Statement About Zion Nuclear Waste Compensation

S.1903 – The Stranded Act Of 2017

NEIS would like to commend IL Sen. Tammy Duckworth and IL Rep. Brad Schneider for introduction of S.1903 and H.R. 3970 respectively – the “Stranded Act of 2017;” and acknowledge State Sen. Melinda Bush and Zion Mayor Al Hill for their tireless efforts to obtain much deserved community compensation for the storage of 1,000+ tons of high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the community of Zion. Reactor communities nationwide which have become de facto high-level radioactive waste storage sites deserve some measure of economic and enhanced safety compensation for the continued risks they accept for being compelled to store this hazardous substance indefinitely, and for the negative economic consequences this storage brings to the communities.

The provisions found in Sen. Duckworth’s S.1903 are an excellent first step towards rectifying this economic injustice brought about by previous Congress’ indifference towards and politicization of the Nation’s high-level radioactive waste disposal problem. S.1903 wisely recognizes that the creation of “orphaned” HLRW through inevitable and unpredictable reactor closures is a national problem, requiring a uniform national solution.

As a commendable first step, S.1903 also realistically addresses the fact that ultimate, environmentally responsible HLRW disposal will continue to take time – if done properly, and not out of political expedience; and that these communities deserve compensation for conditions they did not create, but are forced to endure.

While an admirable first step addressing economics, NEIS hopes and urges that equally necessary subsequent actions will come from the Congress to protect our communities from continued HLRW abuse and potential radiologic accidents. While S.1903 addresses the economic harm done by de facto HLRW storage in a community, these communities equally need much better environmental protection for as long as the HLRW remains. Congress should next mandate “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) for these dangerous materials to safeguard the public and environmental health and safety of these communities. Both the nuclear industry and the federal NRC vigorously resist this enhanced but deserved safety measure on the excuse of “cost.” In the case of Zion, for example, one wonders what the “cost” of replacing Lake Michigan – the drinking water supply for 16 million people – would be should a serious accident occur at the spent-fuel dry-cask pad that will remain in the Zion community for well beyond the 7 year period for economic compensation found in S.1903.

The temptation to want all spent-fuel to be quickly but imprudently moved out of reactor communities should not justify establishing expensive and alleged temporary “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities to take these wastes. Nor should that desire become the political rationalization to revisit re-opening of the now closed and demonstrably flawed Yucca Mt. site in Nevada. Both of these so-called “solutions” are driven more by political expediency than by sound public policy, environmental protection or science.

This nation truly needs a permanent deep-geological disposal facility for its high-level radioactive wastes. Contaminating new communities to establish alleged “temporary” storage sites, and opening a deficient Yucca Mt. facility do not serve the best long-term interests of the nation, only the short-term needs of the nuclear industry and its allies in public office. A new site selection process is needed to provide the best scientific solution to the spent-fuel problem. Playing musical chairs with the wastes, or sending it to a politically expedient hole in the ground somewhere “away” fails to provide this solution, and will only serve to delay opening a truly best solution for HLRW disposal.

 

 

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