NRC Rushing Nuclear "Waste Confidence" Process
Despite over sixty years of operation, no country in the world has found a credible, long-term solution to deal with its nuclear waste problems. The accumulation of high-level radioactive waste in spent fuel ponds poses serious safety risks and has resulted in the court ordering the Nuclear Regulatory Agency to conduct an environmental impact statement analysis. Until that is done there can be no re-licensing of US nuclear plants. PSR joined with a wide range of national and grassroots environmental groups providing comments on the scope of study that should be required in an analysis of environmental impacts of continued on-site storage by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC). Read the press release about the attempt the NRC is making to short change the process.
A Continuum of Accidents and Deficient Safety Culture
- The history of nuclear power is one pock-marked by a deficient safety culture, nonexistent waste solutions, repeated unintentional radiation releases, and both major and minor accidents.
- Proponents have revised initial claims of an “inherently safe” technology in the aftermath of catastrophic incidents such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, to now assert total resolution to any and all previous safety problems.
- A look beyond those two accidents, though, shows a continuum of accidents across six decades that reflect nuclear’s fundamentally unsafe nature.
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Huge Risks for Terrorism and Proliferation
- Nuclear reactors are a risk for terrorist attack. In the final 9/11 Commission Report, Mohammed Atta said that he had considered targeting a nuclear facility in the New York area.
- More than seven years after 9/11, and despite Atta’s statements, existing nuclear reactors are not required to be protected against air attack.
- Moreover, repeated incidents that show an epidemic of undertrained and overworked security guards clearly indicate that the security of nuclear reactors and radioactive materials are questionable.
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Waste: Eternally Unresolved
- Waste is the Achilles heel of the nuclear industry. Despite 60 plus years of operation, no country in the world has found a credible, long-term solution to deal with its nuclear waste problems.
- The accumulation of high-level waste in spent fuel ponds or interim storage sites and the dumping of so-called ‘low-level’ radioactive waste into shallow landfills pose serious safety risks.
- Reprocessing is No Waste Solution: Reprocessing spent nuclear fuel in order to access the plutonium which accounts for about 1% of it, leaves behind 99% of highly radioactive waste to kick down the road. Reprocessing is also prohibitively expensive and poses serious proliferation risks by separating the bomb-ready plutonium from irradiated spent fuel.
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Aging Reactors: Snap, Crackle, Pop?
- Old reactors in the U.S. continue to be relicensed for 20 more years. With age, wear, and tear, these sites risk unintentional releases and leaks of radioactive material, breakdowns, and malfunctions.
New Reactor Designs: New Problems?
- New reactor designs presented as “advanced” and “inherently safe” in the push to acquire loan guarantees for “innovative technologies” appear to have only minor improvements from the standard Light Water Reactor design and raise new safety concerns related to waste, containment structures, and thermal output.