The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on June 8 ruled against NRC's updated waste confidence rule, stating the agency is required to conduct an environmental assessment (Environmental Impact Statement) of the rule and had failed to properly examine consequences of never building a permanent waste repository, and that NRC’s discussion of potential spent fuel pool leaks or fires was inadequate.
Waste confidence is a generic environmental finding that spent nuclear fuel can be safely stored at reactor sites for decades in either spent fuel pools or dry casks, and that a repository will be available for final disposal of the spent fuel.
The updated NRC rule issued in 2010 says they have reasonable assurances that utility spent fuel can be safely stored for at least 60 years after a power reactor's operating license expires.
The five-member NRC Commission issued an Order (attached below) on Tuesday directing the staff not to issue licenses for new reactors or to issue renewed licenses for existing reactors for the time being.
As the NRC puts it in their blog…
Tuesday’s Order was not a “Full Stop” to NRC’s licensing process. The Commission stated that licensing reviews should move forward– only final licensing was put on hold.
As of today, the NRC has not decided on a course of action to satisfy the Appeals Court’s ruling.
Nuclear plant expansions under way at the Vogtle and V.C. Summer plants will not be affected. Construction and operating licenses already have been issued for the four reactors being built at those sites; once built, their operation will hinge upon verification that plant structures and components have been built as designed and function as stipulated. No additional licensing action is required.