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Turner Environmental Law Clinic opposes rushing study on nuclear waste risks

Emory University School of Law |
On Wednesday, Emory Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic filed comments on behalf of environmental groups concerned that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is rushing a study, required by federal law, of how to safely store spent nuclear fuel.

In June 2012, in State of New York v. NRC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held "the Commission's [existing] evaluation of the risks of spent nuclear fuel is deficient" because "the Commission did not calculate the environmental effects of failing to secure permanent storage—a possibility that cannot be ignored."

The Commission says its timeline to complete the new study is two years, which three experts cited in Wednesday’s filing say is inadequate.

"The NRC has years of research to do in order to gather sufficient data regarding spent fuel degradation and transportation and handling risks. It will take a long time, potentially well over a decade, to collect the data needed to make scientifically valid impact analyses for high burnup fuel stored for long periods," according to the comments.

"The single greatest reason that the NRC will not be able to complete a scientifically valid Environmental Impact Statement and therefore issue an updated Waste Confidence Decision based on a sound environmental impact analysis is that it has not given itself enough time to conduct the necessary research and analyses to support reasonable assurance findings with respect to the safety of long-term spent fuel storage," the comments continue.

Experts quoted in the 151-page document are Arjun Makhijani, Gordon R. Thompson, and Phillip Musegaas. Makhijani is president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Thompson is executive director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies. Musegaas is Hudson River program director for Riverkeeper, Inc.

Turner Clinic Director Mindy Goldstein joined Diane Curran of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, L.L.P., in submitting the document on behalf of the following groups: Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Beyond Nuclear, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Center for a Sustainable Coast, Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, Citizens Environmental Alliance, Don’t Waste Michigan, Ecology Party of Florida, Friends of the Earth, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, NC WARN, Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, New England Coalition, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Nuclear Watch South, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, Riverkeeper, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, SEED Coalition, Sierra Club Nuclear Free Campaign, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

The filing continues the Turner Environmental Law Clinic’s watchdog efforts on behalf of environmental groups’ nuclear energy concerns.