Legal Ruling Calls for Nuclear Waste Management

Guest Blog | March 10, 2009 | Press Releases

Savannah, Ga. (March 10) – The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s three-judge panel told Georgia utilities late last week that their application to build more nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle was incomplete because it failed to consider how radioactive nuclear waste would be managed if a storage site remains unavailable when the new reactors begin operation. A long-term storage plan must be developed before the federal agency can issue a permit to build the proposed nuclear reactors. This ruling represents another small victory to prevent environmental damage from the proposed addition of two more reactors at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle along the Savannah River, near Augusta, Ga. “Radioactive waste storage in Burke County puts our people’s lives at risk. It’s an injustice,” said Rev. Charles Utley, pastor of a church in Waynesboro within view of Plant Vogtle and a community organizer for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. “Utilities should instead build clean, safe and affordable energy solutions such as wind, solar, tidal and biopower that don’t pose these risks,” commented Sara Barczak, program director with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, one of the intervening organizations in their Savannah field office. By admitting the radioactive waste contention, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing board agreed that the impacts of storing nuclear waste on-site at Plant Vogtle must be studied, as an off-site storage site may not be available when needed. This decision could help protect the public from excess radioactive waste storage and slows the utilities’ new licensing effort, known as a combined construction and operating license (COL). “Radioactive nuclear waste is already piling up right here in Georgia,” said Bobbie Paul, executive director of Georgia WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions). “Nuclear reactors continue to leave a horrible legacy for all future generations. It’s totally irresponsible for the utilities to push a plan that will only make this situation worse.” The citizen groups Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Center for a Sustainable Coast, Georgia WAND (formerly Atlanta WAND), Savannah Riverkeeper and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, filed a petition in November 2008 to intervene on behalf of their members with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The Emory University School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic, along with attorney Diane Curran of Washington, D.C., are representing the organizations. The COL is being pursued by Georgia utilities to obtain federal approval to construct and build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. Southern Company’s nuclear division, Southern Nuclear Operating Company, filed for the permit with the NRC in March 2008 on behalf of Plant Vogtle’s co-owners, Georgia Power (a subsidiary of the Southern Company), Oglethorpe Power, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG Power) and Dalton Utilities. A challenge by the same organizations to an earlier component of the licensing and permitting process, the early site permit, has been underway since 2006. That challenge is based on the failure of Southern Nuclear’s license application to appropriately consider the effects of the two new reactors on the Savannah River basin. The NRC’s licensing board will conduct a hearing on the contentions to the early site permit from March 16-19, 2009 in Augusta, Ga. Download the original November 2008 petition filed by the intervening organizations on the COL and the NRC’s licensing board ruling on March 5, 2009, accepting the radioactive waste contention in the combined construction and operating license permitting process at . For more information on the NRC’s upcoming public hearings in March for the early site permit, visit . For more information on the NRC’s Vogtle combined construction and operating license permit application process, visit . For more information on the NRC’s Vogtle early site permit application process, visit # # #