NRC Nuclear nonsense hearing in Minnetonka December 4th

Nuclear Regulatory Commission “Waste Confidence” public meeting December 4.

Minnetonka, Minnesota
Minneapolis Marriott Southwest
5801 Opus Parkway
Minnetonka, MN 55343

Open House
6:00-7:00 p.m. CST
7:00-10:00 p.m. CST

This meeting (apparently it is not a formal public hearing) was originally scheduled for October 17th but postponed due to the federal government “shutdown.”  Previous meetings have had a three-minute time limit for speakers.  “NRC staff will not be available to answer questions related to the proposed rule or DGEIS during the formal meeting.”   (But they will at the Open House.)

The story behind this is a little convoluted.  As the Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) describes it:

“Since the summer of 2012, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been unable to issue licenses for new reactors, nor renewals for existing licenses. A federal court threw out the underpinning of the agency’s radioactive waste policy–its “waste confidence” rule. That rule had stated that the NRC was confident that high-level radioactive waste always would be stored or disposed safely, and thus could continue to be generated.

But the court found that with the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site effectively cancelled and no alternative in place, the NRC could not be “confident” of permanent disposal. Moreover, the court ruled that the NRC had no technical basis for asserting that current on-site storage practices in fuel pools and dry casks would be safe for the indefinite future. This ruling forced the current moratorium on licensing

The NRC has now prepared a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) as part of the process of replacing its “waste confidence” rule and it hopes to finalize this document and resume licensing during 2014. In the Fall of 2013, the agency will hold 12 public meetings around the country to explain and receive comment on this document.

These meetings are our opportunity to point out the technical shortcomings in this new document, and to call for making the licensing moratorium permanent. There will be protests and public involvement at each one of these meetings. We hope you will join us.”

See also “D.C. Circuit Vacates NRC’s Waste Confidence Decision.”

Kristen Eide-Tollefson says:

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to comment on the “waste confidence” decision. WE NEED TURNOUT FOR THE MINNESOTA NRC PUBLIC HEARING on  NUCLEAR WASTE — December 4th!

The “Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision” was created in response to Minnesota’s resistance to the building of the Monticello Plant. Minnesota said (Chuck Dayton was involved) that they would not allow the plant to be built without federal assurance of central storage for the nuclear waste. Because the federal government could not assure this, they created a regulatory fiction.

This fiction is called the “Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision”. It has allowed the NRC to continue to permit plants, and extend storage at reactor sites using a ‘generic’ EIS determination of “no impacts”, based upon the agencies “confidence” that storage will be available when it is needed! This dangerous and irrational regulatory presumption has been allowed to prevail –as the ‘back stop’– in dozens of licensing, re-licensing and nuclear waste storage proceedings.”

NRC materials for the Minnetonka meeting are posted here, including posters and a PowerPoint.

Many more documents are here.

The GEIS is 575 +/- pages and contains many strange and indefensible statements and conclusions.  Here is the link:

Here’s an example:

“Severe Accidents in Spent Fuel Pools. Probability-weighted impacts would be SMALL. A spent
fuel pool may encounter severe events, such as loss of offsite power or beyond design basis
earthquakes. Although it is theoretically 1 possible that these events may lead to loss of spent
fuel pool cooling function resulting in spent fuel pool fire, the likelihood of such events is
extremely small [emphasis added]
. Additional discussion about spent fuel pool fires can be found in Appendix F.”

Of course, this is what actually happened in Japan at the Fukushima reactors, which are of very similar design to the Xcel Energy Monticello reactor.

The federal government has never been able to open a waste dump, so wastes have been piling up at nuclear plant sides ever since the plants opened:  1971 for the Monticello reactor and 1973 for the two Prairie Island (Red Wing) reactors.

This is the point of the “waste confidence” rule:  To pretend that something impossible, safe management of spent nuclear fuel, will eventually happen in some magical fashion.  Therefore it is logical to extend the operating lives of existing nukes and build new ones.

The City of Red Wing, to its credit, has submitted comments–two sets making up 17 pages.  (I say “to it’s credit” because many nuke facility host communities behave as echo chambers for the facility owners.)  Some excerpts:

“It is anticipated that at the end of the life of the PINGP [Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant] which is currently scheduled in 2033 and 2034 … there will be approximately ninety-nine (99) casks located [at the storage site in Red Wing].  This does not include any casks or other storage systems for other classes of waste originating from the decommissioning of the PINGP.”

“… the City, like many other host communities, is now facing a scenario that it did not, under any set of circumstances, envision;  the failure of the Federal Government to honor its contractual agreement with the Company [Xcel Energy] and remove the spent fuel … The City stands resolute with the Company that the continued storage of spent fuel outside of the PINGP is not a workable solution.  With no plan or process in place for its removal, storage, which was to be short (if at all) has become, for all practical purposes, permanent.”

“The City, in all respects, is a first responder to any incident … It is obligated, under both federal and state law, to annually provide reasonable assurance that it has the necessary facilities and infrastructure to meet and respond to any incident …  The City, then, is obligated to maintain a steady state of readiness … it has and continues to do so despite the continued reduction of revenue to the City from the Company for taxes on the PINGP.  The City, in turn, has been forced to shift the burden to its other taxpayers, who, since 1996, have seen their property taxes increase over 1885.”

“…the EA [Environmental Assessment for the Red Wing nuke waste storage site, otherwise ISFSI] must assume and analyze three different scenarios:  (1) removal of the spent fuel at fifty years after decommissioning of the PINGP; (2) removal of spent fuel after 100 years … and (3) a no-build scenario [=leave it there forever].”

“…there is a likelihood that there will be flooding of the ISFIS upon certain peak levels of the Mississippi River.”

“The EA should identify all potential incidents that could occur that would have an impact, material or otherwise, on the safety and integrity of continued spent fuel storage.  These incidents should include not only natural incidents such as flooding, lighting [sic], tornados, and other such natural disasters, but also manmade disasters such as accidents and intentional acts, including acts of terror.”

“The only actual, and logical, growth pattern for the City, especially it’s business and manufacturing district, is to the north.  This expansion is directly where the spent fuel is located and its continued presence will disrupt and stunt the City’s growth.  This should be evaluated.”

“The EA should analyze and include any lessons from the Fukushima incident.  These lessons should include, but not be limited to, the necessity for an effective emergency response, the impact if a similar incident occurred at the PINGP …”

“The appropriate timeframe, then, is not the cessation of activities at the nuclear power plant but rather is the time spent fuel actually sits in the casks or other storage containers … So, for example, with casking at the PINGP beginning in 1994, the fifty year mark will be 2044, which is less than ten years after the PINGP is scheduled to be decommissioned.  The spent fuel pool will still be used at this time … Under the scenario proposed by the Commission, an examination of the casks for the PINGP would not occur until they are almost ninety (90) years old ….”

“… in the event of an incident at the ISFSI, the impact would be not simply local but nationally as the waters of the Mississippi would be impacted downstream.”

“How is there going to be sufficient revenue to manage spent fuel storage systems when the plant shuts down and the ratepayers are no longer receiving the benefit of electricity being produced through nuclear energy?  The cost, then, of continued storage, maintenance, transfer, and ultimate disposition may fall on ratepayers or citizens of the state that did not have a stake at all when the spent fuel was being generated … the spent fuel must be safely and securely stored for centuries ….”

“A core concept of the EIS is compliance with NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act].  To do so, the EIS must take into account the effect that continued storage will have on the natural environment as well as what this impact would be in the event of an incident.  The EIS should evaluate the cumulative effect of continues storage which would include but not be limited to the total natural release of radiation … and the impact in the event that there is a release.”

“The spend fuel, which was never intended to be stored at the PINGP, is not stranded within the City limits indefinitely….  The City believes that one of these public meetings should be held in or near the City.”

So there we have it:  The City of Red Wing is stuck with a permanent, above ground, high-level nuclear waste dump within the city limits, in the effective flood plain of the Mississippi River.

There are over one hundred other operating and dead reactors in the US, many with similar situations.

The NRC seems to be saying it has no intention of doing site specific environmental review of waste storage sites“The environmental impacts of continued storage are generically addressed and will not be revisited in future site-specific
licensing proceedings.”
Too much trouble; too expensive.  In other words, this “generic” proceeding is it, folks.

The lawsuit that brought this GEIS proceeding to life came from Attorney General of New York, Eric T. Schneiderman.  In an Oct 30, 2013 press release, Schneiderman says this about the GEIS:

“Attorney General Schneiderman led the successful challenge in 2012 to the Temporary Storage Rule because he believes that communities that serve as de facto long-term nuclear waste repositories deserve a full and detailed accounting of the environmental, public health, and safety risks. Unfortunately, he believes that the Waste Confidence DGEIS, as presented, fails to provide such a full and detailed accounting, and therefore, fails our communities. Attorney General Schneiderman looks forward to the Commission addressing the draft�s deficiencies in this ongoing rule making process.”

So there is a lot at stake here on many levels, locally, statewide, nationally, and globally–as Fukushima has shown us most recently.

Actions to take:

Turn up at the hearing and comment.

The public comment period ends on Friday, December 20, 2013.  E-mail comments to NRC: Remember to include Docket ID NRC-2012-0246 in the subject line of written comments.
(For other ways to submit comments see “How to Comment on the Waste Confidence Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Rule.”)

Useful talking points from NIRS.

Permanent shutdown of Vermont Yankee nuke plant announced�Monticello should be next.

A key point is that the present moratorium on nuclear licensing should stay in place until credible answers and policies are in place for long term management of spent fuel.

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