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com Lissa Weinmann, a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute, has long specialized in USCuba relations and international trade laws and has worked on a variety of domestic and international policy initiatives.. She said she thought there would be nothing tougher and more polarized than dealing with US Cuba policy but that halfcentury imbroglio pales in comparison to the equally as longlived and intractable problems surrounding nuclear waste policy. Her focus in this presentation is to briefly address what is happening nationally, how it is going to impact us locally, to raise awareness, identify the policy leaders, and spark dialog with the goal of influencing nuclear waste policy to assure a brighter future for the southeast corner of Vermont and other reactor communities with whom we share the problem of unplanned for storage of high level, super dangerous and resource consuming radioactive waste. Nuclear energy policy, from the “Atoms for Peace” program and its association with nuclear weapons is fraught with secrecy, “gag orders” and a milieu in which nuclear policy decision making is kept at the federal level, in contrast to that involving other energy sources. The policy is anachronistic, based in Cold War era thinking and does not reflect the realities of today. Even the laws that govern nuclear waste date back to the 80s. States are fighting back, fighting for a democratic voice in energy decisionmaking and protection from regulators who have lost credibility due to toocozy ties the the nuclear industry. Nine other states joined Vermont in the Entergy v. Shumlin case. 1 Momentum is building toward a total overhaul of US nuclear energy and its concomitant nuclear waste policy. Vermont and California are in the forefront. The recent Commons sponsored discussion of a “PostNuclear Economy” was “maddening” in how accepting participants were of the dictum that Entergy has two years to decide how to decommission the plant (which is true according to current rules) and of having faith in Entergy to do the right thing. The truth is that Entergy will do what is right for Entergy’s bottom line, and that may not coincide with what is best for us. This reasoning misses the mark because we can influence the current rewriting of federal nuclear waste policy such as S.1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act, which will directly impact our community. We also have an opportunity RIGHT NOT to compel regulators to execute of existing safety regulations they currently ignore and, right now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s courtordered overhaul of its the ‘waste confidence rule’ that has recklessly
New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Utah http://www.atg.state.vt.us/news/ninestatesandthenationalconferenceofstatelegislaturesjoinattorneyge neralsappealofvermontyankeecase.php
allowed radioactive waste to build up in unsustainable ways in unsuspecting communities like ours. People who care about their communities must contact the NRC to tell them they do not want radioactive waste stored in ‘spent fuel pools’ subject to problems that could quickly escalate to tragedy of incalculable proportions. People talk about “immediately decommissioning,” but that term includes different methodologies: SAFSTOR would leave the plant and the waste in place for at least 60 years; DECON would require decontamination and would not cause a break with the past by using personnel familiar with the plant to perform the work. “Decommissioning” could mean either thing. SAFSTOR may be cheaper for Entergy, in the short term 2 The important news Wednesday night is that State Rep. Mike Hebert said the “civil war” was over on plant closing, but that Vernon was undecided as what type of decommissioning would benefit the town. Vernon needs to decide and should be included in the process of education about decommissioning and nuclear waste management. After extensive studies, the Windham Regional Commission found that DECON would be preferable both because of jobs retention and so the site is cleaned up more quickly. 3 One problem is no central repository for nuclear waste and likelihood that there will not be one for the next 50 years. The spent fuel pools at Vermont Yankee are filled to beyond design specs and will reach maximum capacity within the next year or so. The original design called for storing one spent fuel core in the pool and then move it out in five years to safer dry cask storage. It is currently holding about 7 or 8 cores’ worth, an unprecedented situation we don’t really understand the implications of in terms of potential deterioration. In 1998 the federal government reneged on a central repository but nuclear reactors continued to build up unsustainably. The Yucca Mountain repository came about through a 1982 federal law. This was based on “some science, but not enough” and while there was no push back from a politically weak Nevada at the time, now, after some $12 billion has been spent, it has been found not to be a good site geologically and the state has more power to get what it wants. In 2010, the Obama administration suspended plans for Yucca Mountain and established a Blue Ribbon Commission to look at nuclear waste management. Despite public meetings around the country, in which the New England Coalition and other groups participated, which reiterated that ongoing spent storage pools were not designed for long term use, the Commission’s final recommendation “did not reflect the widespread national concerns about spent fuel pools versus safer dry cask storage.” [This year, the DC Circuit court ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) to
http://www.nrc.gov/readingrm/doccollections/factsheets/decommissioning.html cf: http://windhamregional.org/news/311vyclosure
continue with its mandate to license Yucca Mountain, despite the Administration’s position.] 4 The NRC’s contends that spent fuel pools and dry cask storage are equally safe and a court case challenged the determination, as it flies in the face of scientific findings. 5 The NRC must now grapple with the matter in its rules revision process; comments are being accepted until Nov. 27, 2013. 6 While the NRC retains the power to make rules, we need to involve ourselves in the process to make comments to the NRC. Because of the DC Circuit Court’s decision that the NRC determinations on the safety of spent fuel pools doesn’t pass the sniff test, all licensing and relicensing of plants has been halted until the NRC revisits the spent fuel pool rules. They are taking comments nationally now for a November deadline, but a slow, sober assessment is needed. Another development is Senate Bill 1240, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013, 7 in the, introduced by the US Senate Energy Committee chair, Sen. Ron Wyden [D/OR], who visited Japan in the wake of Fukushima. The Ranking Member is Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R/AK] and Sen. Bernie Sanders [I/VT] is the third ranking member of the committee. 8 (Bernie supports repeal of the PriceAnderson Act which essentially hold the US taxpayer liable for cost of a nuclear accident.)9 The bill in it’s current form promotes recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission, but ignores the commentary on the importance of relieving spent fuel pools that that Commission heard. It proposes to create a new agency the Nuclear Waste Administration but with no clear need to do so but perhaps because the NRC and the Department of Energy (DOE) have been passing the ball back and forth on this issue for many years. The bill perpetuates the notion of taxpayer responsibility standing behind the nuclear industry. In sum, this legislation simply does not go far enough and it does not address a matter of utmost importance: moving spent fuel from pools to dry casks as soon as fuel rods are cool enough to do so and relieving the overly dense storage in these pools that now exists.
In Re: Aiken County, decided August 13, 2013 http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/BAE0CF34F762EBD985257BC6004DEB18/$file/111271 1451347.pdf 5 “3 States Challenge Federal Policy on Storing Nuclear Waste,” New York Times, Feb. 15, 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/nyregion/16nuke.html?_r=2&scp=2&sq=Nuclear&st=cse& New York, et al. v. NRC, decided Jun. 8, 2012 http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/57ACA94A8FFAD8AF85257A1700502AA4/$file/111045 1377720.pdf 6 Waste Confidence—Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel; Proposed Rule 10 CFR Part 51 http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1325/ML13256A004.pdf 7 http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS113s1240is/pdf/BILLS113s1240is.pdf 8 http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/members 9 Price Anderson “ . . . plac[es] a cap, or ceiling on the total amount of liability each holder of a
nuclear power plant licensee faced in the event of an accident.” http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/funds-fs.html
Brunch with Bernie March 16, 2012 [cf. @ 7:35 min. & @ 24:13]] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TA2cuIPXXg
Republicans are not going to move on legislation until Yucca Mountain is used, but even if it opened tomorrow, it would already be full. The House has not yet introduced legislation along the lines of S. 1240. Even those in Congress who are pronuclear see nuclear waste management as a concern. The House committee to deal with this issue is the Energy and Commerce committee; Peter Welch [D/VT] is a member. 10 It is important to educate Representatives on this issue. On September 8, 2011, several members of Congress, headed by former Rep. (now Sen.) Markey [D/MA], Capps [D/CA] and Lowey [D/NY] wrote to then NRC Chairman Jaczko asking for expedited processes in the wake of Fukushima disaster. Rep. Welch’s name was noticeable by its absence on this letter. 11 Spent fuel at decommissioned Maine Yankee is stored in dry casks. Dry cask storage is safer than storage in spent fuel pools. Dry cask storage at Fukushima survived intact whereas the world is still terrified about the continued threat of a spent fuel pool collapes. A major problem with spent fuel pools is their susceptibility to loss of backup power to cool the pools in the event of a natural disaster. On the issue of dry cask storage, there are number of allies, including both former NRC Chair Gregory Jacsko, and current Chair Allison Macfarlane, as well as the National Academy of Sciences and Robert Alvarez a former DOE senior policy advisor. 12
http://energycommerce.house.gov/about/membership http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/nuclear_power/lettercongresstonrc.pdf 12 http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=11263