Stakeholders put Nuclear Regulatory Commission on notice over nuclear reactor renewals


January 12, 2010

What’s  New


Pilgrim Watch, joined by nine state and national organizations, filed comments today on the proposed revision to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) on reactor license renewal.

In order to “streamline” the process of relicensing nuclear reactors for an additional 20 years, the NRC has created a “generic” framework of issues they will consider, applicable to all reactor sites. The original version was created in 1996 and since that time, over 50 reactors have been re-licensed in the U.S.; NRC has not denied any application to date. Pilgrim’s process that began in 2006 continues.

Public Input: The NRC held only six meetings nationwide to allow public input to this process.  The meeting for Region 1 was held in Newton Massachusetts. However the (2) reactors remaining for license renewal in Region 1 are located in Seabrook NH and Pennsylvania. Therefore it was not surprising that only 3 citizens attended the meeting.

What’s wrong: Pilgrim Watch contends that the Draft incorrectly determined contrary to NRC’s own definition of “small impact” that the environmental impact of some issues was “small” when it clearly should have been “moderate to large;” and wrongly categorized several issues as Category 1 instead of Category. These include, for example: human health; solid waste management, onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel and low-level waste storage and disposal; postulated and severe accidents; radionuclides released to groundwater; and decommissioning.

NRC justified their conclusions of a “small impact” and Category 1 designation by: (1) totally ignoring or mischaracterizing new and significant information that provided contrary evidence or “Inconvenient Truths” (example, NRC’s mischaracterization of meteorology, climatology and the National Academies’ BEIR VII report on the health effects of low dose radiation exposure); (2) referencing  guidance or industry practices, without demonstrating that they, in fact, provide “reasonable assurance” (example, SAMA and Applicant’s use of outdated computer code and uses ATMOS); and (3) referencing “safeguard” information unavailable for independent scrutiny (example on site storage spent fuel, NRC’s Updated Waste Confidence Rule).

Further, and of considerable importance, NRC incorrectly determined that emergency planning and security were outside the scope of review. They both have a potentially large impact and are site specific.

Pilgrim Watch also discussed procedural issues that impede public participation and fairness in the license renewal process.

In sum, Pilgrim Watch concluded that the Draft is a second rate job and the research analysis performed to support conclusions is third rate; thereby confidence in the NRC and this process is undermined.