NRC Seeks Public Comment on Nuclear Fuel Storage The federal agency analyzes the effects of storing spent fuel from nuclear power plants for as long as 200 years By Elaine Piniat

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is seeking public comment on a report that will analyze the effects of storing spent fuel from nuclear power plants, including Oyster Creek Generation Station, for as long as 200 years.

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will serve as an update to the NRC’s Waste Confidence Decision and Rule, the agency announced in a news release on Tuesday. The report was last updated in 2010.

“The report being made available for comment is an early effort to obtain public input about the general scope of the EIS before the NRC formally initiates the EIS “scoping” process,” the NRC said.

The EIS will include an analyses of environmental impacts related to long-term handling, storage and transportation of spent fuel. It discusses several storage scenarios including at nuclear power plants, regional storage sites or a combination of storage and reprocessing of spent fuel.

In 2010, the Waste Confidence Decision and Rule found that spent fuel can be safely managed until it undergoes final disposition but the NRC also directed staff to prepare a long-term update for extended storage of spent fuel, which will be informed by the current EIS.

Oyster Creek, which is set to close in December 2019, has more than 750 metric tons of radioactive waste stored in a spent fuel pool on site.

Janet Tauro, co-chair of Grandmothers, Mothers and More for Energy Safety (GRAMMES) said this move and the report shows that the NRC has no waste confidence.

“Waste confidence is what you do with the waste, are you confident that you could dispose of it,” she said. “There isn’t anything to do with the waste and that’s a horrifying prospect for Lacey Township and all of the Jersey Shore.”

Currently spent fuel can be stored in the pool for up to 60 years. After, it would be transferred into dry cask storage for up to 200 years, she said.

“In effect, the Jersey Shore will become a mini Yucca Mountain,” she said. “We’ll really be a permanent repository for hundreds of tons of nuclear waste. This is a horrifying prospect.”

Tauro added that the casks have a 50-year lifetime.

“So every time you move those rods, it’s very, very dangerous because they’re wrapped in this zirconium alloy cladding,” she said. “Cladding breaks down and when that breaks down, you have a meltdown.”

The storage of spent fuel would have a ”horrible environmental impact,” Tauro said, and GRAMMES is skeptical that the NRC has waste confidence and will start building more nuclear plants.

“Where they pulled this 200-year number from is a mystery,” she said. “You’re going to have this highly radioactive junk sitting in Lacey Township. What an abysmal thought. Really, shame on everyone that this has happened.”

In March, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan told Patch that the agency has done numerous studies on the safety of storing spent fuel at power reactor sites in the United States.

The commission deemed it safe to store the spent fuel in either circulating-water pools or dry casks for at least 60 years after the reactor is shut down and is assessing the environmental impacts and safety of spent fuel and high-level waste storage at nuclear power plants beyond 120 years, he said.

The report, “Background and Preliminary Assumptions for an Environmental Impact Statement- Long-Term Waste Confidence Update” can be found here. It is also attached to this story as a PDF.

To comment on the report, e-mail WCOutreach@nrc.gov or send through U.S. mail to Christine Pineda, Project Manager, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, Mailstop EBB-2B2, U.S. Nuclear Regulator Commission, Washington, DC 20555-001.

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