Nuclear power plant licensing and relicensing at a standstill in USA
opposition groups are saying that they will push hard to require site-specific evaluations, which could add years to any licensing or re-licensing process.
Nuclear Waste Issue Searing American Landscape Forbes, 11 July 12, Nuclear waste possibly ranks as that industry’s top quagmire: Nuclear plant operators are supposed to store their spent fuel onsite until it is properly cooled and at which point, it is supposed to go into a permanent burial facility. The problem is that such an eternal resting spot has never come to pass.
The dilemma has gotten even more complex now that a federal appeals court ruled last month that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not properly do its job when it previously told those same nuclear operators that they could extend their onsite storage from 30 years to 60 years . With such a triumphant court decision in their hands, environmental and citizen groups pounced: They subsequently asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia to stop issuing any nuclear construction or operating licenses until the NRC does its job.
“It’s hard to see how federal and state officials can justify putting more taxpayers or customer money at risk on new reactor projects until this situation is resolved,” says Former NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford, who has lent his support to the 22 groups, called CleanEnergy.org , who filed this petition before the court.
In February, the NRC granted Southern Company and its subsidiary Georgia Power the right to build two new units, which are expected to be operational by 2017. A second license went in March to Scana Corp., whose subsidiarySantee Cooper will build two more plants that are expected to be up and running by 2018.
With those approvals, the nuclear energy industry here had finally prevailed, especially in the aftermath of the Japanese nuclear accident in March 2011. But then came the appeal’s court decision this June, and the environmental petition a couple weeks later. The NRC responded to that recent petition , saying that neither that legal document nor the court ruling would have any immediate effect on waste-related issues because no other licensing requests are pending.
A little background: Four Northeastern states and some environmental groups sued the NRC after it had extended onsite storage rights from 30 to 60 years, arguing that any leaks from the spent fuel storage pools or dry cask storage could harm groundwater supplies and potential land use. The D.C. appeals court ruled, saying that the NRC failed to properly examine the environmental consequences of its actions. Now, the winning parties say that the NRC can’t issue any more licenses until it fulfills this legal demand……
The June waste ruling did say that the NRC does not need to provide a detailed analysis for each and every onsite storage site — only a general environmental impact statement or a finding of no significant environmental harm. Still, opposition groups are saying that they will push hard to require site-specific evaluations, which could add years to any licensing or re-licensing process.
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