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Riverkeeper Assails NRC Report on Nuclear Safety

Task Force Fails to Address Nuclear Waste Storage Risk and Inadequacy of 10 Mile Evacuation Zone

Based on our initial review of the NRC’s “Near Term Task Force Review of Insights from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident”, Riverkeeper finds that the report fails to address critical safety issues regarding nuclear waste storage, and recommends continuing to renew nuclear plant’s licenses despite finding significant, urgent safety and emergency planning issues that need to be addressed immediately.

“The NRC continues to ignore not one, but two 800 lb gorillas in the room, namely the fundamental risk posed by poorly protected spent fuel pools overfilled with highly radioactive nuclear waste, and the patent inadequacy of a 10 mile emergency evacuation zone for Indian Point,” said Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director at Riverkeeper. “The Task Force also found that because a Fukushima type event is “unlikely to happen in the United States,” relicensing of old nukes like Indian Point should continue unabated – well, the Japanese thought before March 11, 2011 that such an accident was unlikely in Japan, and look where we are today.”

The Task Force gave 12 recommendations to the NRC Commissioners in the report, which ranged from updating regulations to further reviewing emergency planning exercises. While many of these recommendations would improve safety in the long run, they fail to address the public’s fundamental concerns about Indian Point’s location, terrible operating history and 1500 tons of nuclear waste sitting in unsecured, leaking spent fuel pools.

The following are just a few examples of critical safety issues identified in the NRC report that support immediately suspending license renewals, but have not been acted upon:

  • The NRC’s system for receiving critical technical data from nuclear reactors during an emergency relies largely on antiquated telephone modems transmitting data from reactor sites to NRC Headquarters near Washington DC – this method of transmitting data is vulnerable to failure during a natural disaster and vulnerable to cyber-attack because it relies on external phone links.
  • Current emergency planning requirements do not address multi –unit accidents happening simultaneously, and computer modeling software relied upon to predict radiation exposure to the public is incapable of predicting radioactive dispersal from multi- reactor events.
  • Riverkeeper will conduct a detailed review of the Task Force Report in the next few days, and post a full response on, . Riverkeeper is also continuing to prepare its legal challenge to Indian Point’s relicensing, with formal hearings tentatively scheduled for early 2012.

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