U.S. Senators Want Shuttered Nuclear Plants to Comply with Emergency Rules

Evening sets on the San Onofre atomic power plant in northern San Diego County, Calif. A group of U.S. Senators is asking the Nuclear Regulatory to not exempt the now-shuttered plant -- and others like it -- from emergency planning regulations.
National Journal
Douglas P. Guarino
Add to Briefcase
Douglas P. Guarino
May 2, 2014, 10:22 a.m.

A group of Sen­ate Demo­crats is ur­ging the U.S. Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion to stop ex­empt­ing re­cently shuttered nuc­le­ar power plants from emer­gency-plan­ning and se­cur­ity reg­u­la­tions.

Re­tired nuc­le­ar power plants in the United States still have sig­ni­fic­ant amounts of nuc­le­ar waste at their sites, and likely will for the fore­see­able fu­ture, the sen­at­ors note in a Fri­day let­ter to NRC Chair­wo­man Al­lis­on Mac­far­lane.

The nuc­le­ar com­mis­sion has already ex­emp­ted 10 such plants from emer­gency rules, the sen­at­ors say, and it is ex­pec­ted to con­sider ap­plic­a­tions for sim­il­ar ex­emp­tions from at least four ad­di­tion­al sites in the near fu­ture.

“The melt­downs at Fukushi­ma il­lus­trated the need for such plan­ning [re­quire­ments], with the Ja­pan­ese gov­ern­ment or­der­ing evac­u­ations out to 12 miles and the NRC and oth­er coun­tries re­com­mend­ing evac­u­ation out to 50 miles, in part be­cause of con­cern about Fukushi­ma’s spent nuc­le­ar fuel,” the let­ter states.

“Sim­il­arly, the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, led to new and strengthened se­cur­ity reg­u­la­tions, and a court de­cision and a [Na­tion­al Academies of Sci­ence] re­port both found that spent fuel pools could not be dis­missed as po­ten­tial tar­gets for ter­ror­ist at­tacks,” ac­cord­ing to the missive.

Sen­at­or Bar­bara Box­er (D-Cal­if.), chair­wo­man of the Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee, is one of the sig­nat­or­ies to the Fri­day let­ter. Oth­ers in­clude Sen­at­ors Ed­ward Mar­key (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kirsten Gil­librand (D-N.Y.). Sen­at­or Bern­ard Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Sen­ate Demo­crats, also signed the let­ter.

The five sen­at­ors note that the com­mis­sion is cur­rently in the pro­cess of fi­nal­iz­ing a pro­posed “waste con­fid­ence” rule, in which the reg­u­lat­ory body de­clares it has con­fid­ence that nuc­le­ar waste from U.S. power plants will ul­ti­mately be dis­posed of safely, des­pite the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s can­cel­la­tion of the con­tro­ver­sial and long-delayed Yucca Moun­tain pro­ject in Nevada.

Leg­ally, the com­mis­sion must be able to de­clare such con­fid­ence in or­der for it to al­low any nuc­le­ar power plants to op­er­ate. The com­mis­sion has stalled li­cens­ing de­cisions for all new and ex­ist­ing plants un­til it is able to fi­nal­ize the rule, a pri­or ver­sion of which was thrown out by a fed­er­al ap­pel­late court.

In their new let­ter, the sen­at­ors note that in its latest pro­pos­al, the com­mis­sion bases its de­clar­a­tion of waste con­fid­ence “in part on the as­ser­tion that emer­gency pre­pared­ness and se­cur­ity reg­u­la­tions re­main in place dur­ing de­com­mis­sion­ing.” The law­makers are con­cerned that, at the same time, the com­mis­sion is for­go­ing those very reg­u­la­tions at nu­mer­ous de­com­mis­sioned sites.

Mean­while, NRC staff is also re­com­mend­ing that the com­mis­sion not re­quire power plant op­er­at­ors to ac­cel­er­ate the trans­fer of nuc­le­ar waste from spent fuel pools in­to dry cask stor­age. Some ex­perts ar­gue dry cask stor­age is safer, and it would de­crease the pos­sib­il­ity of a cata­stroph­ic ra­dio­act­ive fire in the event of an ac­ci­dent or ter­ror­ist at­tack.

The let­ter iden­ti­fies the re­cently shuttered San Ono­fre Nuc­le­ar Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion, loc­ated near San Diego, as one that the sen­at­ors ex­pect will soon be on the NRC dock­et for pos­sible ex­emp­tion from emer­gency-plan­ning re­quire­ments. The plant closed last year fol­low­ing a con­tro­versy in which South­ern Cali­for­nia Edis­on had ini­tially sought to keep the fa­cil­ity run­ning with de­fect­ive parts.

Box­er earli­er this year threatened to sue the Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion for with­hold­ing doc­u­ments re­lated to the San Ono­fre con­tro­versy.

The Fri­day let­ter also iden­ti­fies the Ke­waunee Power Sta­tion near Green Bay, Wis., the Crys­tal River Nuc­le­ar Power Plant near Tampa, Fla., and the Ver­mont Yan­kee Nuc­le­ar Power Sta­tion near Brat­tle­boro, Vt., as the three oth­er sites at which the Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion may soon con­sider ex­emp­tions.

What We're Following See More »
STARTS LEGAL FUND FOR WH STAFF
Trump to Begin Covering His Own Legal Bills
1 days ago
THE DETAILS
DISCUSSED THE MATTER FOR A NEW BOOK
Steele Says Follow the Money
1 days ago
STAFF PICKS

"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."

Source:
BRITISH PUBLICIST CONNECTED TO TRUMP TOWER MEETING
Goldstone Ready to Meet with Mueller’s Team
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"The British publicist who helped set up the fateful meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016 is ready to meet with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's office, according to several people familiar with the matter. Rob Goldstone has been living in Bangkok, Thailand, but has been communicating with Mueller's office through his lawyer, said a source close to Goldstone."

Source:
SPEAKING ON RUSSIAN STATE TV
Kislyak Says Trump Campaign Contacts Too Numerous to List
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said on Wednesday that it would take him more than 20 minutes to name all of the Trump officials he's met with or spoken to on the phone. ... Kislyak made the remarks in a sprawling interview with Russia-1, a popular state-owned Russian television channel."

Source:
“BLOWING A SURE THING”
Sabato Moves Alabama to “Lean Democrat”
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login