New York v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Date: June 8th, 2012

Topic: Energy, Environmental Assessment, Solid & Hazardous Waste

Type: Lawsuit vs. Federal Government

Jurisdiction: Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Vermont

Citation: New York v. Nuclear Regulatory Com’n, 681 F.3d 471 (D.C. Cir. 2012).

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a blanket finding that nuclear power plants’ storage of spent fuel for sixty years after expiration of their reactor licenses would have no significant environmental impact. A multi-state coalition challenged this finding as flawed because it failed to consider site-specific impacts and because it was unreasonable based on the administrative record, which contained evidence that storage pools had leaked radioactive water, threatening human health. The D.C. Circuit concluded that the rule required either a finding of no significant environmental impact or an environmental impact statement. It further concluded that the Commission’s finding of no significant impact was unreasonable because it failed to consider future dangers, including the danger that permanent fuel storage might never become available. The Commission subsequently ordered its staff to develop a full environmental impact statement.

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