December 15, 2000

Note to readers-LEA and Susan Peterson Gateley, the author of this letter are appalled that a high level radioactive waste dump can be put on the shores of Lake Ontario with less regulatory and public oversight than a housing development. We think this project should be subject to the same rigor via an up to date Environmental Impact Statement as other lake shore projects.


Letter to the editor Dec 13 2000 meeting Sheldon Hall Oswego NY by S.P. Gateley

Dear Palladium Times,


In the late 1980s , that's back when the Republicans were reinventing government I believe, the Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act Among its provisions was a directive to develop a streamlined certification process to minimize the need for site specific NRC approvals. In 1992 the NRC complied with rulings that did just that reflecting I assume, the will of the people as expressed in Congress.(It wasn't my will but oh well, you win some, you lose some).


 As a result, public utilities can now expand the storage of high level radioactive waste in "temporary" facilities located next to their reactors without any additional consideration of economic social or environmental impacts of such an action. Nor is there any opportunity for public comment or meaningful input into this approval process. Kevin Kamp of NIRS an anti nuclear watchdog group calls this a "meltdown of the democratic process".


When the Atomic Energy Act was passed back in the 1950s at the height of the cold war, it took away local jurisdiction over nuclear safety issues. In exchange we locals were supposed to have opportunity for meaningful input through a formal hearing process in a court room setting. But with the passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy act we  lost that right regarding spent fuel storage facilities I'm no lawyer, but that sure sounds like a violation of the stated  the intent of the Atomic Energy Act. I want a recount.


Because of changes in the regulatory and business climate of the nation since the Nuclear Waste Policy act was passed we need our right for meaningful input back. Well after the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed, deregulation of electricity production began to get underway around the country. In most states it included a massive transfer of debt from nuclear plant owners to rate payers, (so called stranded cost bailouts). This suddenly made nukes vastly more profitable(See Barrons Nov 27 for more) and now many owners are seeking license extensions. Some are even considering building new nuclear plants to help combat global warming. I can only surmise as to the impact of recent record tight supplies of natural gas on the energy production  scene.


As several people pointed out in the December 13 meeting  it is no longer valid ( if it ever was) to assume dry cask storage of nuclear waste on the generator's site is going to be temporary. The centralized  permanent repository idea as exemplified by Yucca Mountain and Skull Valley  appears to be a questionable solution for political and technical reasons. One person questioned whether the projected centralized repository capacity would even be adequate give the rush to extend licenses and the possibility of new nukes coming on line. Others remarked on the failure (for political, technical or whatever  reasons) of nuclear fuel reprocessing in the 1970's saying such an outcome for the centralized repository was also possible.


The world is now very different than it was when the Atomic Energy Act was passed and when the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was made law. Relying on 40 year old impact statements to place facilities beside North America's major lakes, rivers and on our coasts where they may reside for a century (or maybe a lot longer) and be subject to sea level changes without even a comprehensive updating of the site specific evaluations is a reckless and irresponsible act. The NWPA needs to be amended to reflect the changed regulatory and business climate surrounding our nation's nuclear industry. We need to restore the legal frame work as was originally set forth in the Atomic Energy Act for third party reviews of site evaluations and for meaningful public input to this process. What Congress took away with the first NWPA can be restored. In view of the revival of the nuclear industry it is imperative that we revisit this issue and revise and update the Nuclear Waste Policy Act ASAP. Let's do it now!

PS tell Hilliary I sent you.

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