Prairie Island Indian Community Applauds Court Decision on Nuclear Storage, Presses for National Repository
Court rejects NRC's regulations to extend "temporary" storage of highly radioactive waste at nation's nuclear plants for 60 years beyond plant closures without full analysis of impacts
WELCH, Minn., June 8, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --The Prairie Island Indian Community today called on the federal government to fulfill its promise and legal obligation to remove nuclear waste from Prairie Island – the Tribe's ancestral homeland – after a federal court rejected Nuclear Regulatory Commission ("NRC") regulations to extend on-site storage to 60 years beyond the closure of nuclear reactor sites without conducting a comprehensive environmental impact study.
"When on-site nuclear storage was first approved in our state 20 years ago, Minnesotans and the Prairie Island Indian Community were promised it would be temporary – the federal government was to develop a national repository within two decades," said Prairie Island Tribal Council President Johnny Johnson. "Today's court decision is a strong signal to the federal government that rather than avoiding its responsibility and looking for ways to legalize long-term radioactive storage at temporary sites, the federal government needs to comply with the law to build a permanent repository and remove nuclear waste from Prairie Island."
In the lawsuit filed early last year with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Prairie Island Indian Community joined the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont in challenging two decisions by the NRC—the "Temporary Storage Rule" and its accompanying "Waste Confidence Decision Update," which together would have allowed long-term storage of nuclear waste at local sites like Prairie Island without completing the federally required review of the environmental, health and safety hazards such storage would pose.
"Our nation's leaders have irresponsibly dragged their feet on the development of Yucca Mountain for more than two decades, causing dangerous amounts of nuclear waste to build up in our communities," said Johnson. "Had the federal government had its way today, more than 4,350 tons of radioactive nuclear waste would have been automatically approved for long-term storage along the Mississippi River until at least 2094 – with no comprehensive environmental impact study, despite Prairie Island's dry casks being located on our ancestral homeland 600 yards from our homes and along a recognized floodplain."
In the absence of a federal repository, under the NRC's proposed rule the 17 dry casks originally approved in 1994 for "temporary" on-site storage at the Prairie Island Nuclear Plant would grow to 98 casks and up to 70 at a second nuclear site in Monticello, Minn. Efforts to create the only nuclear waste storage facility in the United States, the Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada, were suspended in 2010 and no replacement facility has been identified.
"The so-called 'temporary' storage rule that would allow nuclear waste to be stranded on Prairie Island for generations does not reflect reality," Johnson said. "Our Tribe and the surrounding public have a right to know how long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel could affect the environment, particularly because on-site storage was only designed to be a temporary solution," said Johnson.
About the Prairie Island Indian Community
The Prairie Island Indian Community, a federally recognized Indian Nation, is located in southeastern Minnesota along the banks of the Mississippi River, approximately 30 miles from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Twin nuclear reactors and 29 large steel nuclear waste storage casks sit just 600 yards from Prairie Island tribal homes. A total of 98 casks could be stranded on Prairie Island indefinitely unless the federal government fulfills its promise to build a permanent storage facility. The only evacuation route off the Prairie Island is frequently blocked by passing trains. The Tribe has been pushing for the removal of the nuclear waste since 1994 when Xcel Energy was first allowed to store the waste near its reservation. On the web: www.prairieislandnews.com.
SOURCE Prairie Island Indian Community