APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NRC holds up licensing, relicensing over waste storage issue (with UPDATES)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted (in a unanimous vote) to halt relicensing of existing nuclear power plants in the US, and to halt licensing for those being planned, until resolution is found over its concept of waste storage.

Background: In June, the DC District Court of Appeals threw out portions of NRC ruling that covered assumptions about HLW storage. See a thorough APR article on this from that time, including NEI's response to the Court decision by clicking here.

The action of throwing out the Waste Confidence rule led to further industry supposition that the Yucca Mountain issue would be forced, go or no-go, and led to revival of plans to establish large but distributed areas around the country for storage of HLW. See a post on one such plan by clicking here.

In the interim time period, petitioners (mostly environmentalist and anti-nuclear groups, it would appear) have interjected that NRC cannot make licensing decisions if there is no framework for expectation of future spent fuel storage. This forms the basis of the objections over which the NRC today voted to suspend licensing / relicensing until the Court's throwing out of the Waste Confidence rule is fully addressed.

Click here to see the official NRC statement on the subject, with very complete reference material quotes.

Click here for a summary and discussion by Platts.

The NRC release indicates that utmost attention will be given to this topic; further, all licensing work is to continue normally while this process takes place. What is held up is final issuance of licenses, essentially, not the pipeline of preparatory work. It's clear to this writer that while the NRC wishes to fully address the complaints of groups over licensing with no real, permanent HLW storage policy and also wishes to address the District Court of Appeals' concerns it also does not want to create a log jam of licensing / relicensing when the fixes are made.

I will have more on this site as required - and remember to watch APR's Twitter feed at @atomicnews.

5:55 PM Eastern 8/7/2012

EDIT: Clarified text to improve clarity that what is being held up by the NRC is the issuance of licenses.

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Additional News Links 8/8

Wall Street Journal


Power Engineering

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Update 8/9/2012 - 1:00 PM Eastern

The NRC has made a post on its blog which expands upon this situation, which is essentially as we've described here. Click here to see the new NRC post.

The NRC has informed Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat that the licenses for Vogtle 3 and 4 and the new plants at V.C. Summer are UNAFFECTED by this action.

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has issued a statement on this subject as well; you can click here to read it.

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New York Times - Green Blog issues correction on Waste Confidence story

An earlier story today (8/9) on the New York Times' website - which APR did not link to - has been corrected due to a misstatement about the effect that the NRC's action would have on Vogtle and Summer. Click here to see the NY Times piece with the correction. Thanks to John Keeley at NEI for pointing this out.


  1. What the...

    OK, breathe, breathe. Blood pressure spike receding.

    NRC are not - yet - stopping everything due to their own screw-up. And actually, by placing all challenges on that basis in abeyance until the NRC makes its mind up what to do and satisfies the court, those challenges themselves become useless, since they would need to be updated - or withdrawn - when the final rule is ordered.

    Still, it's a hole that the NRC have dug for themselves and I would be disappointed if they then made the plant operators suffer - or if they do so in future.

  2. Something looks very wrong with this schedule of Indian Point renewal activities.


    It looks like everything was done before 2011, other than the final rule-making, which is the only part affected by this latest decision.