The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, 240.462.3216   / 
Debbie Grinnell, C-10, 978.465.6646

National Coalition Urges Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Better Safeguard Radioactive Wastes at Atomic Reactors

Petitioners Cite Grave Risks of Attacks, Accidents, and Leaks


coalition of dozens of national and grassroots environmental and safe
energy organizations has filed an official petition for rulemaking with
the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) urging safety and security
upgrades on high-level radioactive waste containers. The petitioners
include national groups Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Beyond
Nuclear, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Nuclear Age Peace
Foundation, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Physicians for
Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, and SUN DAY Campaign, as well as
numerous grassroots groups across the country.

groups call upon NRC to strengthen quality assurance rules on the
design and manufacture of dry storage casks. These outdoor concrete and
steel silos are used at most atomic reactors across the country to
store irradiated nuclear fuel. The groups cite the risks of disastrous
releases of radioactivity into the air, soil, and water due to
accidents, attacks, or eventual leakage, and demand that safeguards be
strengthened. The petition is posted on the Beyond Nuclear home page,

petition for rulemaking was initiated by the C-10 Foundation, a
watchdog group based in Massachusetts within ten miles of New
Hampshire's Seabrook nuclear power station. NRC recently approved
Seabrook owner Florida Power and Light's request to install dry cask
storage. But C-10's research indicated that the NRC regulations for the
design, construction, and certification of dry storage casks are
woefully inadequate

continues to certify casks based on technical design criteria for a
twenty-year deployment, when in fact they will actually store
high-level radioactive waste on-site at reactors indefinitely, many
decades into the future," said Debbie Grinnell, C-10 Foundation
Research Assistant and author of the petition for rulemaking.

the federal government fails to protect the public against the risks
associated with high-level radioactive wastes, states will inevitably
the problem," Grinnell added. "These risks will continue on long after
the reactors are shut down and decommissioned. Funding will be needed
for generations to come to manage these forever deadly radioactive
wastes," Grinnell concluded.

The 104
operating atomic reactors across the U.S. each generate 20 to 30 tons
of irradiated nuclear fuel each year. At least 60,000 tons have
accumulated to date in the U.S. Since the indoor waste storage pools at
almost 80 of the 104 reactors are already filled to capacity, nuclear
utilities have turned to outdoor dry cask storage. More than two dozen
permanently shut down reactors, and even several completely dismantled
nuclear power plants, still store the high-level radioactive wastes
they generated on site in dry casks, since the U.S. lacks a national repository.

As of
three years ago, the most recent data readily available to the public,
nearly 800 dry casks had already been loaded at 36 nuclear power plant
sites. An additional 13 nuclear plants were poised to begin installing
dry casks. NRC estimates that by 2015, almost all operating reactors
will have established dry cask storage. Each dry cask contains over 200
times the long-lasting radioactivity released by the Hiroshima atomic

and even NRC inspectors themselves have blown the whistle on widespread
safety problems with radioactive waste storage casks around the
country," said Kevin Kamps at Beyond Nuclear in Takoma Park, Maryland.
"Yet, even despite their own safety staff warning the casks violate
codes and regulations, the NRC continues to rubberstamp approval for
their extended use. If and when these casks fail, the result could be
disastrous in terms of harm to human health and environmental