Beyond Nuclear Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court in Opposition to Fermi 3 Proposed New Atomic Reactor
|Environmental Coalition’s Decade-Long Resistance Challenges NRC Rule that Undermines National Environmental Policy Act to Aid New Reactor Construction
|Washington, D.C. and Monroe County, MI—Beyond Nuclear, represented by Toledo, Ohio attorney Terry Lodge, has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at the proposed new Fermi Nuclear Power Plant Unit 3 atomic reactor in Frenchtown Township, Michigan. For over six years, the environmental coalition opposing Fermi 3 has protested NRC’s exclusion of the 29-mile-long, 300-foot-wide transmission line corridor from its NEPA-required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). 10.8 miles of that transmission corridor would pass through previously undisturbed ecosystems, including forested wetlands, very likely critical habitat for numerous endangered and threatened plant and animal species.
On Monday, Lodge submitted a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. (A link to the Petition, and related documents, is posted at the Beyond Nuclear website.) The appeal, of a November 27, 2017 U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling, questions: Did the NRC commit segmentation, and violate the longstanding recognition of the pre-eminence of NEPA, when it redefined “construction” in its Atomic Energy Act regulations to exclude environmental impact analysis of a major, integral transmission line corridor through critical habitat for endangered and threatened species? Lodge further questioned: Did the NRC violate its duty to obey NEPA when it denied admission of public intervenors’ contention because of an arbitrarily short deadline and simultaneously rejected its own Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel’s (ASLBP) sua sponte recommended adjudication of the matter?
The ASLBP presiding over the Fermi 3 licensing proceeding from 2009 to 2015 found the environmental coalition’s transmission corridor NEPA contention merited it to request permission from the NRC Commissioners to undertake its own review of the matter. Such ASLBP sua sponte initiatives have only occurred a small handful of times in decades. The NRC Commission, however, blocked the ASLBP review, just as it rejected the environmental coalition’s appeals, leading to this federal lawsuit.
“This is the first time the NRC’s 2007 Limited Work Authorization (LWA) rule change has been challenged,” said Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, a national watchdog on the nuclear power industry based in Takoma Park, Maryland. “LWA allowed ground to be broken, and major excavation and construction to begin in a great big hurry, at proposed new reactors at Vogtle in Georgia, and Summer in South Carolina. We are striving to prevent such high-speed bulldozing, in violation of NEPA, at Fermi 3,” said Kamps.
The NRC LWA rule change was brought to public light by Bloomberg reporter Elliot Blair Smith in a September 25, 2007 article entitled “Nuclear Utilities Redefine One Word to Bulldoze for New Plants.” Critics blasted the rule change, undermining NEPA, as Orwellian. (For a Beyond Nuclear backgrounder, see this link.) To exclude such major nuclear power plant construction projects as transmission line corridors as “preconstruction activities,” in an end run around many decades of established environmental protection law, critics slammed as “Nukespeak.”
“In one of the worst revolving door scandals in NRC history, NRC Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield shepherded the LWA rule change into regulations, upending decades of agency policy by redefining the word ‘construction’ to now exclude such major construction projects as transmission corridors,” said Michael Keegan of Don’t Waste Michigan. “After this favor to the nuclear industry, Merrifield then immediately went to work for the Shaw Group, which specialized in new reactor construction, taking a senior vice president position with an annual salary topping a million dollars,” said Keegan, who has watchdogged the Fermi nuclear power plant for more than three decades.
“This jurisdictional grab is clearly not in the public interest,” Keegan added.
“NEPA is one of the top environmental protection laws in our country,” said Toledo attorney Terry Lodge. “NRC cannot be allowed to excuse itself from obeying this half-century old, hard won law,” said Lodge, who has served as legal counsel for Beyond Nuclear and the environmental coalition since the beginning of this licensing proceeding in 2008.
“The list of endangered and threatened species likely inhabiting this corridor, that would be damaged or destroyed by the transmission lines and towers, includes the Indiana bat, mussels such as the Snuffbox, Northern Riffleshell, and Purple Lilliput, snakes such as the Eastern Massasauga rattler and Eastern Fox constrictor, and plants such as the Eastern Prairie fringed orchid, to name but some,” said Lodge.
This U.S. Supreme Court appeal caps a decade of resistance to Fermi 3. Detroit Edison (DTE) announced the proposed new reactor in February 2007, as part of the so-called “Nuclear Renaissance.” DTE applied to NRC for a combined construction and operation license in September 2008. The bi-national environmental coalition, comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don’t Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, legally intervened in March 2009. The coalition, with Lodge as legal counsel, ultimately submitted some three-dozen technical contentions to the NRC’s ASLB. Oral hearings were held in downtown Monroe, MI at Halloween, 2013. When the NRC approved DTE’s Fermi 3 license in May 2015, the coalition immediately appealed to the federal courts.
This appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court not only culminates this decade of resistance. It carries on a tradition of anti-nuclear resistance at Fermi dating back six decades, to when the United Auto Workers appealed its case against Fermi Unit 1 to the U.S. Supreme Court. Fermi 3 would be built on the very spot where Fermi 1 had a partial core meltdown on October 5, 1966, as documented in John G. Fuller’s book We Almost Lost Detroit.
|Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abolish both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear. Beyond Nuclear: 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 400, Takoma Park, MD 20912. Info@beyondnuclear.org. www.beyondnuclear.org.
Diane D’Arrigo of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) will speak by satellite at 7 PM Wednesday, November 1, 2017, at the Donald Dodge Auditorium, St. Clair County Administration Building, 200 Grand River Ave., Port Huron, MI 48060, regarding the growing international opposition to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) newly implemented policies, that plan for secretive large-scale foreign imports of dangerous nuclear power wastes to the U.S. for processing, in states such as: Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Washington State.
Ms. D’Arrigo will discuss how the NRC now is secretly granting “general” import licenses to U.S. Companies to truck Canadian (and likely other foreign nuclear power “materials”) across our borders, for treatment in U.S. states including: segregation, incineration, decontamination, recovery (re-use and recycling)! Some Canadian wastes will cross at the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron, Michigan and travel on Michigan roads to be processed in other states, with the potential return transport of more concentrated radioactive ash or other “wastes.”
This “general” license allows for the first time, secret and numerous shipments of dangerous, radioactive nuclear power wastes (labeled as nuclear “materials”) to come into the U.S. – without any public notice, public comment, or the public’s right to intervene, in order to protect the health and safety of our communities! A general license to import also hides the identities of the owners and/or producers of these wastes and hides the wastes’ origin and characteristics (including radioactivity or types of wastes). Meanwhile in Canada, Ontario Power Generation is hastily re-organizing its radioactive waste import /export licenses behind the regulator’s closed doors, with no opportunity for a public hearing.
Alarmingly, some states that traffic in these wastes have “clearance levels”, which allow them to release some radioactive substances into the air and water during processing – and even into their landfills. WORSE, “clearance levels” allow some states to release radioactive substances into our recycling streams (metal, plastic, soil, concrete, asphalt and others). Since the start of the Atomic Age, U.S. citizens have STRONGLY rejected over a dozen attempts by U.S. regulators to deregulate and release nuclear wastes into everyday garbage and recycling streams. The American Iron and Steel Institute and Metals Industry Recycling Coalitions do not want to be the dump for radioactive metal from nuclear power and weapons! The American public is continually working to keep nuclear waste OUT of our air and water, our landfills, our consumer goods!
Some of these wastes remain dangerous for tens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of years (or longer) and can include such radioactive elements as plutonium, cobalt 60, strontium 90, tritium (radioactive hydrogen), carbon-14 and numerous others. Most scanners commonly used to check for radiation at our borders, or at metal recycling industries, can detect only gamma radiation and do not pick up highly hazardous alpha radiation that can wreak enormous damage inside a person’s body, if inhaled or ingested.
In Europe, one of the most widely publicized contamination incidents occurred with baby food jars being recalled, due to radioactive contamination in the steel sheets used to make them. Here, in the U.S., there have been a great many instances of recalled imported radioactive consumer items. To list just a few: imported radioactive tissue boxes were recalled from Bed, Bath and Beyond. Radioactive bike baskets and belt buckles (all imports) were found and taken off market. Do we really want radioactive baby cribs, jewelry, eyeglasses, cell phones or silverware? NIRS is leading the international campaign to stop this planned large-scale and secretive trafficking of nuclear power wastes! This critical campaign needs your support! Come learn what our communities can do to stop this madness!
Diane D’Arrigo is the Radioactive Waste Project Director at Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Takoma Park, Maryland. Ms. D’Arrigo has degrees in Chemistry and Environmental Studies with work experience in Analytical Chemistry and Biological Research. She has international expertise in radioactive waste and radiation Issues. She is author of the 2007 report: Out of Control on Purpose – DOE’s Dispersal of Radioactive Waste into Landfills and Consumer Products.
The Great Lakes Environmental Alliance (GLEA) is an organization working to safeguard the health of the Great Lakes watershed, which comprises 90% of North America’s fresh surface waters, critical to all life and future generations.
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The proposed operation would inject perfectly good clean water into an oilfield in order to increase production. The injection process increases the pressure in the underground oil reserve, and more oil may become available at nearby wells.
EPA is seeking comments on the Holcomb 1-22 well, draft permit number MI-035-2R-0034.
Thursday, July 25
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Public EPA hearing
7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Clare High School
201 E. State St.
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to allow Muskegon Development Company, 1425 South Mission Road, Mount Pleasant, Michigan to inject fluid underground by approving the company’s application for what EPA calls a Class II injection well permit.
If EPA makes its approval final, Muskegon Development Company may inject fresh water for enhanced oil recovery into a rock formation 4948 feet below the surface through the Holcomb 1-22 injection well near N. Athey and E. Townline Lake Roads in Hamilton Township of Clare County.
Muskegon Development Company has also applied for a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
EPA received requests for a public hearing on this proposed permit approval. EPA will hold a public meeting and hearing Tuesday, July 25. During the hearing, you will have an opportunity to make oral comments or submit written comments. EPA will consider all comments it receives, and then issue a final decision along with a response to the significant comments.
The new public comment period ends Friday, July 28.
CACC is working with Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation to bring this issue to the public’s attention, educate the public about this and other injection wells, and to support public comment at the EPA meeting.
See the facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/1876805665903238
and stay tuned for more information…