Wave of Nuclear Plant Relicensing Will Mean Steep Increase in Waste

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, October 20, 2004

WASHINGTON — A new analysis of Department of Energy (DOE) figures shows that in the wake of the 2002 Senate vote to approve the Yucca Mountain dumpsite, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission quickly and quietly approved license extensions at nuclear reactors nationwide.

The EWG Action Fund analysis shows that the rate of nuclear power plant relicensing doubled after Congress approved the nuclear waste dumpsite in Yucca Mountain. Currently there are renewal applications pending for 18 more reactors. No application to date has been denied, making it a virtual certainty that these pending applications will be approved.

These plants will produce thousands of tons more waste, ensuring large or larger stockpiles near local power plants, much of which - after cooling on-site for decades - will probably come to Nevada to the Yucca Mountain dumpsite.

According to EWG Action Fund, if Yucca Mountain opens for storage on the day it is proposed to, its storage space will be fully claimed. Shortly thereafter, an additional 9,000 tons of nuclear waste will be waiting to come to Yucca and even more waste will sit at plants around the country. Therefore, Congress must either expand Yucca Mountain from its very first day of operation or allow nuclear waste to continue to pile up at 79 sites in 35 states.

"This analysis confirms what we suspected, but what the public was never told, that the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site is really a nuclear expansion plan in disguise," said Richard Wiles of EWG Action Fund.

Recent court decisions will require reconsideration of radiation containment standards at Yucca Mountain. Congress is likely to revisit this issue in response to the judicial action.

EWG Action Fund's interactive website, available at www.ewg.org, lists each reactor around the country that has been or will soon be relicensed and for how long, along with how many tons of waste it will generate while in continued operation. Visitors to the site can see how much waste that reactor is permitted to send to Yucca, and how much will be left on site. Shipping the extra waste to Yucca will take either 6,000 more truck shipments or 1,050 train shipments through communities in Nevada.

Communities near each of the power plants were subjected to an aggressive public relations campaign by the nuclear industry and the Department of Energy that pushed the idea that the Yucca Mountain dumpsite would get rid of their waste. The relicensing wave means that most of these communities will see large or larger amounts of waste sitting on site for decades before being shipped to Nevada.

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EWG Action Fund is a nonprofit legislative advocacy organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect the environment and human health.

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