The Coalition of Nuclear Communities is a group of concerned communities who either host a nuclear power plant within their town or live within the evacuation area of a power plant. It is our hope that by banding together we can be a strong voice for nuclear safety. Since the U.S. government has failed to meet its promises or obligation to build a national depository for our nuclear waste, our communities are being turned into nuclear waste dumps.
The president’s own blue ribbon commission says that any new national nuclear waste storage facility will take decades to build. The private companies running nuclear plants are not building dry cask storage units to keep pace with the waste. We’re running out of time.
We must act together to lobby Congress as a strong national force and demand that money from the Nuclear Waste Fund be released to build on-site dry-cask storage to safely secure spent fuel rods. This money belongs to the taxpaying citizens of these nuclear communities and should be used to minimize their safety risk to dangerous radioactive materials.
In addition to dangerous overcrowding, many pools in the United States do not have steel-lined concrete barriers and are subject to leaks and corrosion. Many do not have emergency back-up generators to keep the pool cool in case power is lost. About half of the country’s nuclear reactors are in earthquake zones. Moving spent fuel rods greater than five years old will increase safety at power plants and free up much-needed capacity in the pools.
Currently the Nuclear Waste Fund can only be used to establish a federal facility. It cannot be used for on-site safety storage. To change that would take an act of Congress. The Coalition for Nuclear Communities will ask Congress to amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to provide immediate funds to local communities from the Nuclear Waste Fund to build on-site hardened dry cask storage.
As of today, more than 65,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste is stored at nuclear reactors across the country. (See map at www.nei.org/filefolder/Used_Nuclear_Fuel_Map_2010.jpg) About 75% of these spent fuel rods are stored in pools onsite at these nuclear reactors in the heart of many communities. Twenty-five percent are in dry cask storage. There are more than 30 million such rods in spent fuel pools at nuclear power plants in communities across the country.
Since the first commercial nuclear generator, the Shippingport Reactor in Pennsylvania become operational in 1957, the U.S. has had to deal with the specter of commercially-generated nuclear spent fuel rods. But it wasn’t until decades later, and dozens of new nuclear plants later that Congress attempted to address this issue.
In 1982, the federal government passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to establish a permanent, national underground repository for high-level radioactive waste by January 31, 1998. The Act also established a Nuclear Waste Fund paid for by a consumer fee charged by utility companies. The fund collects $750 million in fee revenues each year and has an unspent balance of $25 billion.
Despite the government’s promise to remove onsite nuclear waste from power plants, as of 2011, no such national repository exists. Meanwhile, spent fuel rods continue to pile up in overcrowded storage pools not designed for overcapacity.
What’s more, money cannot be
spent by the Nuclear Waste Fund to provide onsite storage at nuclear power plants. Yet the government continues to collect this fee.
As a result, communities and hometowns across America have become, de facto, nuclear waste dumps.
Therefore, a coalition led by these nuclear communities, who are deeply impacted by the federal government’s inaction to provide a safe, national depository for radioactive spent fuel rods, will be better able to convince Congress to pass new legislation to allow money to be used from the Nuclear Waste Fund to construct dry cask storage units for local on-site storage at nuclear power plant. The cost is an estimated cost $3.5 to $7 billion over the next 10 years.