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Vermont Attorney General And Department Of Public Service, Joined By New York Attorney General, File Comments To The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission On The Need For A Comprehensive Environmental Review Of The Storage Of Spent Nuclear Fuel

CONTACT: William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, (802) 828-3171

January 3, 2013

Attorney General William H. Sorrell and the Vermont Department of Public Service, joined by the New York Attorney General, filed Comments to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) yesterday calling for a comprehensive environmental review of the impacts of storing spent nuclear fuel onsite at nuclear power plants. “The NRC owes a legal obligation to the public to engage in a full and thorough review of the environmental impacts of storing spent nuclear fuel at reactors that were never designed to be long-term storage facilities,” said Attorney General Sorrell.

“After nearly three decades of failing to adequately address the nuclear waste storage issue, the NRC has the opportunity and responsibility to address the issue in a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement,” said Christopher Recchia, Commissioner of the Vermont Public Service Department. “Vermont is extremely interested in seeing the NRC do this right, and in yesterday’s filings we lay out a course of action the NRC should take to ensure the storage and disposal issue is fully and finally addressed, and to ensure Vermont has a meaningful role in those discussions as the NRC drafts the Environmental Impact Statement as ordered by Federal Court,” Recchia said.

The NRC is soliciting comments on this issue as a result of a successful lawsuit brought by Vermont, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and other groups. In a landmark ruling last summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (D.C. Circuit) agreed with the states that the NRC’s previous environmental reviews were inadequate and vacated them. The court held that the NRC “can and must assess the potential environmental effects” of the federal government’s failure to secure a long-term permanent storage facility. In yesterday’s filing, Vermont, joined by New York, argues that the NRC’s proposed environmental analysis fails to comply with the D.C. Circuit’s ruling on multiple grounds.

“Until the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, the NRC licensed and relicensed nuclear reactors on the assumption that the federal government would take away all of the spent fuel from each reactor site at some defined time, so the NRC never looked at the possibility that the fuel might stay there for years, decades, or even centuries,” Attorney General Sorrell said. The comments submitted by Vermont and joined by New York make clear that under the court’s decision the NRC now has to face that reality and undergo the full environmental analysis it should have done many years ago. The comments also argue that, in doing that analysis, the NRC has to consider whether licensing and relicensing reactors makes sense in light of the long-term environmental impacts of onsite spent fuel storage.

Attorney General Sorrell applauded New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s decision to join these comments. “I am pleased that General Schneiderman agrees with our office and the Department of Public Service that the NRC must do a better job this time around,” said Attorney General Sorrell. “This sends a strong signal to the NRC that our states are following this issue closely,” Sorrell continued.

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