The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees commercial nuclear power enterprises, has halted the issuance of all new nuclear reactor licensing decisions after a court ruling citing the failure of industry and government to identify an acceptable solution for the long-term storage of nuclear waste.
Nineteen final reactor-licensing decisions are affected, including nine Construction and Operating Licenses (COLS), eight license renewals, one operating license, and one early site permit.
The NRC issued the order on Tuesday in response to a petition filed by numerous environmental groups, as well as individual petitioners.
The petition followed a ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit dated Jun. 8, which stated that the way that the NRC deals with nuclear waste issues in its review process for new or existing nuclear power plants is unacceptable.
At issue is something called the Waste Confidence Ruling of the NRC.
“What we call Waste Confidence was an environmental finding by the commission, what we call a generic finding, meaning it applies universally (to all permit applications), that the spent waste, high level fuel can be stored for several decades beyond the life for the reactor,” Dave McIntyre, an NRC spokesman, explained to IPS.
“The US Circuit Court of Appeals… agreed with the challengers and remanded that waste confidence rule to us, and said basically, the main thing is the NRC should have looked at the possibility, what if there is no repository (for the nuclear waste)?” McIntyre said.
“Yucca Mountain (a proposed waste storage site in Nevada) has been cancelled, and there are no plans as of now. What if Congress continues to be divided and the nation doesn’t choose a direction to go and find a different site?” he said.
The NRC rule at issue assumes “(a) the NRC will find a way to dispose of spent reactor ...