Environment | Law

Prairie Island Indian Community sues over nuclear waste rule






The Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant sits just 600 yards from the border of the Prairie Island Indian Community in Minnesota. Photo by Jonathunder / Wikipedia

The Prairie Island Indian Community filed a lawsuit challenging the long-term storage of nuclear waste next to its reservation in Minnesota.

The tribe is accusing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of failing to address the environmental and health risks of leaving the highly-radioactive waste at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant, a facility that sits just 600 yards from the reservation border.

“The NRC has sidestepped its obligation to our tribe to do a full and complete analysis of the risks of permanent onsite storage of nuclear waste 600 yards from our nearest residences,” President Ronald Johnson said in a press release. “It leaves communities like Prairie Island at considerable risk, exposing us to the vulnerabilities of aging facilities, human error and natural disasters for generations to come.”

In 2012, the tribe won a ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down an NRC rule regarding the "temporary" storage of nuclear waste. The court ruled that the agency must examine the environmental impacts of each separate facility.

Instead, the NRC issued a final rule and a generic environmental impact statement in September that made general observations about the tribe's concerns. The lengthy document contains just five sentences about the generating station and its effects on the reservation.

The new appeal to the D.C Circuit challenges the analysis. The tribe said it has been waiting since 1994 for the NRC to address the "temporary" storage of the waste.

“For more than two decades the Prairie Island Indian Community has been waiting for the federal government to uphold its promise and remove on-site nuclear waste that sits just 600 yards from our backyards,” Johnson said. “No other community sits as close to a nuclear site and its waste storage.”

The states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont also filed appeals with the D.C. Circuit.

Get the Story:
Prairie Island Indian Community files legal challenge on nuclear waste (The Rochester Post-Bulletin 10/28)
Prairie Island tribe challenges new NRC storage rule (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 10/28)

Federal Register Notice:
Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel (September 19, 2014)

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