Riverkeeper: Citizen Groups File Petition to Halt NRC 'Cut and Paste' Relicensing Review

January 3, 2008
12:37 PM

CONTACT: Riverkeeper
Renee Cho, Riverkeeper 914-478-4501 x. 239
Richard Webster, Eastern Environmental Law Center, 973-353-3189
Janet Tauro, STROC, 732-295-3874

Citizen Groups File Petition to Halt NRC 'Cut and Paste' Relicensing Review
NRC Rubberstamping of Applications Threatens Public Health and Safety

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - January 3 - Today, Riverkeeper joined regional and national nuclear watchdog groups in petitioning the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to suspend current license renewal proceedings for the Indian Point, Oyster Creek, Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee nuclear power plants until an objective and independent investigation is conducted into the current license renewal process.

This petition is in direct response to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit in September 2007 which found:

1) The NRC staff failed to verify the authenticity of technical safety information in over 97% of the renewal applications audited by OIG; and

2) NRC staff reviewers routinely ‘cut and pasted’ whole sections of the renewal application text into their own safety reviews, rather than write their own evaluations.

At the Ginna nuclear power plant in upstate New York, the Inspector General found that NRC staff had copied 100% of the safety review data provided by the nuclear operator into its own safety evaluation, without providing any evidence that the information in the application had been properly verified.

Most recently, Entergy Nuclear Northeast submitted its application for a twenty-year license extension of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Riverkeeper and New York State have petitioned to intervene in the relicensing proceedings, raising a number of issues ranging from safety and security to environmental impacts.

“For years, Riverkeeper has been gravely concerned about the NRC’s lackluster approach to regulating the nuclear industry,” notes Lisa Rainwater, Riverkeeper’s Policy Director. “The results of the NRC Inspector General’s internal investigation confirm what Riverkeeper and other nuclear watchdog groups have been saying all along--the NRC is rubberstamping license renewal applications and failing to verify that these plants will be run safely during a twenty-year license extension. This cavalier approach to public safety must end.”

Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, environmental groups are battling to prevent a twenty-year license extension of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant located in Tom’s River, New Jersey. The OIG report noted that over 70% of Oyster Creek’s safety evaluation was ‘unsubstantiated’ by NRC staff. Incredibly, the Oyster Creek Atomic Safety and Licensing Board panel rejected the petitioners’ challenge on December 18, thereby allowing the relicensing of Oyster Creek to proceed. Two members of the Board ignored clear evidence showing that the Oyster Creek reactor does not comply with its safety requirements, while the third said relicensing could proceed even though he could not be sure whether the safety requirements are being met.

Richard Webster of the Eastern Environmental Law Center, the attorney representing the coalition Stop the Relicensing of Oyster Creek (STROC) stated, “The OIG report confirms that the deficiencies we found through the hearing process for Oyster Creek were only the tip of the iceberg. The NRC is illegally allowing licensees to write their own safety evaluations. So far, the relicensing process has been a conveyor belt to a rubber stamp, not a proper review.”

The group’s emergency petition demands that the NRC suspend current license renewal proceedings for Indian Point, Oyster Creek, Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee, pending completion of the following actions:

* A comprehensive, independent investigation to determine whether NRC staff are actually conducting independent technical reviews of license renewal applications or merely ‘cutting and pasting’ whole sections of the applications into their safety reviews and approving them without independent verification;
* Revision of the safety reviews for Oyster Creek and other plants in accordance with the new standards; and
* Independent verification by the Commissioners of whether the revised NRC Staff safety reviews actually provide sufficient basis for the legally required safety findings the Commission has to make.

“The OIG report makes it clear that the current NRC license renewal process is a failure, and must be completely re-evaluated before another plant is relicensed,” states Phillip Musegaas, Riverkeeper staff attorney. “The Indian Point license renewal process has just gotten underway. The twenty million people who live in the shadow of Indian Point deserve nothing less than a comprehensive review that scrutinizes Entergy’s plans for safely operating Indian Point in the future. Maintaining the status quo of recycling the same information from application to approval is unacceptable.”

Riverkeeper co-petitioned with Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS); Jersey Shore Nuclear Watch, Inc.; Grandmothers, Mothers And More For Energy Safety; New Jersey Public Interest Research Group; New Jersey Sierra Club; New Jersey Environmental Federation; Pilgrim Watch; and the New England Coalition. The petition can be found at: www.riverkeeper.org.

The complete NRC report can be found on the OIG website, at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/insp-gen/2007/; click on “OIG-07-A-15.”

Riverkeeper is an independent member-supported environmental organization that has led the campaign to retire Indian Point. Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect the Hudson River, the New York City drinking water supply, and the public’s right to clean water and healthy communities. For more information, please visit www.riverkeeper.org