Attorneys General Push for Review of Vermont Yankee

Attorneys general from Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York have joined Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell in asking the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to review the environmental impact of storing nuclear waste at the Vermont Yankee power plant.

The “Petition for Review of NRC Staff Scoping Decision” was signed by attorneys general Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, George Jepsen of Connecticut and Eric Schneiderman of New York, as well as Darren Springer, Deputy Commissioner of Vermont’s Department of Public Service (DPS).

“Federal law requires that the NRC analyze the environmental dangers of storing spent nuclear fuel at reactors that were not designed for long-term storage,” Vermont AG Sorrell said in a press release.

The petition follows last summer’s ruling, which is being lauded as a “landmark” decision by Sorrell’s office, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. decided against the longstanding “waste confidence rule” that has allowed nuclear facilities to store spent fuel without having a plan for final disposal of the waste.

Robert Alvarez of the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior policy adviser to the Secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration, told Vermont legislators in April that Vermont Yankee’s spent fuel pool holds 513 metric tons of fuel, four times as much as it was designed to hold.

“Our comments made clear,” continued Sorrell, “that the D.C. Circuit’s ruling required the NRC to address the possibility that spent nuclear fuel might stay at reactor sites for years, decades, or even centuries.”

“The NRC should fulfill its obligation,” Coakley said in a statement, “to determine the safety around longterm storage of spent fuel at nuclear facilities as we continue to urge the federal government to remove this material from our generation facilities and decommissioned sites.”

“Long term storage [of nuclear waste] has always been an issue,” New England Coalition’s (NEC) Clay Turnbull told the Advocate, noting that the NEC first petitioned the Atomic Energy Commission about its concerns regarding the waste confidence rule back in 1971.

Under the waste confidence rule, nuclear facilities have always been allowed to claim, “By the time we need to move [the spent fuel], we’ll know what to do with it,” explains Turnbull. He adds that the NEC was encouraged that the waste confidence rule was overturned by a federal appeals court last year, and sees the recent petition by the attorneys general as an action taken due to that ruling.

(Originally appeared in The Valley Advocate.)

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