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U.S Court of Appeals upholds rule on nuclear waste storage

The Prairie Island Indian Community was disappointed yet again in their quest to rid the island of spent nuclear fuel as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Friday upheld a 2014 ruling allowing the continual onsite storage of the radioactive material.

Prairie Island Indian Community joined several states and environmental agencies to appeal the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Continued Storage Rule, which was rejected, and it was concluded nuclear waste can be stored onsite indefinitely.

The Community sits next to Xcel Energy’s two-reactor Prairie Island nuclear plant and several spent fuel storage casks.

Despite Congress’ passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982 to establish a national nuclear waste repository — Yucca Mountain in Nevada — the details on if, why, or how this will happen have yet to be solidified.

“Friday’s ruling concluded that spent nuclear fuel — some of the most dangerous and toxic substances known to mankind — can be safely stored 600 yards from our homes and at the 65 other host sites in 34 states across the country if no national repository is ever built,” said Shelley Buck, Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council President, in a news release. “We are frustrated that the U.S. Court of Appeals has failed to consider the very real health and safety impacts of permanent onsite storage of highly radioactive nuclear waste. It leaves communities like ours at considerable risk, exposing us to the vulnerabilities of aging facilities, human error and natural disasters for several more generations.”

One of the Community’s primary issues comes with the NRC’s use of a generic environmental impact study, according to the release, which used figures not applicable at Prairie Island.

No other group lives closer to a nuclear power plant in the United States and its storage site, the release states, to go along with the unique rights that a federally recognized Indian Tribe has to the undisturbed use of its ancestral homeland.

“Our community’s worst fear is that the nuclear waste will remain on our ancestral homeland forever,” Buck said. “Our fears are much closer to a reality because of this ruling.”

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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