Prairie Island Indian Community calls court's decision "a step i - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Prairie Island Indian Community calls court's decision "a step in the right direction"


WELCH, Minn. (KTTC) -- The Prairie Island Indian community continues to fight each and every day to remove nuclear waste storage from their land.

On June 8, a federal court decided to halt plans for on-site storage.

Xcel Energy operates a nuclear plant that's 600 yards away from the nearest residences in Welch.

"We have community members who are afraid to come home to live here because of... having above ground storage here at Prairie Island," said Johnny Johnson, tribal council president.

It was supposed to be temporary when it was first approved 20 years ago.

"You can't simply kick the can down for 20, 40, and now 60 years without doing a full environmental impact analysis," said Phil Mahowald, the tribe's general counsel.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) cannot extend temporary storage of highly radioactive waste for 60 years beyond plant closures without full analysis of the impacts.

The decision was a small victory for the tribe.

"We haven't had anything go our way for such a long time that finally seeing a little glimmer of hope is kind of nice for us," Johnson said.

The federal government designated Nevada's Yucca Mountain as a permanent repository but the current administration abandoned that project two years ago.

"Here we are 20 years later and they're no closer to a solution. The only solution they have is to strand the waste here at Prairie Island," Mahowald said.

About 25 tons of spent nuclear fuel is stored per dry cask.

Prairie Island's plant holds 29 casks but eventually they'll need 98.

Johnson went on to say, "I've lived here my whole life and it's home to me... We don't want to go but that's the problem we have is that if there is a nuclear issue, an accident or something that should happen, where do we go?"

This is a petition filed by a number of states to the NRC.

Florida, Maine and others want environmental impact studies on nuclear waste storage before final licensing decisions on all nuclear power plant proposals now in the works.


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