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Nuclear energy watchdog group Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility has released comments in response to a request for public input on a proposed Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) policy that would allow nuclear plants to store used nuclear fuel on site for between 60 and 300 years. The document in question is an Environmental Impact Statement for the NRC’s “Waste Confidence Decision.”

In a memo quoted by the Alliance, the NRC claims to have conducted extensive outreach on its initial plan to allow the continued storage of radioactive waste at three locations along California’s coast, meeting with “the public, State, local, and tribal governments, industry, and international counterparts.” The environmental statement addresses impacts “from approximately the years 2050 to 2250.”

“The key failing of the NRC is their assumption that the NRC’s Waste Confidence Decision and rule is itself a fait accompli,” says the Alliance. They argue that the decision to allow long-term storage of radioactive material itself should be in question, not just the method by which it will happen, asking “What makes the agency assume that leaving the waste on our seismically active shores is a viable concept for even 60 years, let alone hundreds? At what point in the process that led up to this meeting were any residents or ratepayers in California consulted regarding this matter?”

The Alliance also points out that the report was initially prepared before this year’s Fukushima disaster, the full impact of which is still being discovered and should be considered in any future policy implementation.

Further, the matter of creating, maintaining, and paying for storage facilities has always been a difficult one. The Alliance notes that nuclear facilities have experienced significant cost overruns in the past, which utilities have forced upon ratepayers. And storage of existing radioactive materials, let alone those that will continue to be produced if the state’s two nuclear facilities remain active past their current decommissioning dates (both are applying for license extensions) is also an issue. At the Diablo Canyon facility on the central coast, spent fuel pools originally designed to hold 270 spent fuel assemblies now hold 1,324, according to the Alliance, who says that Pacific Gas & Electric, the plant’s owner, “has no plans to reduce inventory to original design.”

The Alliance’s statement concludes with a request for the NRC to scrap its waste storage plans entirely, starting from square one. They want considerations to be given to the recent events in Japan, as well as the earthquake-prone nature of the west coast and the potential for significant shifts in the shape of the coastline where the power plants/storage sites are located over the next 250 years.

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