2010-01-13 NRC plays "shell game" with safety issues

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace filed comments on the NRC Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement which streamlines nuclear power plant license extensions.

NEWS RELEASE For Immediate Release January 13, 2010 Contact: Jane Swanson, spokesperson
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San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace accuses the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of playing a “shell game” with safety issues in its proposal to streamline license renewals for aging nuclear plants.

On January 12, 2010, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (SLOMFP) filed comments on a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proposal to “simplify and streamline” utility applications for nuclear power plant license extensions. The NRC’s intent is to cut costs and time in the review process.

The NRC, in its Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) for License Renewal of Nuclear Plants proposes to lump together numerous issues as “generic”, meaning the standard would be the same for all nuclear plants. Some other issues would have to be examined at each specific site.

The NRC also identifies some problems that it will not address in considering applications for relicensing. In a shell game of regulation, the NRC excludes from its consideration a number of issues that have major impacts on public safety. The NRC says it “is confident that there will eventually be a licensed high-level waste repository”. It continues to promote the myth that Yucca Mountain will be available to accept high-level waste from nuclear facilities. SLOMFP counters that, "Optimistic assumptions are not an acceptable basis for allowing the continued generation of high-level wastes that will need to be stored in isolation from the biosphere for many thousands of years. No known human civilization has remained intact for even a fraction of the length of time radioactive wastes will remain toxic. A more realistic assumption is that there is no way to assure adequate safeguarding of nuclear wastes.

"The effects of terrorist attacks have also been excluded, even though all nuclear facilities are identified as targets of terrorists by the NRC, Homeland Security and other federal agencies. The obvious fact that a successful terrorist attack has the potential for catastrophic consequences for the environment, land use and human health is ignored.

The NRC gives little attention to seismology in its proposal except to reassure the public that the two California plants “have been designed to safely withstand the seismic effects associated with earthquakes…” and it classifies the issue as generic. SLOMFP contends that the geology throughout the country is too diverse to legitimately review this issue generically. The recent discovery of the Shoreline Fault, less than one mile offshore of the Diablo Canyon plant, clearly demonstrates the NRC’s faulty reasoning.

The NRC does not propose to hold these reactors, built four or more decades ago, to the same safety standards as those that it proposes for new plants. SLOMFP asserts that "If the new reactor standards are deemed necessary to protect human health and the environment, then such standards should be applied to any reactor given permission to operate beyond its original license."

BACKGROUND

Of the 104 nuclear plants currently operating in the U.S., 32 have completed the application process for license renewals and 12 more, including Diablo Canyon, have applications under review. Many plants, like Diablo Canyon, have more than one reactor. No application for license renewal has been turned down by the NRC.

The San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace "9-page comments": http://mothersforpeace.org/data/20100112comments-to-nrc filed Jan. 12, 2010.

Access to the draft EIS can be found on the "NRC website": http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr1437/r1/v1/sr1437r1v1.pdf

"IEER Comments":http://mothersforpeace.org/data/20091030IEER-comments on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Rulemaking Regarding the "Safe Disposal of Unique Waste Streams Including Significant Quantities of Depleted Uranium'" by Arjun Makhijani October 30, 2009

"Comments":http://mothersforpeace.org/data/20090206makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Proposed Waste Confidence Rule Update and Proposed Rule Regarding Environmental Impacts of Temporary Spent Fuel Storage by Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D. President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research 6 February 2009

"Environmental Impacts of Storing Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Waste from Commercial Nuclear Reactors: A Critique of NRC's Waste Confidence Decision and Environmental Impact Determination": http://mothersforpeace.org/data/20090206thompson by Gordon R. Thompson 6 February 2009

"ASSESSING RISKS OF POTENTIAL MALICIOUS ACTIONS AT COMMERCIAL NUCLEAR FACILITIES: The Case of a Proposed Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation at the Diablo Canyon Site": http://mothersforpeace.org/data/20070627thompson by Gordon R. Thompson 27 June 2007

"Risks and Risk-Reducing Options Associated with Pool Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel at the Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plants": http://mothersforpeace.org/data/20060525thompson by Gordon R. Thompson 25 May 2006