Senator Markey Calls NRC Draft Decommissioning Rulemaking ‘A Nuclear Industry Wish List”


Twenty nuclear reactors are currently undergoing decommissioning in the United States


Washington (May 22, 2018) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statement today on the draft proposed rule on decommissioning announced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The rule contains proposed changes to emergency preparedness, physical security, cyber security, funding assurance, financial protection requirements, and environmental considerations, among other issues. Today’s proposed rule calls the existing regulatory framework for decommissioning through exemptions “adequate to protect public health and safety and the common defense and security,” and adds no new requirements for considering environmental impacts.


Twenty nuclear reactors are currently undergoing decommissioning in the United States, and more nuclear retirements are projected in coming decades. Starting in 2019 through 2050, ten additional nuclear power plants are planning to begin decommissioning, including the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts.


“This proposal reads like an industry wish list that makes exemptions the rule,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “We need a decommissioning rule that acts as a plan for addressing the myriad difficult issues, including the challenges posed by climate change like rising sea levels, that communities will face as nuclear power plants across the country prepare to shut down. The challenge of decommissioning Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in a safe and expeditious manner would only be greater because of this draft rule.


“This is a missed opportunity to put down a marker for smarter decommissioning, and I urge the Commission to strengthen this draft rule to ensure safety not expediency is paramount,” continued Senator Markey. “I will be following up with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to understand why key provisions requested by the public are missing from this proposed decommissioning rule.”


Senator Markey has introduced The Dry Cask Storage Act, which would ensure that every nuclear reactor operator complies with an NRC-approved plan that would require the safe removal of spent nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pools and place that spent fuel into dry cask storage within seven years of the time the plan is submitted to the NRC.


Earlier this year, Senator Markey joined Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in co-sponsoring legislation to improve the safety and security of decommissioning reactors and the storage of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear plants across the nation.