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Prairie Island Indian Community Granted Federal Hearing in Fight against 40 Year Extension of Nuclear Waste Storage


WELCH, Minn., Oct. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- In a filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this week, the Prairie Island Indian Community (PIIC) previewed issues it hopes to raise during an early November hearing with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board – when the tribe will continue its fight against a 40-year extension of onsite nuclear waste storage on Prairie Island. Xcel Energy's initial Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) license expires on Oct. 19, 2013, and in the ongoing absence of a national waste repository like Yucca Mountain, the utility company has applied to extend onsite storage until 2053 – a move PIIC argues could put Minnesotans at considerable risk.

"Four more decades of storage could expose all of us to the vulnerabilities of aging facilities, human error, and natural disasters," said Tribal Council President Johnny Johnson. "But the real problem with the request is that it's based on the fiction that it's only a 40-year extension for only 48 dry casks. There's already enough nuclear waste in the spent fuel pool to fill another 30 casks –11 more than the 48 casks in the current license, and in just 20 more years of plant operation the plant will generate enough waste to fill 98 casks. Washington politics will continue to delay the creation of a federally-mandated geologic repository like Yucca Mountain, and the 98 casks containing more than 2,500 tons of radioactive nuclear waste will be stranded indefinitely along the banks of the Mississippi River and within 30 miles of the metro area."

When onsite nuclear storage was first approved in Minnesota 20 years ago, Minnesotans and the Prairie Island Indian Community were told there would be no more than 17 casks and that it would be temporary – the federal government was legally required to develop a national repository by 1998. After decades of scientific research and $15 billion in investments by American ratepayers, efforts to create the only nuclear waste storage facility in the United States specifically mandated by federal law, the Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada, were suspended in 2010. To date, no replacement facility has been identified.

The Prairie Island Indian Community previews its case

On August 24, the Prairie Island Indian Community filed with the NRC a request for hearing and petition to intervene in Xcel Energy's application to extend its ISFSI license another 40 years. The request for a hearing was granted by the NRC on September 25. The Tribe's proximity to the waste,combined with its June 8, 2012 federal court victory challenging the NRC's proposed "Temporary Storage Rule" and its accompanying "Waste Confidence Decision Update," make the timing of this hearing unique.

"We believe we have a strong case to make," said Johnson. "Forcing us to store this waste in our backyards and refusing to pick it up for another 40 years or more violates the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The federal government needs to redouble its efforts to establish a deep geologic repository. A promise is a promise – and in this case, it's also the law."

In this week's official filing with the NRC, PIIC outlined key issues it will address at the hearing, including the need for a more robust review of the potential impacts and considerable risk associated with storing 98 casks of nuclear waste on Prairie Island indefinitely. The hearing with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 8 and 9, 2012.

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:  

SOURCE Prairie Island Indian Community