Aug 7 U.S. regulators on Tuesday suspended
issuing final decisions on new licenses and on license renewals
for nuclear power plants until the agency decides how to deal
with the thorny issue of spent nuclear fuel.
The order from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission - headed by
Allison Macfarlane, a nuclear waste expert - will not stop
hearings or other work on licensing activity and no license
decisions are imminent, an NRC spokesman said.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit in June struck down the NRC's so-called "waste
confidence" provisions, saying the NRC violated the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in issuing its 2010 update to
the Waste Confidence Decision and accompanying Temporary Storage
Rule. The court remanded the case for further consideration.
"Waste confidence undergirds certain agency licensing
decisions, in particular new reactor licensing and reactor
license renewal," the NRC commissioners said in the order.
"In recognition of our duties under the law, we will not
issue licenses dependent upon the Waste Confidence Decision or
the Temporary Storage Rule until the court's remand is
appropriately addressed," the order said.
Licensing reviews and proceedings will continue to move
forward, the NRC said.
The NRC staff is expected to provide the commission with
options on the waste confidence issue within weeks, but there is
no timetable for commission action, the spokesman said.
Nuclear critics hailed the action, which they said would
affect eight plant license renewals, nine applications to build
new reactors, one operating license and one early site permit.
Diane Curran, an attorney representing parties in the court
appeal, said the need for a thorough study of the environmental
impact of storing and disposing of spent nuclear fuel was long
"That study should have been done years ago, but NRC just
kept kicking the can down the road," Curran said in a statement.
For a factbox on U.S. reactors seeking to renew their
operating licenses, click on
(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady in Houston; Editing by Bob