Jerry Nappi of New Orleans-based Entergy, the company that owns Indian Point, told SolveClimate News that the waste is stored "in enormously strong and long-lasting steel and concrete containers in accordance with federal regulations.
"There is no reason or evidence to suggest they are unsafe."
The agency insists that its Waste Confidence Rule is legally sound and says safety issues have been evaluated.
"The NRC has carried out numerous studies on the safety of storing spent nuclear fuel at U.S. power reactor sites. These include a complete reexamination of spent fuel pool safety and security issues following the 9/11 attacks," the agency said in response to the lawsuit.
Enviros: NRC Dangerously Vague on Post-Yucca Plans
But the states are not the only ones not taking NRC's word for it.
Less than a week after the attorneys general sued, environmental organizations petitioned the to overturn two NRC rules that say storage and disposal of radioactive waste poses no significant safety or environmental concerns.
was filed by the . The was jointly filed by the , and .
The organizations' petitions have a different focus from the lawsuit filed by the states.
While the attorneys general challenged the legality of storing waste on-site without a proper environmental review, the green groups targeted NRC for being too vague about when, whether and how it plans to find a new repository for the nation's nuclear leftovers. This is causing particular concern in light of the Obama administration's decision to pull the plug on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project in Nevada.
Since 2002, the DOE has spent about $9 billion to open a permanent repository for spent fuel at Yucca Mountain. Congress originally chose the site in 1987. For decades, environmental groups fought against the repository and ultimately succeeded in stopping the project.
In its 2012 budget, the Obama administration cut funding for the Yucca Mountain project. The DOE has yet to find a state willing to host the radioactive waste for the nation's nuclear plants
The NRC maintains its position that a repository "will be available .... when necessary." But the petitioning groups say that assumption is made without "foundation in the facts and history of the U.S. geologic repository program."
David Lochbaum, the director of the nuclear safety project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, agrees that NRC's plan for a future repository is flawed.
"The NRC has confidence that a permanent disposal site will become available, and that spent fuel can be safely and securely stored on site until then," he told SolveClimate News. But the DOE's inability to do this so far "thoroughly undermines NRC's basis for concluding that challenge might someday be met."
Nearly CO2-Free, But What About the CFCs?
For decades, America's nuclear power industry has been at a standstill. That's about change, with the first new reactor in 30 years under construction in Georgia, and three others getting close to breaking ground in Maryland, Texas and South Carolina.
The resurgence comes largely from the global push to adopt more low-carbon energy sources like nuclear power. Reactors emit little or no greenhouse gases when producing electricity.
Some observers have challenged the sector's clean energy claims, however, especially when considering the entire nuclear fuel cycle and its impact on global warming.