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Page added on August 27, 2014

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NRC: Okay to Store Used Reactor Fuel on Site

Public Policy

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a final rule Aug. 26 declaring that continued storage of spent nuclear fuel on the site of a commercial power plant is safe if properly managed.

The rule addresses the storage of used fuel between the end of the reactor’s licensed term and its final removal for disposal.

In a separate action, the commission approved lifting the order on suspensions on licensing actions for nuclear power plants, which have been in place since August 2012. The NRC staff may begin making licensing decisions 30 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register.

Chairman Allison Macfarlane approved the rule in part and disapproved it in part. In her voting sheet, Macfarlane said she didn’t fully approve the generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) accompanying the rule because of its assumption that institutional controls will remain in place indefinitely.

But she was outvoted 3-1 by commissioners Bill Magwood, Kristine Sviniki and William Ostendorff, who fully approved the rule, which affirms the GEIS. The five-member commission is short one member, and Magwood has said he is leaving by the end of August.

Three Time Frames Considered

The GEIS analyzes the environmental impact of storing spent fuel beyond the licensed operating life of reactors over three time frames. It looked at storage for 60 years (short-term), 100 years after the short-term scenario (long-term) and indefinitely.

The NRC actions are in response to a June 2012 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit finding the agency hadn’t conducted a sufficiently thorough analysis of its “waste confidence” rule on how long used waste could safely remain onsite.

Recognizing the possibility that a geologic storage facility for the permanent storage of waste might never be built, the court remanded the rule to the NRC for further analysis of spent-fuel leaks and fires.

After the 2012 court ruling, the commission suspended final licensing decisions on new reactors, reactor license renewals and spent-fuel storage-facility renewals. It then directed the staff to develop a new rule and a supporting GEIS within 24 months.

Final Rule Adopts Findings of GEIS

The final rule, now known as the “continued storage of spent nuclear fuel” rule, adopts the findings of the GEIS on the environmental impacts of storing spent fuel at a reactor after its license has expired. Formerly known as the “waste confidence” rule, the rule was renamed to more accurately reflect its nature and content, the NRC said in an Aug. 26 statement.

As a result of the final rule, the generic effects of continued fuel storage don’t need to be re-analyzed in the environmental reviews for individual licenses, the NRC said.

NRC proceeded with its vote despite an Aug. 21 letter from 34 environmental and advocacy groups asking it to postpone the vote until after Magwood leaves the commission.

The organizations claimed his participation in the vote would present a conflict of interest and ethics violation, because in September he is taking a job with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Nuclear Energy Agency, which promotes nuclear energy use worldwide.

NRC proposed the continued-storage-of-spent-nuclear-fuel rule in October 2013.

After the Aug. 26 vote approving the final rule, Ellen Ginsberg, vice president, secretary and general counsel for the Nuclear Energy Institute, said, “The completion of this rulemaking is an important step that will facilitate final decisions on industry licensing actions pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

Multilayered Protection Seen

The NRC conclusion “confirms the safety and security of use of nuclear fuel under the multilayered protective strategies used at commercial nuclear energy facilities,” Ginsberg said in a statement.

Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, applauded the NRC vote in a statement.

“Storage in spent fuel pools and dry casks is well-governed and is safe, and the NRC’s regulations now appropriately account for that,” he said.

Inhofe said the NRC action removes one area of distraction from the committee as it considers two new nominations to the commission.

“It is my hope that the NRC will work with industry and members of Congress to find ways to streamline regulations and reduce unnecessary burdens to the nuclear industry that do little more than make it more expensive to run the American economy,” he said.

Bloomberg



6 Comments on "NRC: Okay to Store Used Reactor Fuel on Site"

  1. ghung on Wed, 27th Aug 2014 3:48 pm 

    …. since they have nowhere else to put it. Besides, if Inhofe is good with it, it must be OK.

    Jeez….

  2. Plantagenet on Wed, 27th Aug 2014 3:54 pm 

    Good to see the Obama administration loosening up the regs on waste storage at US nuclear power plants.

  3. JuanP on Wed, 27th Aug 2014 4:06 pm 

    It is so not OK to keep adding used rods to those cooling pools. Radioactive waste should be stored very far away from reactors. What happened at Fukushima should have been enough warning.
    I am constantly amazed by people’s stupidity, greed, selfishness, and arrogance. I think the people that think the future will be better forever must be the same kind of people that think this stupid idea of storing radioactive waste at nuclear reactors is OK

  4. Norm on Wed, 27th Aug 2014 6:41 pm 

    Right on Plant, Obama did it. Back to the real story, see the awesome stupidity. Triple water backup on the reaktor core, and NO backup on the spent pool, even though it us far more dangerous. It has a million times more toxins. Drain the water and you have a spent fuel pool fire. You can Google that. If it happens, it can clear out an entire continent. it us there a backup? oh hell no, just pull out the rubber stopper. Two thumbs up, from Mitt and Boehner. Destroy a continent? Oh heck ya, figures his stocks will go up.

  5. Bob Owens on Wed, 27th Aug 2014 7:53 pm 

    The only reasonable onsite storage is dry cask storage. That does not require constant water circulation to keep it from going critical. Dry storage also allows you to store in a location removed from the reactor. It is the safest local storage method we have currently. The current situation is a disaster waiting to happen. If I was the Engineer who designed the wet storage pool I would be totally embarrassed.

  6. Makati1 on Wed, 27th Aug 2014 7:54 pm 

    Send a spent fuel bundle to every employee of the nuclear company, two to every stockholder, and 10 to the CEO. Let THEM keep them in their basement.

    I bet we would see the storage problem solved in a few days. We spend over $1,000,000,000,000.00 per year on war and the police state. Even half of that would solve the problem.

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