CHICAGO–  Over 140 people attended the NRC’s public meeting on its controversial “waste confidence” rule in Oak Brook, Illinois on Tuesday.  The message was very clear to NRC:  “We have NO confidence in NRC’s ‘waste confidence’ rule!”  Of the 56 registered speakers, 38 spoke out against the NRC’s proposed draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS) and proposed rule.  Of the 18 who spoke in favor, the overwhelming majority were Exelon employees (5) from nuclear power plants, or representatives from corporations, associations or government entities which financially benefit directly from nuclear power operation.  Some of those who spoke against the waste confidence rule came from as far away as St. Louis, MO, and Michigan.

NEIS info table at event
NEIS Board member Carol Kurz staffing info table at NRC meeting

NRC had not originally intended to hold a waste confidence meeting in the Chicago area.  They claimed that historically people in Illinois did not turn out to such meetings.  They instead scheduled one for Orlando, FL.  NEIS intervened, and asked both Illinois Senators Durbin and Kirk to request that Illinois be added to the list of sites.  Sen. Durbin’s office did in fact send a request.  Shortly after NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane sent a letter informing us that Illinois would indeed get a meeting.  It is interesting to note that the Orlando hearing which preceded the Chicago session had 21 people total who spoke at the Florida meeting.

A rough head count give the number of activists in attendance at at least 60 (not everyone chose to speak).  People enthusiastically signed petitions and Sierra Club Nuclear Free Campaign postcards, took literature, engaged in conversations with the pro-nuclear crowd and NRC (but, I repeat myself), and engaged in a variant of Dave Lochbaum’s “Bullshirt Bingo”, holding up No Confidence! message cards prompted by NRC language use.

The event began with an Open House exhibition, which surprisingly turned into an overflow situation.  Exhibitors from both sides of the issue attended with displays and literature.  At one booth a pro-nuclear group passed out small packets of mock “uranium pellets”.  As a humorous contrast special guest Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear was dressed in a radiation suit passing out samples of mock radioactive waste (Atomic Fireball candies), asking people to take their fair share home with NRC assurances that it would be safe for at least 60 years.

Media was virtually absent from the event.  Two radio interviews had been conducted prior to the event.  But the session itself was attended by a sole independent reporter, Kari Lydersen, and Mike Kalas of Chicago Independent Television.  At the end of the session, Kalas gave a blistering commentary aimed both at the media and the NRC about the lack of media participation.  He also pointed out that, not surprisingly, that almost all of those speaking in favor of the waste confidence rule either worked in the nuclear industry, or had direct financial benefit from it, while the overwhelming majority of those opposed did not.  A copy of Kari Lydersen’s article appeared in Midwest Energy news on Friday, November 15th.

NRC for its part did a credible and very cooperative job.  They accommodated all tabling requests without hesitation, had ample materials available in both hard copy and electronic versions, conducted a reasonably good intro session, and facilitated largely without a hitch, other than some technical problems with the microphones provided.  They were both courteous and flexible with time, but did politely inform people if they went over allotted time.  They kept the mics open until all registered speakers presented, and then opened it up to the audience for last comments.  They ended the meeting – scheduled to end at 10 p.m. — shortly after 11 p.m.

Pictures will soon be available online.

How to make comments:
People are still able to make comments to NRC on this waste confidence rule through December 20th.  They can do so in several ways:

  • Online through the federal government’s rulemaking website, using Docket ID NRC-2012-0246;
  • by e-mail to; by fax to 301-415-1101;
  • by mail to Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff;
  • or by hand delivery to 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md., between 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. on federal workdays.


“NO Confidence in NRC’s ‘Waste Confidence’!” – Safe Energy Advocates Declare

CHICAGO—Safe energy advocates from numerous organizations around the Great Lakes Basin converged on Oak Brook, Illinois to deliver a message to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC):  “We have NO confidence in NRC’s ‘Waste Confidence’ rule!”

The NRC has scheduled a meeting to take public comment on its draft generic environmental impact statement (DGEIS) dealing with the storage of high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the form of spent reactor fuel rods currently stored at over 70 sites nationwide.  The Chicago meeting is one of a series of 12 being held around the country, although NRC initially left Chicago off its list, and had to be forced into scheduling a session in Illinois – the state with the most reactors and most HLRW.

The NRC has been forced by a 2012 federal court ruling to justify with hard data, not just verbal assurances as was historically the case, that all the radioactive wastes ever generated by all U.S. reactors can be safely stored onsite at these reactors – indefinitely, if necessary.  If NRC cannot do this, they will lose their authority to give out operating licenses to new reactors, or re-license old reactors, such as the four Exelon reactors applying for license extension at Byron and Braidwood in Illinois.

“Fifty years into the Nuclear Age, and as yet no place to permanently dispose of the more than 70,000 tons of spent reactor fuel, 9,000+ tons in Illinois alone,” notes Dave Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), an Illinois nuclear watchdog organization.  “The nuclear industry has no bathroom, so to speak; yet, NRC continues to allow them to keep excreting more waste with nothing more than the verbal assurances of its Waste Confidence Rule to claim the public is protected.  Those days of ‘fairy dust safety’ are over.”

“The NRC it must abandon its so-called “Waste Confidence” policy and stop licensing nuclear reactors when there is no proven solution to the waste problem – except to stop making it,” maintains Maureen Headington of Stand Up, Save Lives! of Burr Ridge, Illinois.

This sentiment is echoed both local and nationally:

“The Sierra Club is dedicated to creating a sustainable future for all mankind that is without dependence on fossil and nuclear fuels…The problem of what to do with radioactive waste – to pick the “safest of the unsafe” alternatives – will be with us for all time.  We only get one chance to get it right,” warns Linda Lewison of the newly formed Sierra Club Illinois Nuclear Free Committee.  “We do not have confidence in the NRC.   How can they continue to license and relicense nuclear reactors with no plan in place for a permanent geological repository?…We don’t buy this lack of a plan.”

The NRC must develop a new and complete Generic Environmental Impact Statement to the Court’s satisfaction if it is to regain its ability to license nuclear reactors.  Part of the GEIS process is to gather public comment on the proposed rule through public meetings like the one in Oak Brook.  Not everyone is convinced that NRC is addressing the most important issues in its proposed GEIS:

“…NRC has not lived up to its duty to the American people in regards to radioactive nuclear waste.  For too long the government has been kicking the can down the road about where to put the tons of nuclear waste that have been piling up at America’s nuclear power plants,” says Dr. Lora Chamberlain of Nuclear Free Illinois.  “We want the NRC to stop the making of this dangerous waste and find a permanent solution… Our children deserve a safe nuclear free future.”

NRC has been criticized not only for the lack of hard data to back up its claims for safe storage of the spent fuel, but for the lackadaisical attitude it has displayed towards even simple regulation:

“While reviewing the [DGEIS] for comment, the term “adequate” repeatedly appears regarding the steps currently used to store toxic nuclear waste.  Whenever I hear the term used by NRC staff… I cringe,”   states Bette Pierman of Michigan Safe Energy Future in South haven, Michigan.  “I am not sure how the use of this term is supposed to be reassuring to the public since it means “good enough.”   The connotation connected with “good enough” is mediocre.  So, I ask you, how safe would you feel with an “adequate” pilot on a turbulent transcontinental flight?  Or, how quickly would you employ an “adequate” heart surgeon if you required surgery?  Yet, [NRC] throws the word “adequate” around to the public like that is supposed to reassure us about the safety of …what you propose as the generic treatment of waste storage for a number of years far into the future.  This member of the public does not share your confidence!”

The consequences of the GEIS and the Court ruling could have near-term implications beyond reactor licensing.  Without the existence of a permanent, deep-geological disposal facility in which to dispose of the spent-fuel, it has been stockpiling at existing reactor sites around the country, stored in the required “wet pools,” or in outdoor, air-cooled “dry-casks.”

The past and recent closure of many reactors has resulted in former reactor sites becoming de facto waste dumpsites.  Proposed Federal legislation (S.1240) gives priority to move this waste to “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities, for alleged temporary storage.  However, this plan is opposed by many safe-energy groups around the country – who refer to CIS as “parking lot dumps” — as unsafe and unnecessary.  Further, what is largely unknown to the public and public officials alike is that a 2012 study at done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory recommends Illinois as the optimal candidate for the first of these CIS facilities.  This would result in Illinois taking for indefinite storage up to 9,000 tons of additional spent fuel beyond the 9,000+ tons is already has.

“Illinois residents did not agree to become the nation’s nuclear waste dump but that is what we are.  If a permanent geologic repository is not created the State of Illinois will likely get more waste shipped to and through it, putting us even more in danger of an accident at a nuclear facility or while waste is being transported,” observes Gail Snyder, Board member of NEIS from Homer Glen, Illinois.

At the end of the day, the whole process comes down to trust.

“The NRC says to the Courts and the public, ‘Trust that we will be on the job insuring safety of highly radioactive, long-lived, spent nuclear fuel indefinitely into the future,’ when one month ago they could not even guarantee they would have employees able to report to work,” Dave Kraft points out.  “They’re not responsible for storing marshmallows or ping pong balls; they’re responsible for the mistake-free storage of some of the deadliest material humankind has ever created.  After 30 years of verbal, unsubstantiated waste “con,” the public has no further confidence in NRC’s waste confidence,” Kraft concludes.