Nuclear spin doctors explain the NRC decision

NRC Puts Final Licensing Decisions on Hold for Waste Confidence Revision
Aug. 8, 2012—The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week issued an order saying it would not issue final reactor licenses or license renewals until the agency addresses a recent federal court ruling on waste confidence. However, the order also said current licensing reviews and proceedings “should continue to move forward.”

Ellen Ginsberg, NEI’s vice president and general counsel, said, “The commission’s order is helpful in that license applicants can continue to pursue their licenses. Although there may be some delay in issuing some renewed licenses, NRC regulations provide that plant operation can continue beyond the original license term and until there is a decision on the renewal application, so long as it has been filed in a timely manner.”

The NRC said the order affects licensing decisions for as many as 21 new reactors and 12 license renewals for existing reactors. However, it does not affect licenses already issued or renewed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on June 8 struck down certain provisions of the NRC’s 2010 waste confidence decision and its associated temporary storage rule, which said that the agency was confident that used nuclear fuel could be stored safely at reactor sites for at least 60 years beyond the expiration of reactors’ operating licenses and that a permanent geologic repository would be available “when necessary.”

The June 8 decision found that the agency’s environmental analyses were “insufficient” to support that generic finding. Specifically, the court said that the NRC had not adequately considered the environmental effects of the federal government’s failure to establish a repository for the final disposal of used fuel, or of longer-term storage of used fuel at reactor sites.

The court also found that since the waste confidence decision undergirds “major federal actions” under the National Environmental Policy Act, such as issuing combined licenses and license renewals, the NRC must more explicitly discuss its reasoning leading to the decision. It directed the NRC to do so in an environmental impact statement (EIS) or a more limited environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact. However, the court recognized that it is permissible for the NRC to address generically the availability of disposal and the used fuel storage pool issues, that is, without the need for a site-specific EIS at each reactor facility (see Nuclear Energy Overview, June 12).

Soon after the June 8 decision, several petitioners asked the NRC to suspend all final reactor licensing decisions pending the NRC’s response to the court. The petition also asked that the public be permitted to comment on any documents the NRC produces to respond to the court.

The commissioners’ Aug. 7 order partially grants the petitioners’ request that the NRC not issue certain licenses until it addresses the waste confidence issues. It also directs NRC licensing boards not to act on waste confidence-related contentions that already have been filed and not to accept any new contentions.

—Nuclear Energy Overview

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One Response to “Nuclear spin doctors explain the NRC decision”

  1. CaptD Says:

    Amazing how the Nuclear Industry feels they are above the Law, probably because for the most part they are, thanks to their “political and Military Connections… or at least they were before 3/11/11…

    Liked and Tweeted…

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