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Lawsuits Bring Focus Back To Nuclear-Waste Storage

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s new rules on long-term on-site storage of spent nuclear fuel are facing legal challenges from three states and several environmental groups. The NRC determined in December 2010 that used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste can be safely stored in temporary facilities at nuclear powerplants for 60 years after the plant has gone out of service. Vermont, New York and Connecticut filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Feb. 15 challenging the NRC’s policy, saying the NRC has not fully evaluated the impact long-term storage at nuclear powerplants would have on the environment. In a statement, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said, “The public has a right to know how long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel will affect the environment, particularly when it is occurring at nuclear powerplants that were never designed to be long-term storage facilities of spent nuclear fuel.” Several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy also filed related lawsuits on Feb. 24.

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