WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has published for public comment a proposed rule and associated environmental impact statement on extended storage of used nuclear fuel at U.S. nuclear energy facilities. NRC’s action comes in response to a June 2012 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to vacate and remand the NRC’s waste confidence rule on the grounds that additional environmental analysis was required. Ellen Ginsberg, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s vice president and general counsel, made the following remarks about the proposed rule and environmental study.
“The ‘waste confidence’ rulemaking package demonstrates that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has undertaken a thorough evaluation of the environmental impacts of storage of used nuclear fuel in the period between reactor license expiration and ultimate disposal. The Federal Register notice accompanying the rule and draft generic environmental impact statement appropriately provides an expansive explanation of how ‘waste confidence’ fits into the NRC regulatory framework. It also explains that waste confidence does not constitute a licensing decision or pre-approve any particular waste storage or disposal site technology.
“We strongly support the agency’s decision to address the environmental issues associated with continued storage in a generic fashion. This approach to satisfying the agency’s obligations pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act was again validated by the D.C. Circuit in its 2012 decision.
“From our initial review it appears the generic environmental impact statement [GEIS] adequately addresses the aspects of the agency’s analysis the court previously found lacking. The GEIS also appears to provide sufficient bases for the commission to reach conclusions regarding safe storage of used fuel following the expiration of a reactor license and the availability of a repository within 60 years after licensed reactor life for operation.
“We commend the NRC for assigning a high priority to completing the waste confidence rulemaking proceeding and for staffing the Waste Confidence Directorate with knowledgeable and experienced personnel. We encourage the agency to maintain the current 24-month schedule while continuing to permit broad public participation.”