Hearing Of Indian Point Spent Fuel Contentions Suspended

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Contentions involving spent-fuel storage, which challenge Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants' 20-year license extension, will be temporarily suspended.
Contentions involving spent-fuel storage, which challenge Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants' 20-year license extension, will be temporarily suspended. Photo Credit: Art Cusano

BUCHANAN, N.Y. — Challenges to the way spent nuclear fuel is stored at Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants will be temporarily suspended while other contentions against the plants’ 20-year license extension are parsed out in evidentiary hearings beginning in October.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), the adjudicatory arm of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), announced the suspension of hearing spent fuel-related contentions after a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision struck down the NRC’s spent-fuel storage rule, known as the Waste Confidence Rule, in June.

The Court of Appeals said the Waste Confidence Rule did not satisfy legal requirements for review of health, safety and environmental impacts when it ruled nuclear power plants could store spent nuclear fuel on-site for 60 years after the plants’ closure, and said a geologic repository would be available “when necessary,” despite the fact that no such repository is being actively considered.

The storage of spent nuclear fuel is not normally considered in license renewal proceedings.

“We look at spent fuel pools, dry cask storage in the course of our regular inspections,” said Neil Sheehan, spokesperson for the NRC.

Despite the fact that contentions hearing spent-fuel storage are being temporarily suspended, the ASLB’s announcement prompted reaction from environmental organizations challenging the plants’ 20-year license extension.

“It’s a long-overdue step forward for the NRC to have finally acknowledged the egregious spent-fuel situation and to stop excluding it from relicensing decisions,” said Manna Jo Greene, environmental director at Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Clearwater is a joint petitioner with the New York State Attorney General and Riverkeeper to a contention filed July 9.

Acceptance of a similar contention by Clearwater involving storage of spent nuclear fuel was denied by the NRC in 2009. The agency cited that it had not yet completed a review of its waste confidence decision.

In Tuesday's announcement of the suspension of final decision of license renewals, the NRC wrote: “Because of the recent court ruling striking down our waste confidence provisions, we are now considering all available options for resolving the waste confidence issue.”

“We have not yet determined a course of action,” the NRC continued.  

“We have the pools, which we've maintained, and we've begun moving fuel from the pools to casks where they are stored on-site,” said Entergy spokesperson Jim Steets. Spent fuel will be moved into the pools during upcoming refueling of Indian Point Unit 3. One-third of each plant’s 15-foot nuclear fuel assemblies are replaced every 18-24 months, continuously creating tons of new spent nuclear fuel.

“We would expect to be able to continue safely storing spent fuel pools until the federal government meets its obligations to take it,” said Steets.

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Comments (9)

Clutz buff rap...if you are going to call people names than have the nerve to use your real name. There are pros and cons to Indian Point. I have no issue if they closed it down but will that put the onous of the increased taxes on the local tax payers? If the state chooses to shut it down they need to step in and fill the gap on those taxes we will loose otherwise it will be those in the area who will pay 50%+ more in taxes to live here

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Yo! Wonky dudes! Get a life, man. Sounds like you two are on Entergy's payroll? Who wants a nuke plant in our background with constant safety violations? I like my kids, and I don't want them to glow in the dark. Shut it down. 'Nuff said.

Would you rather commit tens of thousands of acres to wind farms or solar farms.

Perhaps, you would prefer a coal burning powerplant in Indian Points place?

Or would you rather go off the grid completely and rely on candles for light and fire for heat?

Would you like to see your electric bill triple or quadruple as more and more nuclear plants are shut down and there are no replacement plants that can supply the power demands our society has?

Seriously, everyone complains about nuclear power, but the alternatives are worse. It's not like the radioactive materials that fuel the plants are man-made, they are naturally occurring isotopes that are spun in a centrifuge to concentrate the materials that are useful in this purpose. And it's not like nuclear energy is not the most scrutinized industry by a huge margin. If the same scrutiny were placed on the particulates that rain down on the surrounding population around a coal powered plant, it would without question be shut down.

The government proposed, funded and built a 33 Billion dollar spent fuel facility (Yucca Mountain) only to close it down for political reasons. This geological repository is a safe, long-term solution that was shut down because of NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) politics only AFTER tens of billions of dollars was injected into the state economy.

I have no problem with people complaining about nuclear power, but propose a VIABLE alternative. Everyone loves to throw around "green" or "renewable" as the alternative, but once you actually run the calculations to figure out how much space and cost is required to maintain the same generating capacity....well, it is neither green, nor renewable.

And for the few areas that have constructed wind farms and solar farms, we have to hear about how it affects the bird population, or creates a new micro-climate, or how ugly the turbines/solar panels are.

Some people are just never happy with any solution. Come up with something viable, cost effective, maintainable, safe and has a low impact on the environment and surrounding area...until you can find something better, nuclear power is as good as it gets.

Not on any payroll.

I am on the side of: do not tell me all the good you will do while stealing my money as has been done with so many Federal and State promises that NEVER materialize.

We need to fear what all fossil fueled electric generation emits into the air we ALL breath. That is where the real worry should reside.

If the risk criteria of the "safety violations" applied to nuclear plants were applied to everyday things you use you would never leave your home.

I find great interest in the fact that nuclear energy naysayers have skillfully brought spent fuel as a relicensing issue, an issue that the power plant owners have no control over.

We have a Federal Government who has reneged on its Lawful Obligation to take the spent fuel from the power plant owners.

You and I paid $33 billion to the Federal Government in our electric bills for building facilities to accept spent fuel.

A spent fuel facility was built with your money – the present Secretary of Energy shut the facility down without reason, the current USNRC then walked away from its Lawful Obligations to continue the facility licensing process.

Hence we face an egregious situation brought about by a political Class whose only object is to obstruct and deny. This Class presents no alternative that offers society the energy it needs, can afford, and that does not defile our environment or chase meaningful work to other countries.

All nuclear power plants have spent fuel that they must store. This, in my view is one of the biggest challenges that must be dealt with nationally and globally. That, and the installation of cooling towers to protect the Hudson and other waterways. The security of the power plants should also be of paramount concern. I would like to see the licensing period reduced to five years from 20, to prompt more frequent reviews and inspections and due diligence on the part of the private owners and the government oversight agencies. Or, if Entergy and other private industry companies cannot take the ethical and correct steps to maintain Indian Point and make necessary changes and improvements because of profit concerns, perhaps the nuclear industry should be taken over by the state or federal government to ensure proper maintenance and upgrades,

Nuclear energy accounts for a significant percentage of the area's energy, including New York City. It is my hope that these issues will be addressed to ensure that the area can continue with environmentally protective and cost effective energy. We should continue to explore and develop solar and wind energy; however, at present these forms are not affordable or widely available, and I doubt they will ever entirely replace nuclear energy. In addition, we should address safe and clean ways to tap into our vast supply of natural gas, and avoid the current "fracking" method. There is much to do in the area of energy and I feel confident that Governor Cuomo and President Obama will make this a priority.

Meanwhile, nuclear energy is essential to the American way of life, not to mention the global necessity to use nuclear power in peaceful and constructive ways, and should not be taken off the table. Reasonable people --citizens, elected officials and corporate owners, should work toward the components that will comprise a workable solution.

There is no safe place to store this radioactive poison that remains toxic for thousands of years. Time to shut down Indian Point for good.

Clutz buff rap:, there is a safe place to store this stuff, it is called Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Oh , wait can't do that. After spending over 80 billion dollars on this facility, Obama closed it., with out even opening it. Thank you Mr President and please don't forget Harry Reid's part in this also. .