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S. 1797/1798 - State Authority

Federal law limits the extent to which states can regulate nuclear power.  It preempts state and local laws that seek to regulate radiological health & safety aspects, except where Congress has granted states authority to perform environmental assessments and set standards under the Clean Air and Clean Water Act, or when state law is based on economics.  The rationale for these bills is economic. These bills are not preempted, as explained in the Attachment. 





The purpose of this Act is to protect economic interests of the Commonwealth by giving nuclear power plant owners a strong incentive to reduce the spent nuclear fuel assemblies in their spent fuel pool(s), and thus concomitantly reduce the economic consequences if there were a spent fuel pool fire at Pilgrim.

  • The Massachusetts Attorney General estimated that a spent fuel pool fire at Pilgrim could cause up to $488 billion dollars in damages.

  • A spent pool fire at Pilgrim could make an area larger than Massachusetts uninhabitable for decades, and displace as many as 4 million people, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency.

  • The nuclear industry’s liability insurance does not cover the costs of cleaning-up after a nuclear accident. Therefore the state and taxpayers will pay, and both the state and its citizens have every reason to reduce potential risks and costs of doing so. 

  • Waste disposal responsibility and costs after a nuclear reactor accident also are the responsibility of the state and local communities.

  • So long as nuclear fuel remains on-site at Pilgrim, the state and local communities will have on-going security and emergency planning costs. The bill gives impacted towns money needed to protect themselves.

  • The spent nuclear fuel at Pilgrim, like any other hazardous waste facility, will continue to adversely affect the value of surrounding real estate, and tax revenues.    

  • The economic consequences of a spent fuel accident are far less if spent fuel is moved from the spent fuel pool into dry storage casks as soon as it is cool enough to do so.

  • The fee is not unfair to nuclear power plant owners. They made money generating the waste. They have offered Indian tribes hundreds of millions of dollars to store their waste. Likewise, the Commonwealth deserves compensation. Pilgrim’s owner likely will recover the cost of any fee from DOE to recoup costs and exact damages for being forced to continue storing highly radioactive spent fuel and not fulfilling the government’s promise to open a federal repository no later than 1998.  

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