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Prairie Island Indian Community calls for federal action

The Prairie Island Indian Community has called on the U.S. government to take immediate action to remove casks of nuclear waste after a federal court rejected Nuclear Regulatory Commission decisions that would have extended temporary storage status, making storage essentially permanent.

The regulations "would have extended on-site storage to 60 years beyond the closure of nuclear reactor sites," the community said in a statement after the court decision.

Prairie Island currently "houses a 40-year-old nuclear power plant and temporary dry cask storage on its ancestral homeland, just 600 yards away from tribal housing."

"The plant and storage sit adjacent to the Mississippi River along a recognized floodplain," the community noted. The Mississippi has been high in the region after recent rains upstream.

The community has renewed its call for a National Repository for nuclear waste.


"Prairie Island Indian Community today called on the federal government to fulfill its promise and legal obligation to remove nuclear waste from Prairie Island – the Tribe’s ancestral homeland — after a federal court rejected Nuclear Regulatory Commission ('NRC') regulations to extend on-site storage to 60 years beyond the closure of nuclear reactor sites without conducting a comprehensive environmental impact study," the community's statement reads.

"When on-site nuclear storage was first approved in our state 20 years ago, Minnesotans and the Prairie Island Indian Community were promised it would be temporary – the federal government was to develop a national repository within two decades," Prairie Island Tribal Council President Johnny Johnson was quoted as saying. "Today’s court decision is a strong signal to the federal government that rather than avoiding its responsibility and looking for ways to legalize long-term radioactive storage at temporary sites, the federal government needs to comply with the law to build a permanent repository and remove nuclear waste from Prairie Island."

Prairie Island was joined in a lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont.

Johnson said U.S. leaders have "dragged their feet on the development of Yucca Mountain" for more than 20 years, "causing dangerous amounts of nuclear waste to build up in our communities."

"Had the federal government had its way today, more than 4,350 tons of radioactive nuclear waste would have been automatically approved for long-term storage along the Mississippi River until at least 2094 – with no comprehensive environmental impact study," Johnson said, "despite Prairie Island’s dry casks being located on our ancestral homeland 600 yards from our homes and along a recognized floodplain."

NRC's proposed rule would have allowed the 17 temporary dry casks at Prairie Island Nuclear Plant to grow to 98, according to the community, and 70 at another location in Monticello, Minn.

"Efforts to create the only nuclear waste storage facility in the United States, the Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada, were suspended in 2010 and no replacement facility has been identified," the community noted.

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