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NEI: NRC’s Waste Confidence Documents Will Address Court’s Concerns

Sept. 16, 2013—The Nuclear Energy Institute said last week a preliminary review of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s proposed “waste confidence” documents on the extended storage of used nuclear fuel at U.S. nuclear energy facilities suggests that the agency has undertaken a “thorough evaluation” of the environmental impacts of storing used fuel in the period between the end of a reactor’s lifetime and ultimate disposal.

The NRC published the proposed rule and draft generic environmental impact statement for public comment on Sept. 13. The 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.

“From NEI’s initial review it appears the generic environmental impact statement adequately addresses the aspects of the agency’s analysis the court previously found lacking,” said Ellen Ginsberg, NEI’s vice president and general counsel.

Ginsberg added, “The Federal Register notice accompanying the rule and impact statement appropriately provides an expansive explanation of how ‘waste confidence’ fits into the NRC’s 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.

“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.”

Ginsberg said that NEI is conducting an in-depth review of the documents and will submit its detailed comments to the agency by the Nov. 27 deadline.

For instructions on submitting comments to the NRC and attending the 12 public meetings scheduled during the comment period, see the public involvement section of the NRC’s Waste Confidence Web page.