Senator Boxer Reacts to NRC Vote on Dangerous Nuclear Fuel Storage
May 27, 2014
Washington, D.C. - Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued the statement below following the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) vote today to allow dangerous spent nuclear fuel to remain in reactor spent fuel pools for as long as a nuclear reactor operator wishes, rather than requiring operators to more quickly move the spent fuel to safer dry cask storage.
Senator Boxer said: "I am deeply troubled by the NRC's vote today to allow reactor operators to leave dangerous nuclear fuel in spent fuel pools for an unlimited period of time, rather than requiring them to put the fuel into safer dry cask storage. The NRC itself has raised concerns about the catastrophic consequences that a fire in a drained spent fuel pool could cause. Earlier this month, a wildfire came within a half mile of the now-closed San Onofre nuclear plant, which is storing most of its spent fuel in pools rather than in dry cask storage."
Senator Boxer introduced or co-sponsored a trio of bills with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) related to safe nuclear fuel storage, emergency preparedness and decommissioning plans at nuclear plants across the country. Senator Boxer said that the NRC's "irresponsible vote" provides further evidence for the need for this legislation.
S.2325, Dry Cask Storage Act of 2014 (Markey, Boxer, Sanders)
The Dry Cask Storage Act of 2014 would ensure that every nuclear reactor operator complies with an NRC-approved plan that would require the safe removal of spent nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pools and place that spent fuel into dry cask storage within 7 years of the time the plan is submitted to the NRC. The legislation also provides funding to help reactor licensees implement the plans and expands the emergency planning zone for non-compliant reactor operators to 50 miles.
S.2324, Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act of 2014 (Boxer, Sanders, Markey)
The Safe and Secure Decommissioning Act of 2014 would prohibit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from issuing exemptions from its emergency response or security requirements for spent fuel stored at nuclear reactors that have permanently shut down until all of the spent nuclear fuel stored at the site has been moved into dry casks, which are a more secure and safe option for storage. NRC has determined that earthquakes would be the most likely cause of a spent fuel pool failure that could result in a spontaneous fire, the release of large quantities of radiation, and widespread contamination, but has granted every request from emergency response requirements that it has ever received from a licensee of a decommissioning reactor.
S.2326, Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2014 (Sanders, Boxer, Markey)
The Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Act of 2014 would ensure that states and local communities have a meaningful role in the crafting and preparation of decommissioning plans for retired nuclear plants located in those areas. The bill also requires NRC to publicly and transparently approve or reject every proposed decommissioning plan, which it currently is not required to do.