Marks the Spot: Relicensing Aggravates Nuclear Waste Storage Problem
As EWG Action Fund first noted in 2002, shipping nuclear waste across the country for disposal in Nevada does not get rid of nuclear waste at a single operating power plant anywhere in the United States.
This is because every reactor at each of these plants will continue to generate 10 to 25 metric tons of nuclear waste per year, every year that they are operational. As Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham was forced to admit under questioning at a Senate hearing in April, 2002, if all the nuclear reactors in the nation shut down the day Yucca Mountain opened, their waste would fill the entire repository.
But of course, these power plants are not going to shut down, as the recent surge in relicensing amply shows. Instead nuclear power plants all across the country are applying for operating extensions that will guarantee major nuclear waste problems in the future, either at these reactor sites, in Nevada, or on the highways in-between.
Since 2000, 26 nuclear reactors at 15 power plant locations have received 20- year operating extensions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Not a single relicensing application has been denied. License extensions are pending for 18 reactors at nine power plants.
Relicensing Reactors Will Produce Thousands of Metric Tons of New Nuclear Waste
South Carolina, Virginia, and Florida lead the nation in nuclear waste that will be produced as a result of current nuclear reactor relicensing, with 2,400, 1,400, and 1,100 metric tons of new nuclear waste respectively.
In total, these extensions will produce an additional 9,000 metric tons of high level nuclear waste, almost all of which will remain on site for decades at the reactors where it was produced. Virtually none of this newly-generated waste can be shipped to Yucca Mountain without a formal, legal, expansion of the repository.
The power plants with the most nuclear waste on-site due to license extensions are McGuire in North Carolina, Catawba in South Carolina, and Edwin Hatch in Georgia, with 1,416, 1,409 and 1,103 metric tons of waste respectively left on site at the end of their operating life. Some of this waste will be generated before the current license expires and would have remained on site even if the plant were not relicensed. But the majority of waste on site at these reactors at the end of their current operating extensions, will be produced during the new 20-year extended period of operation.
There are an additional 18 reactors at 9 nuclear facilities with operating extension applications pending before the NRC. Plants with pending renewals will produce another 6,600 metric tons of nuclear waste that will be stored on- site before it is ultimately moved to Nevada.
Table: Current License Extensions Will Leave More Than 1,000 Metric Tons of Nuclear Waste at Five Power Plants
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