WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today issued final revisions to its “waste confidence” rule. The rule expresses confidence that used nuclear fuel can be safely stored for at least 60 years beyond the licensed life of any reactor, without significant environmental impacts, and that sufficient repository capacity will be available “when necessary.” Following is a statement from Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer at the Nuclear Energy Institute:
“NRC’s revised waste confidence rule is an explicit endorsement of industry’s safe and secure management of used nuclear fuel at 104 reactors across the country.
“With this rule, the commission has definitively answered the question: can licensing of new plants, and the relicensing of existing reactors, go forward with the present fuel management program that industry executes under exacting NRC regulations? That answer is yes.
“The NRC’s waste confidence rule, however, is not meant to be interpreted as a substitute for policymakers pursuing a used fuel management program that includes a repository for ultimate disposal. The federal government still must meet its statutory obligation to take title to the nation’s stock of spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste from commercial operations and defense programs. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future is expected to make recommendations for a revised national used fuel management program by January 2012.
“Today’s rule approval reaffirms that used fuel management is most appropriately addressed in a generic context, and not subject to challenge in individual licensing proceedings on new reactors or license extensions for existing nuclear plants.
“The NRC’s 1990 revision to the waste confidence rule affirmed that used fuel could be safely stored either at reactors or a central storage facility for at least 30 years beyond the operating life of any reactor. The commission again examined its waste confidence rule in 1999, and industry asked the commission to update waste confidence in 2007, in light of anticipated filings of license applications for new nuclear plants. The commission, with its final rule issuance today, reiterated that the findings are not intended ‘to signal an endorsement of indefinite storage of spent fuel at reactor sites.’ ”