WHITE PLAINS, NY - July 14 - Today, one day before officials from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting to discuss Entergys dry cask spent fuel storage proposal for the Indian Point nuclear power plant, member organizations from the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition held a press conference urging the federal agency and the Entergy corporation to come up with a better plan for storing the existing irradiated (spent) fuel onsite. According to the coalition, the primary focus should be on 1) halting the production of the deadly waste fuel, which is one of the immediate benefits of reactor shutdown, and 2) implementing a safer and more secure system of storing the existing irradiated fuel in wet and dry onsite storage systems. The press conference is taking place just days after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dealt a major setback to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada dimming hopes for permanent off-site disposal of Indian Points spent nuclear fuel waste.
National experts and representatives from IPSEC member groups will address the NRC at tomorrow nights public meeting at which the NRC will first provide a general overview of the general licensing process for interim storage of spent nuclear fuel in proposed independent spent fuel storage at the Indian Point nuclear plant. The July 15th meeting will begin at 6pm and take place at the Crystal Bay Restaurant adjacent to the Charles Point Marina in Peekskill, NY.
Entergys controversial dry cask storage proposal has raised a number of questions pertaining to safety and security. To better safeguard the irradiated fuel which is classified as high level radioactive waste and is extremely deadly the IPSEC coalition has issued a policy plan recommending several necessary improvements to the storage systems. Among the recommendations is that Entergy move all the spent fuel older than 5 years into hardened dry cask storage and reconfigure the pools to a lower density.
A Permanent Nuclear Waste Dump on the Banks of the Hudson River: According to the Department of Energy, Yucca Mountains planned capacity will only accept about 70 percent of the spent fuel projected for Indian Point. The proposed dry cask storage system for Indian Point may not be as temporary as Entergy, the NRC and the DOE would like the public to believe. In reality the dry cask storage facility could become the home to Indian Points high level radioactive waste. Unless the plant ceases operation thereby halting the production of the spent nuclear fuel waste the temporary system will become permanent. If Yucca Mountains future is bleak and its capacity cannot accommodate the waste stored at IP, why should the public accept Indian Points continued operation let alone 20 additional years associated with license renewal?
POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS TO BETTER SAFEGUARD THE SPENT FUEL ALREADY PRESENT ONSITE AT INDIAN POINT
Among the recommendations that Riverkeeper and other member organizations within the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition will make at the NRCs public meeting are the following:
1 In general terms, Entergy must replace the proposed storage system with a more robust system designed to contain and isolate radiation and repel terrorist attacks. Such a system would diminish the risks associated with irradiated waste fuel storage by separating it into small batches, thereby eliminating the danger of one of the worst possible nuclear disasters a fuel pool fire.
2 Entergy must move the irradiated fuel older than five years which represents much of the fuel in the pools into hardened dry cask storage. Stored in hardened dry casks and dispersed and shielded appropriately, the irradiated fuel is less vulnerable to an irradiated fuel fire triggered by accident, sabotage or terrorist attack.
3 Entergy must reduce the density of the fuel assemblies within the irradiated fuel pools. The current spacing between fuel assemblies is dangerously close which increases the probability of an irradiated fuel fire and the likelihood that the fire would engulf more irradiated fuel and release greater amounts of radioactivity. As recommended by scientists and engineers who have studied this issue carefully, the remaining irradiated fuel assemblies in the pool must be reconfigured so that the density is reduced and there is more space in between each assembly. It does not appear that Entergy intends to re-rack its pools in such a way.
4 Entergy must use a more robust cask that will be less vulnerable to acts of terrorism. The Holtec Hi-Storm 100 cask that Entergy proposes to use is one of the cheaper and least robust models. In addition, critics within the NRC and the industry have warned that the Holtecs quality assurance program is shoddy and their casks fraught with manufacturing and design flaws that can be particularly problematic at the time of transport.
5 Entergy must employ structural security measures such as soil berms, beamhenge (steel cable system), above-ground bunkers, and containment buildings to protect the dry casks. Entergys proposal involves storing the casks on an open concrete storage pad with no overhead protection. Soil berms, above-ground bunkers and containment buildings can be used to shield the casks from line-of-sight so that the casks are not as vulnerable to acts of terrorism involving hand-held weaponry (i.e. anti-tank missiles) or aircraft.
6 Entergy must construct a robust, containment structure over the irradiated fuel pools. The buildings that currently house each irradiated fuel pool at Indian Point do not serve as containment; nor are they fortified structures capable of repelling a terrorist attack.
7 Entergy must design the hardened dry cask storage system based upon the latest seismic hazard data for the Ramapo Fault, above which Indian Point sits. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is a leader in this research.
8 Entergy must ensure that the wet pool storage can withstand an earthquake along the Ramapo Fault based upon the latest seismic hazard data from LDEO.
Members of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition will also raise concerns about the Department of Energys proposed high-level waste repository at Yucca Mountain which continues to face a number of legal and scientific challenges and will unlikely open before 2015. At present, Yucca Mountains planned capacity will only accept 24 years of shipments from Indian Point, which DOE acknowledges would only take about 70 percent of the spent fuel projected for Indian Point. If Yucca Mountains capacity cannot accommodate the waste stored at IP, why should the public accept Indian Points continued operation let alone 20 additional years associated with license renewal?
Finally, Indian Points site specific characteristics warrant a formal proceeding in which citizens and public interest groups can participate. If Entergy has nothing to hide than it should support a formal hearing process. Only informal meetings are planned which excludes open discovery, presentation of intervener witnesses, and cross examination of licensee evidence and witnesses. Entergy should support a formal hearing process given Indian Points site specific characteristics.