116 Hamilton Place
Vernon Hills, IL 60061-1041
April 6, 2001

  Sierra Club Woods & Wetlands Group

US Congressman Mark Kirk
102 Wilmot Road, Suite 200
Deerfield, IL 60015

Dear Congressman Kirk:

We know you share our concern that radioactive nuclear waste continues to be stored at the Zion nuclear power plant, and our alarm that accidents continue to occur there. The persistent and real threat of a radioactive release into the air, groundwater, and especially the risk of contamination of Lake Michigan, endangers the safety of the densely populated surrounding community, and the water supply for millions of people.

This aged nuclear plant is located on the Lake County shore of Lake Michigan. It is near one the largest metropolitan areas of the nation and the largest body of fresh water in the world, the Great Lakes. Many communities in Illinois use Lake Michigan for their sole or major source of drinking water, including Chicago.

We know you also share our grave concern that the nuclear power industry continues to produce more such radioactive waste that will perpetuate this threat for hundreds of generations into the future.

The nuclear era must be drawn to a close, and a safe way to store the waste must be found. We believe, and you have agreed, that the present proposal to dump our waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain fails the requirements for a permanent repository, and is merely the result of a political selection process. This proposal is irresponsible and we encourage you to refrain from political posturing and seek a science-based approach. While we find the present temporary storage practices intolerable, we do not believe that we should accept compromised standards elsewhere in order to improve compromised standards here.

We are also deeply concerned that the long term hazard of thousands of shipments of the radioactive waste through our territory, on our roads, might produce an accident. Transporting the waste to a temporary site at Yucca Mountain duplicates this risk there in the future.

We believe that accidents continue to occur at Zion because that facility has not been required to satisfy requirements for the storage of its radioactive waste. Plants such as Zion that are no longer operating should be protected by the regulations contained in 10 CFR Part 72. These regulations were developed in the early 1980s specifically to provide reasonable assurance of public health and safety against the dangers of spent fuel storage.

However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is applying the regulations of 10 CFR Part 50 to the permanently closed plants. Part 50 was developed in the 1950s and early 1960s to deal with the dangers of reactor operation. These regulations contemplated that radioactive spent fuel would remain onsite for only a few months after removal from the reactor core, and then be shipped away for reprocessing. As you know, the spent fuel presently stored at Zion has been there for decades. The storage containers are corroding, and the cooling equipment is aging. Thus, Part 50 provides inadequate protection against the primary threat remaining at permanently closed plants -- the spent fuel.

Please work with us and our other concerned representatives from Illinois to safeguard our lives and our environment through vigorous enforcement by the NRC, and responsible action toward a permanent storage site.
 
 
Sincerely,
Evan L. Craig
Group Chair

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