Monday, September 14, 2009

Tamar’s Law

Please welcome the first edition of a new monthly column on nuclear and environmental law issues

by: Tamar Cerafici *

A download on the latest environmental developments in nuclear law

Indian Point – more work ahead

entergylogoThere is lots of material on Indian Point this Spring. Although the NRC has recently issued its Safety Evaluation Report (SER), I need to note that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is under review.

Riverkeeper and the State of New York still seem intent on opposing the relicensing effort on environmental grounds, despite the NRC staff recommendations on safety. Their objections continue unabated.

Riverkeeper and the State of New York have filed contentions about the EIS before the Atomic Safety Licensing Board but there won’t be a hearing until early 2010. Two of their contentions – impacts from terrorist attacks and the requirements to add cooling towers – seem to have gone by the wayside.

The possibility of terrorist attacks on independent spent fuel storage facilities has been the hobgoblin of environmental reviews since the September 11th attacks. Various courts (California) (New Jersey) have looked at the question with different results.

In California the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals told NRC to investigate the probability of terrorist attacks. The 3rd Circuit told the State of New Jersey that NRC couldn’t be responsible for predicting terrorist activities at a particular storage facility.

Riverkeeper unsuccessfully challenged EPA’s rule for intake structures and cooling systems when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that agencies could look at costs and benefits of various cooling systems. So, for the time being, applicants and agencies can weigh the costs of adding cooling towers or changing intake structure design (to decrease water intake) against the benefit to a given fish population. Riverkeeper is hoping EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will develop new rules limiting cost benefit analysis.

South Texas Project is going to be busy

NRG LogoLast week, the Atomic Safety Licensing Board allowed one contention to stand in the intervenor action against the South Texas Project COL (In the interest of full disclosure, I have worked for the South Texas Project on its Environmental Report.)

Given that the intervenors had filed an alphabet soup of environmental contentions (28 in all), the one remaining might be considered a victory of sorts for the plant. But the ASLB effectively sent the applicant back to the drawing board to beef up its assessment of the effects of an accident at the two existing units on “the proposed Units 3 or 4 and vice versa.” The ASLB concluded that sections of NRC’s environmental assessment guidelines “may require” discussions of the impact of design basis accidents on units that are co-located, regardless of the safety requirements on the existing plants.

Salem and Hope Creek Renewal

PSEG logoThe Salem and Hope Creek renewal applications are available for review at the NRC website. My crystal ball says to count on stiff opposition from New Jersey’s environmental groups, who filed an appeal against Oyster Creek’s renewal in June.

Richard Webster’s article in July’s issue of the Pace Environmental Paw Review lays out the argument pretty clearly. For one thing, he says, the entire relicensing process is faulty and should be reworked. Citizen participation in safety decisions should be permitted to greater degree than it is now. And the public should be able to aggressively pursue requests for information from the licensee. Right now, he writes, NRC interferes with the public’s ability to get licensing information and evaluate it.

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection will likely join in the fray to wield its permitting powers under the Coastal Zone Management Act and the Clean Water Act.

How some lawyers see nukes

Actually, if nuclear professionals want to get a quick overview of the way public interest lawyers view license renewal, look at the Pace Law School’s 2009 Colloquium proceedings. Some of my thoughts on reactor licensing are included in it. The proceedings are a helpful look at the current perceptions this particular group holds about the nuclear community.

Tamar_Cerafici_profileAuthor ID

* Ms. Cerafici (right) is an attorney in private practice with expertise in nuclear licensing and environmental law.

Contact info

Tamar Jergensen Cerafici, 349 Shaker Road, Northfield, NH 03276 Tel: (603) 496-2575

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Bryan Kelly said...

Just one more reason to never miss an episode.

Joffan said...

Hello Tamar, thanks for the article.

The overview of Pace's Law School was somewhat interesting although the article I looked at first (Roisman) was annoying, not least when it cited NYT editorials as some kind of objective evidence of risk.

Your own article seemed very useful - once I got past your Great Pyramid of carbon (constructed from gas or solid?), where using mass ratios could lead one erroneously to suppose that the entire nuclear fleet has only displaced 3 coal burners. Sorry to hear about your knee and hip ;-) as a fellow sufferer. I caught one fluff - p410 you say that "The fission process does not stop once the assemblies are removed from the reactor", but this is not accurate. Radioactive decay continues to generate heat but the fission has stopped.