • The GEIS states that a 1-meter rise in water level will not endanger any nuclear power plant in the U.S This is not true. For example, Pilgrim in Plymouth, MA plans to place dry casks in a coastal zone, only 100 yards from the shore of Cape Cod Bay.
  • The GEIS uses a global average for sea level rise (1 meter), however sea level rise will vary greatly by region. Areas projected to experience the most significant sea level rise (such as the eastern seaboard, where many plants are located) should be addressed – using a global average to assume all U.S. plants are safe is flawed.
  • The GEIS should consider the impacts of rising temperatures on the water sources intended to cool spent fuel pools. An increasingly warming climate is heating the water temperature of our oceans, lakes and rivers – water is becoming too warm for plants’ cooling systems.
  • The NRC claims that it is “very unlikely” that a leak from a spent fuel pool would go undetected and reach the offsite environment, however undetected leakage has plagued communities for decades.

Please participate and submit comments or attend a meeting near you.

Check out the website for more information, to view meeting locations/dates near you, to read examples of talking points for submitting comments, and to read the NRC’s DGEIS document.