Nuclear regulators to revise "waste confidence" rule

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Sept. 6 said it directed the agency’s staff to develop an environmental impact statement (EIS) and a revised waste confidence decision and rule on the temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel. The EIS and rule, which are in response to a June 8 ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, are to be completed within 24 months.

The NRC directed the staff to “proceed directly” with development of the EIS and a revised waste confidence rule to satisfy the deficiencies the Appeals Court found in the NRC’s 2010 waste confidence revision. The Appeals Court ruled that NRC should have considered the potential environmental effects in the event a permanent repository for disposing of spent fuel is never built, and found other deficiencies with the agency’s consideration of leaks and fires involving spent fuel pools.

“Resolving this issue successfully is a Commission priority,” said NRC Chairman Allison M. Macfarlane. “Waste confidence plays a core role in many major licensing actions, such as new reactors and license renewals.”

On Aug. 7, the Commission issued an Order that NRC will not issue licenses dependent on the waste confidence rule, such as new reactors and renewal of existing reactor operating licenses, until the Court’s remand is appropriately addressed. That order remains in effect.

The NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, which has regulatory responsibility over spent fuel storage and disposal, has established a Waste Confidence Directorate to develop the waste confidence EIS. The new directorate will be headed by Dr. Keith I. McConnell, currently deputy director of the Division of Waste Management and Environmental Protection in the Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs.

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